NEW YORK – New York’s Metropolitan Opera said Saturday it will open an investigation into allegations that its longtime conductor, James Levine, sexually abused a man three decades ago beginning when the man was a teenager.
NEW YORK – Conductor James Levine, the longtime Metropolitan Opera music director and periodic guest with the Philadelphia Orchestra, is being investigated for sexually abusing a man three decades ago, beginning when the man was a teenager.
Levine’s accuser, now middle-aged, contacted the police department in Lake Forest, Ill., in October 2016 to report that while under 18 he’d had sexual contact with the conductor. He said he was reaching out to police in Lake Forest because some of his encounters with Levine took place there in the mid-1980s. Levine served as music director at the Ravinia Festival, outside Chicago, from 1973 to 1993.
Details of the police report were first reported Saturday on the website of the New York Post. Met officials, however, said they learned of the police report last year. “This first came to the Met’s attention when the Illinois police investigation was opened in October 2016,” the Met said in a statement. “At the time, Mr. Levine said that the charges were completely false, and we relied upon the further investigation of the police. We need to determine if these charges are true and, if they are, take appropriate action. We’ll now be conducting our own investigation with outside resources.”
An email to Levine’s manager seeking comment on the accusations was not immediately returned.
Historically, Levine, 74, has long been one of the most beloved figures in the opera world. Besides being Metropolitan Opera’s music director from 1976, he was a guest at the great opera festivals of Europe (including Salzburg and Bayreuth) and had a rich history with the Philadelphia Orchestra from his 1970 debut at the summertime Robin Hood Dell concerts through the mid-1990s. Music lovers still talk about Levine’s performance of the Mahler Symphony No. 3 at the Academy of Music. He was informally courted at various times for the post of music director for the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Levine was scheduled to return to the orchestra in February 2016 but was still recovering from a series of illnesses and surgeries that had keep him sidelined for seasons at a time. The concert was one of the most in-demand tickets of the season, and had come about from the personal invitation of Philadelphia’s current music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin. “I thought, ‘If he’s back in health, why not give it a go? “said Nezet-Seguin at the time. “I approached him pesonally and he was interested…It’s a major thing for us.”
However, Levine cancelled the concert, which was to include the Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3.
Rumors of mis-conduct have dogged Levine for decades, though without any concrete proof. The accuser in Lake Forrest….
The accuser, whose name is being withheld by The Associated Press, contacted reporters from several news organizations and posted a handful of items on social media accusing Levine of abusing him when he was young. The Lake Forest department assigned a detective who spent at least seven months investigating the allegations, according to a redacted copy of her written reports on the case. The accuser, who at the time was hoping for a career in music, told police the conductor had invited him to audition for him in New York and then encouraged him to engage in sexual “experimentation.” He also said that his relationship with Levine extended well into adulthood and that the composer gave him money over the years when he was having financial problems, amounting to more than $50,000. The man told police he last spoke with Levine in 2014. At the time, he said, Levine said he wouldn’t send him money anymore.
The Associated Press does not generally name alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent. In this case, the man asked that his name not be published and declined to be interviewed on the record.
The accusations against Levine, among the most prominent classical music conductors in the world, are the latest in a stream of sexual misconduct charges involving high-profile men in entertainment and the media that have rocked the nation since accusations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein were reported in October.
Levine served as music director of the Met from 1976 to 2016, when he assumed the position of music director emeritus. He has struggled with health problems including Parkinson’s disease in recent years but is scheduled to conduct several productions this season.
Associated Press reporter Karen Matthews and Inquirer writer David Patrick Stearns contributed to this article.
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