Met Opera Suspends Conductor After Three Men Accuse Him of Sexual Abuse

James Levine
James Levine

A famous composer has been suspended after accusations of sexual abuse.

The Metropolitan Opera announced Saturday that it was investigating charges of sexual misconduct against James Levine. On Sunday, Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, suspended the conductor and canceled his upcoming engagements after three men came forward with allegations that stretch back to 1968, reports the New York Times

The investigation, to be conducted by a law firm, was first spurred by recent media inquiries regarding a 2016 police report, in which Ashok Pai accused Levine of sexual abuse around 30 years ago. The accuser was a teenager when the alleged abuse began.

Another accuser, Chris Brown, said Levine masturbated him in 1968 at the Meadow Brook School of Music, when Brown was 17 and Levine was a 25-year-old faculty member in the summer program. And James Lestock claimed he endured a similar experience at Meadow Brook that summer when he was a 17-year-old cello student.

"While we await the results of the investigation, based on these news reports the Met has made the decision to act now,” Gelb told the Times. "This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected."

The Met, one of the world's most prestigious opera houses, claimed it knew of the report last year, but that Levine denied the allegations at the time.

In the report, filed in the Lake Forest, Ill., police department, Pai claimed Levine, 74, held his hand in an "incredibly sensual way" when he was 15 and the conductor was in his early 40s. They had met at the Ravinia Festival, a summer music event, where Levine was music director from 1973 to 1993.

Pai, who loved music and aspired to one day be a conductor, claimed Levine told him he wanted "to see if you can be raised special like me."

The next summer, Pai said he would meet Levine at the Deer Path Inn near the festival. Levine allegedly touched his penis while the pair were naked in bed, beginning years of sexual abuse.

"I would get there and the lights are off, and he would say to me after I came in and after a hug 'take your clothes off,'" Pai wrote in the police statement.

"On various occasions he would ask me how I touched myself and then he would touch me the way I touched myself," he added. "I was never able to be aroused by this. But then he would masturbate himself at his bed or in the bathroom."

"This pattern repeated itself hundreds of times," stated Pai, who claimed he recently realized these interactions impacted him in "a negative manner." The New York Times confirmed he had told a relative in 1993 of the alleged abuse.

Levine has a long history with the Met. Four decades ago, he became the opera house's music director, and has served as a composer there for more than 2,500 performances. 

Rumors of sexual abuse have also dogged Levine for years — and they were even mentioned in a 2001 book by Johanna Fiedler, a former press representative for the Met.

"Starting in the spring of 1979, these stories came to the surface at more or less regular intervals," Fielder wrote in Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera. "Each time, the Met press office would tirelessly point out the cyclical nature of the gossip and the complete lack of substance."

Tags: Crime, #MeToo

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