Sunday 25 February 2018

Met Opera suspends conductor James Levine after sex abuse accusations

New York's Metropolitan Opera says it will investigate allegations that its longtime conductor, James Levine, sexually abused a teenager in the mid-1980s. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
New York's Metropolitan Opera says it will investigate allegations that its longtime conductor, James Levine, sexually abused a teenager in the mid-1980s. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

New York's Metropolitan Opera has suspended its relationship with longtime conductor James Levine pending an investigation into multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

The Met said in a statement Mr Levine will not be involved in any activities, including scheduled performances, this season.

It also said it has appointed Robert J Cleary, a former US lawyer and the current head of the investigations practice at the Proskauer Rose law firm, to lead the investigation into the allegations which date from the 1960s to 1980s.

The move to suspend Mr Levine came a day after the New York Post first reported that one of his accusers claimed he had sexual contact with him as a teenager.

Following this, Met officials said they were launching an investigation. Then on Sunday, The New York Times reported similar accounts from two other men accusing Mr Levine of sexual misconduct.

According to the Times, one of the accusers said he was sexually abused by Mr Levine starting in the summer of 1986, when he was 16. He reported the allegations to the police department in Lake Forest, Illinois, in October 2016.

Details of the police report were first reported on Saturday on the New York Post's website. Met officials said they learned of the police report last year.

He said he reached out to police in Lake Forest because some of his encounters with Mr Levine took place there in the mid-1980s. Mr Levine served as music director at the Ravinia Festival, outside Chicago, from 1973 to 1993.

Another of the accusers played principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and told the Times Mr Levine performed a sex act on him when he was under 18 at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan, where Mr Levine was on the summer program's faculty.

A third man described a similar account there when he was a 17-year-old cello student.

"Based on these new reports, the Met has made the decision to act now, while we await the results of the investigation," said Peter Gelb, Met general manager. "This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected."

An email to Mr Levine's manager seeking comment on the accusations was not immediately returned.

Met officials said in an earlier statement that Mr Levine has denied the charges.

The accusations against Mr 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.

Mr Levine served as music director of the Met from 1976 to 2016, when he assumed the position of music director emeritus.

Mr Levine has struggled with health problems including Parkinson's disease in recent years but was scheduled to conduct several productions this season.

AP

Press Association

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