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Sunday 21 October 2018

Metropolitan Opera ‘has evidence music director abused or harassed seven people’

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By Ronald Blum, Associated Press

The Metropolitan Opera has found credible evidence that conductor James Levine engaged in sexually abusive or harassing conduct with seven people, court papers have said.

The New York-based Met fired Mr Levine as its music director emeritus on March 12, citing evidence of misconduct, but it did not make public any details.

Mr Levine sued the Met three days later for breach of contract and defamation, which the opera company denies.

The Met filed its reply and counterclaims on Friday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, with claims including inappropriate touching and demands for sex acts over a 25-year period.

Mr Levine, who turns 75 next month, was the Met’s music director and artistic director from 1976 to 2016 before the shift to an emeritus position.

He was suspended on December 3 after allegations of misconduct in reports by the New York Post and The New York Times and has not been charged with any crime.

In its court filing, the Met claimed it learned of improper conduct by Mr Levine from 1975 to 2000 during its investigation.

The Met identified the individuals only by number but described them as including a musician, an opera singer, an artist, two people who were 16 years old and a member of its Young Artists Program.

Mr Levine’s lawyers filed an answer to the Met’s papers saying the company “has chosen to create sensationalised allegations … all of which have no legal or factual basis whatsoever”.

The Met said it found evidence of conduct that included discussion of pornography, groping, and kissing.

In one instance, the Met accused Mr Levine of inappropriately touching a musician starting in 1979 and six more times until 1991.

In another 1985 incident, Mr Levine is accused of groping and kissing an opera singer he was giving a ride home in his car against that person’s will.

In 1986, Mr Levine sexually abused a 16-year-old and arranged an estimated 50,000 dollars (£37,000) in payments to the person through his brother, the filings stated.

The last incident described in the filings occurred in 1999 when Mr Levine inappropriately touched a member of the Met’s Young Artists Program “on his knees, legs and hands” and then the following year invited the musician to his dressing room to engage in sexual activity, according to Friday’s court filings.

Mr Levine’s lawyers called them “only vague and unsubstantiated accusations of sexual misconduct supposedly engaged in by Levine decades ago, made by unidentified individuals, all in an attempt intentionally to smear Levine’s name, reputation, and legacy, while at the same time making it difficult for Levine to defend himself with any specificity against anonymous accusations”.

The conductor’s lawyers said “Levine did not commit any acts of sexual misconduct against any individuals, much less the unnamed individuals”.

They added “the Met had no basis whatsoever for suspending and ultimately terminating Levine. The Met’s so-called ‘investigation’ of Levine’s conduct was nothing more than a pretext for the Met to suspend, fire and defame him”.

Press Association

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