Metropolitan Opera suspends James Levine after sex abuse accusations

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In this July 7, 2006 file photo, Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine conducts the symphony on its opening night performance at Tanglewood in Lenox., Mass. | AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File

NEW YORK — New York’s Metropolitan Opera on Sunday said it was suspending its relationship with longtime conductor James Levine pending an investigation into multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

“Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season,” the Met said in a statement.

The Met also said it has appointed attorney Robert J. Cleary, a former U.S. attorney and the current head of the investigations practice at the Proskauer Rose law firm, to lead the investigation into the allegations that took place from the 1960s to 1980s.

The move to suspend Levine came a day after the New York Post first reported that one of Levine’s accusers claimed he had sexual contact with Levine as a teenager. Met officials said they were launching an investigation. Then on Sunday, The New York Times reported similar accounts from two other men accusing Levine of sexual misconduct.

One of Levine’s accusers, Ashok Pai, also spoke to The Associated Press in recent weeks but declined to tell his story on the record at the time. He declined to be interviewed again when contacted this weekend. According to the Times, Pai said he was sexually abused by 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.

UPDATE: Late Monday afternoon, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra issued a statement on the matter:

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) learned of the recent allegations against James Levine through reports in the media. The CSOA finds these allegations deeply troubling. The Ravinia Festival engages the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for several weeks of concerts each summer. Mr. Levine served as Ravinia Festival’s music director from 1973 to 1993. We understand that the Ravinia Festival is awaiting the findings of the current investigations and will take action as appropriate. At this time, Mr. Levine is not scheduled to conduct future concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Center. — Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association

Levine’s most recent appearance at Symphony Center was in 2016 when he conducted the CSO in a series of concerts.

Pai said he reached 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. Ravinia issued a statement on Sunday, which stated in part: “Ravinia finds these allegations very disturbing and contrary to its zero-tolerance policies and culture. Ravinia will take any actions that it deems appropriate following the results of these investigations. Ravinia has no other information to share at this time.” In 2017, Levine was named Conductor Laureate at Ravinia, where he is scheduled for a 2018 residency of concerts.

Chris Brown played principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than 30 years. He told the Times that he and Levine masturbated each other when Brown was 17 at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan, where Levin was on the summer program’s faculty.

James Lestock 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 Levine’s manager seeking comment on the accusations was not immediately returned.

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

On Saturday afternoon, Levine conducted a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” that was broadcast on radio worldwide. It was expected to be his last appearance at the Met for at least the rest of this year and possibly the foreseeable future. Levine was scheduled to conduct a New Year’s Eve gala performance of “Tosca.”

The opera company honored Levine with the title of Music Director Emeritus after the end the 2015-2016 season. Levine served as music director of the Met from 1976 to 2016.Levine has struggled with health problems including Parkinson’s disease in recent years but was scheduled to conduct several productions this season.

Tom McElroy | Associated Press

Contributing: Sun-Times staff reporter Miriam Di Nunzio

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