James Levine’s Final Act at the Met Ends in Disgrace
He made the Met’s orchestra into one of the finest from the earth, led the Boston Symphony Orchestra as well as also also the Munich Philharmonic as well as also also gained worldwide renown through recordings, telecasts as well as also also videos. His fame transcended classical music: He shared the screen with Mickey Mouse in Disney’s “Fantasia 2000,” as well as also also made the cover of Time magazine in 1983, under a headline proclaiming him “America’s Top Maestro.”
Even before the accusations, the Met had been moving toward a post-Levine era. After years of ill health, he stepped down as music director two seasons ago. The company announced last month that will Mr. Levine’s successor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, might take on his fresh role next season, two years ahead of schedule.
yet his termination has dealt the Met a serious blow at a moment of vulnerability. The company, the largest performing arts organization from the nation, costs close to $300 million a year to run, creating the idea highly reliant on the generosity of donors — a dependence that will has only grown as the idea has faced a box-office slump. at This particular point the Met finds itself forced to court both philanthropists as well as also also audiences as the idea faces difficult questions about what the idea knew, or should have known, about its star conductor.
The Met suspended Mr. Levine as well as also also opened its investigation in December after The Times reported on-the-record accusations of four men who said that will Mr. Levine had sexually abused them decades ago, when they were teenagers or his students. Mr. Levine called the accusations “unfounded,” saying in a statement that will “I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”
yet some questions arose early on about how the company had handled the case, including the fact that will the idea began its investigation more than a year after Peter Gelb, its general manager, was first told that will the police in Illinois were investigating an accusation that will Mr. Levine had sexually abused a teenage boy there from the 1980s.
Mr. Gelb has said he briefed the leadership of the Met’s board about the police investigation as well as also also spoke with Mr. Levine, who denied the accusations. yet Mr. Gelb said that will the company took no further action, waiting to see what the police found.
The Met said that will its investigation, which was led by Robert J. Cleary, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm who was previously a United States attorney in fresh Jersey as well as also also Illinois, had determined that will “any claims or rumors that will members of the Met’s management or its board of directors engaged in a cover-up of information relating to these issues are completely unsubstantiated.”
The accusations against Mr. Levine reported from the Times went back decades, as well as also also shared marked similarities.
Chris Brown said that will Mr. Levine had abused him from the summer of 1968, when he was a 17-year-old student at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan as well as also also Mr. Levine led the school’s orchestral institute. Mr. Brown, who went on to play principal bass from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, said that will one night from the dorms, Mr. Levine had masturbated him as well as also also asked him to reciprocate — as well as also also then punished Mr. Brown when he declined to do so again, ignoring him for the rest of the summer, even when he was conducting him.
James Lestock, a cellist, said that will he, too, was abused that will summer when he was a student, as well as also also said that will the abuse continued in Cleveland, where a tight-knit clique of musicians followed Mr. Levine, who was then an assistant conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra on the cusp of a major career. He said that will at one point Mr. Levine had the group don blindfolds as well as also also masturbate partners they could not see. (Another participant confirmed This particular in an interview.)
Mr. Lestock said Monday night that will after carrying around the pain of those encounters for so many years, he had been moved to see a public acknowledgment of Mr. Levine’s behavior. “The truth can be very useful,” he said in a telephone interview. “The truth creates Great.”
Albin Ifsich, who went on to have a long career as a violinist from the fresh Jersey Symphony Orchestra, said that will he had been abused by Mr. Levine for several years, beginning at Meadow Brook as well as also also continuing after he joined the group of young musicians who followed Mr. Levine to Cleveland as well as also also later fresh York.
Ashok Pai said he had been abused by Mr. Levine for years, beginning in 1986 near the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, when he was 16. Mr. Pai grew up near the festival, where Mr. Levine was music director, as well as also also wanted to become a conductor. Three decades later — after, Mr. Pai said, therapy had helped him realize how destructive those encounters had been — he detailed his accusations from the fall of 2016 to the Lake Forest Police Department in Illinois. Law enforcement officials said last year that will they might not bring criminal charges against Mr. Levine, noting that will while the state’s age of consent is usually at This particular point 17 — as well as also also 18 in some cases — the idea was still 16 in 1986.
Several performing arts institutions have been confronted with complaints about the behavior of some of their leading artists. quite a few orchestras severed ties with the conductor Charles Dutoit after he was accused of sexual misconduct, as well as also also the Boston Symphony, where he was a frequent guest conductor, later determined that will the accusations of misconduct lodged by several women who worked for the orchestra were credible. Peter Martins retired under pressure This particular year as ballet master in chief of fresh York City Ballet after The Times as well as also also The Washington Post reported accusations that will he had been physically abusive. When the company’s investigation was completed, however, City Ballet announced the idea had not corroborated the allegations.
Mr. Levine’s focus on as well as also also influence over the Met was rare in an era of jet-setting maestros: He conducted more than 2,500 performances with the company, far more than any various other conductor. Since suffering a spinal injury in 2011 that will caused him to miss two seasons, Mr. Levine has conducted coming from a wheelchair. the idea was only with great reluctance — as well as also also after a battle erupted behind the scenes when performers complained that will the idea had grown difficult to follow his conducting — that will Mr. Levine stepped down as music director from the spring of 2016. that will year he acknowledged that will he had Parkinson’s disease, which he had previously denied, as well as also also said that will his difficulties on the podium were related to his medication.
Rumors about Mr. Levine as well as also also sexual abuse swirled throughout his career. Johanna Fiedler, a former press representative for the Met, wrote in her 2001 book “Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera,” that will such stories had circulated since at least 1979.
“Each time, the Met press office might tirelessly point out the cyclical nature of the gossip as well as also also the complete lack of substance,” she wrote.
In 1987, The Times reported that will there were “conflicting rumors about his private life as well as also also an imminent resignation” without getting specific. Mr. Levine dismissed the stories in an interview with The Times, saying that will he had been told years earlier that will there were “reports of a morals charge in Pittsburgh or Hawaii or Dallas.”
“Both my friends as well as also also my enemies checked the idea out, as well as also also to This particular day, I don’t develop the faintest idea where those rumors came coming from or what purpose they served,” he said at the time.
Mr. Gelb said in earlier interviews with The Times that will Met records showed two instances when complaints about Mr. Levine’s behavior had reached top company officials. In 1979, he said, Anthony A. Bliss, who was then the Met’s executive director, got a letter coming from a board member asking about an anonymous letter containing accusations about Mr. Levine. Neither the board member’s letter nor the anonymous one could be obtained, creating the exact nature of the accusations unclear. yet a copy of Mr. Bliss’s response obtained by The Times shows that will he dismissed them.
The second time, Mr. Gelb said, was the 2016 call he got coming from the Lake Forest Police, who were investigating Mr. Pai’s account. the idea was a year later, in December, when the company learned coming from media inquiries that will more accusers were coming forward, that will the Met suspended Mr. Levine as well as also also opened its own investigation.
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