Met Opera Fires James Levine, Music Director Emeritus Accused Of Sexual Abuse

James Levine in 2009
Michele McDonald Globe staff File James Levine in 2009

13 March, 2018

The Metropolitan Opera has fired music director emeritus and Cincinnati native James Levine, finding "credible evidence" of "sexually abusive" conduct.

The Met says in a Monday statement that its investigation found Levine "engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct towards vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers".

The Met added that in addition to its findings on the allegations against Levine, the investigation suggested that any claims of a cover-up are "completely unsubstantiated".

The Met said more than 70 people were interviewed during its investigation. During that time, he re-shaped the Met orchestra into one of the world's best - and most recorded - ensembles, guest conducted most of the top orchestras, served simultaneously as music director of the Boston Symphony and continued working despite crippling physical challenges, including Parkinson's disease, that often had him conducting from a specially built wheelchair. Levine called the accusations "unfounded", saying in a statement that "I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor". Read the full New York Times report here.

"I thought it was sex for my improvement, sex to make things better", violinist Albin Ifsich, who was a 20-year-old student when he said the abuse took place in 1968, told the newspaper.

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News of Levine's suspension came a day after a 2016 police report surfaced, accusing him of sexually abusing a teenager beginning in 1986. He said that at one point Levine had the group don blindfolds and masturbate partners they could not see.

It has brought forward the appointment of Levine's successor, youthful French Canadian Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who will become music director with the upcoming season.

Law enforcement officials said a year ago that they would not bring criminal charges against Levine, noting that while the state's age of consent is now 17 - and 18 in some cases - it was still 16 in 1986.

After taking an nearly two-year health-related hiatus from conducting from 2011 to 2013, Levine retired as the Met's full-time Music Director following the 2015-16 season to become Music Director Emeritus.

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