NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Opera suspended James Levine, its revered conductor and former music director, on Sunday after three men came forward with accusations that Levine had sexually abused them decades ago, when the men were teenagers.
Peter Gelb, general manager of the Met, announced that the company was suspending its four-decade relationship with Levine, 74, and canceling his upcoming conducting engagements after learning from The New York Times on Sunday about the accounts of the three men, who described a series of similar sexual encounters beginning in the late 1960s. The Met has also asked an outside law firm to investigate Levine’s behavior.
“While we await the results of the investigation, based on these news reports the Met has made the decision to act now,” Gelb said in an interview, adding that the Met’s board supported his actions. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
The Met also said it has appointed attorney Robert J. Cleary, a former US 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 accusations of sexual misconduct stretch back to 1968.
Chris Brown, who played principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than three decades, said Levine masturbated him that summer — and then coaxed him to reciprocate — when Brown was 17 at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan. Levine, then 25, was a rising star on the program’s faculty.
James Lestock said Levine also masturbated him there that summer when Lestock, 17, was a cello student — the first of many sexual encounters with Levine that have haunted him. And Ashok Pai, who grew up in Illinois near the Ravinia Festival, where Levine was music director, said he was sexually abused by Levine starting in summer 1986, when Pai was 16 — an accusation he made last year in a report to the Lake Forest Police Department in Illinois.
Pai, also spoke to The Associated Press in recent weeks but declined to tell his story on the record. He declined to be interviewed again when contacted this weekend.
Told of the accusations, a spokesman for Levine did not comment Sunday night.
Speculation surrounding Levine’s private life has swirled in classical music circles for decades as he rose to a position of unprecedented prominence at the Met. Though he stepped down as music director last year, Levine had been scheduled to lead a highly anticipated new production of Puccini’s “Tosca” starting New Year’s Eve.Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.