NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBS Chicago/AP) — The Metropolitan Opera said Sunday it has suspended its longtime conductor, James Levine amid sexual abuse allegations.
Levine is alleged to have sexually abused one man three decades ago beginning when the man was a teenager. But the Met indicated that there were multiple allegations against him.
“We are suspending our relationship with James Levine, pending an investigation, following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Levine that took place from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, including the earlier part of his conducting career at the Met. Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season. “While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now,” Met General Manager Peter Gelb said in a statement. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
The statement said Gelb’s actions were “fully supported by the leadership of the Met Board and its Executive Committee.”
Levine’s accuser, now middle-aged, contacted the police department in Lake Forest, Illinois, in October of 2016 to report that he’d had sexual contact with the conductor when he was under age 18.
He said he was reaching 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 — in Highland Park, Illinois north of Chicago — from 1973 to 1993.
Details of the police report were first reported Saturday on the website of the New York Post. Met officials said they learned of the police report last year.
“This first came to the Met’s attention when the Illinois police investigation was opened in October 2016,” the Met said in an earlier statement. “At the time, Mr. Levine said that the charges were completely false, and we relied upon the further investigation of the police. We need to determine if these charges are true and, if they are, take appropriate action. We’ll now be conducting our own investigation with outside resources.”
An email to Levine’s manager seeking comment on the accusations was not immediately returned.
The accuser, whose name is being withheld by The Associated Press, contacted reporters from several news organizations and posted a handful of items on social media accusing Levine of abusing him when he was young.
The Ravinia Festival first learned of the allegations raised against Levine through a media inquiry late Friday, the company said in a statement. “We understand from these articles that investigations are ongoing. 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.”
The Lake Forest, Illinois Police department assigned a detective who spent at least seven months investigating the allegations, according to a redacted copy of her written reports on the case.
The accuser, who at the time was hoping for a career in music, told police the conductor had invited him to audition for him in New York and then encouraged him to engage in sexual “experimentation.”
He also said that his relationship with Levine extended well into adulthood and that the composer gave him money over the years when he was having financial problems, amounting to more than $50,000.
The man told police he last spoke with Levine in 2014. At the time, he said, Levine said he wouldn’t send him money anymore.
The Associated Press does not generally name alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent. In this case, the man asked that his name not be published and declined to be interviewed on the record.
The accusations against Levine, among the most prominent classical music conductors in the world, are the latest in a stream of sexual misconduct charges involving high-profile men in entertainment and the media that have rocked the nation since accusations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein were reported in October.
Lake Forest police turned over all of their information and findings to the Lake County, Illinois State’s Attorney. A representative told WBBM-TV, CBS2 Chicago the case is under review.
Levine served as music director of the Met from 1976 to 2016, when he assumed the position of music director emeritus.
Levine has struggled with health problems including Parkinson’s disease in recent years but is scheduled to conduct several productions this season.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)