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James Levine, the New York Metropolitan Opera’s beloved conductor known for decades as a classical music celebrity, has been suspended from his role following accusations of sexual abuse from three victims.
The New York Times released a report on the claims, which come from three men who say Levine abused them as early as the 1960s, when they were teenagers. General Manager of the Met Peter Gelb announced Levine’s suspension Sunday after four decades of working with the conductor, following the news.
“While we await the results of the investigation, based on these news reports the Met has made the decision to act now,” said Gelb in the Times report. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
Chris Brown and James Lestock both reported that Levine forced them to let him masturbate them when they were 17 years old, at the Meadow Brook School of Music’s summer program in Michigan. Both reported continued further abuse that haunts them to this day. The third man to come forward, Ashok Pai, said Levine began abusing him when he was 16 and living near the Ravinia Music Festival in Illinois, where the conductor had been a musical director. Pai actually voiced the abuse to Lake Forest, Illinois police in an official report last year.
Levine had next been scheduled to conduct the much-anticipated New Year’s Eve showing of Puccini’s opera Tosca. The Met will now join institutions across Hollywood and the news world in speculation over how much it actually knew of Levine’s behavior before suspending him.
In the past four decades, the Met has only hired four female conductors and has performed only one single opera by a female composer.