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8 December 2017, 09:28
The ex-music director of the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra has denied allegations that he sexually abused several men decades ago.
Allegations that legendary American conductor James Levine molested an Illinois teenager from the age of 15 were published over the weekend in the New York Post. Since then, two other men have come forward saying the conductor sexually abused them decades ago, when the men were teenagers.
James Levine has now denied the allegations, calling them ‘unfounded’.
“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” he said in a written statement. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”
On Sunday, the Metropolitan Opera said they were ‘deeply disturbed’ by the reports and announced they were suspending its over-40-year relationship with their former Music Director, cancelling his upcoming conducting engagements and opening an investigation.
Our statement on James Levine: pic.twitter.com/9iJOY24ysc— Metropolitan Opera (@MetOpera) December 4, 2017
On Saturday, the New York Post reported that one of the alleged victims informed a former Metropolitan Opera board member of the alleged abuse back in 2016, who subsequently alerted the general manager. Levine continued to lead performances at the opera house.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra have also severed ties with their former music director, calling the allegations ‘horrific’. Their statement reads:
In light of the recent horrific allegations against James Levine outlined in various media accounts since December 2, there is no doubt that the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the classical music industry must seriously reflect on this moment and determine ways to ensure sexual misconduct has no place in our industry. Though the Boston Symphony Orchestra (including Tanglewood and the Boston Pops, among other programs) meets top industry standards on all issues of employee safety, the orchestra is reviewing its policies regarding work place abuse and harassment issues to make certain they continue to meet and exceed the highest standards. In the new year, the BSO plans to convene a symposium with human resource experts who specialize in policy-making around these relevant issues to ensure the safest possible environment for all involved in our organization.
The BSO is committed to a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone who exhibits inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Behavior by any employee of the BSO that runs counter to these core values would not be tolerated and would be met with the most serious consequences.
While considering hiring James Levine as music director, through a third party, the Boston Symphony Orchestra adhered to due diligence in line with its employee hiring process, including a background check with a criminal screening and an analysis of any possible civil claims, as well as numerous conversations with music professionals across the country associated with Mr. Levine throughout his long career. Although the current allegations paint a different story about Mr. Levine, the BSO’s vetting process in 2001 did not reveal cause for concern.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has not worked with James Levine since he stepped down as music director in 2011; he will never be employed or contracted by the BSO at any time in the future.
The conductor and pianist has held the position of Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestras, and led the Metropolitan Opera from 1976 until April last year.