Wed, Mar 14, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Met Opera sacks Levine following abuse probe

AFP, NEW YORK

New York’s Metropolitan Opera on Monday announced it has fired conductor James Levine after finding “credible evidence” that he sexually abused younger musicians.

The leading US opera house had already suspended Levine in December last year after allegations first became public against him. Levine served as the Met’s music director for 40 years.

The Met said it has “terminated its relationship” with Levine, who retired in 2016 amid failing health, but until the scandal had remained a frequent presence as a conductor.

“The investigation uncovered credible evidence that Mr Levine had engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct both before and during the period when he worked at the Met,” the opera house said in a statement.

It said it was “committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and harassment-free workplace for its employees and artists.”

However, the Met also absolved itself of blame after criticism that it could have acted before longstanding allegations about Levine made headlines.

“Any claims or rumors that members of the Met’s management or its board of directors engaged in a cover-up of information relating to these issues are completely unsubstantiated,” it said.

Levine, 74, was said by younger musicians to have sexually abused them when they were students and he was the charismatic visiting instructor, with most cases dating decades ago.

In an investigative piece published this month by the Boston Globe, former students at the Cleveland Institute of Music described Levine as a cult-like figure who not only coerced them into sex, but controlled their lives.

Quoting former students, the paper said that Levine would pressure them to cut off ties with the outside world and pledge loyalty to him as he led meetings that involved everything from studying opera scenes to anonymous sex.

“I thought it was sex for my improvement, sex to make things better,” said violinist Albin Ifsich, who was 20 when he said the abuse took place in 1968. “Obviously that’s not what it was, but we were led to believe that.”

Levine’s downfall began in December, when the New York Post reported on a 2016 police report in which a teenager alleged decades of abuse starting when the victim was 15 at the Ravinia Music Festival near Chicago.

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