On Sunday, New York's Metropolitan Opera cancelled upcoming conducting engagements by James Levine and suspended its long relationship with the famed conductor after three men came forward and accused him of sexual abuse starting when they were 16 and 17. Met general manager Peter Gelb said the opera company had hired an outside law firm to investigate the allegations against Levine, 74. "While we await the results of the investigation, based on these news reports the Met has made the decision to act now," Gelb told The New York Times, which reported two of the allegations. "This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected."
The two newly reported allegations date back to 1968, when Levine was on faculty at the Meadow Brook School of Music's summer program in Michigan. Two of the students, who were 17 at the time, told the Times similar stories about Levine, then 25, pressuring them into mutual masturbation. The third accuser, Ashok Pai, filed a police report in Lake Forest, Illinois, last year accusing Levine of sexually abusing him for years starting in 1986, when he was 16. Levine did not respond to the Times when asked for comment.
Rumors had followed Levine in the classical music world, and Gelb said the Met has looked into sex abuse accusations at least twice — first in 1979, when the executive director at the time, Anthony Bliss, dismissed allegations in an unsigned letter, telling the board of directors: "We do not believe there is any truth whatsoever to the charges." Gelb said the Met also did not take action after the Lake Forest Police contacted the board of directors in October 2016 with questions about Pai's abuse report and Levine denied the accusation. Levine stepped down as music director of the Met in April 2016, citing poor health.