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New claim: Was James Levine arrested in Memphis?

December 6, 2017 by norman lebrecht

141 comments.


An attorney from Tennessee has contacted Slipped Disc with a recollection that James Levine was arrested with a young man in a public restroom in Memphis during the Metropolitan Opera tour in May 1979.

Our informant was told that the music director was bailed out by tour managers and no criminal proceedings ensued. However, he suggests Memphis Police may have a record of the arrest.

This may be something for the Met’s independent investigators to check, particularly in regard to how the bail funds were accounted for in the company’s books.

It is, of course, quite possible that no offence took place and the arrest was an act of harassment by bigoted police. It is also important to note that our informant does not have firsthand, professional knowledge of the case; he was in Nashville at the time. But he suggests that, alongside other current allegations, this incident might help shed light on how the Metropolitan Opera handled its music director’s extra-curricular activities.

 

 


Comments (141)

  1. Miguel Esteban says:

    Dear Norman, This is highly unethical, notwithstanding the emotions surrounding these current affairs. You report that you get confidential information that you seemingly have not independently substantiated and, instead of doing that or reaching out privately to the Met, you air it out in public. Even though it is clear these alleged perpetrators are being tried in the court of public opinion, you have respomsibilities as the guardian of one of those public opinion platforms, an arguably influential one. Judging from what I have read above, I must say that I am disappointed in you. All the best, Miguel

    1. Ben says:

      Excuse me “Miguel”?

      The time for silence is OVER. And please don’t embarrass yourself by couching your weak argument in “ethics.”

      1. steven holloway says:

        You are right, of course, as too is Miguel. SD is the National Enquirer of music blogs, or more-or-less music blogs. The periodic cautions about not rushing to judgement, the claims to be interested only in Truth and Justice, are a hallmark of tabloid journalism and just make things the more bilious.

        1. Alvaro says:

          You are very lucky, Steven. SD erases all my comments within minutes, but I still post them.

          So much for “Journalism”.

          Interesting the criteria used to keep some critical posts but erase others, even though what you said was much more negative.

          Interesting indeed….

      2. William says:

        Ben – however, we must also be cautious that reports published on unsubstantiated claims can ultimately do only damage to the case of the victims as well as those of future accusers.

        1. Mathieu says:

          +100 What William said. The rule of law and due process do not only protect alleged offenders; it also protects their victims.

      3. harold braun says:

        SD is The Sun among music blogs.Sensation seeking,cheap,saucy tabloid gossip,thinly covered with a pseudo ethical veil.Unnamed sources,little or no evidence,poorly researched,often plain wrong “facts”.

      4. AMetFan says:

        I happen to like Mr. Lebrecht’s blog, but this particular posting is simply gossip and should not have been put out there without some substantiating evidence. Poorly handed, sir.

        1. AMetFan says:

          That would be “Poorly handLed, sir.”

    2. Susan Mitchell says:

      I agree 100% with you, Miguel.

    3. B Galliart says:

      SD is being completely transparent about how this information was gained and the degree to which is it is suspect. To claim this is unethical seems reaching.

      The title of the article does seem a little click-bait’ish. Given how weak the information is right now, I probably would have gone with “New Claim Regarding James Levine.”

      The article may also not hold up to standard journalistic integrity. But I don’t see anyplace where SD claims to hold up to journalistic standards. For all practical purposes this is a blog to a small niche group. At some point this is probably going to come out eventually someplace else and be presented in a way far worse. I prefer it be discussed here first and we get out in front of this.

      If you really want to get on your high horse about ethical handling of this matter, then we really need to discuss Peter Gelb. We know Gelb was notified about the claims over a year ago and has had time to prepare a response. But so far that response seems to be nothing more than a tweet. Regardless of if the claims are true or false, this situation should be an indication that the community is hurting. Getting out in front of that isn’t something that should not be considered something resolved via twitter.

      Currently, as of today, there is nothing on the on the Metropolitan Opera or Ravinia websites ask people to come forward or to try to get them connected to help. Instead, both seem to be trying to make the situation quietly disappear. But even if the allegations this time are false, how much does this code of silence help foster an environment for abuse to happen? The way this is being handled by Peter Gelb is not the right way to take the allegation seriously.

      You can debate all you want about how SD is choosing to get out in front of discussing the situation, but ultimately, the real problem is that the Met has failed to take a leadership role in handling this and passed that torch onto blogs like SD.

    4. norman lebrecht says:

      Dear Miguel
      Who are you calling unethical? The information came, as stated, from an attorney. Various others acknowledge being aware of it. All we lack is confirmation from Memphis Police, which may have been erased. The substance of this reporter is stronger than several others that have appeared in the NY Times.
      yours, Norman

      1. Miguel Esteban says:

        Dear Norman,

        I am not calling anyone unethical, I would not make such a generalisation. I am claiming that this report is unethical from the point of view of journalistic standards as far as I understand them.

        You write a report about a phone call with an attorney who did not have firsthand knowledge. The “information” this attorney relays to you is based on his “recollection” (an attorney’s recollection does not carry any more weight in my view than anyone else). This attorney “was told” things that may never have been documented.

        I believe public opinion is giving the alleged victims of sexual harassment the benefit of the doubt because of the nature of the purported crime and the amount of time that has passed. Journalists do not get that benefit.

        Considering the amount of people that visit your site, the least you could have done, in my opinion, is a bit of digging and reported the results of those investigations. Or not reported anything if you felt the attorney’s recollection was faulty. That is not asking too much with issues that involve people’s lives.

        All the best,

        Miguel

  2. A Concerned Clevelander says:

    So if this is hearsay, why publish it? There’s already plenty of substantiated dirt on Levine. Didn’t you advise “a note of caution” on December 3rd?

    1. Raymond says:

      The very fact that this “information” was communicated to SD makes it suspect. Was there ever a conduit more willing to be used in this way?

  3. Elijah Moshinsky says:

    The big story is not Jimmies behaviour.It is really about the way the Met apparatus paid out to cover up.The journalism is quite acceptable because it is pointing to evidence that can be found in criminal proceedings and the Met’s payout which could be found on their books.
    But I ambivalent because the prosecution for gay encounters are a terrible stain on the past.It happened to Gielgud.Homosexuality should never be a crime,but the use of sexual harassment to intimidate a powerless young man is an abuse of power.Perhaps the Met was just ahead of its time protecting an artist for anti gay police harassment

    1. Ungeheuer says:

      Yes, a culture of covering up their (the Met’s, the BSO’s, etc) dirty tracks at any cost. It’s in parallel and maybe comparable with the enablers and accomplices that surrounded and protected Harvey Weinstein. One straight, the other not, so nothing to do with sexual identity and everything to do with abuse of power. I have to wonder which other male conductors of reknown are presently shaking in their boots in abject fear (of their turn in the limelight). Who will be next? Stay tuned.

    2. Olassus says:

      May 1979. Wasn’t that around the time of the Bliss letter shown in the NYT?

      1. Olassus says:

        I wonder if the “lost” incoming letter to which Bliss was replying came from Memphis?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTwJvVTQ6-0

    3. David Hilton says:

      Stumping up someone’s bail in the US is not a “payout”. You get the money back unless the bailed individual violates a court order. From what has been reported, the Met’s accounts were not affected by this incident.

    4. Ungeheuer says:

      Mr. Moshinsky, I see that you have a new production (?) coming up of Luisa Miller at the Metropolitan. Would you mind sharing your feelings or views, if at all possible, about working for Peter Gelb in light of his and his board’s cover-up? As you know, they sat on the Illinois police report for longer than a year and yet continued to engage Levine. They took appropriate action only after the NY Post and the Times made the story public.

      1. Sanity says:

        Not a new production. A very old production.

        1. Ungeheuer says:

          Thank you for the clarification.

          1. Sanity says:

            You will be pleased to know that Chenier from La Scala is now available on YouTube. I know how much you were looking forward to it…

          2. Ungeheuer says:

            @Sanity, LOL. Caught a bit of the Scala Chenier. Not too bad and traditional (to a fault?). But since you brought it up, I did not enjoy Nebs. It’s more of the same with her. Generic and increasingly wobbly and sloppy. And the intonation keeps deteriorating. Those low notes are massive, yes, but they sound as if from a separate body altogether. Very strange. Eyvazov, whose voice is neither here nor there for me, sang better and healthier than she.

          3. Sanity says:

            I knew you’d love it. I only managed the finale and I barely made it through that. At one point, he was clutching his throat, which is not a good look…

  4. Robert Holmén says:

    Most news sources would properly treat this as a “lead” to be investigated by reporters and only it publish if substantiated.

  5. Ungeheuer says:

    The Memphis arrest has been aired many times before elsewhere so it is not news. The ball is now on the side of Gelb, his board, their lawyers and their investigators’ court. The ball has already bounced off the court of public opinion. I agree that the silence is over.

    1. Mark Henriksen says:

      Produce reference or a link to back up your claim.

  6. Sanity says:

    I don’t think this adds anything. If anything, it distracts.
    There is an ocean of difference between ‘cottaging’ and coercing vulnerable students into sexual activity.

  7. Arthur says:

    I am also surprised and disappointed that this website published such an unsubstantiated report. It makes me wonder if I should continue reading and trusting in the veracity of this site. Frankly, I never before considered it a tabloid.

  8. Una says:

    I find all these entries quite dreadful. Until proven guilty, best let those in the know get on with their investigations in America – not from London or any part of the UK unless there is concrete evidence – and see who.is guilty of what. At the end of the day we are all flawed human beings with our own skeletons. And no, before you all stick knives in me, I am not condoning any kind of abuse whatsoever but throwing unsubstantiated words is not good either. There are no winners in any of this. Lives are destroyed either way.

    1. Bruce says:

      The court of public opinion has no legal bearing. People are entitled to gossip and express opinions, however uninformed. (Or well-informed, as the case may be.)

      You might possibly remember the overwhelming public opinion (among white people anyway) that OJ Simpson had killed his ex-wife, but he was nevertheless found innocent in a court of law. He later went to jail for something related — wrongful death or something — but not for murder.

      So I don’t think you need to worry too much. Regarding his reputation, Levine’s career was basically over already anyway — this won’t change his future income much. And people can make their own decisions about what to do with his recorded legacy.

      1. V. Lind says:

        If you know as much about Levine as you do about OJ Simpson, you are flailing. OJ Simpson, found not guilty of capital murder as you stated, WAS convicted of wrongful death in a civil suit, which carried no prison sentence. Many years later he was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping for trying to steal his Heisman Trophy and other souvenirs purchased by another, to which Simpson felt entitled. (He was recently released on parole after nine years served).

        This blog is a disgrace to journalism if not to morality — no checking, no follow-up. Pity the correspondent wrote here as it is doubtful anyone at the Met, who should indeed be following up, reads SD.

        1. The View from America says:

          You might be right about some of the points you raise, but you are most definitely wrong about Slipped Disc. Love it or hate it, EVERYONE reads it.

          Check out the international traffic stats; the site has higher traffic than nearly any other website in the world focused wholly on classical music.

          Like it or not, SD is the place people check for “the inside track on classical music” — just like SD’s tagline claims.

          Oh — and It’s why you’re here as well.

          1. V. Lind says:

            I know at least one Orchestra manager who has said she stopped reading it because of its consistent inaccuracy. (She said a lot more, but I would not be allowed to). Makes me wonder if anyone at the Met, where no doubt many read it for a time, still bothers. Maybe they will look in because of the topicality of this issue, just to see how it is playing.

            As for me — I do not read Buzzfeed or TMZ or any of those. I read this. And, yes, I do get lots of news on it. But I also get frustrated by some of the carelessness and the doubtful journalistic standards..

    2. harold braun says:

      Thank you,Una.At least,a voice of reason.It’s getting totally absurd..

      1. Duane says:

        Thank you. Whatever happened to innocent, until proven guilty. People can go to media, and make terrible accusations about somebody, it is spread around, and that person’s life is basically wrecked. Guilty verdict is judged, punishment is meted out, and lives are torn asunder. Some people seem to reap joy from these so called “witch” hunts.

        1. The View from America says:

          #GeniusIsNoLongerAnExcuse

        2. harold braun says:

          Spot on comment!Trump´s America!

          1. MacroV says:

            This has nothing to do with Trump. Other perhaps than Trump’s own behavior leading to a less tolerant attitude toward sexually inappropriate behavior.

          2. PaulD says:

            Actually, Obama’s America in the case of Rolling Stone and its false accusations of gang rape by a fraternity and indifference by the University of Virginia.

    3. Janet Lee says:

      Thank you Una
      Has anyone investigated the accuser Ashok Pai ? The statute of limitations on this ”
      Case” ran out 25 years ago and yet a busy police force in Illinois decided this case had to be investigated ? Do they do this for all their complainants in Illinois or only the ones pointing fingers at celebrities ? This fellow has a very telling Facebook page for someone who has suffered so much trauma….
      As for Met management, Peter Gelb, there is No INDEPENDANT investigation going on .
      Mr. Gelb is using just one in a succession of extremely expensive lawyers he has on retainer, for anything from grievances about the contractual pay for ” pasties” worn by supernumeraries in Tales Of Hoffman ( a tiny sum btw) to this ; heavy hitters
      PROSKAUER ROSE .
      Joe Volpe the former GM at the Metropolitan Opera always settled labor disputes / grievances HIMSELF and / or with counsel Pamela Rasp. It was handled ” in house” which naturally saved an ENORMOUS amount of money and earned Mr. Volpe the respect and affection ( Papa Joe) of a great many employees. But, of course, he knew how to run that opera house from bottom to top. The Met does not have that Luxury currently. Peter Gelb continues to take a salary of over 2 million dollars, makes movies of the operas and independent movies of other things while he should be trying to learn how to manage the Met ! Too late : no doubt he is still overspending despite all the cuts the employees took to try to ” Save the Met” and will cry poverty at the upcoming negotiations again .
      Interesting timing that this particular scandal should come out now don’t you think , just before union contract negotiations ?
      Any ideas on that ?

      1. Olassus says:

        Too many points, Janet, but your Volpe/Gelb comparison is important.

        I don’t think the Met can be fixed until Mrs. Ziff is gone.

    4. Susan Mitchell says:

      I agree wholeheartedly!

  9. Charles Fischbein says:

    Prior to going to Grad School for Historical Musicology I worked in Washington DC for a major newspaper.
    While I can tell you that there are a lot of stories that are not adequately vetted most editors would publish information received from named and credible sources.
    This story and another of a possible Ohio arrest have be out for years.
    I agree there is enough to assure that Levine’s career is over and even that he may face criminal charges
    The key here should be focused on any actions the present and former Met attorneys and General Managers had in covering this up and to determine if Met funds were used for bond or payoffs.
    If so the tax exempt status of the Met could be revoked by The IRS.

    1. Robert Holmén says:

      “While I can tell you that there are a lot of stories that are not adequately vetted most editors would publish information received from named and credible sources.

      “This story and another of a possible Ohio arrest have be out for years.”

      OK, name your credible sources for those.

      1. Bruce says:

        In fairness, Charles didn’t claim there were credible sources. He said that, while not every story is adequately vetted, most editors would publish stories from named and credible sources.

        What I read in his comment was that the “stories” have been out there for years, but (like most of the stories surrounding Levine) there were never named & credible sources, or enough evidence I guess, to publish them.

        I suspect that you and Charles may actually be in agreement.

  10. Youshouldknowbetter says:

    He was also arrested in Cincinnati. Similar time period.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      Your proof?

      1. Mikey says:

        Why, just like you, Norman. He “heard it” somewhere.

        1. NN says:

          As most often we are overnewsed, but underinformed…

  11. harold braun says:

    Sherlock Lebrecht …

  12. Bruce says:

    Not at all on the side of protecting Levine, but I do have to wonder how this current post squares with the “note of caution” post from a few days ago: http://slippedisc.com/2017/12/james-levine-a-note-of-caution/

    It has a whiff of “let’s not rush to judgment, but — guess what I heard.”

  13. Lukam says:

    The “music director’s extracurricular activities” were those of 90% of gay men in 1979, usually at risk of their own social disgrace, because hello! being openly gay in those times could be the social and financial death of many. I’m shocked that people read something that (allegedly) happened 40 years ago with the eyes of the freedom we have today. Talk about short-term memory.
    This (alleged) event, in itself, doesn’t shed a fig on Levine’s character.

    1. La Verita says:

      90% of gay men were not molesting teenagers in 1979.

      1. Eaglearts says:

        The use of the word “teenager” in stories such as these is useless and misleading. 13-18 yrs old is a huge age range. At the lower end always wrong and criminal. At the upper end? Well at the age of 17-18 one is much more responsible for their own actions. At Meadowbrook Levine was 24. It’s all wrong one one level with quite a bit of nuance after that.

      2. Mikey says:

        It’s funny how much outrage this is causing.
        Levine was caught with a “young man” (which is not a “child”). No age is given in the above article.

        Meanwhile, Republicans are happily sending a child-molestor to the Senate with “Judge” Roy Moore. None of those “right minded”, morally superior, “true Christians®” are saying a thing about it… because it’s ok for a heterosexual man to harass and stalk 14 yr old girls, but for a gay man to have sex with an 18 yr old is the end of the world.

        1. Janet Lee says:

          Well said Mikey … and while we are at it in our collective rush to judgement let’s not ever forget who actually made the great METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE what it is today .
          I do not dismiss/ condone or minimize any real or imagined harm done anyone : EVER .
          But as Una said we are all … at least I am, a flawed human being : I have made mistakes and some of them still make me shudder with shame. I am not famous. No one is likely to make money or get notoriety by ratting me out.
          I have recalled with my friends lately, so many times when younger, that I escaped almost tragic consequences of being with the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong place and maybe there was alcohol involved ? Plenty of frightening experiences that I would much rather bury than go to the MEDIA about decades after the fact just to obliterate another person … what are their motives ? Closure ? I hope they get it

    2. harold braun says:

      Right.

    3. William Osborne says:

      Child abuse, both hetero- and homosexual, was held with the same condemnation then as now. Both communities have always abhorred it. To claim that 90% of homosexual men abused children in 1979 is not just ridiculous, it’s homophobic.

  14. Michael says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, you’re doing a great job covering this ongoing story. Thank you.

  15. Charles Fischbein says:

    Thank you Bruce you are a voice of reason at a time it is needed.
    Frankly after ten years working in DC media,I literally ran to Grad,School for Historical Musicology because I was fed up with the trash that was far too often published nationally
    While tis,was prior to CNN, Fox and MSNBC I myself under pressure from editors and publishers wrote unvetted stories and like do many still today used so called unnamed sources to fabricate stories to fit the slant of our readers.
    This,still goes on to this day
    Regarding stories,of Levine although I have been away from journalism for over 30 years in my opinion when allegations reach a certain level of critical mass it is not unreasonable to publish

  16. harold braun says:

    Maybe NL and CF could venture into private investigation.That would spare us of a lot of nonsense…

  17. William Osborne says:

    Levine had long associations with Aspen and Tanglewood. Festival environments like these increase the conditions for abuse due to temporary living arrangements, the dislocation of young people from their homes and parents, and the lack of administrative oversight afforded temporary employees. These are places the investigators should examine closely.

    A group of women are bringing a civil racketeering suit against Weinstein. It’s interesting to apply the same idea to the Levine scandal. There are about 15 criteria that must be fulfilled for a civil RICO suit and most all would fit the Levine case. The key point could be conspiracy for the interstate marketing of a fraudulent and criminal product that created strong financial and professional liabilities for host organizations.

    Little chance this will be done, of course, but it’s an interesting thought experiment that seems to tell us something about the sad state of over commercialized classical music industry.

    1. rita says:

      These are excellent points, not least your last sentence!

      1. Janet Lee says:

        Ahhh … possibly timed by Peter Gelb and the Board of directors to close the Met as they go into negotiations ?
        The timing is just too coincidental after 25 years .
        Maestro James Levine is certainly more loved and respected than Gelb will ever be . That has to rankle

  18. Charles Fischbein says:

    Harold. Perhaps you should seek professional help to expedite you getting back to reality.

    1. harold braun says:

      Running out of arguments,Fishy?

      1. Charles Fischbein says:

        It Dr. Fischbein to jerks like you.
        It is shame that some people excuse perversion and are void of morality but then again in a country run by Obama and Pelosi what else could be expected.
        Levine and his apologists are a symbol of what liberalism and situational ethics has done to the Judeo Christian ethic this country was founded in.
        Levine will eventually disappear along with Gelb and his cadre of apologists but the damage to America from years of liberalism will take longer to fix.
        People like you Harold are just a symptom of what is bad in this country.

        1. harold braun says:

          Oh boy,a Trumpist…That explains it all.Sorry for bothering you…

        2. J. says:

          “the Judeo Christian ethic this country was founded in.”

          Let’s hope you perish before you find out the truth about God. I don’t think you can handle it.

        3. La Verita says:

          “Judson-Christian ethics”??? Levine is a Jew and Moore is a Christian – so maybe if your head wasn’t so far up where the sun doesn’t shine, you wouldn’t allow yourself the Fox News luxury of blaming everything on liberalism – geez!

        4. La Verita says:

          “Judeo-Christian ethics”??? Levine is a Jew and Moore is a Christian – so maybe if your head wasn’t so far up where the sun doesn’t shine, you wouldn’t allow yourself the Fox News luxury of blaming everything on liberalism – geez!

  19. Charles Fischbein says:

    Lukam. There are a few universal norms but most moral individuals even homosexuals would agree having any type of sex with children is immoral in Western culture
    .i leave out the norms in many Muslim countries where child brides as young as 12 or 13 are highly valued and homosexuals are killed.

    1. Bruce says:

      “…most moral individuals even homosexuals…”

      Hoo boy 😀

      1. Charles Fischbein says:

        Bruce in traditional Judeo Christian terms homosexuality is immoral.
        However there is also the concept of hating the sin but living the sinner.

        1. Bruce says:

          “Bruce in traditional Judeo Christian terms homosexuality is immoral.

          However there is also the concept of hating the sin but living the sinner.”

          (a) Yes, I know. I’ve been informed a number of times what I’ll die from, how much I’ll deserve it, and where I’m going afterward.

          (b) I know what you meant to say, but that typo is pretty great 😀

          1. Charles Fischbein says:

            Bruce yes there was a typo the concept is hate the sin but LOVE the sinner.
            It is a difficult concept to adhere to especially when I think of children violated by Levine.
            My cousin died of Aids and I held his hand and we prayed as he died.
            Live long live happy enjoy great music and great opera.
            Judgement is not mine to make but that of a higher power.
            If my opinions are immoral I too will be judged some day Just as Levine
            Merry Christmas and good health

        2. William Safford says:

          Please read your Bible, and remember that a disciple was “the one whom Jesus loved.”
          (John 13:23)

          All his Disciples were male.

          Think about it….

          1. Steve P says:

            That’s a stretch.

      2. harold braun says:

        Sounds like Charles Fischbein is the pen name of Donald Trump….

        1. Charles Fischbein says:

          It could be Mr. Braun something to think about
          Could you be a pen name for Obama or weren’t you born in Kenya?

          1. harold braun says:

            Ouch….!!!!!Words are failing me now!!!!But you are really outrageously funny,tha i must say!

          2. harold braun says:

            COVFEFE!!!

        2. J. says:

          “Sounds like Charles Fischbein is the pen name of Donald Trump”

          Can Trump write?

          1. harold braun says:

            100 points!!!!!!!

  20. William Faulkner Fan says:

    Levine was always my favorite opera conductor, his Verdi recordings are more-than-amazing.

    But… i’m soooooooo shocked with this case of sexual abuse. he always seemed so serene. I am following this police investigation in every possible way(in internet).

    How in less than five days many information about the musician was revealed?

    (Sorry for the english, i’m Brazilian.)

  21. richard carlisle says:

    Could be this dirt is a bit old to be worth turning with a shovel?

  22. Sue says:

    This is just downright prurient.

  23. Sue says:

    Thinking a bit more about the Levine situation; I’m wondering if major arts organizations, like The Met, should really hang onto their talent for decades. This breeds complacency and familiarity and probably facilitates cover-ups. Do what Kleiber did; a peripatetic conductor is really excellent for an orchestra and mostly avoids scandals such as we’ve read about here.

    1. AMetFan says:

      Yes, throw away the baby with the bathwater. That’s a soluttion. Recent allegations aside, the longevity of Maestro Levine is what made the Met orchestra as great as it is. Guest conductors have little effect on the longterm health of an orchestra, chorus, or soloists. Sadly, jet travel, monster salaries, and overlapping principal conductor posts have swayed the allegiances of most conductors today.

      1. Ungeheuer says:

        Mostly agree that guest conductors have (often) little effect on the longterm health of an orchestra and soloists. But choruses are the responsibility of the chorus masters. Anyway, a guest conductor, and it depends on the acumen of the guest, can make the orchestra sound dramatically different from the day to day. I’ll give you an example. Compare the sound and manner of the orchestral playing at the Metropolitan in Der Rosenkavalier between Levine and rare guest Jiri Kout. I think they both conducted the work in the year 2000 or so. Where Levine coaxed a relentlessly bloated and agressive sound, Kout made the orchestra sound like a diamond, all transparent and very Mitteleurope, ideally, as should be. At the moment I can’t find audio or video references anywhere on the web but they must exist. It is fun and enlightening to compare the two.

      2. Jaura says:

        Yes, Levine raised standards with the orchestra but the main reason it improved so much technically over the decades has vastly more to do with the audition process put in place by the orchestra. For the past 30 years auditions have been behind a screen INCLUDING for the final round, something very few orchestras do. Levine was present at very few of them and in any case he had only one vote. So the members were actually chosen by the orchestra. Add to that the large increase in salary and benefits and vast improvement in working conditions. These were quite attractive to the young graduates of conservatories whereas back in the 40s and 50s the best players actually turned down positions offered at the Met because it was such a lousy job! They could make much better money in the radio orchestras.

        1. Career orchestra guy says:

          The audition procedures changed because of Levine and his undue influence, casting couch interviews, and the cult of his followers who were getting in the orchestra. The musicians made a priority in contract negotiations. This was told to me by a sub as well as a member of the orchestra.
          Ironically, the improved orchestra made Levine seem even more incredibly gifted. But in fact the orchestra became so strong they could do that for anyone.
          A few members of his cult are still there.

    2. Ungeheuer says:

      Except that, sadly, we have no Carlos Kleibers.

      1. Lisa says:

        Carlos Kleiber! An extraordinary conductor. I first heard him when I entered my coach’s apartment and he was watching a performance of Kleiber conducting Beethoven’s 7th. I heard only a couple of minutes from the doorway and I knew immediately that the conductor was extraordinary because his “voice” was so distinct. It’s a voice I never forgot. His rehearsal cds are ear-opening.

  24. Charles Fischbein says:

    My Lord you know about the Birmingham Symphony.
    The pinical of culture in America??

  25. Me. Schwa says:

    All of you who are NOT in the music/opera business as a profession should stop defending this person when you don’t know any of the facts. We who have been in the music staffs of the Met and other major houses, as I have, in the USA and in Europe, have known the truth for decades. Some of us have proof, in various forms. But please stop saying’Name your source’, etc. We live our lives backstage. We know almost everything. In many situations we carefully navigate our comments and reactions in the opera house so as to avoid any faux pas. I am a great admirer of J.L., but he is not perfect as a human being. Either are any of us. Our transgressions might be great, or they might be small. The fact is, the Met has been dealing with this for a very long time. It was bound to come out. Gelb was in a hurry to get Nezet-Seguin hired as MD so that, when this was revealed, the impact would hopefully be lessened, as J.L. Is quasi out-the/door in a laureate way. Alas, it is too big a story to not have such a huge impact. J.L. has lost out on major European Orchestra directorships due to the fear of scandal among those who hire the conductors. We in the business know these people, they talk to us, often we are friends. The list of incidents in this current scenario is so long that it is astounding. But naive opera buffs who don’t have any inside track should stop using words such as ‘unsubstantiated ‘. More facts will come out, and other victims will opt not to come forward. That is their right. But the Met has been a house of horrors for a long time. Toxic. Depressing. Unfortunate. The Maestro has so many wonderful qualities. It is normal that the ignorant Lincoln Center crowd does not want ever to believe such things could be true. If that is the case, pay your money and sit and watch the opera. But don’t challenge or put down those of us who know the truth.

    1. Ungeheuer says:

      Excellent argument. +100

    2. Ungeheuer says:

      The other problem at the Metropolitan, and this one I don’t know how they can resolve, if ever, is the drought of important artists and important voices. But this is a separate issue from what they are now facing and which will have to go to the back of the queue. It is unfortunate because it should be issue #1 and top priority: artistic excellence. But Gelb and the board brought this on themselves. I sense it is only a matter of days, if not hours, before we hear of his resignation. But when that happens it won’t be enough. Every member of the board must follow him out the door. I don’t see it but maybe, just maybe, there lies a silver lining. What can that be? I have no idea.

    3. Mark Henriksen says:

      You have given nothing that makes yourself believable. You are anonymous (another big talking coward). You sound like one more know-it-all that believes they alone know the truth and everyone else should just take your word for it. But hey, you got a +100 from one of the biggest blowhards on this blog. No one is actually defending JL. But there are a few who are not part of the herd of sheep and they ask questions like “where is the objective proof behind the accusations”. That is what fair people do and many of them use their names! If you have first hand information of illegal acts, then you have something to add. Otherwise you are part of the noise.

      1. Olassus says:

        He sounds genuine.

  26. The View from America says:

    Terry Teachout’s column in the December 6th print edition of The Wall Street Journal:

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-levine-cataclysm-1512510459

    1. Ungeheuer says:

      Paywalled. Could you please copy and paste?

      1. maureen says:

        this could be one of his conclusions – from his twitter feed

        Terry Teachout‏Verified account
        @terryteachout
        Follow Follow @terryteachout
        More
        I don’t see how Peter Gelb survives the Met’s admission that it accepted without further investigation James Levine’s denial of guilt, then sat on the police report for a year.
        8:32 PM – 2 Dec 2017

        1. Ungeheuer says:

          No larger truth. Just as Levine is done, so is Gelb. The sooner he and his board walk away the better for the institution. It now needs to rise from the ashes (of management’s own making).

    2. roger says:

      there is just an extract on his blog; article is behind the pay wall. have you read the article?

      1. roger says:

        this is just the extract from the blog

        Two to get ready

        December 6, 2017 by Terry Teachout

        Palm Beach Dramaworks has scheduled two public previews of Billy and Me, my second play, prior to Friday’s opening-night performance. The first one takes place this evening, and we think we’re ready for it. Yes, there’s a bit more work to be done before the curtain goes up, but Bill Hayes, the director, liked what he saw at the final dress rehearsal on Tuesday, and so did I. If you’re coming to tonight’s preview, you can expect to see a well-polished production.

        This isn’t to say there won’t be any bobbles. My guess, though, is that you won’t notice them: the lines are learned, the blocking down pat, and the show we’ll be performing tonight is the same one we’ll be performing on Friday, give or take a few minor adjustments. After four and a half weeks of unremittingly hard work, the time has come to light the candle.

        I’ll be in the audience, double-checking my copy of the script to make sure that it incorporates all of the changes that we’ve made in the past few days. For the most part, though, I plan to sit back and enjoy myself. I hope you do the same.

        * * *

        To order tickets or find out more about the world premiere production of Billy and Me, go here.

        The Levine cataclysm

        December 6, 2017 by Terry Teachout

        The Wall Street Journal asked me to write a special “Sightings” column about the James Levine scandal and its possible short- and long-term effects on the Metropolitan Opera. Here’s an excerpt.

        * * *

        “Everybody knew.” That’s what they said about Harvey Weinstein, and that’s what they’re saying now about James Levine—but can it be true? Not in the narrowly legal sense. As of today, nobody “knows” anything about the alleged transgressions of the Metropolitan Opera’s music director emeritus beyond the indisputable fact that, as the New York Times has reported, four men have publicly accused him of abusing them sexually many years ago when they were teenagers….

        Yet it is no less indisputable that rumors that Mr. Levine is a pedophile have circulated for the whole of my adult life. I first heard them in Kansas City in the ’70s. I have yet to meet anyone in the world of opera who was unaware of these rumors….

        The Times reported over the weekend that a spokesman for Mr. Levine had no comment on the specific allegations that have now emerged, and that he has twice denied to Met executives, in 1979 and a year ago, any sexual misconduct. But the company is taking the charges seriously enough to have suspended its relationship with the conductor, who served as its music director from 1976 to 2016. Over the weekend, Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, canceled all of Mr. Levine’s scheduled performances and commissioned Proskauer Rose, an outside law firm, to conduct an investigation.

        It is impossible to overstate the significance of these developments. In a very real sense, James Levine is the Met. He is the public figure most closely associated with the company, the one who has been central to its fortunes for more than four decades, and the first truly great artist to be swept up in the current maelstrom of sexual-harassment accusations. If it is proved that he did what his accusers claim, there can be no doubt that his extraordinary career will come at once to a shameful end.

        Beyond that, much will hang on whether Proskauer Rose’s investigation proves that “everybody”—that is, those inside the Met—did in fact know about Mr. Levine. For this is no ordinary scandal: It is an existential crisis, one that threatens the survival of a financially beleaguered organization that had already spent years struggling with the problem of Mr. Levine’s declining health….

        1. Olassus says:

          James Levine is NOT the Met. Never was. He improved the orchestra in the 1980s, worked well with musicians vocal and instrumental, and was always around. Basta.

          1. Ross says:

            There is a constant tendency by critics (and then audiences) to overstate the importance of the almighty conductor. The musicians make the quality of the orchestra. Playing in the Met Orchestra, with it’s high salary, is a highly coveted job. Only the finest musicians can make it into an orchestra like that, and they make it sound magical.
            The conductor matters, but they generally get far more credit than they deserve.

          2. Mark Henriksen says:

            Ross: Then how can you explain the association of specific conductors with specific orchestras (e.g., Szell – Cleveland, Ormandy – Philadelphia, Reiner – Chicago, Bernstein – NY, Koussevitzky – Boston, Mehta – LA, Slatkin – Saint Louis, Karajan – Berlin, etc)? If it didn’t matter who was at the helm, then notable relationships like these wouldn’t exist.

  27. Evan Tucker says:

    Well, so much for being careful about how you report things… In any event, I applaud the fact that you’re discussing it, but this, not the earlier post about being careful, is what you should be praised for.

  28. richard carlisle says:

    The staggering incidence of present — past — and historic behavioral problems of the wealthy and famous has led to the bubbling up from the murky depths an ultimate suggestion that no one of any age or sex can be allowed to be both rich and famous… so if you become famous you will forego material prosperity and give it over to a fund set up to reward everyone non-famous… if any recipient becomes subsequently famous the material support received will be re-allocated back to the fund … simple as that.

    Just wondering if the goal of rich and famous should be recognized more as a trap and if the known misdeeds so far are the tip of the iceberg.

  29. The View from America says:

    Over on Facebook, regarding the most recent articles with named accusers, Terry Serres says it well:

    “Here’s an article that puts a little bit more focus where it should be: on the victims. Not on the downfall of a great man (banal at this point). Not on the hand-wringing and institutional rot of the Met management and board. Not on the self-indulgent laments of fans torn about how to view his legacy.

    Levine was a Dream Crusher. He told talented and hopeful young men that submitting to his sexual needs was part of their musical development. Ponder a moment how messed up that is. When bassist Chris Brown rebuffed him after a first disturbing encounter at Meadow Brook, Levine instantly cut him off and withdrew mentorship.

    The specifics are chilling, especially considering the age of the victims, their vulnerability, and the insular educational context. Levine’s talent and sway only deepened the damage. His artistry was an exacerbating factor, not the extenuating circumstance that so many take it for.”

    1. Steve P says:

      If these allegations are true, castration wouldn’t be too harsh for this predator.

    2. Olassus says:

      Terry Serres says it brilliantly.

  30. Charles Fischbein says:

    Let’s keep it simple this time.
    Levine is an evil man.
    Gelb covered for him.
    The board at The Met also covered for him.
    They should all resign and a new era should begin for the greatest opera company in the world.

    1. roger says:

      Levine issues denial and Gelb speaks at luncheon NY TIMES

      James Levine Denies ‘Unfounded’ Sexual Abuse Accusations

      By MICHAEL COOPERDEC. 7, 2017

      James Levine leading the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 2015. Credit Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

      James Levine, the famed conductor and former musical director of the Metropolitan Opera, issued his first response Thursday evening to accusations that he sexually abused several men decades ago when they were teenagers or his students, 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.”

      After the first accusations began to emerge over the weekend, the Metropolitan Opera suspended its four-decade relationship with Mr. Levine on Sunday, and asked an outside law firm to investigate his behavior. Four men told The New York Times that Mr. Levine sexually abused them decades ago. One said that he was 17 when Mr. Levine abused him in 1968 at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan, a summer program where Mr. Levine, a rising star, conducted the school’s orchestra and led its orchestral institute. Two more said that they were abused as students there that summer as well — one when he 17, the other 20 — and said that the abuse continued for several years after they joined a clique of young musicians who followed Mr. Levine to Cleveland and later to New York. A fourth man said he was abused in 1986, when he was 16, near the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, where Mr. Levine was the music director. He reported the abuse last year to the Lake Forest, Ill., police.

      The Metropolitan Opera appointed Robert J. Cleary, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm, to investigate the accusations against Mr. Levine as it weighs his future. The company has been naming replacements for Mr. Levine’s scheduled performances.

      Mr. Levine made it clear in his statement that he hopes to resume conducting.

      “I have devoted my energies to the development, growth, and nurturing of music and musicians all over the world — particularly with the Metropolitan Opera where my work has been the lifeblood and passion of my artistic imagination,” he said in the statement. “My fervent hope is that in time people will come to understand the truth, and I will be able to continue my work with full concentration and inspiration.”

      When asked about the statement, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, said, “It’s a sad state of affairs, but of course our investigation has to continue.”

      James Lestock, 67, said on Thursday evening that he stood by his account.

      “He is lying,” he said of Mr. Levine’s statement in an email. “The examples of instigating sex with a minor, physical abuse using physical pain leading to break down crying, all happened. I will take a lie-detector test. Will he?”

      Mr. Lestock said that he was a 17-year-old cello student at Meadow Brook when he was abused in Mr. Levine’s dorm room. He described numerous later incidents of abuse; he said that once Mr. Levine had pinched him painfully until he cried, and then continued pinching him, to wound him.
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      And Chris Brown, 66, who played principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than three decades, stood by his account that Mr. Levine had abused him the summer before his senior year in high school, when he was 17.

      “Sexual abuse at any age is inexcusable,” he said. “Further, belittling those of us who were abused as less than fully human is repugnant. I stand by the story.”

      Mr. Levine issued his statement on Thursday night after the Met announced that it had found replacements for most of the operas he had been scheduled to conduct this season. The company said that Marco Armiliato would conduct the Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” and Bertrand de Billy would lead Verdi’s “Luisa Miller.”

      The accusations of sexual abuse have shaken the company and opera fans. On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Gelb sought to reassure some of the company’s core supporters at a previously scheduled Metropolitan Opera Guild luncheon honoring the soprano Renée Fleming.

      “As everyone in this room knows, the Met has recently been facing a very painful and challenging trial,” he told the guests who had gathered at Cipriani 42nd Street. “But while the Metropolitan Opera has been shaken, it still stands strong.”

      Mr. Gelb never mentioned Mr. Levine by name at the lunch. But he emphasized that the Met was greater than any one individual, and spoke of its previous trials, including a disastrous fire in 1892 and the recession of 2008.

      “The Met’s greatness is a collective effort,” he said. “It’s the grand result of thousands of artists and artisans who create operatic magic on our stage and in the pit night after night, season after season, and decade after decade.”

      1. Olassus says:

        As so he goes down as a LIAR as well.

        1. Anonymous says:

          Look, he was never going to just admit to this. Abusers don’t do that. It’s possible he doesn’t remotely see himself as an abuser. He may well just see himself as ‘bringing (these boys) up special’.

          He’s ridden out these rumours for 40 years. He probably expects to do so for some time yet. Speak to anyone experienced in prosecuting pedophiles/sexual abusers and they will tell you that they can be sat in a courtroom with all their victims and all the evidence ranged in front of them and STILL they cannot admit to wrongdoing.

          Those asking for corroborating evidence simply don’t understand how cases like this are investigated. Detectives will be looking for instances of ‘chiming’, the points at which testimonies elide. Small things that show a modus operandi. You’ll notice that all three of the original accusers were interviewed separately, and all three describe a very similar modus operandi.

          I have been in this business many years. This has been an open secret. And Levine is far from being the only one. I know houses where the culture of physical, emotional and sexual abuse runs through the house like quartz through a coal seam.

          This has months, years to run.

          1. Olassus says:

            Yes. That all makes sense.

            They seem to divide between those who deny, deny, deny, and those who admit and apologize.

            Of course, Al Franken admitted (to a degree) and apologized (to varying degrees), and look what happened to him.

            So maybe denying is the best option — or the only option if you also lie to yourself, as James Levine is doing.

          2. Anonymous says:

            @Olassus – I don’t think you can compare Franken and Levine. Franken is allegedly guilty of opportunistic groping, the act of a reckless and inconsiderate male entitled by a patriarchal society. Levine is, allegedly, a pedophile. We cannot confuse the two.

            Franken’s alleged behaviour is impulsive. Levine’s is long-planned and considered. It would seem, from the accounts, to be a re-enactment of abuse that he himself suffered as a child.

            It’s important that we don’t blur these two things. Names as big as Levine – bigger, in fact – may well be exposed over the next few weeks and months. There are some whose crimes are minimal – the sort of social aberration of which many of us might be found guilty. But there are others whose crimes are altogether much more serious. And in order for them to be brought to book, we need clarity.

          3. Olassus says:

            Of course not. I was just putting him in the “admit-and-apologize” group. The crimes should be considered one case at a time.

        2. The View from America says:

          Five pinocchios.

  31. Mark Mortimer says:

    Oh dear Jimmy Levine- what a naughty boy you’ve been by all reports. So much talent & such great performances- all now counting for little in the scheme of a perverted past. Equally shameful is that just about every major arts organisation he’s ever been involved with was aware of his predilections for a very long time & chose to ignore it. Ranging from Verbier Festival to the greatest orchestras in Europe like Berlin, Munich & Vienna Phils. Most culpable are surely the Met however- who appear to have gone beyond mere burying their heads in the sand to a genuine cover up of epic proportions- involving pay offs to silence the allegations. Not everything which Norman expostulates on is based on hard fact- but here he’s spot on. The Levine scandal is a big wake up call for the Classical music industry to finally address these issues (which are hardly rare occurences by all reports) & clean up its act.

  32. Charles Fischbein says:

    If anyone believes Levine’s denial I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
    Cash only

    1. The View from America says:

      Five pinocchios.

    2. Ungeheuer says:

      Just what I thought. I know this ain’t Twitter but #IBelieveTheAccusers

      1. The View from America says:

        Not to worry. Hashtags ceased being a #TwitterExclusive years ago.

        #HashtagsMakeTheWorldGoAround

  33. Raymond says:

    Just glad all of this kerfuffle precedes the arrival of Yannick N-S! He’ll be asked about and deliver a carefully thought through statement, but he’ll also turn the page.

    The other issue is timing Gelb’s exit.

  34. Charles Fischbein says:

    Gelb should have been shown the door after the last Ring Cycle that cost the Met millions they do not have.
    Perhaps there will be a silver lining in this horror if it becomes the catalyst that removes Gelb.
    I pray for the victims of Levine’s perversions as should all people of good faith

  35. richard carlisle says:

    Common sense might suggest that WHATEVER HE DID — if it was that terribly life-changing and abominable and hurtful … it would have come into view the next day or the next year or the next decade … but no — it is instead caught up in the new tsunami of accuse that name (rather than “Name that Tune”) game aimed at multi dollar payoffs.

    Are you crucify-happy do-gooders forgetting that we are all “sinners” and deserve a break mainly because there are simply not enough crosses to hang us all?

    1. The View from America says:

      Show me where Messrs. Chris Brown and James Lestock are asking for money.

      1. richard carlisle says:

        Half a century? Are you serious …

        Why not round up all grandmothers and screen them for who might have shoplifted in their teen years.

        Looking forward to the time when this crazyness is over … please do not make it worse.

    2. Charles Fischbein says:

      Richard you sound like a fool.
      Please stop apologizing for a pervert.
      I bet when you look in the mirror you see one there.

      1. richard carlisle says:

        No reply could reveal you more than your own words.

  36. alain louy says:

    Sale époque où n’importe qui est cru comme victime sur simple dénonciation des dizaines d’années après des faits qui seraient de toute façon prescrits !
    Du droit et rien que du droit et la présomption d’innocence !!

  37. richard carlisle says:

    Anyone participating in a kangaroo court considering evidence 25 to 50 years in the past deserves similar judgment.

    The true focus of this discussion: should we dismantle our legal system?


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