The Met fires Levine, clears itself of complicity

March 12, 2018 by norman lebrecht


This is the raw statement from the Met regarding its former music director.

It can be summarised in three words: We knew nothing.

Will that line hold?

March 12, 2018
Statement regarding James Levine
After considering the findings of a thorough investigation conducted by outside counsel that lasted more than three months, the Metropolitan Opera has terminated its relationship with James Levine as Music Director Emeritus and Artistic Director of its young artist program.
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 investigation also uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct towards vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority. In light of these findings, the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met.
The investigation also found that 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.
We thank the more than 70 individuals who were interviewed during the course of the investigation.
We recognize the great concerns over these issues that have been expressed by the Met community both inside and outside of the opera house, and wish to provide the assurance that the Met is committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and harassment-free workplace for its employees and artists.


UPDATE: What the Met want you to believe.

Comments (39)

  1. boringfileclerk says:

    Everybody knew. The board and Gelb should stop pretending they were innocent and resign in shame. Levine should be prosecuted and sentenced to jail for the remainder of his life. Genius is no excuse for evil.

    1. MWnyc says:


      At least, not yet.

      There has been no evidence brought to light that Levine has committed any offenses with anyone legally underage.

      In other words, based on what we actually know, James Levine may deserve to be fired, and he may deserve to be shunned, but he does not belong in jail.

      1. Bruce says:

        Unless you can be jailed for “sexually abusive and harassing conduct,” in which case yes… for that. If the law allows it.

        As disgusting/ disappointing as the “that was the age of consent in that state at that time” and statute-of-limitations arguments are, that’s the law. It doesn’t make him an innocent man, it just makes him a not-technically-guilty-of-that-particular-crime-in-the-eyes-of-the-law one.

        1. MWnyc says:

          Noe one, at this point, is saying that Levine is an innocent man. (Except possibly Levine himself.)

          Boringfileclerk wrote that Levine “should be prosecuted and sentenced to jail for the remainder of his life.” I simply replied that there’s no credible allegation yet that Levine committed statutory rape or any other crime that carries a long prison sentence. And I made a point of allowing that he may deserve to be fired and shunned.

    2. Saxon Broken says:

      His behaviour seems to have been deeply unpleasant and immoral, but not something that can be prosecuted. Enough to get fired but not enough for jail.

  2. Caravaggio says:

    I wonder if Christa Ludwig is reading this. Whatever the case, I agree with BoringFileClerk that the math doesn’t add up regarding the Met Opera board, Gelb and their predecessors during the Levine years vis-a-vis the man. They all knew and looked the other way time and again. They need to use the nearest exit behind JL. Cleared of complicity and cover up? I am not buying it.

  3. Hilary says:

    Judging by his poor health, It would seem like he was on the threshold of not being able to conduct again anyway.

  4. Freddyng says:

    Would be interesting to hear of “stories” during his stint as assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra during the Szell years…….

    1. Sharon says:

      Most of the Boston Globe article discusses Levine’s activities when he was an assistant conductor in Cleaveland

      1. The View from America says:

        Yes, and those blindfolded masturbation sessions were a particularly class act, no?

  5. Kundry says:

    Congratulations, you 2017/18 PC police ! Next in line for investigation and for being taken out of society is Wagner. Come to think of it, the list could include a few others – composers, interpreters and why not ? – let’s get busy also with the painters and sculptors of the past. Surely, there is some wench in Italy or England , who was groped by likes of Shakespeare, or Michelangelo. Why stop at conductors? Let’s go for the truly great and feel even better !!

    1. Mark says:

      Exactly, Kundry. I find it rather amusing that the next season at the Met will open with Samson et Dalila. Saint Saens, a self-confessed “pederast”, would have given any tender-hearted pimpled SJW a seizure. And how about that dastardly pedofile Michelangelo? Down with the Sistine Chapel !!! (eyeroll)

      1. Mark says:

        Typo – *paedophile

    2. RSP says:

      But…the’re already…dead.

    3. Sue says:

      Precisely. And remember this all you people who’ll do anything to get a job. If you make a contract with the Devil don’t complain about the terms.

      There was an old joke doing the rounds in the 70s when I was young..”I knew a woman who said she’d do anything for a fur coat and now that she’s got one she can’t do it up”!!

      If Levine has broken the law he needs to face it before the courts. If not, shut up everybody. As Jordan Peterson says, “grow the hell up”.

      1. Mark says:

        Sue, how dare you to make so much sense ?

      2. Sharon says:

        “If you make a pact with the devil don’t complain about the terms”. Yeah, Sue, I will complain if I believe that the pact I had to make was coerced or if I believed that I did not have a real choice. I will also complain if it is done to others because the others are my fellow human beings. Furthermore I will complain because as many on Slippedisc as well as Mr Lebrecht have repeatedly pointed out, that this is a systemic problem in the classical music world that goes far beyond Levine.
        Many of Levine’s acolytes and subordinates believed that they had to go along with Levine in order to have a career in the classical music world because of his power and fame, a belief which in this case, was exacerbated by by Levine’s psychological manipulation, itself a form of oppression They did not come forward for many years, because they were too ashamed to admit, especially to their families, that they needed, or believed that they needed, his patronage for their careers, that they had allowed themselves to be psychologically manipulated, or that they had engaged in gay sex. They also believed that “pacts with the devil” were rife throughout the classical music world.
        To followup with the Dr Faustus “pact with the devil” example, Dr. Faustus made the pact with the devil because he was afraid of dying before he completed his work and achieve the type of professional success he craved; he did not believe that he had a real choice. Similarly Faustus’ girlfriend (I forget the name) committed infanticide because she believed that due to stigma, Faustus’ abandonment of her, and lack of economic resources. she did not have a choice.
        Nowadays the vast majority of women who have abortions have them because they believe that they do not have a choice, not one that they truly believe is viable at any rate, due to various forms of personal and systemic oppression, economic, professional, and social.
        When we tell a woman “It’s your choice” what we are really saying is “Don’t make this my problem.” But is IS my problem because she is my sister.
        Similarly, when we tell those who feel compelled to take up the casting couch “don’t complain. It was your choice” we are supporting the system and consigning those who are its victims, who one day could easily be any of us, to alienation and isolation.
        I understand the feelings of those who believe that institutions, such as the Met, have the obligation to protect those in their worlds who are more vulnerable. However, institutions can also be manipulated or believe that they do not have a choice if they want to survive. Just look at the Republican’ support of Trump.
        Levine was getting the bottoms in the seats. He was thought to be revitalizing opera. In his early interviews he said or implied that he was saving opera in America, pretty much single handedly. He was very charismatic and convincing, probably because he believed in his own hype.
        In the United States the arts are not guaranteed major government support. Levine had the Met board and management in his pocket, convinced that they could not survive easily without him. Even today, if Levine had not already retired and was not so sick I wonder if the Met would have fired him or just suspended him for a while, if they were no longer able to keep it quiet.
        Let’s hope that Levine’s example will lead to lasting changes.
        Thanks for the “pact with the devil” analogy Sue. Let’s recognize that the devil is the patronage system and star system that has existed as long as classical music has existed but this does not mean it should be acceptable
        The reason that classical operas are classical is that the audience and performers can identify with the underlying themes and emotions. I hope that the Met chooses Dr Faustus for the 2019-2020 season.

        1. Chicago Lyrical says:

          Could you for the love of God learn how to paragraph?

          1. Sharon Beth says:

            I find it difficult on this blog but I promise to try harder!

          2. The View from America says:

            Uuhh … hit the “return” key to move to a new paragraph.

      3. Saxon Broken says:

        Sue writes: “If you make a contract with the Devil don’t complain about the terms.”

        Those people who refused to have sex with Levine, and then didn’t get the career are also victims. It isn’t just those who provide sexual favours for a career and then regret it who we should feel sorry for, it is also those who declined to provide sexual favours and got penalised.

    4. Are you really comparing James Levine to Richard Wagner? Don’t you think that there is a big difference? Besides: Wagner certainly wasn’t a “nice person”, but he didn’t make around with kids.

      1. Hilary says:

        but none of the allegations which have surfaced are concerning kids.

        1. MacroV says:

          Actually, some of them are. But it doesn’t matter. Using a position of power to coerce sexual activity is wrong, no matter the age of the person being coerced.

  6. MacroV says:

    Of course the MET knew. Even 20 years ago I heard rumors, and was never anywhere near the MET or the music biz. Rumors are not fact, but if I heard things, so surely did the MET. Smoke, fire. Question is whether there is anyone who will recount incidents at the MET that the powers that be failed to act on when reported.

    1. Olassus says:

      Exactly. And any “rumor” is by definition “unsubstantiated.”

      What a strange word that is! Does it mean lacks substance? Substance cannot be proved? Substance is not tangible? Substance, if real, has no legal effect?

      1. MacroV says:

        Not talking about legal, but about credibility. It’s highly unlikely, as far removed as I was from Levine/MET, that such accounts wouldn’t have some grounding in fact.

  7. Sharon says:

    I am actually surprised that the investigation went so quickly considering that they were investigating a 40 year time period. I guess the Met wanted to get it over with quickly and put it behind them. I wonder if Levine received any sort of a payoff because of broken contracts and to prevent him from appealing this.
    Ironically, if like politicians, I’m thinking of former NYC mayor David Dinkins and his tax evasion scandal, although there are many other examples, if Levine had admitted to this and apologized, had some sort of out of court settlement with those he harassed, and of course stopped the activity even 20 years ago, when it appears to have already stopped anyway, after two years or so of lying low he would probably be back in the saddle at the Met. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first endeavor to deceive!”
    I do hope that Levine has the resilience to go on, either in a quiet retirement putting together and indexing his papers for library collections and computerized archives and perhaps writing his professional memoirs, or working behind the scenes on some project like a new music institute or media music program.
    I still can’t wait for the authoritative biography and opera!

  8. M. Renard says:

    Love reading the stirring defenses here from dissipated opera buffs who put art (if you wanna call tired old opera “art”) over basic moral decency and give themselves away by ranting about “PC” and “”SJW’s.”

    Stirring defenses of the irrelevance of morality to art are almost always made by those who sympathize with, benefit from, or engage themselves in the immoral activities being defended .

    Why don’t all you Levine defenders who are willing to overlook a lifetime of disgusting behavior, some of it potentially illegal at the time, pony up the millions the Met needs as decent donors turn away in disgust?

    The Met also enjoys substantial public subsidy that no one ever talks about. That’s because they produce a tired worn out art form that has no actual market other than rich snobs and dissipated aesthetes who think it’s fine for a “maestro” to diddle young boys if it improves his concentration on Parsifal. Or whatever.

    Opera cannot die soon enough. You can see the end drawing near.

    1. Rosco says:

      Perfectly worded. Bravo!
      “Stirring defenses of the irrelevance of morality to art are almost always made by those who sympathize with, benefit from, or engage themselves in the immoral activities being defended .”

      1. The View from America says:

        … “I know I am but so are you!”

    2. Mark says:

      @M. Renard Hey, pop sensation, aren’t you busy producing monkey music somewhere ? What are you doing commenting here ?
      Find one pop star who doesn’t “diddle” his teenage fans in his or her private tour bus.
      You want morality – go to the monastery !

      1. MacroV says:

        Rock stars availing of the groupies that throw themselves at them – don’t know about the underage part – is a different matter than an authority figure coercing sexual favors as a condition of professional support. The groupie who wants to do it with the rock star isn’t generally an aspiring musician seeking a career break.

        1. Mark says:

          And how do these sexy backup singers get their jobs, hmmm ? It must be pure coincidence that they are almost always so hot ….

  9. Anon says:

    ‘uncovered credible evidence’

    sneaky semantically ambiguous lawyer expression, keeping the back door open.

    Evidence is by definition… duh… evident. So credible or not to any individual, that’s irrelevant. It’s evident.

    What these words say is this:
    Evidence, no attribute, was there and known by the people in charge all the time.
    But it was covered (up) and deemed as ‘not credible’ by them. Thus the need for these attributes.

    If the recent investigation indeed found evidence, anything that wasn’t known already before, then the wording would have been simply: ‘found evidence’.

    1. The View from America says:

      “… keeping the back door open.”


  10. Vladislav says:

    My Kvass covered Russian arse they didn’t know.

    Stop clearing yourself of responsibility. Ypu piece of shit, Gelb. позор, Met. I hope you help the victims and jail Levine.

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