James Levine denies, accusers persist

James Levine denies, accusers persist


norman lebrecht

December 09, 2017

The former music director of the Metropolitan Opera issued a denial through the New York Times on Thursday of allegations that he abused his power to seduce young men.

Levine said:

‘As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded. As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.

‘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. 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.’

One of his accusers told the Times: ‘He is lying’.

The Met says its investigation is ongoing.

In Illinois, police have said they will not prosecute allegations made by Ashok Pai, another accuser. This is no more than they told Pai are the time he made the deposition.




  • Ungeheuer says:

    What is happening here is the Levine protectorate has its wagons circling their man one more time. It hasn’t happened with others recently; it shouldn’t be allowed with Levine. No special concessions for him. The accusers? Sweep them under the rug. Matter forgiven and forgotten. Right? Wrong. Levine, in his public statement, wants to continue conducting. Is that not delusional or what? One thing is certain: The public will see that he never again sets foot at the Met. And I hope elsewhere too. The public everywhere must remain vigilant.

    As for Gelb and his board, who sat on a police report for over a year while continuing to engage Levine therefore directly complicit in the long-standing cover-up of all things Levine, what next for them?

    (Repeating the statement above for the gazillion time here so folks do not lose track or forget.)


    It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, it is often said. In this case the fat lady has sung her final encore.

    • Eaglearts says:

      The report was filed, then an investigation occured….. which took 7 mos. The results are in: no criminal charges, no allegations of force.

      Calling for the immolation of the Met, Gelb and the board is improper, IMO.

      Had the board covered up a police report that included criminal charges that could not be pursued due to the statute of limitations then maybe……

      Hysterics won’t help solve this issue.

      • Ungeheuer says:

        You don’t seem to get it. This is not about seeking criminal charges (the expired statute of limitations took care of that) but about justice, truth and fairness. There are no hysterics but in your own mind. Blaming the messenger is the easy part. Recall it was Levine and Gelb who created the situation.


        • Steve P says:

          In America, law is the rule: fairness, truth, and justice all get to contribute, but no one is above the law.
          That said, Levine cannot be convicted by a kangaroo court of public opinion unless he is allowed to fairly, truthfully, and lawfully face his accusers. When that happens, he is to be presumed INNOCENT until proven guilty.
          But for those of you outside the US who live in fear of persecution for hearsay, the concept of the accused having an opportunity to answer charges may be too foreign.
          I believe Levine is a raging pedophile and serial molester; my beliefs are irrelevent and should remain so until Levine is found guilty in a legal finding. Enough of this ridiculous twaddle from would-be white knights!

          • Matt D says:

            Yes, but you do agree there is a difference between criminal conduct and inappropriate conduct/harassment, don’t you? People do things every day that result in being fired, but rarely does that coincide with behavior that raises to the level of criminal.

          • Olassus says:

            *jingoism has no place in this discussion
            *he should, but won’t, be forced not “allowed to fairly, truthfully, and lawfully face his accusers”
            *he won’t be “found guilty in a legal [process]”
            *he is in a sense “above the law” because he has more $$$s than the victims for any civil action
            *public opinion is not a kangaroo court
            *in this case justice is meted out by public belief, including yours

  • Charles Fischbein says:

    This has been known for years long before Gelb received official notification last year.
    No one believes Levine and no one should believe Gelb the Met Board and even Volpe during his tenure did not know this.
    I agree he will never again conduct at the Met and hopefully no where else.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    He seems awfully sanguine about it, brushing it off and assumes he will continue conducting -no problem.

  • Arturo says:

    I’ve also heard the Levine rumors for many years, and have been watching this unfold with interest. But there’s one aspect I have not seen mentioned in any comments so far.

    I specifically remember that Levine, when asked about the legality of his sexual preferences, was very confident that he knew how to avoid “getting caught”. This is a very bright man, remember. Brilliant musicians are rarely stupid.

    I’m not so sure I’d give all the credit to his protectors. I think he is probably doing a very good job of protecting himself. I’m sure he knows the laws, the loopholes, the technicalities. It’s going to be very difficult to nail him on this, because I’ve always had the impression that he knows exactly what he’s doing.

    In the conversation that I recall (repeated to me 2nd hand, granted, which is why I haven’t commented before) he pointed out that he was not so “stupid” as to get caught, that he knew how to avoid the problems. Looks like that is what we’re seeing now.

    This is not a run-of-the-mill pedophile. This is a brilliant musician, a very intelligent individual who would not endanger his high profile career impulsively. If he applies even a fraction of the intellect he’s used to achieve his current musical success in this situation, he will walk away with no legal repercussions, IMHO. No job, maybe, but a free man.

    • Eaglearts says:

      Facts are important. No accusation brought forward so far amounts to pedophilia as far as I can ascertain. Levine was 24 in 1968. Accusers were at least 17. It’s predatory, coercive, emotionally abusive and morally wrong….. but not pedophilia.

      • Arturo says:

        True. Thank you for that clarification.

      • Bruce says:

        FWIW, he’s not going to face charges in Illinois (regarding the 16-year-old) because the age of consent there was 16 at that time. It’s now 17, with a proviso to make it 18 if the adult in question is in a position of power or trust. In that context, it would be a crime if he did the same thing now.

        Depending on your point of view, you can say “changing times, changing mores” or you can say he got away with child molestation on a technicality.

        “It is important to note that since the time these acts are alleged to have occurred, Illinois law has raised the age of consent to 17,” the office said in a statement. “Also, there is now a provision in Illinois law raising the age of consent to 18 in cases where the suspect is in a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim. No similar legal protection existed during the time frame in which these acts are alleged to have occurred.”


        • Eaglearts says:

          That is a conclusion one could make, but not on the basis of the law at the time. Age of consent still varies from state to state. I’m certainly not defending his alleged actions, but fact based definitions still matter. Needs to be part of the discussion.

          • Bruce says:

            I agree with you. I might take your sentence “It’s predatory, coercive, emotionally abusive and morally wrong….. but not pedophilia” and change the order a little bit, however, and phrase it like this instead:

            “It’s not pedophilia…. but it’s still predatory, coercive, emotionally abusive and morally wrong.”

            I’m not in favor of sending someone to jail for something that isn’t a crime (or wasn’t when they did it were alleged to have done it); but I am in favor of people being publicly criticized for behavior that harms others.

          • Eaglearts says:

            Completely agree. Hopefully all educational institutions and music festivals have policies prohibiting sexual and romantic interactions between faculty and students. However, when person are above they age of consent they have free will in such areas. It’s a complicated issue……

          • Bruce says:

            “However, when person are above they age of consent they have free will in such areas.”

            Well, then it becomes a question of superior & subordinate. Even if it’s not an explicit teacher/student relationship, say at a summer festival, there’s still the question of possible letters of recommendation, networking, etc. that the subordinate has to bear in mind when deciding whether or not to agree to sex with the disgusting old man superstar conductor.

        • Charles Fischbein says:

          Bruce, you seem rather skilled at situational ethics, forgetting basic Judeo Christian norms.
          Maybe pedofelia is a norm in your world but for the vast majority of moral mortals it is a crime.
          Maybe Levine can avoid jail due to specific statutes of limitations, but that does not excuse his perversion

          • Bruce says:

            I wonder why you think I disagree with you.

          • Eric Wulfert says:

            Please enlighten us, Dr Fischbein, on what exactly those judeo-christian norms are, other
            than not eating shellfish. You should also by now have learned how to spell pedophilia – I hope someone proofread your doctoral thesis.

  • Michael says:

    An extremely lame “denial” if ever there was one. I don’t even see it as a denial so much as someone saying it’s unsubstantiated. Saying you’re not an oppressor or an aggressor doesn’t tell me that you didn’t do these things. Why not just speak our language and say” I didn’t do these things”. Speaking in code does not instill confidence in me.

    • Olassus says:

      Because he did do them, apparently. He is not saying the incidents didn’t happen, just characterizing them as no foundation for the victimhood expressed.

  • Dave says:

    By all accounts, Levine has been a predator for decades. He doesn’t know any other way.

    • Anon says:

      Maybe, but that does not constitute a crime by itself yet. As unpleasant as it might have been for some of the people he approached.

      • Dave says:

        ‘Unpleasant’? I love how you phrased that Anon. I guess we will just turn our heads away because this is merely unpleasant to some people who got Mr. Levine’s attention. You aren’t a lawyer by any chance?

        • Anon says:

          What – exactly – are you talking about? Yes, unpleasant. Someone approaches you with the clear intent to have a sexual encounter with you. You excuse yourself and find the way out. That’s unpleasant. But nothing traumatic really. It’s part of social life.
          What – exactly – are you talking about?

          • Dave says:

            And what if you are a teenage boy and Levine comes on to you? It’s very easy for you to say ‘just walk away.’ These men know how to pressure young boys into being their sex partners.

      • Cyril Blair says:

        The people he “approached”? He did a lot more than that. He is accused of masturbating some of these teens/young men and/or having them masturbate him. That’s sexual assault because they felt coerced to do it.

  • William Osborne says:

    The reason the case is not being prosecuted in Illinois is because it is past the 20 year statute of limitations.

    • Eaglearts says:

      Not true. Accuser was above the age of consent at the time. No allegations of force were made. Evidence/records from the Inn where abuse supposedly took place no longer exist.

      “At the conclusion of the investigation, considering the specific conduct disclosed by the complainant, the age of the complainant at the time, all of the evidence in the case, and the applicable law … it is our decision that no criminal charges can be brought,” it said.

      The one-page statement notes the statutory age of consent in Illinois at the time of the alleged abuse was 16, though the state has since raised it to 17 and to 18 in cases where the accused was in a position of trust or authority over the victim.

      The prosecutors’ statement says none of the accuser’s statements to investigators “included any allegations of force.” And among the evidentiary challenges, it says, was that records from “the establishment” where the alleged abuse occurred no longer exist.

      • Arturo says:

        This is good news. So many us are hoping that he is innocent, that he’s done nothing wrong.

        • Carson says:

          Why? He can’t conduct anymore anyway.

        • Bruce says:

          That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

        • Sue says:

          The items don’t suggested that Levine didn’t do the things complained about, but simply that prosecution is too problematic; ergo, we have no choice but to abide by the legal processes we have about the presumption of innocence within the realm of the court system. That’s not to say we are not free to regard Levine as somebody who cannot be trusted because where there is smoke there is fire. You don’t have to be convicted in a court of law to be regarded as NOT a nice person.

          But more accusations are sure to come from other quarters in the entertainment and poltiical worlds in the already-oversubscribed victim olympics.

      • William Osborne says:

        I think one could make a solid argument that Levine was in a position of authority over the victim as a teacher thus raising the age of consent to 18. In any case, the statute of limitations would be past so that is not being pursued. If younger victims do not come forward, it may be that Levine will squeak by the letter of the law, but his professional lapses have already doomed his career and much of his legacy. (And not to sound overly suspicious, but I wonder a bit about the sudden appearance of “Eaglearts” and his particular arguments.)

  • David says:

    I thought James Levine has a live-in woman partner. I remember reading about her in the following article in the New York magazine:


    “Levine lives with his closest friend, Sue Thompson, a former oboist whom he met in 1967. They share an apartment on the Upper West Side with two Bösendorfer pianos and a vast collection of music books and composers’ letters and, of all things, dinosaur bones (which Levine first got into as a teen). Of Thompson, who attends most of Levine’s performances, he says, “She’s unique in every respect. She played oboe beautifully, but she also gardens, she designs furnishings. It just seems she excels at whatever she approaches.” Levine gushes about Thompson.”

    • Charles Fischbein says:

      Your point David?
      Could she serve as an asexual enabeler?
      Please stop excusing perversion most moral men and women condemn.
      Not all of us live in your world.
      Thank God for that.

    • Bruce says:

      It’s funny, in the 35+ years I’ve been hearing rumors about Levine, I’ve never once heard a rumor that he had any sexual or romantic interest in women.

      • Charles Fischbein says:

        I may be incorrect in this but about twenty years ago in Grad School in New York studying Historical Musicology I recall hearing that either Levine’s brother or an attorney suggested this female platonic friend of Levine’s move in with him for apprences
        While his actions with young boys is well known this,was just hear say by several professionals in the,Opera community in Manhattan.
        I wonder if anyone else has heard anything like this?,

  • Robert Holmén says:

    If we were back in 1968 and we found out that a 24-year old teacher was inducing 16-, 17-, 18-year-old students into sexual acts, that they did not want to do, on the premise that it was part of their musical development… would we continue to hire him?

    Continue to laud him as an artist? Continue to send students to him? Claim that it’s all good because they are less than 8 years apart in age?

    For many of the commenters here, the answer seems to be “yes!” because it wasn’t strictly illegal.

    I bet many here are teachers. Is that the test you are applying where you are teaching today… “Not completely illegal”?

    Have you told the parents of your students that?

    • Mark says:

      Assuming, arguendo, that their version of the events in question is the correct one, everyone I know who went to college in the 60s (long before my time) claim that it was very difficult to find a professor younger than 65 who didn’t have dalliances with their students. Besides, how do you know they didn’t throw themselves at their brilliant teacher for a chance of personal mentorship ? Just like these silly teenagers who would do anything to get into the pop star’s hotel room. And now, the disappointed and the talentless hyenas cease the chance to bite the ageing lion …

      • Robert Holmén says:

        Except that the accusations are not coming from talentless hyenas but real achievers with careers.

        “…how do you know they didn’t throw themselves at their brilliant teacher for a chance of personal mentorship ?”

        It is telling that not even James Levine or any of his enablers are claiming that.

        • Mark says:

          Nobody denies that everything was consensual. The kids were young and dumb and the teacher was horny.
          I seriously don’t care – yawn ‍♂️

    • Eaglearts says:

      No he would not be rehired. It would still not be criminal. From the accounts I’ve read when guys didn’t want to continue with such behavior he ignored them and let them leave his band of sycophants. From an account on this site at Verbier, when a student declined his advances he ignored them as well.

      Hopefully all institutions have better protocols in place now.

      • William Osborne says:

        Is Eaglearts word “sycophants” appropriate, or would abused students be more morally accurate and less rationalizing? To say abused children would be more to the point at hand. Referring to the victims as sycophants only further demeans them. With that harsh word, Eaglearts seems to reveal an agenda.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        Yes, he ignored them if they said no.

        But students properly pay to go to schools and festivals *for attention* to their musical development and the situation with Levine appears to be that if you didn’t “consent” to his sex acts that was all over and your access to his completely valid musical expertise was gone.

        He is not fulfilling his responsibilities as a teacher when his test for talent is “I want to have sex with them.”

        I would say a school permitting that situation was committing fraud unless it was disclosed in advance.

  • harold braun says:

    Innocent until proven guilty.

  • harold braun says:

    So it´s his word against theirs.And as long as no evidence comes up,that´s the end of it.After such a long time,the truth most likely will never come to surface.

    • Cyril Blair says:

      Don’t pretend there is no evidence. The men’s accounts ARE evidence. In a court of law they would be evidence. The men would testify and their testimony would become part of the evidentiary record. There is also corroborating evidence in the form of diaries/journals kept at the time the events were happening and in the form of people who confirm that the accusers told them about the events shortly after they happened.

  • herrera says:

    The difference between Levine and all the other recent cases was that the sex was CONSENSUAL between 2 people of consenting age.

    Now, you may not like that it was gay, that it was an abuse of power, that it was a teacher-student relationship, that there was an age difference, that it was immoral, disgusting, vomit inducing, skin crawling, that God shall rain down his wrath upon him as in Sodom and Gomorrah, but none of that changes the fact that his accusers today CONSENTED to the sex act at the time.

    None of the accusers today are denying that they consented, they’re just saying if they could do it all over again, they would say no. But that is not the same as they said no 30 years ago.

    • Ungeheuer says:

      Let us hope no one ever sets his or her predatory eyes on Herrera, and acts on their impulses. Should it ever happen, Herrera has lost his or her moral right to complain. And should he or she whine, we will insist on the consent defense. Then turn the other way, move on and ignore. Then forget anything ever happened.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    So, any idea who’s gonna write the first opera about this sordid subject? Or is Billy Budd close enough?

  • La Verita says:

    Levine didn’t deny anything. His statement on Thursday said that the accusations against him were “unfounded”. And, 24 hours later, Law enforcement officials in Illinois said that they would not bring criminal charges against him, noting that his accuser had been 16 at the time — which was then the age of consent .So, in other words, Levine is saying “Yeah, I did it, but it wasn’t illegal”. Thus, Levine won’t be put behind bars, but if it’s any comfort to his victims, the man is toast.

  • Arturo says:

    After Levine, I am curious who will be the next to be called out for sexual harassment/abuse in the world of classical music?

    And just a reminder: the British conductor Robert King was found guilty and actually sent to prison for messing with young boys. He did his time, and now he’s back on the circuit conducting again. He’s a fine conductor & it was a just blip on the radar of his career, it seems.

    As much as many people in the US would like to think that Levine will never conduct again, it’s a big, forgiving world. Time heals all wounds, he’s a great conductor and somewhere, most likely outside the US, you can guarantee that someone will hire him. They just know they have to hide the boys. The only question is if his health will permit him to continue.

    So meanwhile, who will the next person in classical music to be called out?

    • Yehuda says:

      Who wouldn’t bet that Israel snaps him up real quick?
      A splendid coup for the Philharmonic there.
      The prodigal son returns, 3000 years are fulfilled, and the beat goes on.

    • Una says:

      Robert King is a personal friend of mine and someone I have worked with, but he is hardly James Levine, and Robert’s situation was totally different in every way and it wasn’t just a blip in his career at all, it was far worse for him and for his family as a couple of other musicians I have visited in prison.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Be careful what you say about Robert King on this blog, as he, or somebody close to his interests, appears to be adept at getting comments redacted on grounds of defamation even when the material is already published in highly reliable news sources such as the BBC and The Telegraph. I recently made the mistake of quoting directly from Mr King’s own evidence which he himself gave in his own defence in the Crown Court and which was recorded and published at the time, and it was soon taken down with the comment that it was defamatory. Needless to say, this is not how the law pertaining to defamation works, but no doubt Mr King must be protected from all negative comment. Of course, the really odd thing here is that Mr King has stood trial before a jury of his peers, has been convicted according to due process, and has served a term of imprisonment, and he remains a registered sex offender for life, and yet I am not allowed to quote from reliable accounts of proceedings in open court, but, meanwhile, this blog is publishing allegations about James Levine which have not been proven through the due administration of justice and which quite probably could give rise to a claim for defamatory libel (at any rate within the jurisdiction of the English High Court) were Mr Levine inclined to avail himself of recourse to civil law.

  • Tim says:

    What drives people to defend those who abuse their power, prestige and fame?

    It’s often due to a weak ego. When someone has a weak ego, they tend to strongly identify with a societies/cultures particular version of “merit-based classism”. The essence of this kind of attitude is that ‘only those with professional skill and professional recognition matter and that those with a higher level professional skills and recognition are literally worth more than other people’. Since they are better than other people, logically they have a right to abuse the under people, who are not as meritious as they are.


    It’s easy to defend the powerful in cases like this because it’s a way of proving your loyalty to “merit-based classism” and so, even if you are low down on the Merit level you can say to yourself and to others, unconsciously, that “at least I know my place, and that of those above me; so see, at least I’m not as worthless as those other guys who are low and don’t know their place”.

  • Rudi says:

    Just wonder when the music-metoo is going to hit Europe and people like Barenboim, who might not get the Nobel prize because [redacted].

  • Robert Holmén says:

    “It was legal at the time” is a completely honorable defense… in accounting and tax disputes.

    Isn’t it odd that in 1968 these students were legally not mature enough to make decisions about voting but still legally fair game for horny music teachers.

    Whose protection was that law crafted for?

  • Billy Njilly says:

    “to err is human; to molest, Levine”

    now let’s get talking about Lennie and MTT !!

  • Nick says:

    There is something here that I find distinctly confusing. Four men in the USA and a former concertmaster from the Verbier orchestra, all above the legal age of consent, have alleged either sexual molestation, unacceptable mentor/student behaviour – or both. Yet all the threads about Levine have harked on and on about so many in the “business” either having heard the rumours or of “knowing” about cases of pedophilia. And this has apparently been known for many decades. With Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others caught in this net, initial allegations were quickly followed by a whole host of others. In the Levine case, there has been no similar flood. Yet if the rumours of pedophilia are true, surely there have to be many dozens of men who should be coming forward? One post has mentioned pay-offs and non-disclosure agreements. Given the present climate, though, does anyone seriously believe that breaking an NDA would lead to those having made the pay-outs taking such cases to court? At this stage, surely the hurricane of public opprobrium would trump any such attempt?

    • William Osborne says:

      There are strong reasons people who took payoffs might not come forward. First, it is extortion to demand money to conceal a misdeed, even if a crime was involved. The penalties for extortion can be severe. Second, helping to conceal a crime is accessory after the fact and aiding and abetting. Here too, the penalties are strong. Third, a parent who took money to keep quiet about the abuse of their child would face extreme opprobrium. If there was abuse that was illegal (as opposed to the abuse that was,) I hope witnesses will come forward. If necessary, an immunity agreement could probably be arranged.

      • William Osborne says:

        And added to this is the age old problem that victims of sexual abuse are often reluctant to carry the burdens created by testifying, especially those you were abused as children. This social phenomenon caused people to remain silent about abuse in the Catholic Church for decades. Fully revealing the Levine case could be a long and difficult process.

  • DavidC says:

    Odd denial. Weak. Five days after hundreds of requests for comment. Best he can muster? And it focuses on his desires. “I want to continue to play!” Ignores four unrelated victims came forward. This sounds like denials of other accused – but which?

  • Stephen says:

    Is a suspect no longer innocent until he is proved guilty?

  • Andrew Petersen says:

    Such depravity the world of art and music allows. Let the skeletons come out to dance in the light of day.

  • John says:

    I was abused by an older man when I was 14, and it messed with my mind for the rest of my adult life. A therapist told me that the abused continues to act out the original abuse in hopes of getting out of it – of emerging from the damage. I’ve never had an emotional bonding for the duration of my years, and I’m 73 and an opera lover – he did more damage than he knows.