The Met will restore James Levine to radio channel ‘at an appropriate time’

The Met will restore James Levine to radio channel ‘at an appropriate time’


norman lebrecht

May 11, 2018

Slipped Disc’s exclusive report on the Met’s whitewashing of James Levine’s legacy from its satellite and radio channel has prompted widespread discussion about the rights and wrongs of airbrushing the historical record.

The Met has now told the Associated Press it is reviewing the ban and that Levine’s performances ‘will be reintroduced to the programming at an appropriate time.’

Good to see a rare, small victory for common sense.


  • Damian says:

    Me thinks the gentleman doth defend the maestro too much.

    • Sharon says:

      Lebrecht? He constantly publicized Levine’s abuse issues and advised at least one of his victims to go to the police!

  • collin says:

    As more than one astute commenter on this site have pointed out, you can’t erase Levine’s performances without erasing all the singers who participated in those performances, so it is utterly unjust to erase other artists’ legacies for the sins of one man.

    It is the very nature of collaborative arts, the final product is the contributions of each and every artist involved, I’m not sure what it would mean to take Levine out of Domingo’s interpretation of Otello.

  • Caravaggio says:

    As has been said before, let people decide if to listen to anything with Levine in it or not. Just as many do, for different reasons, with Wagner or Furtwængler or Schwarzkopf, Or in cinema, with Polanski, Allen,

    That has to be Studer next to Levine in the photo. Who are the other two to the left of Pavarotti?

  • Miguel j. Ledesma says:

    Levine, a good conductor. His private things…i dont care

    • V.Lind says:

      Nothing is as yet proven. But the allegations of sexual abuse and general power abuse are serious. It is the “not caring” of people like you that has let it go on for so long. Not just Levine, obviously, but all the others that are emerging from the “Me Too” campaign. It is so widespread a behaviour, and it has been allowed to go on without as much as a caution to those perpetrating these abuses, for so long just because of indifference. I find your attitude very selfish — as long as Levine’s music pleases you, he can go on abusing whoever suits him?

    • James says:

      You really don’t care if he sexually abused minors? You really don’t care?

      • Mark says:

        Prove it in a court of law, and I will believe it.

        • V.Lind says:

          There are a lot of truths in the world that have not been proven in courts of law. And courts of law are not about truth anyway — they are about what can be proven to the satisfaction of a random group of people (e.g. the O.J. Simpson case — I still recall a semi-literate juror saying after the trial, “I have mah reasonable doubts,” without being able to iterate even one of them).

          I appreciate a reluctance to rush to judgment — I share it, not least because I am related to a University professor who has seen colleagues’ careers ruined because of false allegations, and who himself refuses to see a female student in an office with the door closed. And I think there are increasingly strange applications of the frame of reference for abuse, particularly sexual — a man can no longer put his hand on a woman’s shoulder without being accused of sexual violence. But when there is a consistent and long term accusation of abuse directed at someone, by diverse people not working in collusion, and the abuse is of a type that is rarely going to play out in front of other people, I wonder at people who accept the one accused’s denial and deny the several (to many) accusers’ stories. The Met conducted an investigation and was satisfied it had enough to remove Mr. Levine from his position, despite his iconic position, and that should mean something.

          Yes, we should all be careful before taking a stance, but accusers are no more likely to be liars than the accused are likely to be innocent. After all these years, Cosby has finally been convicted. Yet during years when he was widely believed to have done what quite a lot of women have accused him of, people still turned out to his shows and spoke out for him. It was their right, of course, but then, too, there was an air of partisanship, of not wanting the appearance of a beloved entertainer removed from their diaries, to the whole thing. And a TOTAL indifference to those who claimed he had abused them.

          Levine seems to be getting that here. Take his part if you must — if, in conscience, you can — but any decent person will also consider the possibility that some at least of the many accusers are telling the truth. And anyone who accepts that and doesn’t care is as bad as an abuser.

          • Mark says:

            “There are a lot of truths in the world that have not been proven in courts of law. And courts of law are not about truth anyway”

            As imperfect as the legal process is (in keeping with the general imperfection of the human nature), it is the only civilized way of determining whether one party suffered injury at the hands of another. If sexual misconduct is to be objectively immoral, it can only have a definition that is legal. Otherwise, we are to wander in the land of subjective judgement, and one man’s (or woman’s) harassment is another man’s harmless game.

            “The Met conducted an investigation and was satisfied it had enough to remove Mr. Levine from his position, despite his iconic position, and that should mean something.”

            I do not set much store by that investigation – it was conducted by a law firm that has represented the Met for decades (and made millions from doing so). None of us know what instructions that snake Gelb gave to Mr. Cleary, how Mr. Cleary worded his questions, who were the people to whom he talked & how trustworthy they are etc. I’ve seen quite a few internal investigation in the course of my career, and more often than not they were designed to shield the party that pays the firm’s bill from a potential liability or accomplish a nefarious goal under the pretext of an investigation.

            Finally, I would like to remind you, that even if we are to assume, ad argumentum, that all the accusations we’ve heard so far are factually correct, none of Levine’s actions constituted a violation of any criminal statute (unless, of course, one wishes to resurrect the infamous sodomy laws, deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court).

          • V.Lind says:

            Sexual abuse of minors is not illegal in the States? News to me.

          • Mark says:

            The youngest of the accuser (Pai) was 16, which was the age of consent in Illinois at that time. All others were older.

          • V.Lind says:

            How old was the great fat hairy toad at the time? I guess it is okay to abuse power and intimidate young people dependent upon your good opinion into things they would prefer not to do. The main thing is that YOU continue to have the services of a musician you like and the hell with other people.

            I have already stated, here and elsewhere, my reservations about rushing to judgment and presumptions of innocence. I understand that some people will have reservations about an internal investigation, though it would seem to me that it would have been in the Met’s interest to find FOR Levine (and that would also have prompted suspicion). I cautiously accept that the Met finds sufficient grounds to distance itself from Levine which, combined with the published allegations and the massive rumours over the years do raise the issue of which side is telling the truth. I do not accept that the accusers are automatically either liars or irrelevant, and there are issues here beyond criminality. As with bad religious figures, as long as someone abusing young people — or any others over whom they have power, for that matter — is free and unquestioned, abuse can and will continue. To ignore it is immoral in the extreme, at the very least, and in some cases complicit and/or enabling, which may be why so many institutions have distanced themselves from artists who have finally been named out loud.

          • Mark says:

            We are going in circles here. Revel in your moral indignation, if you like, but in the eyes of the law people above the age of consent can make informed decisions about their sexual behavior. Everything else is church ladies’ clucking and pearl clutching. People will use any advantage they have (money, looks, power) to get an attractive sexual partner – that’s just human nature.

          • Sharon says:

            Actually, it is unclear of “sodomy” was even ever really involved. The only thing that the accusers admitted to publicly was genital touching

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Whether Levine did anything criminal is irrelevant to whether the Met should employ him. There are plenty of people I choose not to work with or socialize with because I don’t like their behaviour even if I don’t have enough evidence to convict them in a court of law.

            And anyway, if it got to court, The Met v. Levine is a civil case and not a criminal case, hence “balance of probabilities” applies rather than “beyond reasonable doubt”.

        • Sharon says:

          Mark, the AP article says that a “conference” is scheduled in front of a Supreme Court judge for Tuesday. What is a “conference” in this context? Will the judge act as a mediator for an out of trial settlement? (I had thought that that was handled by lower level mediators, attorneys or even paralegals).

          Does it mean that the attorneys of both sides have already reached an agreement and just want the judge to give it court approval, giving the settlement the authority of a court order?

          Or, almost unbelievably, could it actually mean that the attorneys are determining how to structure an actual upcoming trial with the judge’s approval?

          Are these conferences, like trials, open to the public? If not, then why is the date publicly available?

          I have to do something at the Supreme Court anyway and would love to be a fly on the wall!

          • Mark says:

            Here is a part of Rule 202.26 of the New York State Rules of Civil Procedure:

            “c) The judge shall consider at the conference with the parties or their counsel the following:
            (1) simplification and limitation of the issues;
            (2) obtaining admission of fact and of documents to avoid unnecessary proof;
            (3) disposition of the action, including scheduling the action for trial;
            (4) amendment of pleadings or bill of particulars;
            (5) limitation of number of expert witnesses; and
            (6) insurance coverage, where relevant.
            The judge also may consider with the parties any other matters deemed relevant”

            In the language of normal people, whose minds were not poisoned by 3 years of law school :-), this means that the judge will ask if the parties are willing to settle (and will try to encourage it). Otherwise, she will dispose of the issues of fact that are not in contention (such as, for example, the fact that Levine’s contract did not have a termination clause), deal with the discovery issues and schedule the date for the trial.

          • Sharon says:

            Is the conference open to the public? Will the attorneys just continue their posturing at the conference or will they actually try to settle? Do you believe that the attorneys have already come to an agreement and the judge will just rubberstamp or approve the settlement? Could this conference be the end of this mess?

            You think that Levine should fight it when he could have a settlement? For what purpose? Would he want to return to a work climate that his petition stated was so hostile under Gelb? How could he demand that Gelb be dismissed when the board was willing to support Gelb over Levine?

            And will Gelb resign voluntarily? He would be admitting that he made a mistake and how could he do that over such a matter and still present himself as a capable executive? Where else could he find a position, at least in the US, with so much power and influence?

            And as far as the defamation charges are concerned, unless Levine is afraid that his accusers will use the results of the investigation and dismissal as ammunition to initiate their own lawsuits, which I believe is unlikely, what difference will it make? He is now a physically challenged senior citizen in a wheelchair and many of these charges are close to fifty years old!

            With the exception of only the most vindictive people, only a lawyer could love a lawsuit in which he/she is personally involved. I was on the board of directors of a small non profit that was involved in a lawsuit for four years. It tied up the executive director, who could not be paid for the length of the trial, it cost a lot of money although our lawyers worked pro bono, it resulted in us stopping most of our program, almost destroyed the organization’s reputation, and cost us a lot in donations as well as in expenses. Not to mention the emotional stress on everyone concerned. And this was so even though we ultimately won.

            I have also been involved in work related interrogations. Although they were over minor matters and I knew that the consequences would not be serious even if I were found guilty these interrogations were still nerve wracking. Imagine what being interrogated on a witness stand in front of reporters for something that is so important to you would do to you. I know a man who was interrogated in a civil court over his role in a political demonstration. After being on the stand and questioned six hours this man in his early sixties went home and had a heart attack.

            Levine is not stupid and I have no doubt that his people are monitoring all the media including this blog. Why would he put himself through a trial? I am sure that his sister the marriage counselor would advise him not to fight this further if he receives a decent settlement.

            If Levine is concerned about his legacy as his petition strongly implied, if he continues with a full frontal lawsuit, his legacy will end up being the lawsuit and the charges that destroyed his reputation. If he walks away, the sex charges will recede from memory, and, especially if his work is broadcast again, he will be remembered primarily because of his work.

            Peter Martins did the right thing. Faced with drunk driving charges on non work time and old charges at work of physical, not sexual abuse, he retired. He said he was doing it so that the NYC Ballet could move forward without bitterness and rancor. He left on good terms with most people and his choreography is still being performed by the New York City Ballet. Although he was flawed in some ways he was wise enough to be humble when the situation required it.

            I no longer believe that Levine will become suicidal over this if he remains so feisty but a dragged out trial which in this case is a trial of his capability and character, his very self image, against the institution that gave his life meaning and purpose, that in interviews he called his spouse, will undoubtedly damage him emotionally and probably physically as well.

            I still believe that the stress of this mess was a factor in Robert Rattray’s death and Levine has a lot more at stake in this emotionally and financially, than Rattray ever did.

            I am low enough to enjoy this as a juicy trial but the humanity in me says it is best for everyone concerned if this goes away as soon as possible.

          • Mark says:

            I believed pre-trial conferences are generally non-public.

            It is difficult to speculate about the possibility of a settlement – it would depend on what information is included in Mr. Cleary’s report. If Levine’s lawyers think they can successfully challenge it, put the witnesses on the stand and create enough doubt about their stories, and, in doing so, convince the jury that Levine’s dismissal was the result of some Gelb-led conspiracy, they’d certainly want to go to trial.

            I cannot imagine Levine would be satisfied with a purely financial settlement, unless, of course, his lawyers were to advise him that this would be the best result they could achieve for him.

            As you correctly observe, it’s either Levine or Gelb – they can’t possibly work together now. If Levine wins (or if the Met’s lawyers inform their client that there exists a high probability of a negative outcome), the board would have no choice but to get rid of Gelb and to accede to Levine’s demands.

          • Sharon says:

            If it is non public why was the date announced? How can the public find out about the trial date if one is set (apart from going to the courthouse and looking at the calendar).

          • Mark says:

            The court’s calendar is public information. I was trying to find more about this pretrial conference (each judge has their own rules) – some are conducted in judges’ chambers (with just the judge and the attorneys present), but some are more like a pre-trial hearing in the courtroom. You can just call the court & ask.

          • Sharon says:

            Thanks, Mark. I suspect that the public will be allowed in the part and possibly see the parties around a table or conversing privately but not spoken so that a jury or the public can hear what is being said, similar to NYS legislative committee meetings. It would be worth it to me to show up for a little while just to see whether Gelb and Levine actually show up and see their body language even if I cannot hear what is being said . I would also be interested if the Met submitted a response (don’t they have to?) in the court record.

            Of course, if everyone were rational, only the attorneys would show up, insist that this be discussed only in chambers in case reporters were present, and present to the judge an pre arranged settlement which the judge only need rubberstamp (funny how Levine’s petition did not mention whether the Met offered any sort of a settlement when they initially fired Levine). However, I suspect emotions are running so high that this may play out like an opera.

            As far as the Cleary report is concerned, although this was the basis for the dismissal, why is it even relevant to Levine’s employment if the current contract that Levine is working under does not have any conduct clauses? Is that why you believe that Levine is mainly concerned about the defamation issue?

          • Sharon says:

            Again, thanks Mark for the information

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Mark: Suppose that Levine can challenge the private testimony of the accusers in the internal investigation which led to his dismissal. Won’t he have to show that the Met acted “unreasonably” rather than show the accusations are untrue. The Met only has to argue the claims were credible and they acted in good faith. The Met don’t have to show the claims were true (or even just probably true); they only have to show that someone could reasonably believe the claims to be true, and they themselves believed the claims.

            If the claims were presented to Levine and he didn’t have an answer, or use the Met’s appeal procedure (I am assuming they have one), then he has even more difficulty winning his case. He would have to show, somehow, the procedures were not fair to him and he wasn’t given a fair opportunity to explain himself.

            And Levine has to show he is capable of performing his duties if he is to be reinstated.

          • Sharon says:

            Levine’s case has now been scheduled for 6/27/18 for a compliance conference. What is a compliance conference? Is the judge requiring that the parties come to agreement on certain issues or meet certain objectives in negotiations?

            Does the fact that a compliance conference is scheduled mean that both parties have decided that they do not want a trial and believe that they can come to a settlement?

            If the parties were willing to settle why did they need to go to court in the first place, except to get court approval for the agreement?

  • Adam says:

    I was in Bayreuth, two weeks ago, and his photos are still on many walls…..

    But then that’s a place not known for it’s moral scruples I guess….

    • Max Grimm says:

      Does that Bayreuth even know that there’s an actual world outside its realm?

    • Eric (nyc) says:

      “But then that’s a place not known for it’s moral scruples I guess….”

      Well, not in the past, but it is now. I was at the festival last August, and on the plaza outside is a prominent exhibit titled Verstummte Stimmen (silenced voices). Here’s the Wikipedia article: “Verstummte Stimmen [silenced voices] – the expulsion of the ‘Jews’ from opera 1933-1945 – is an exhibition … [which] tells of the fate of 44 prominent composers, conductors, directors, and singers, who were victims of the racist music policies of the National Socialists.” (my translation)

      I think that in recent years the Bayreuth festival and the Wagner family have done a pretty good job of facing up to their antisemitic and pro-Nazi history.

  • Marcus Clayton says:

    The Sirius ban of Levine’s broadcasts certainly raises a lot of questions. It is true that he conducted many famous singers in some memorable broadcasts, and on the one hand it is unfair to the singers that these broadcasts have been banned.
    But the whole affair of Levine’s dismissal from the Met is still shrouded in secrecy, because the Met still has not publicly stated, in detail, what it’s “internal investigation” uncovered on Levine. My guess is that whatever they uncovered, it must have been quite bad.
    And what of Levine’s lawsuit? I haven’t seen any update anywhere since the Met issued their statement in March.
    As for Sirius, they certainly have plenty of broadcasts without Levine to chose from,
    many with far better conductors.
    Levine was, in my opinion, a severely overrated and mediocre conductor, foisted on the public by CAMI and some Met board supports.
    I am glad he is gone.
    Time for a new era, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin!

    • Has been says:

      To call Levine mediocre is fatuous. Whatever his personal issues his legacy at the Met, Salzburg and Bayreuth is extraordinary. Virtually every great singer of the last 40 years expressed enthusiasm about his artistry.
      The Met channel on Sirius is very diminished without Levine’s performances.

    • Sharon says:

      I am also curious about the status of the lawsuit. Has anyone heard a rumor about where this is at?

      Did the Met make the statement concerning the radio broadcasts because they believe that a settlement will be reached soon, if it has not been reached already?

      Mark, if there is a non disclosure agreement, will the fact that an agreement had been reached still be announced? I suppose that the Met has to say something about it to their donors.

      Frankly I am so fascinated and curious about this, as those who may remember some of my blog posts can attest, that I may try to find out if there is now a copy of the Met’s response, an index number and a calendar date (not that I really expect this to go to court) in the records of the New York State Supreme Court (that’s the lowest civil court in New York State). Those records, as far as I know, would be public.

      • Mark says:

        A pre-trial conference with Justice Andrea Masley is scheduled for Tuesday. If there is a settlement, it will probably be kept private. However, it seems to me that Levine will want to fight on (and he should !)

  • Anson says:

    I know that a lot of this was beat to death in the previous posts on this subject, but declining to play Levine recordings is not an airbrushing, whitewashing, or erasing of the “historical record.” No one is suggesting that Levine’s name be erased from history books, or that his recordings not be available for purchase. Let’s tone down the hyperbole.

    In any event, I suspected and still suspect that taking him off the radio was more about leverage in Levine’s lawsuit against them than anything else. And why not? If I got fired for cause, tarnished my employer’s reputation, and then turned around and sued them, I wouldn’t expect them to take a rosy view of me, either.

    • Brian B says:

      I am sure you are correct, the Met’s lawyers may well have dictated this decision while Levine’s lawsuit is active and undecided.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I think it would be a lot more fun if Sirius XM were to “restore” JL at the most inappropriate time possible. Since I’m a subscriber (love the Philadelphia Orchestra broadcasts), I think I’ll write and suggest that to them.

    Musically speaking, I don’t have a real high opinion of Levine. However, I know that singers very much liked working with him. That’s important! However, I’m more interested in orchestral recordings (and live performances), and JL frequently had his timpanists just pound away loudly from start to finish, often times covering over the rest of the percussion. I think it came from too many years in the opera pit.

    • Sharon says:

      Haven’t others here have said that Met Opera Radio is just that, Met Opera radio, and that the programming is entirely controlled by the Met? Sirius apparently just provides the broadcasting vehicle, like Fathom provides the broadcasting vehicle for opera in HD?

  • Ms.Melody says:

    I hope Levine’s performances will be played again and soon. I am quite disturbed by some derogatory comments regarding his musical abilities expressed on this blog.
    His alleged ( not proven in court ) behavior is reprehensible and he has already been lynched in the court of public opinion and social media. However, let his music making speak for itself. I attended many of his live performances and they were a revelation.
    Let us remember that most of the great Renaissance artists engaged in similar behavior.
    This knowledge doesn’t stop us from admiring their work. We listen to Wagner, a rabid anti-Semite and Karajan who twice joined the Nazi party. A 40 year musical legacy. The great singers of the 1990s that whose performances JL conducted deserve to be heard.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Um…most would claim that Levine was competent, even perhaps a good conductor; this is still a very high standard. But he is hardly in the same bracket as Furtwangler or Karajan (even if Karajan’s conducting style is now out of fashion and not to everyone’s taste). Both Solti and Pappano have done a stronger job at Covent Garden than Levine did at the Met. I expect Levine’s reputation will fade over time in the same way that Maazel’s reputation has.

  • Hj says:

    Even without him, classic world will go smoothly without any problem. Don’t worry.

  • Michael Blim says:

    It has been refreshing to hear many recordings that were put in place of Levine’s, often from the fifties and sixties, and the pre-Levine seventies. I would hope that the channel, if and when it plays Levine recordings again, will retain the greater pluralism it has attained by accident.

  • P. Paxart says:

    I worked with Levine several times in the 1980’s at Ravinia. After years of working with many international conductors including Solti, Giulini, Andrew Davis, and Leonard Slatkin to name a few, it has occurred to me that Levine was certainly an excellent technician, but with little spiritual or interpretative connection to the music. Competency is fine in a conductor, but it doesn’t make one great. I recall a horribly rushed and sloppily prepared Mahler 8 at Ravinia and a Mendelssohn Elijah where the small vocal ensembles in the work were bellowed by the artists with little attention to balance. I was the baritone in these pieces and nothing we did in the piano rehearsal was apparent at the performance. Even in the 80’s it was common knowledge among artists of Levine’s sexual proclivities. It was during this time that Levine befriended a former classmate of mine, tenor Philip Creech. Creech was an attractive young african-american singer with a somewhat strangulated tone and faulty technique. He ended up singing at the Met for years with this second rate sound. I wonder why?