James Levine claims loving relationships with accusers

James Levine claims loving relationships with accusers


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2018

In his latest legal submission against the Metropolitan Opera, the former music director seeks to discredit three of his accusers whom he claims to identify among seven anonymous victims interviewed by the Met.

His lawyers state: ‘Levine has nearly 200 personal letters that were sent to him by Individuals 1, 2 and 4 which demonstrate that each of their allegations against Levine of sexual misconduct are simply false.’

Some of the letters quoted in the document profess deep love for Levine and gratitude.

Among other claims: ‘As recent as on December 3, 2017, Individual 2 forwarded an email to Levine’s attention from someone expressing support for Levine – after the Post and the Times published articles alleging that Levine had committed sexual misconduct decades ago. Individual 2 wrote, “I wanted you to see this. Please call if you need any help. Much love.’

Levine further accuses Peter Gelb of making false statements about his health.

The counterclaims can be found from page 48 onwards of Levine’s amended complaint against the Met, filed in the New York Courts on June 7. The Met has yet to respond.



  • Sharon says:

    Did you obtain this information from a reporter or did one of our bloggers visit the courthouse and get look at the record?

    I suspect that Levine was amending his complaint as part of a response to the Met’s countersuit.

    If the “compliance conference” is still being held on June 27 I will take a chance and try to go, even though as our blogger lawyer Mark says, it may be closed to the public. This case has become a welcome diversion for me.

    Blogger Mark appears to be correct. Levine seems to be terribly concerned about his reputation and the Met cannot back down because they have to justify their firing of him. If they are unable to justify Levine’s dismissal they would be in violation of Levine’s contract and/or guilty of age and disability discrimination.

    • Mark says:

      Sharon, in my experience, compliance conferences are purely procedural (the court wants to make sure that the parties adhere to the discovery schedule, that the depositions have been taken etc.)
      They are generally intended only for the parties’ counsel, but you can just call the clerk or the judge’s chambers and check if you can attend, if you are curious.

      But as I expected, the case will turn on the “discoverability” of the Cleary report and the identity of the accusers.
      If they are subpoenaed, and consequently have to testify under oath and face cross-examination by the redoubtable
      Messrs. Abramowitz and Little, I suspect most (if not all) would
      “run for the hills”, issue retractions and/or blame the Met for distorting their words.

      • Sharon says:

        I suspect that it will be hard for a non lawyer to reach the clerk of judge’s chamber. How can there be a deposition if the accusers are anonymous?

      • william osborne says:

        To suspect that Abramowitz and Little will “run for the hills” is a large assumption. When students are instructed to do things like stand in a circle and masturbate to each other, along with all the other questionable activities of the “Levenites,” as they were known, there are plenty of witnesses to corroborate troubling testimony. I hope that in spite of the intimidation tactics and slyness of the lawyers, the truth, whatever it might be, will prevail.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Sharon writes: “they would be in violation of Levine’s contract and/or guilty of age and disability discrimination”

      Er…no, not necessarily. First, Levine will need to show he is capable of performing his duties to be reinstated. Which seems unlikely. And a police complaint is rather hard to completely retract. (And he is not denying sexual relations and some “unusual” behaviour with fairly young men.)

      Mark is probably right that some of the accusers will feel rather uncomfortable on the stand, and may make poor witnesses. But Levine will need to show not just the accusations are untrue, but that the Met knew them to be untrue (or was careless about whether they were true or not) and hence behaved unreasonably.

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Levine’s claims, without him realizing it, show just how effectively he “groomed” his victims.

    These letters don’t help him defend himself.

    • Sharon B Long says:

      Funny that Levine would spend so much money trying to clear his name when it will not realistically affect his career or his reputation as a musician or as a conductor.

      I once spoke to a former principal of the American Ballet Theater who said that he needed the applause and that during the off season asked his agent to fix him up with any performing gig like a cruise ship, where he could get it. If someone becomes addicted to the applause the approval of others who are important to him becomes necessary for one’s self esteem.

      Everyone knows that I have been armchair psycholanalyzing Levine since December. In all interviews he discussed how he wants to help young people and with them was the nicest guy and that image of himself, as a kind, altruistic person is apparently very important to him.

      When his “spouse” as he used to call the Met seems to now hold him in contempt as a bad person he may have to fight to “prove” that the Met is wrong so that it will change its opinion of him which will let Levine maintain his self esteem.

      Also, if one is dependent on one’s spouse for one’s self esteem, breaking up is hard to do. Ironically, now that he is vulnerable, he is taking the attitude towards the Met that his own accusers have towards him, “How dare you dump or dismiss me (emotionally) after all that I sacrificed for you! You owe me!”

      I suppose that it is healthier that Levine is fighting this rather than sinking into depression but healthiest of all would be if he could truly emotionally “divorce” himself from the Met. This he seems unable or unwilling to do.

      For my purient interest this is becoming very interesting. However, it is still tragic that it is taking up so much time and money that would be much better spent in advancing opera.

    • Sharon says:

      I did not realize that all the court documents are available for public view on NY Courts website. After reading the quotes of communications, showing friendship and downright passion if not obsession from the three individuals in the Levine petitions Levine believes that he can recognize from what the Met said I believe that Ben and Boxwell have hit the nail on he head.
      Anyone who has taken experimental psychology 101 and frequently even general psychology 101 know that the rat runs to the press the bar for a food pellet much more frequently when the the food pellet will appear intermittantly than when the rat knows that he can always press the bar to obtain it.
      This is true in love as well which is why in yesteryear people tried to “play hard to get” or to “keep him/her guessing” how one feels in order appear more attractive to a potential or desired partner.
      The “abuse” that Pai and Lestock refer to is the intermittent reinforcement when Levine (probably more to avoid a quarrel than anything else) paid sporadic attention to them while not honestly saying that they did not have enough talent or that he would not help them professionally to the extent that they had hoped, or honestly saying that he conceived the “relationship” to be mainly about meeting physical needs and that as far as Levine was concerned it was over. There may have been a certain amount of ego involved as well just by the fact that he saved these “love” communications and with Pai, talk about “special” training, or with Lestock, the whole Levinite cult thing.
      People frequently remain in love with their abusers or people who take advantage of them because “It’s not all bad” (intermittent reinforcement). Levine also it seems had a talent for sniffing out the most emotionally and professionally vulnerable.
      Thus, it definitely was a mistake for Levine’s lawyers to use the fact that the supposed accusers sent friendly and love letters to Levine as proof that these relationships were not abusive was a mistake which any psychologist could expose.
      Does this have a lot to do with Levine’s work at the Met? It seems that he deliberately kept his most egregious conduct out of the building and away from Met employees or students, although this remains to be seen.
      However, it seems that for Levine at least, this is not about whether the Met defamed his work conduct but whether he will be able to be remembered as a kind and honorable person in general.
      As I said before I have a gossip magazine type interest in this but from the viewpoint of the continued welfare of both Levine and the Met it would be best if the parties could reach some financial settlement for breach of contract and end it, although, as I mentioned above, this no longer seems likely.

  • anon says:

    When money and fame are involved, motives become murky. Who was manipulating whom? Who was getting what out of whom?

    OK, as teenagers maybe they could claim victimhood easier, but when at 40 or 60 years old, they are still crying victim, and still claiming to be traumatised by a wank when they were 17, they strain all credibility.

    And even if musicians are an especially sensitive bunch, I say, if you’re 50 years old, seriously dude, get over it.

    • Sue says:

      +1. And why does JL have that ridiculous towel over his shoulder? Just in case?

      • Sharon says:

        It was supposed to be because he perspires so much. They say because he perspired so much he used to change his suit during intermissions (with the help of someone who acted like a valet).

      • jaypee says:

        Ah… the good old “blame the victim” argument … Cornerstone of the neanderthal thought process.
        Why am I not surprised that our female trumpanzee-in-residence, sue, is approving?

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      The man is a sexual predator who took advantage of teenagers (hopefully, nobody younger than that). These stories have been leaked for decades. I got one of the stories first hand from a principal player within the Met Orchestra. That was back in the latter ’80s. He looks like a creepie clown with his Bozo-like hair pointing sideways. Personally, I’d rather go on a date with Harvey Weinstein. Stop making excuses for Levine. He and Gelb deserve each other.

      • Mark says:

        Oh, you heard a story ? Then it must be true. Thankfully, such matters are still within the exclusive jurisdiction of the law courts, and not the wagging tongues of the plebs.

        • Barry Guerrero says:

          As I said, it came from a principal within the orchestra. I will not name names. The issue at that time involved the orchestra, so I assume it involved the entire Met organization.Rumors of coverups have been circulating for decades. Believe or don’t believe whatever you want. As for the legal stuff, I don’t care – doesn’t interest me. I’m just saying two things here:

          1. Stop making excuses for Levine, such as the notion that these (now) men would have been gay anyway (what kind of argument is that!!!).

          2. Levine and Gelb deserve each other.

          I don’t care who gets money; who doesn’t get money; who’s reputations gets trashed; who’s reputation doesn’t get trashed; who was terminated unlawfully; who was terminated lawfully. It’s all the same. It’s all legal nonsense. Good riddance to these people.

        • william osborne says:

          The law courts? Sadly, the courts are too often a systemic structuring of formalized lying and half-truth deceptions where the winner is whoever can hire the best attorneys. The OJ Simpson trials, for example, put this on display for the whole world to watch. There will not be much truth in these proceedings, but rather a lot of legalistic manipulation and then an arbitrated settlement that will likely be rather disgusting. And as we see in even this discussion, the specious blustering of the lawyers only makes the process even more ridiculous and distasteful.

  • Michael says:

    Me(n) too.

  • Hilary says:

    As yet, JL hasn’t come out as gay so we can’t be sure as yet.

  • Nick2 says:

    It is somewhat confusing to see what seems to be a change in posting pattern regarding JL and his extra-curricular activities. It is true there are specific allegations now made by men in middle age about improper and illegal activity when they were teenagers. These in themselves, as the Met has found, have credibility. But there has been a whole series of posts made here over months about an alleged decades-long pattern of regular behaviour with boys who were barely in their teens. Hints of these even found their way into books and articles written more than a quarter of a century ago, but all so far remain mere allegations or hearsay.

    If these happen to be true, there is just one word that truly fits such awful behaviour. Yet, surely we have to ask ourselves: where is the evidence? Where are all those now young and middle-aged men? Why have just a handful come forward when we have been told about host of incidents of JL being seen in the company of under-age boys, often at or after concerts and rehearsals?

    As the “Me Too” movement gathered steam, many victims of abuse quickly came forward. If JL is indeed guilty of a pattern of behaviour stretching back over such a long period of time, why is it that there is not a similar flood of evidence from accusers? Surely the fact that a handful have come forward would act as some form of encouragement for others to do likewise. Seemingly none have. I wonder why not.

    • Sharon says:

      Possibly because these men do not want to publicly admit that they have had same sex relations. I believe that part of the bitterness of the few accusers there are is that they felt pressured (whether by the need to advance their careers or by Levine himself) to have sex with him when they did not really want to because like Lestock and Pai, the consider themselves to be “basically straight” or that it was a huge risk to their reputation and their relationships (both Lestock and Pai mention this), with their families had their parents found out.

      Also it is more difficult for a man to admit that he let himself be taken advantage of

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      It’s not as ‘high profile’ in the press as #metoo. You don’t have reporters knocking on doors begging for a salacious story to print. They’re probably not anywhere as organized as the #metoo movement has become either. In due time, some these folks will probably give testimony under oath – at least I hope so.

    • anon says:

      The JL narrative has always been a little bit of truth colored by a whole lot of homophobia, professional jealousy, personal disappointment, promises made but never kept, regret and revenge.

      That is why no prosecutor or police department wants to touch the JL affair with a ten foot pole: there is just too much baggage, too many unreliable witnesses, non-credible victims.

      Gelb thought he could play judge and prosecutor with JL. JL has nothing to lose at this point. Past and present Board members still have a lot to lose. They’ll settle.

      • Ben says:

        How true.

        Such case vs internationally renowned icon is just toxic. Financially fruitless, the Attorney General is better off going after Wall Street firms, $$$$$$$$$ assured.

        I meant, I was staunch against such accusations vs Levine in the past. Why nobody filed a police report yet? However, if the state AG cares, he/she would have started at least an inquiry (much like Department of Justice usually does when it feels some serious offense had happened). Now I feel Levine is as guilty as ever.

        NYC Police is best served to continue issue parking tickets, catching drivers not seeing the ‘bus only’ signs on Broadway, or ambush drivers not seeing ‘No Turn’ sign at intersections which deliberately made you to decide whether to ignore the sign or deal with 20 extra minutes of jam log on the road full of angry drivers and ignorant pedestrians.

        Hack, I noticed that there are more traffic cops at major intersections where the companies in which Trump hates are located. Such “traffic cops” are there to pull an ‘Christie’ just to screw them:


      • Sharon says:

        ANON: I like your first sentence. That says it all.

        At one time I had believed that they would settle but since now it seems that Levine more interested apparently in the defamation issue than the breach of contract I do not see how the Met can.

        How can an organization such as the Met issue an apology and admit their error after an expensive investigation which they said found “credible evidence” and insisting that they had a right to fire in spite of Levine’s contract for sexual harassment? They cannot admit they are in the wrong on this and in fact counter sued Levine for defaming the Met!

        Is Levine in another reality? Only his testimony (if this actually goes to trial and Levine takes the stand) will tell. It is clear that he is putting maintaining his own image ahead of the hundreds of innocent employees of the Met who might be adversely impacted by this. He seemingly does not understand the damage that this court suit could potentially cause the Met. (This does not mean however that the Met is justified in countersuing on the grounds of “disloyalty”. Levine continually publically praised the Met even as we now know he knew that he was being stabbed in the back.

        • Yes Addison says:

          Sharon, what do you mean by “stabbed in the back”? The investigation into Levine’s alleged sexual harassment only began in December 2017, when accusers’ stories appeared in the press. So I’m assuming you mean Levine was stabbed in the back when — after many difficult years — he was replaced as music director and moved into an emeritus position that guaranteed him several productions of familiar works every season, at about 135% of the house’s top per-performance fee.

          You’ve implied several times that Levine suffered discrimination on the basis of age and disability. Is your position that Levine should have remained as music director? If so, what do you admire about the way he performed that role in the years from 2010 through 2016? Does it also follow that the Boston Symphony Orchestra stabbed Levine in the back in 2011?

          I also cannot see how public statements Levine may have made about, for example, the quality of the Met’s music staff (I’m just pulling something out of thin air; I’ve never read any such thing) would have bearing on the Met’s countersuit. The issue there is not that he was savaging the Met in the press. It’s that his alleged on-the-job conduct, in the event such conduct became public, could harm the image of an organization that relies on donor support.

          Even at that, Levine hasn’t done a lot of press in the present decade. The Met’s praise of *him* was far more copious and conspicuous than the reverse. That praise continued even as his stamina, reliability, and the quality of his performances sharply declined. Orchestra members were talking to the New York Times as long ago as May 2004 about his increasingly unclear beat and flagging energy.

          • Sharon says:

            I was just trying to present Levine’s point of view. His own petition stated that he did not want to be made Maestro Emeritus and was upset when a press release came out implying that was his choice. His own petition states that doctors say that he is perfectly capable of conducting. His own petition states that he was replaced as Maestro in several Carnegie Hall concerts that he expected to conduct and did not find out about the replacements until he saw it in a concert program. His own petition states that he did not find out that he was being permanently terminated until the day it was publicly announced. His own petition states that Gelb had been trying to rid himself of Levine for several years and that Gelb had been unnecessarily insulting. Levine HIMSELF, if he believes what his petition says, believes that he was stabbed in the back

  • Ben says:

    This move made Levine looks as guilty as ever.

  • Bylle Binder says:

    Sometimes I wonder: Is JL still in our reality or already in another one?

  • Marcus Clayton says:

    I find it very odd that Levine would bring up his “relationship” with Mr. Pai at this point in order to discredit the sexual abuse claims.
    Levine’s alleged abuse of Mr. Pai is hardly the main reason the Met fired him.
    I would think Levine and his attorneys would focus far more on the charges that Levine sexually abused and harassed a Met orchestra player and a member of the Lindemann Young Artists program.
    Surely if and when this goes to trial, I would think the judge would try to make sure both sides stick to the facts pertinent to the lawsuits.
    I just don’t see Mr. Pai’s history with Mr. Levine being that relevant to the case.
    In any event, this whole sordid affair has gone on long enough.