James Levine is 75 today

James Levine is 75 today


norman lebrecht

June 23, 2018

In the past year, he has lost his job, his reputation, his future engagements and, according to his lawsuit against the Metropolitan Opera, a book contract with Random House.

This must be the worst birthday of his life.

Even a heart of stone would have to feel some pity.


  • barry guerrero says:

    Agreed – fair enough. Worse than that, those who were complicit or ‘enabled’ him in his misadventures, might very well get off scot free.

  • anon says:

    All this for a handjob 50 years ago.

    • Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern says:

      SMH. If a shaking, weeping teenager told you about his years, YEARS, of being sexually abused, would you say that to his face?

      • Tamino says:

        You mean the kind if sexual abuse, where you go to a place, ring the door bell, be let in by the concierge, take the elevator up to an apartment, and later leave with god knows what kind of gratification?
        Sometimes prostitution is just prostitution, even in cases where the prostitute‘s age is barely legal, and the customer is a celebrity.

  • Mark says:

    I wish Maestro Levine a happy birthday ! Whether his personal failings might be (and I can’t stress the word “might” enough), I will always cherish the memories of all the great opera performances at the Met and the symphony concerts at Carnegie Hell he gave us, and will always treasure his recordings. I hope he prevails in court and has a chance to clear his name.

    • Brian says:

      Stockholm Syndrome?

      • Mark says:

        And in your case, Asperger ?

        • tim says:

          I think that you can say that his artistry has merit and that you’ll always treasure it,

          but I find it hard to understand how you seem to want to willingly look the other way.

          It’s not “proven in court”, but it is a well established fact of rumor for a long time, and now recently multiple public allegations of his sexual abuse and the reprucussions of rejecting it.

          How can you overlook that? Because it is a fact.

          Levine dug his own grave which is sad and disappointing.

          How would you react if your 16 year old son or brother was sexually abused and manipulated by someone powerful?

          • Tiredofitall says:

            “established fact of rumor”? Are these alternative
            facts? I’m just happy I live in a nation of laws.

          • Mark says:

            A “fact of rumor” is an oxymoron. And I don’t deal in hypotheticals – if grandma had wheels, she would have been a NYC taxicab.

          • Math says:

            React badly ,Especially if it wasn’t true

        • Anonymous says:

          Wow what a compliment to say that someone has aspergers, to have the same neurological diversity that some absolutley brilliant minds had. You just ranked Brian amongst brilliant people like Andy Warhol, Abraham Lincol, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

        • The View from America says:

          More like Tourette Syndrome.

    • Sharon says:

      Actually, Mark and Mr. Lebrecht. Levine may have just gotten a wonderful birthday gift!

      I have just read the latest stipulation signed June 21 (see e filed documents under the file for Phramus on the NY courts website). It seems to me, but then again I am no legal expert, that this “cofidentiality agreement” allows any deposition, testimony, discovery or evidence, that either side wants to remain confidential throughout the proceeding and trial, to remain confidential.

      I assume that the parties will want everything that has not already been publicized to stay confidential. Therefore, even if this does end up going to a public trial, which according to the schedule for this case will happen no earlier than the middle of next year, little or no evidence or will actually be presented publicly in the courtroom. Thus Levine and/or the Met might be vindicated without having to reveal anything except the final decision to the public.

      Am I understanding this correctly?

      • Mark says:

        Sharon – I just took a quick look, and you are right. This Met’s lawyers have probably concluded that they cannot withold the Cleary report and the identity of the witnesses from Levine’s attorneys, and, of course, the Met would want to depose Levine as well. So the parties have essentially agreed to keep the information confidential, with the possibility of filing under seal (i.e. the documents so filed do not become a matter of public record).

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Thank you for your comment Mark.
      I think it is absolutely repulsive how people are lining up to kick someone who is down. Not so long ago Peter Gelb expressed his delight at Jimmy’s return to the Met , in high definition, no less. And singers practically swooned when they talked about ” the great opportunity and honor of working with Maestro Levine”. Now, his name is” mud” and his musical legacy is deemed unimportant.
      Also, the derogatory comments about his musical abilities are just mean-spirited and nasty. He is a great musician, learn to live with this fact.
      I think this bashing needs to stop. He will get his day in court and a chance to tell his side of the story and if found guilty will be convicted. Or there will be a settlement out of court . Just a reminder, he has been lynched in the court of public opinion, but as far as I know has not been charged with anything.

      • Mark says:

        Ms. Melody – my pleasure 🙂 These are civil proceedings, so nobody is getting convicted here. Levine’s attorneys will (hopefully) have a chance to confront his accusers and cross-examine them.

        Sharon – I will take a look. What’s the index number (i.e. the case number) ?

      • Yes Addison says:

        Singers talked about the honor of working with him because he was the theater’s music director (in name, anyway; I doubt he was earning the title from 2011 on), and then the MD emeritus, and they were put on the spot to do so. They are professionals who valued their relationship with a theater where they hoped to be invited back to sing with many conductors, most of whom would not have debilitating neurological disorders or unsavory personal reputations.

        That means as much as actresses thanking Harvey Weinstein when they collected awards.

        • la verita says:

          Excuse me: The honor of working with Levine has to do with his talent and wisdom – both of which are superior to any other musician currently living. And Levine’s physical impairments have diminished neither his wisdom nor his ability to impart it to others. I’m not justifying his alleged behavior – but his efforts to raise the standards of opera performance cannot be ignored.

          • Mark says:


          • Saxon Broken says:

            Sigh…he was a good but not great conductor. I think his reputation is similar to Maazel, whose star has faded since his death (and likely will be largely forgotten in 30 years time). Being “very good” is nevertheless a very high standard.

            But in any case, whatever conducting talent he had is no longer there given his illness, and hasn’t been there for some time. All anyone has are the memories and the recordings. And the outcome of the civil case will not change that.

  • Hilary says:

    Nice choice of photo.

    • Caravaggio says:

      Bernstein lucked out by passing through the pearly gates when he did. Because were he living today we would be reading a different story or different stories of his escapades.

      • anon says:

        If Levine had died at 72 like Bernstein, Levine’s legacy would be brilliant today.

        As in music, timing is everything.

      • Hilary says:

        Not so sure about that as rapacious sexual appetite ( first charted in Peyser’s shallow biography from the 1980s) isn’t criminal as far as I’m aware!

      • Bylle Binder says:

        I don’t think so. Banging everything what isn’t on a tree at the count of three is the one thing. You may find it “morally wrong”, but as long as the inhabitants of the tree are over the legal age in their countries it shouldn’t be a problem for people not involved.

  • Yes Addison says:

    Not a bit of pity here. The world is filled with people who have lost more and retained less as a result of judgment as poor as his.

    As for his canceled book deal, I cannot imagine anything more boring than a Levine book with Levine controlling the content. There’s a fantastic book in the story of his rise and fall, but someone else will write it.

    • Hilary says:

      “There’s a fantastic book in the story of his rise and fall, but someone else will write it.”

      And opera as well.

  • A. says:

    How about some pity for his victims?

    • Brian says:

      Yes, that’s the only context in which the word pity seems appropriate here.

      Overwhelming evidence points to the fact that Levine permanently damaged many people’s lives; go back and read the detailed articles on his behavior in the Boston Globe and New York Times if you need a refresher.

      One wonders if the Levine fans commenting above rush to the defense of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and pedophile priests too.

  • Zalman says:

    How about his oh-so-willing “victims?” Give me a pity break. But he lived for power and had it and lost it all. So it goes when you live for power. I never thought he was a great anything.

  • Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern says:

    A wise writer once said that pity is condescending; compassion is between equals.

    So yes, I have pity for Mr. Levine. He is a sad case, lost in his own denial of what is patently true about himself. His “supporters” enable his self-destructive lies instead of lovingly challenging him to take responsibility for the harm he’s done, which is his only road to healing and happiness. He is someone to be pitied.

    I have plenty of compassion for the people he’s abused. How much suffering has he inflicted?

    • Mark says:

      If you are a Christian minister, may I reimnd you of two verses from the New Testament:

      “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”

      “Judge not, that ye be not judged”

      Nobody here, including you, is in possession of the facts. Complaints and accusations aren’t gospel …

  • George says:

    I wonder how many of these comments were planted by Levine’s lawyers (taking a page from the Russian trolling operation in the 2015 US election).

  • Bylle Binder says:

    Hmmm … actually I don’t think I’ve got a heart of stone, but I can’t help thinking of the “victims”. It’s said in a few cases they’d have been children – and that’s where every pity ends with me. I know what abuse does to children and I wish people who use their power and influence for coming close to kids (with such intents) to burn in the deepest hell. If (and yes, I’m consciously using “if” and not “when”) the rumours about Mr Levine are true I hope he’ll spend his next birthday in jail.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I doubt he will go to jail since currently he is facing a civil trial, and there is no suggestion the police will open a criminal case against him.

      But more to the point, somebody can be immoral and disreputable, without being criminal (or at least having the criminality “proven beyond reasonable doubt”).

  • Petros Linardos says:

    June 23rd is also the birthday of another great musician: pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993). Let’s remember him.

  • Sharon says:

    Mr. Lebrecht I would like to point out that it was you who had encouraged the ambivalent Ashok Pai to go to the police and this is what kicked the whole thing off.

    I am not making a judgement call about whether you did the right thing but if this was the worst year of Levine’s life you are largely responsible for it by encouraging others to expose him. I do realize, however, that had Levine not engaged in his behavior there would have been nothing to expose.

    Perhaps at the time you thought that it might help the victims psychologically if they could be vindicated, that it would prevent Levine from preying on others although I suspect that this physically challenged man in a wheelchair is no longer pursuing young men, that it would serve as a warning to others, and perhaps even help change the sexual impunity culture in the classical music world.

    However, this has backfired horribly. (I myself have made a similar mistake in a very different context). Instead of the process being therapeutic, Lestock, Pai, and the others will be put through hell in the depositions (private questioning by attorneys) and because of the confidentiality agreement they will be unable to talk more about it to anyone.

    Because of statute of limitations laws the victims will be unable to file their own lawsuits.

    Part of the agreement is that all discoverypapers will be destroyed within 60 days after a settlement or decision is reached. The public will never find out what really happened, again because of the confidentiality agreement. .

    More importantly, Levine will maintain his reputation at least partially intact because no one will know for sure who is right or what determined whatever agreement or decision that will ultimately be reached. The public will never know for sure if Levine was a truly opportunistic predator or just the victim of a false rumor mill.

    Levine’s first petition strongly implies that he was very upset, at first, about the lack of transparency, that is, the promise of confidentiality and anonymity that the Cleary report investigators gave their witnesses. However this has necessitated the confidentiality agreement that will ultimately could be Levine’s redemption

    In addition Levine might still obtain a very nice breach of contract settlement.

    If Levine is in good enough health might even be able to pick up some work as this whole mess recede’s from the public’s memory, as it already has, except for a few bloggers on Slippedisc.

    Pity? Yes, I am sure that Levine feels real and deep pain and humiliation in the accusations and in losing his “spouse” (the Met) which he says gives his life purpose and meaning. You know that at one time I thought that he might even turn suicidal.

    However, now, it could very well be that Levine will have the last laugh.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The idea that Levine will restore his reputation is laughable. And hiding the depositions means that we will make our own judgements about Levine’s behaviour without bothering with the evidence presented to the court.

      And even if the evidence is not released by the court, the “victims” (and anyone else) can give their version of the events; they are not bound by confidentiality.

      • Sharon says:

        I understand what you are saying. However, regardless of what people may believe personally when it comes to hiring decisions most people try to be more professional and believe they have to base hiring and contract decisions on evidence.

        Before the lawsuit many organizations believed that they had to play it safe, especially if kids could potentially be involved.

        However, if Levine does not lose (which is different than winning) the defamation part of his lawsuit, even if we do not know the evidence on which the decision or settlement was based, music organization officials will have to take the position that they must give Levine the benefit of the doubt since nothing was proven after a court case trying to prove the allegations.