The persistent deification of James Levine after the alleged abuse became public

The persistent deification of James Levine after the alleged abuse became public


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2018

There was an academic conference in Dublin last week on Music and Musicology in the Age of Post-Truth.

Here’s an abstract of one of the papers:

When #TimesUp for Musical Gods: The James Levine Scandal

In 2011, San Francisco Opera general director David Gockly said, “[James Levine] is no ordinary music director…He’s a god.” Such statements become sinister in light of accusations that Levine, former music director of the Metropolitan Opera and Boston Symphony Orchestra, engaged in decades of sexual abuse with his “provocative, cult-like following.” Classical music tends to deify certain individuals, treating some musicians as unimpeachable geniuses. Inherent power hierarchies of orchestras and opera companies intersect with expectations that classical music is a “high” art that prompts spiritual experiences, creating conditions where fans venerate an individual, which conceals abuses of power. Despite the growing case against Levine, some still believe his musical contributions eclipse accusations of impropriety. Discussions of Levine reflect fundamental disagreement over music’s purpose in current society. This paper examines the persistent deification of James Levine after the alleged abuse became public. I put online commentary on Levine from the past and present into dialogue, demonstrating how concepts of genius and deification take on different meanings before and after The Boston Globe’s exposé on the conductor. My analysis reveals how classical music is susceptible to abuses of power and why its institutions must address the growing cultural rift in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

More here.


  • Will Duffay says:

    Very true and very interesting. Any time we put anybody on a pedestal we need to question whether they deserve to be there. Every human fails, and some – politicians or musicians – will take advantage of naive blinkered adulation to fail deliberately and badly.

    Btw, what’s with that bloody towel at a press conference? Conducting a rehearsal, okay, but to talk to the press?

    • Helen Wynn says:

      The towel was one of his trademarks, something Birgit Nilsson commented on when she did the final “performance” at the James Levine 25th anniversary concert back in the 90s.

    • Olassus says:

      Someone should stage Siegfried with Mime under a Jimmy skull accompanied by a towel.

      • Gareth Jones says:

        Well played, sir

        • Sixtus says:

          Better yet, Alberich in Rheingold with the towel turning him into a toad. For all his evil, and the power granted him by the Ring, Alberich still manages to have sex. The drama of the whole Ring cycle starts with him, a horny small person.

    • Frankster says:

      Incidentally, where was the press during those decades? The Met staff knew what was going on. Lots of others knew too – I had heard the stories in the early 80s. The musical press, who certainly were in a position to know, also just shook their heads and smiled The culture of “acceptance” continued. All of them, including Levine, could watch Scarpia get murdered on stage for the same crime and neither him, the audience or the press would dare make a connection.

      • Brian says:

        A number of reporters did try to investigate this on various occasions. But without police reports, corroboration from victims, or other evidence (i.e. surveillance video, etc.), there wasn’t a story. It appears Levine very successfully kept his victims silent for decades.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      The towel was because, sooner or later, he knew he would have to throw in the towel.

    • anon says:

      The towel is to wipe up any DNA evidence.

      • The View from America says:


      • Sixtus says:

        Good one. But the DNA will persist on the towel too. It would have to be burned, Götterdämmerung-style.

        • The View from America says:

          Sounds like a plan.

        • Janet Lee says:

          Oh boy I’m glad you poseurs have each other to impress with operatic repartee . If you had real lives I don’t imagine you would be featured every Blessed time Maestro James Levine ( or the Metropolitan Opera Company )gets a little article.
          James Levine was and is, a musical genius. None of you can take that from him. None of you can even imagine a God-given Gift of the dimensions that was bestowed upon James Levine. He made the Metropolitan Opera, and frankly, since he had his back injury and Joseph Volpe retired, along with a brilliant and accomplished artistic staff, about 10 years ago, the place has been declining : quickly. Seats don’t sell; productions have limited shelf life; the singers are often unheard of; chorus is clean but dull; orchestra missed the leadership of a “ great” like Levine; and morale is very very low. The collaborative energy from all departments of the opera house, focused on the performance each night, has been eclipsed by petty, self-serving administrators vying for more and more influence. At this “not for profit” the GM still gets a salary of over 2.2 million, chorus master over 500 K, while demeaning the importance and value of the product ; the employees. Crew, orchestra and chorus.
          Maestro James Levine is missed. There may have been rumors, that came up once a year!
          Nothing / zip in 35 -40 years ! And even now, from questionable college students ?
          Find something else to complain about .

          • Jane Do says:

            You took the words right out of my brain. I dont condone sexual intimidation but I certainly think James Levine was very special and he did make the Metropolitian Opera over the last 40 years. Amazing that so many of his “victims” continued to see him.

          • John says:

            Alright Jimmy. Back to bed with you.

          • Yes Addison says:

            I guess the usual claim that Levine was singlehandedly responsible for the orchestra’s improvement was not enough; now it’s been inflated to his having “made” the whole Metropolitan Opera. Yeah, it was just puttering around, another provincial company of no special distinction, from 1883 through 1970.

            You’ve also bought into the myth that things were going gangbusters until Joseph Volpe retired. I guess you haven’t ever seen the ticket sales from 2001 through 2006 (a point when both Volpe and Levine were very much still on the scene). And you think Levine’s major medical issue was a “back injury,” rather than a debilitating neurological condition that has made him progressively harder for the players to follow since the ’90s.

            If you’re jockeying for a spot on his publicity team, while they could use all the help they can get, I don’t think they’re hiring these days.

          • Bill says:

            James Levine made the Met? Don’t be ridiculous.

            And as for salaries at “non-profit” institutions – absolutely nothing says they have to or should be picayune.

          • Saxon Broken says:

            And he wasn’t really “one of the great” conductors, even at his peak. Few of his orchestral recordings are considered “must buys”, and even in opera he was “good but not great”. In twenty years time his reputation will have faded as much as Maazel’s.

            Just for the record, being “very good”, which he was, is still an outstanding achievement. But hardly enough to ignore poor behaviour: there are many other conductors with similar competence.

    • Sharon says:

      The towel? The god perspires a lot

  • anon says:

    “I put online commentary … into dialogue, demonstrating how concepts of genius and deification take on different meanings before and after The Boston Globe’s exposé on the conductor. My analysis reveals how classical music is susceptible to abuses of power and why its institutions must address the growing cultural rift…”

    Good lord, is this the state of musicological “scholarship” today? I mean, seriously, you need a PhD in music to do this type of “research” and to come to this earth shattering conclusion?

    • Will Duffay says:

      It’s always worth researching around apparently self-evident truths, to check if they’re correct and to provide some ballast for the efforts to tackle them. Otherwise it’s just assumptions without evidence.

      • Chris Webber says:

        Mr Duffay, doesn’t your definition cover journalism, rather than (quasi-)academic research? While muck-raking is a perfectly respectable occupation, it hardly adds to the sum of human meta-knowledge – any more than witch-hunting adds to the sum of human kindness.

      • Chris Webber says:

        Mr Duffay, your justification is better suited to an investigative journalist than an objective academic. Muck-raking is a perfectly respectable occupation, but shouldn’t be confused with adding to the sum of human consciousness about the sociology of music, whether “classical” – whatever that may be – or popular.

        Nobody who knows the first thing about the lives of Gesualdo, Wagner or Warlock is going to fall into the trap of thinking that great musicians are gods, or than writing and performing music is “ennobling”. That’s primary school stuff. But nor are they going to fall into the trap of thinking that because Gesualdo isn’t signed up to #MeToo means his music is without value.

  • Jon H says:

    Words like god and genius are used all the time for artists who are performing at a level anyone with similar talent would be performing at if they had similar experience. Those words really should be reserved for artists who really are getting it from nowhere… like those who can improvise something that’s worth publishing… Whereas Levine, who’s spent countless hours conducting in the pit… he better be good by his 70s-80s or he should’ve quit.
    The Met Orchestra is always called the “greatest opera orchestra in the world” by people who have never stepped foot in every other major opera house in the world. They are a very good orchestra – which doesn’t have the same ring, but for the New Yorker who’s having to deal with all the other challenges of living in that city – “greatest opera orchestra in the world” is probably what they need to hear.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      It’s nonsense to say that any orchestra is the best in the world – same way the Gramophone’s ranking from a few years ago was so absurd.

      That said, the Met orchestra is at least two classes better than what the Bavarian State Orchestra revealed to be at Carnegie Hall early this year. I did not hear the Bavarians at their home in Munich though. Their recordings however did not show anything to make me change this opinion.

      But I did hear a number of performances at the Vienna State Opera where, it is known, the nucleus of the pit band are the members of the Vienna Philharmonic. The verdict was mixed. Some nights, perhaps most of them, the playing was out of this world. But there were many other evenings in which the playing was unfocussed and frankly substandard – and under some of the same conductors that in other nights gave unforgettable moments (we’re all humans, I suppose. But I simply think that the orchestra was just not in the right mood. It just happened too often.)

      The Berlin Staatskapelle has its unique sound culture that Barenboim works hard to preserve. But, technically, it is not in the class of the Met band. I did not hear the Dresden Staatskapelle nor the Leipzig Gewandhaus in the pit, but they are marvelous when listening to them in concert.

      The Mariinsky and Bolshoi bands are well below Western standards. The Covent Garden orchestra has had its ups and downs but Pappano is certainly an asset. The Paris Opera orchestra is good but not on the Met level.

      So again, while the Met Orchestra is not “greatest opera orchestra in the world”, and while arguably has seen better days, it is still darn good. After all, there was a reason why Carlos Kleiber enjoyed working with it.

      • Hermann Lederer says:

        But the orchestra Kleiber conducted most was ….. the Bavarian State orchestra!

        • Don Ciccio says:

          Yes, but it was a different band at that time with Sawallisch at the helm.

          • william osborne says:

            The Staatsoper orchestra isn’t so different today. It rises to whatever conductor it has, but since these evaluations are strongly subjective people will pontificate (and even feel entitled to rather extreme rudeness.) For the latter part of his life, Kleiber was most closely associated with the Austro-Bavarian cultural sphere for reasons not entirely musical, hence his history of work in Vienna and Munich.

            The Staatsoper in Vienna varies a good deal since the services are rotated and there is a liberal use of subs. There’s also an attitude of Viennese Gelassenheit which is part of the charm and character of the orchestra. It’s something the Met orchestra could hardly comprehend, hence the subjectivity of these evaluations that lack of need for such rudeness…

          • Hermann Lederer says:

            Even retired musicians from the Sawallisch days say that the orchestra was never better than today – but: stick to your opinion.

        • Don Ciccio says:

          I thought I made clear that my I qualified my assessment of Petrenko and the Bavarian States Orchestra based on a concert that I heard earlier this year (a different one than the one that Mr. Macrov mentioned; I am going to reply to him tomorrow).

          What was I supposed to say? That Petrenko is great because everyone tells us he is? Wouldn’t this be a situation similar to the one discusses here about the deification of James Levine – a conductor that I admire for his technique but whose interpretations generally leave me cold? (and, needless to say, I do not condone the ugly stuff he is alleged to have done).

          Some thirty years ago I heard for the first time the Berlin Philharmonic live (Bruckner 9 under Haitink), and it was equally a disappointment. But since that time I heard both the orchestra and the conductor at the level that justified their reputation.

          Hopefully this will still happen with Petrenko. If I am a little more reserved, it is because the only other time I heard him live, Khovanshchina at the Met, it was also unremarkable. No one that I know in the orchestra seems to remember him the same way as, say Muti (who poached a marvelous principal flute player), let alone the legendary appearances of a Tennstedt or Kleiber. True, it is possible that there was no chemistry between the Met musicians and Petrenko. Which is why I was so eager to hear him with his own band, only to be disappointed.

          I am not going to argue with the musicians who say that the Bavarian State Orchestra is better today than during Sawallisch’s tenure. They have the advantage of hearing the band on a regular basis. And it is true that in recordings the Bavarian State Orchestra plays much better than what I heard live. But I never remember once Sawallisch allowing the kind of undisciplined playing like the one at the concert that I mentioned.

      • Tristan says:

        You must be joking! All those European orchestras you mentioned are better!
        Kleiber with Munich was never ever reached at the monstrous MET!
        You Americans have just no idea of nuance detail charm etc

        • Don Ciccio says:

          First of all I am European, albeit living in the U.S. But I visit the homeland with regularity.

          I am not discussing musical matter with you since you are obviously tone deaf. I will only point out that Kleiber himself praised the Met orchestra.

          The big irony here is that your posts reveal you as the exact stereotype Europeans think of Americans: loud, ignorant, and self-righteous. Look yourself in the mirror before you say anything.

        • Don Ciccio says:

          One last thing. This is the last time I will respond to anything you post since I will not sink at your level anymore.

        • Mark says:

          @Tristan – thank you for the Euro-trash prospective

      • MacroV says:

        Are you serious? The Bavarian State Orchestra and Petrenko were out of this world at Carnegie Hall last March, at least in Rosenkavalier (don’t know about their other show). I won’t compare them to the MET, but on their own they were sensational.

        • Don Ciccio says:

          Indeed, I saw the previous night’s program of Brahms and Tchaikovsky and stand by what I said. The playing was especially problematic in the Brahms double concerto. It improved noticeably in the second half but it still was well below world class.

          The best thing was the encore offered by Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott: the Handel-Halfvorsen Passacaglia, with the viola part played on cello. One could see how much happier the soloists were to be on their own and simply make music without worrying about the orchestra.

          I realize that every orchestra and conductor have off days. Or perhaps most of the rehearsal may have gone to the Rosenkavalier, I don’t know. The improved playing in the second half of my concert suggests that not everything was rehearsed evenly. But it was a disappointing concert.

      • Nick2 says:

        A few years ago I heard the Dresden Staatskapelle with Thielemann in the pit for Rosenkavalier. No doubt that piece is in the players’ blood but the orchestral playing was glorious. I have never heard it bettered.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Actually, American orchestras are very good, but they play in an American style (e.g. hard attacks and pin-sharp transitions etc.). The Met is very good at doing that kind of thing, and it can be impressive. European orchestras tend to play soft attacks and have other stylistic differences that can often seem like “poor ensemble”. But really, the style of playing is just different. American orchestras, due to the way they are funded, also tend to play in a more old-fashioned and conservative style.

        You should also remember that all orchestras have better nights and less good nights. And they enjoy playing for some conductors more than others (and which conductors they like differs between orchestras).

        For all these reasons, it can be very difficult to say who, really is the best. But if you personally enjoy the Met’s playing, then good-luck-to-you.

  • Marcus Clayton says:

    I am quite surprised that there has not been more press coverage of the Levine and the Met.
    It is arguably the biggest scandal in the Met’s history, yet the Met has not made any public statement about it since March, as far as I know.
    It seems the Met is just marching on as if Levine’s tenure there never happened.
    Where are Levine’s supporters at the Met now?
    Why has no one at the Met stepped up to defend him and his reputation?
    The silence is deafening as they say.
    The Met hasn’t even disclosed the details about why, exactly, they fired him.
    There is obviously far more to this story that the Met has not disclosed.
    Perhaps once Levine’s lawsuit against the Met is finished, the Met will release details of Levine’s firing.
    I am also surprised that “Opera News” magazine didn’t do a cover story or feature story on MaestroYannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s new music director, as the new season is about to begin.
    At any rate, I am glad Levine is out of the Met.
    He was there for far too long and hogged a lot of the repertoire.
    I was never a fan of his conducting.
    Time for a new era……..

    • Sharon says:

      I have read the court papers that are online and there is not a lot more to the story at least not that they are discussing in the legal arena. The Met wanted to break the contract because the scandals, even though they really did not too much concern his tenure at the Met, were embarrassing and they needed an excuse to get him out because Gelb thought Levine was too old and too sick

      Part of the reason that there is no longer a lot of publicity about this is that there is a confidentiality agreement with regard to the witnesses and the depositions, although I am not certain the depositions have started. Of course, everyone is advised not to talk during the court proceedings anyway which are moving very slowly.

      With regard to being a “G*d” one of his alleged victims, Ashok Pai, who is heavily involved in public relations and media said in an interview that Levine was “a god in this world” (of classical music).

      • Sharon says:

        One piece of at least the public part of the story that has not been discussed a lot is that the Met has filed several petitions to get the case dismissed.

        I realize that this is a common legal tactic but I also believe that the Met may be trying to do this because Levine’s case is pretty strong. Levine has, in my opinion, a very strong breach of contract argument and will win on this basis, although his claim of defamation may be harder to prove.

        It may be (and this would be private) that the Met did offer Levine what they might have considered to be a generous payout and certainly they would have been fools not to have done so.

        It may have been that when Levine rejected this offer, because he is more concerned about vindication than money, the Met counter sued and started trying so hard to get Levine’s case dismissed.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Umm…while we are all interested in what happened, mere prurience is not a good reason for the Met to publish the grounds for dismissal. Most disciplinary processes in most organisations are confidential (for good reasons). And it seems the parties, as is their right, want to keep it that way.

      Personally, I think there is almost no chance that Levine will be reinstated. Apart from anything, he will have to demonstrate he can actually perform his duties if he wants his job back. I don’t think he will be able to demonstrate this. And the Met only has to show the disciplinary process was “fair and reasonable”. This means they have to show the accusations were credible, Levine was given a fair opportunity to respond to the claims, and firing Levine was a reasonable response. The Met does not have to prove the accusations are true.

  • william osborne says:

    I haven’t read it yet, but the paper is available here:

    • william osborne says:

      I just read the paper. It is interesting and worth reading. Much of it is an analysis of the defenses of Levine posted by commentators on Slippedisc. It discusses the phenomenon of victim blaming, and the methods used to rationalize sexual abuse.

      How can we expect change when the boards and administrators who allowed sexual abuse to go on for years are the ones conducting the investigations? They will fire a musician or two to create an alibi for themselves and their orchestra or school of music, while whitewashing their own role in allowing these KNOWN problems to go on for years.

      And even though they will dispose of a small number of the worst perpetrators, these institutions will claim to have zero tolerance for sexual abuse while continuing to harbor musicians that hundreds of people in the profession know have abused students. And on sites like SD, this whitewashing and hypocracy will not only be condoned, but even praised.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The problem in the Levine case is that although everyone “knew” his reputation, there was never any actual evidence. Even though a number of investigative journalists made considerable efforts in getting it.

        • william osborne says:

          In cases like this, the victims have to come forward and go on record. It would seem that we are only now becoming a society where people feel safe to do so. Imbalanced power relationships are also a large factor in creating silence.

          I have seen no documented evidence that any truly major journalistic efforts were made to expose this case. I don’t think, for example, that it would have been exceptionally difficult to get the “Levinites” from the Cleveland Institute of Music to talk about their bizarre experiences in the 70s. Those activities were not highly secret.

    • Sixtus says:

      Thx for the link. The paper is refreshingly free of post-modern, control-Left verbal drivel and seems to be reasonably argued. It’s no great surprise that NL is mentioned several times and that SD-user comments are essential to his thesis.

      The final paragraph of the paper: ‘The way in which we discuss music and musicians matters. Classical music myths exacerbate power imbalances, creating the conditions that allow and enable abuse, all justified under the claim of protecting a cultural legacy. The doctrine that high art,particularly classical music, is a mark and measure of character ultimately leads to reactionary defensiveness when reality demonstrates otherwise. The further we separate classical music from the humans who make it, the more oblivious we become to the potential trauma involved in its production.’

  • Elaine Calder says:

    David Gockley. Not “Gockly”.

  • George says:

    His conducting of Idomeneo was atrocious. The tempi were dreadfully lethargic, the orchestral playing was very labored, and the singers were atrocious. Not to mention the despicable harpsichord tinkling away in the recitatives, rather than a fortepiano, which the Met could certainly have afforded if Levine insisted.

    • Caravaggio says:

      Which season or seasons? Who were the singers? To these ears, the Met Orchestra has always sounded belabored to a fault, mostly under Levine’s direction. The “greatest opera orchestra in the world” is a canard and an expression of insularity and parochialism. Media overhype.

      • John Marks says:

        Thanks for “Belabored”!

        That’s an excellent word that just about sums up what I heard live in Boston during the Levinite Captivity.

        At the time I was a reviewer from Stereophile magazine and the BSO sent me several of the Levine SACDs such as German Requiem and Ravel Daphnis et Chloe. The recorded sound was not very good (unlike what different engineers have achieved for Andris Nelsons), and the music was not so much interpreted as fussed over. I could not wait for the music to be over, and I never wrote any reviews of the BSO self-issued Levine recordings–life is too short and space was too limited. (And had I stated my conclusions forthrightly, all those whose musical educations consisted of reading press releases would have demonized me, because of the entire cult thing.)

        Real nothingburgers.

        But the word “Belabored” really nails it, so thanks.

        John Marks

  • CYM says:

    A towel for The Rinse Cycle … !?

  • Martin says:

    We deify FDR; yet he put thousands of Japanese-Americans in internment camps and destroyed their lives. Isn’t this the worst racist act of the 20th century?

    • Alex Davies says:

      1. If FDR is deified, it is for his overall contribution to American history, not for that one act. If you look at the entire life’s contribution of Winston Churchill you will find that he, too, did things that we don’t particularly approve of today.

      2. No, interning Japanese Americans was not “the worst racist act of the 20th century”. By far “the worst racist act of the 20th century” was the systematic extermination of Jews, Roma, and Slavs (among others) by the Nazis and their allies. To even begin to compare internment of Japanese Americans with the murder of millions of Jews, Roma, and Slavs is unspeakably ignorant and offensive.

      • Mark says:

        “To even begin to compare internment of Japanese Americans with the murder of millions of Jews, Roma, and Slavs is unspeakably ignorant and offensive.”

        Exactly. And thank you for pointing this out.

  • V.Lind says:

    I’m confused. I thought the conference was about Music and Musicology in the Post-Truth Age. Are they discussing musician’s morals, or their musicianship? There is loads of room for argument on Levine, a little of which has been offered above, on that theme, and it is a legitimate one. He was too important a musical presence at the Met for too long not to figure as a subject in any such conference.

    What does Linda Shaver-Gleason’s outrage over Levine’s offstage behaviour have to do with this? If she can demonstrate a direct connection between his alleged immoralities and his performance, that’s one thing (as critics would try to “prove” Clinton-Lewinsky affected his performance of his presidential duties). Otherwise, she is off-topic on her own obsession: another of her recent papers is The Morality of Musical Men: From Victorian Propriety to the Era of #MeToo. These, also, may be legitimate subjects of inquiry, but the subject under discussion in her mind is not music or musicology.

    • AnnaT says:

      Musicologists, not random commenters on SD, determine what the discipline addresses. Public concert life and the ongoing cult of genius are very much of interest to many musicologists, and to their students too, for that matter.

    • i cant even says:

      lol academic conferences are self-reflective. if “musicology” is in the title of the conference, it means a speaker might wind up talking about music historiography, or discourse on music, not “the music itself.” why do you people gotta comment all self-righteously on crap you don’t understand? do you go around bitching about history conferences too because maybe you’ve heard of a dead person referred to in a paper title that you saw on some blog?

    • Quodlibet says:

      Hmm, so no one is interested in the off-stage behavior of Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Paganini, etc., etc….? We only perform or listen to the music and conduct structural analysis of the scores, and nothing else? Nary a word about the rest of the musician’s life?Ugh, that would put a lot of program annotators out of business.

      So many commentators here paint themselves into little corners with these broad-brush assertions. Sheesh, it’s almost as if they don’t stop to think!

      • V.Lind says:

        Just wondering if there are not two topics here. If I came to hear a lecture on Levine’s music/musicology, I would expect an assessment of whether his musicianship had been contributing to the development of the Met, if he was as good as hyped, what his particular strengths and weaknesses — as a conductor and music director — were. What he was best at. Which recordings were worth the candle. How the Met had changed, improved, fallen back, under his tenure. Certainly some personal stuff: his problems with Kathleen Battle and their resolution. Similar things.

        If the allegations against his private life were discussed too, okay. But if the whole thing were a screed on the Morality of This Particular Music Man were the topic, I woudl expect it to be advertised as such. There is room for a discussion, and debate, on Levine-as-conductor without it.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Umm…if you expected that kind of discussion at the talk, then you would be disappointed. I have been to plenty of academic talks where I have been disappointed with what the speaker did. But, that is just how it happens sometimes.

          The test is whether it will get published in some academic journal. To get published some referees and an editor would have to agree it is interesting. I doubt they will care what either of us think about it. Unless, of course, you are asked to be a referee.

  • Sue says:

    The Levine towel is/was his schtick, just as Tommy Cooper’s was a fez.

    I must say I enjoy reading anything at all about Carlos Kleiber!!

    • Alan says:

      Re: Kleiber – I enjoy reading about him (and listening to his recordings) too!
      His Tristan with Margaret Price simply blew my mind.
      Ever since I heard those discs, MP is my ideal Isolde. She actually SOUNDS young and desirable (unlike the usual suspects KF and BN).
      And to get that kind of performance out of Kollo? Who’d a thunk it was possible?
      As I said: mind-blowing.

  • Sharon says:

    I believe that part of the issue may be that the author is not American. The scandals, and speculations and gossip that we would consider normal might be considered an interesting cultural phenomenon in another culture.

  • Sharon says:

    I have just read the paper. I believe that the author makes an unproven assumption that should not be made. This is that prosecuting Levine will help the victims emotionally. I have some doubts whether this is true, especially so many years later. I know that it will help the victims to be heard and to be believed but that is a little different than actually prosecuting Levine.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Er…Levine is not being prosecuted. He is trying to sue the Met for defamation and wrongful dismissal.

      On the first, I can’t see how he can win the case against the Met since there is a police report and a newspaper article prior to any action taken by the Met. And, he doesn’t seem to want to sue the newspaper who originally published the accusations. Levine would have to somehow establish that the Met knew the accusations were untrue (or should have known they were untrue).

      On the second, the Met just has to show the accusations were credible (e.g. they don’t have to establish “truth beyond reasonable doubt”), and that firing him was a reasonable response. He could try to adopt Mark’s line, that it was nothing to do with the Met, but that would concede the defamation case; the Met would have to show why the accusations would affect either his ability to do his job, or the institution as a whole.

      • Mark says:

        He isn’t suing for wrongful dismissal, he is suing for a breach of contract. The subject matter of the contract is indeed employment, but that’s a different issue. Levine’s obligation is to be available to conduct – and he’s performed his contractual obligations. The Met is asking the court to re-write the contract, and the courts are generally reluctant to do that.

  • Alex Davies says:

    The deification of Levine was really quite ridiculous, even before the allegations went public (although I assume that most of us had read about them somewhere online). I remember once going to a Met Live in HD screening, and the whole of the commentary before the opera and during the intermissions was devoted to the great and the good of the opera world lavishing praise upon Levine. Even at the time it seemed genuinely a bit weird and embarrassing. It felt like watching propaganda. They stopped just short of recalling how the very first time Levine played a round of golf he scored 38-under-par, including 11 holes-in-one.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Personally I find the way US presenters and audiences deify the soloist and conductor a bit weird regardless of which orchestra it is.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Sinister because of his pecadilloes? Give me a break. What makes it sinister is the lack of taste and education required to make such a statement. He might have been as good as Toscanini, which only means he has as many limitations as did Toscanini. I was never a great fan of his, and the accusations make no difference one way or the other, and they never did to anybody, and everybody knew about them! This puritanical judgementalism is utterly repugnant. Art makes its own rules. Most great artists are flawed humans. The great, sensitive, loving Debussy left his wife. So what? It is dangerous to love an artist.

  • Helen Wynn says:

    You took the words right out of my brain. James Levine was and is a master. He made the orchestra and he was much loved by the Met audience. While I dont condone sexual misconduct or intimidation, I am concerned that many of his victums continued to have contact with him long after the initial incident.

  • Mark says:

    This “paper” only demonstrates the level to which the study of humanities and social sciences have sunk. The author does nothing but create a straw man and proceeds to fight it with great vigor.

    Nobody interferes with her or anyone else’s right to re-evaluate James Levine’s art. If she has any criticism of his conducting, she is certainly free to publish it. No interpretive artist enjoys a universal approval. How many barrels of ink have been spent writing long treatises on the relative merits of Toscanini vs. Furtwangler, Bernstein v. Karajan, Horowitz v. Rubinstein, Heifetz v, Kreisler etc. etc. ?

    Also, the very premise of this “paper” that James Levine’s artistic achievements have to be re-evaluated in light of the allegations against him is downright silly. Yes, let’s talk about the tempo in the overture to Ariadne auf Naxos in light of the fact that Jim enjoyed a romp with a young man or two? And that letter-writing music in Tosca must be an invitation to dim-witted little Shoki Pai to see the maestro after the performance …

    I think the over-eager PhD candidate has stumbled onto something – how about “The Sistine Chapel in light of Michelangelo’s affection for his teenage assistants” or “Camille Saint –Saens – re-appraisal of his oeuvre on the basis of his preferred “entertainment” in North Africa”. I am sure an endowed chair in Clown Musicology at the University of Southern-North Dakota at Hoople is in her future…

    I will conclude by relaying a part of the conversation I had with a world-renowned singer a few weeks ago. This great singer (now retired) told me the following, “In every performance I aspired to give 100%. But with Jimmy I was able to find colors and details I didn’t even know I was capable of. It was magic – he would just look at me, smile, and I would just soar … With Jim on the podium, I gave 150% !”

    • Olga says:

      Art doesn’t matter in light of abuse. I wouldn’t reevaluate this pedophile’s art. I would just ignore it. All the best to your really famous singer who found colors under Levine’s baton, but I don’t care. I care that young artists were traumatized. Art doesn’t matter, music doesn’t matter, and colours don’t matter when you sacrifice people’s safety and wellbeing, let alone young people’s, let alone kids’ (17 is a child (heck, even 20 is still a child when you talk about seasoned abusers hitting on them!)). Levine is pedophile first, conductor later, I will always think that, I will never forget it and I’m not flexible when it comes to such a question.

      • Miles says:

        It’s your personnal sentiment, it is respected as such, but it really concerns a rather more complicated matter. Your way of exposing the facts (if we accept that the accusations Levine faces are facts, which are not because justice has not spoken yet) could make one conclude, with the same logic, that French novelist Céline is an anti-Semite before being one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. It is actually a big litterary and political debate in France. But, the fact is that Céline IS one of the biggest influences on French, and European litterature, and one of the most celebrated stylist in the modern novel era.
        And yet, he still published anti-Semite texts during World War II. Which Céline is the real one ? Which Levine is the real one ? Mankind is very complex, and ugliness can stand side by side near beauty, in the same body and mind. That’s the reality about human beeings, artists or not.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    David Gockley is a fool and should remain silent.

  • Title IX Avenger says:

    “It exemplifies another common defense: that Levine is innocent until proven guilty, therefore he should be treated as innocent, even in situations outside a court of law. This is an attempt to shut down discussion—or at the very least delay it—while claiming the moral high ground.”

  • ben dominitz says:

    As a student of Walter Levin and the concertmaster of an orchestra which was led by one of his (former) acolytes, I had a cursory knowledge of James Levine. He even attended a performance of my string quartet and a concerto of a Mozart concerto which I gave.

    He was and is a magnificent conductor. He also a sufferer of extreme loneliness and a sexual Peter Pan Syndrome (The sexual interests of a teenagers, with a predilection to young men and to being adored — as he was adored by his mother and others.)

    So, OK. He attracted mostly teenage boys who confused the worship of great music with worshiping him. And, yes, he took advantage of that in a narcissistic way.

    Nevertheless, these distortions in his psyche, while reprehensible, are also understandable. He was different, a man of the theater, to whom opera theater was more real than reality. It also made him a great interpreter and a great coach of talent.

    We do not know how to deal with the dichotomies this creates. So, we first sweep these distortions under the rag. And then, when the secret is no longer whisper, we put on our puritanical garb and bemoan that “Jimmy” is extraordinary in some nefarious ways, as well.

    Our society seems inadequate in dealing with the complexity of the human dimension of extraordinary people. We should have a way to allow people to admit human failings and ask forgiveness without sweeping away their achievements along with their distortions. That the Met radio station no longer plays broadcasts of Levine’s performances is an act of historical distortion of massive proportions and massive cowardice!