James Levine and Peter Gelb settle out of court

James Levine and Peter Gelb settle out of court


norman lebrecht

August 07, 2019

After a protracted legal battle costing an estimated million bucks either side, the former music director and the Metropolitan Opera house last night agreed a settlement over his suspension for sexual misconduct in December 2017 and his subsequent dismissal in March 2018.

Neither side is saying another word (here’s an earlier one).

No other outcome was ever on the cards.

It’s over.



  • The View from America says:

    Next up, the screenplay.


  • Olassus says:

    Let’s hope someone among the bunch of creeps leaks!

  • anon says:

    Next up, the opera.

    John Adams composer. Let’s call it: Los Niños.

  • The View from America says:

    I wonder who threw in the towel?

  • A. Compagna says:

    It is about time that this case has ended. It has dragged on for far too long. The era of James Levine at the Met is finally, and thankfully, over once and for all.
    His mediocre conducting and questionable artistic choices tainted the Met for decades too long. Good riddance to a sexual predator and harasser.
    It is time for the Met to look to the future with the talented and personable new music director,
    Maestor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
    The Met orchestra and chorus has currently been sounding terrific.
    I am quite sure that no one will miss Levine at the Met.
    I’m glad that creep is gone forever…….

    • Maria says:

      You’ve obviously worked with him and know him well and better than most to come to this assasination.

    • Couperin says:

      Are you talking about the same MET orchestra I’be heard recently? Lots of substitute players in the winds, sloppy…questionable horn playing, etc. Definitely not what it once was. I’m not saying that has anything to do with disgusting Levine! Just that, the MET orchestra definitely doesn’t sound so incredible now.

      • Yes Addison says:

        Couperin, I think they’ve always had on-nights and off-nights, depending on what the work is, how much they rehearsed it, who was leading, etc. I actually think the nadir of recent memory was in the period of around 2012-16. I heard some of the worst-played Met performances of my life in those years, in bread-and-butter operas such as Bohème, Traviata, Trovatore…not even getting into the disheveled Tannhäusers that were Levine’s last Met Wagner opera, as I know those were done in trying circumstances.

        My own assessment is that there have been encouraging signs recently. That doesn’t mean I consider YNS a savior figure or a magician, but this orchestra had been operating for nearly a decade without a music director in anything other than name, and there was a good amount of personnel turnover in that period. YNS will be a consistent presence, and he’s reasonably engaged in his work with them (if, I think, overcommitted). All by itself, that consistency will do some good.

    • Amos says:

      With regard to musicianship I’ve always felt that despite his 6 year association with George Szell that JL took away nothing useful. I recall JL sneering that he approached music from the standpoint of the voice whereas Szell always ran to the piano to workout challenges. Having just re-listened to their respective Schumann cycles, JL with the PO, I’ll return to GS every time. Invariably I find JL a professional bore devoid of vitality. I’m not sure if it was during a rehearsal of a Beethoven or Schumann symphony with the PO that JL went on so long talking about the piece that finally one member of the orchestra, I assume concertmaster Carol, finally felt the need to interrupt and say something to the effect “we’ve played this piece before”. As for the personal issues good riddance.

  • sam says:

    For the record, as of today, regarding Mr. Levine:

    -not a single arrest in the world

    -not a single police recommendation for charges in the world

    -not a single charge by any prosecuting office in the world

    And thanks to the settlement agreement,

    -not a single finding by any law firm in the world made public

    -not a single finding by any board of trustees in the world made public

    Furthermore, not a single allegation that was made public in the press has been substantiated as illegal by any official third party investigator, private or public.

    Therefore, by any legal definition anywhere in the world, James Levine is an innocent man.

    Prove me wrong.

    • Brian says:

      True, that’s why he hasn’t been charged with a crime and legally penalized.

      Perhaps I’m reading into your post too much,

      But it has been a decades long rumor in the classical music world (gossip I heard second hand from many) and there have been multiple similar accusations of his coercive and abusive behavior in which the victims really had nothing to gain but shame by going public. I even heard that one orchestra in particular decided, in part to, to drop him because ‘they didn’t want to play for a child molester’.

      Just because there is not legal evidence, doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, in fact, Its practically for certain that he did judging by how many organizations dropped him in a fashion like they are trying to cover their butts, the open rumors for decades and the multitude of accusations. It’s within a private institutions legal rights to choose not to hire somebody and I don’t think, in regards to Levine, that he was a victim of the “SJW mob”, but only of himself.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Hi Sam,

      Perhaps you did not read this article published in The Boston Globe:


      You’re welcome to miss the forest through the trees, although I don’t actually believe your position is honestly-arrived at. It reeks to me of being similar to “global warming is a Chinese hoax.”

      • Karl says:

        I read it. Levine had SEX!! Burn the witch!!! It’s just another piece of the rape culture anti-sex hysteria that’s going on in society now where everyone gets to play the victim. He didn’t force anyone to have sex. When people regret past decisions they should take responsibility instead of trying to play the victim.

    • John Marks says:

      Sam, the legal definition of “arrest” is when a policeman “interferes with your ability to come and go as you please.”

      Usually, being taken to the station and being “booked” follows. Sometimes, a VIP on the way to being booked shoots off his mouth long enough to buy some time before booking. In some cases, telephone calls get made.

      In some cases, influence is brought to bear so that arrest records are not made, or if there has already been a booking, that the evidence of the booking is destroyed. Lots of people have known for decades that James Levine was “arrested” at a public men’s room in Memphis in the late 1970s.

      RUMOR VOLAT, as Pliny the Elder might have said; but some times, the rumors are 100% based on real facts. I had a telephone conversation with a journalist/investigative reporter for a major news organization. That person told me that they had been told of more than one Levine public-restroom arrest that, for whatever reason, never matured into a booking and a charge.

      Hey, wasn’t there a US Congressman who was arrested in a men’s room, and that his defense was that he had a “wide stance”? To quote Wiki, “At one point, Craig handed his business card to the arresting officer, which identified him as a U.S. Senator, and said to him, ‘What do you think about that?'”

      That’s trying to influence your way out of a booking. Larry Craig failed. Levine succeeded.

      Who’s the working-stiff cop who wants to be blamed for Pavarotti’s having to follow a replacement conductor? “Kick this one upstairs. If the Commish says forget it, we forget it.” All in a day’s work.

      Levine is as “innocent” as Harvey Weinstein is. The difference being that Weinstein didn’t cruise public restrooms.


      • Karl says:

        Weinstein has not been found guilty of anything either. It looks like all he did was exchange sex for film roles. That’s not illegal. Another case where a man went on trial for being a promiscuous horn-dog is the Jian Ghomeshi case. He was also found not guilty. Some women who felt jilted fabricated rape allegations as revenge against him. It didn’t put him in jail, but it did ruin his career.

        • V.Lind says:

          Exchanging sex for film roles is “‘not illegal”? Do you hear yourself? What about immoral? What about abuse of power? A talented actress has the right to think that her career will move forward on her ability to do the work, and to some extent to her ability to attract a public following. It should not by any criterion depend upon her willingness to give Harvey Weinstein a bj, or to let him screw her.

          Excuse the vulgarity, but this is one of the most egregiously insulting and offensive posts I have ever read here.

          As for Jian Ghomeshi, you are very economical with the facts. He would take a young woman to his house, where doubtless she was willing to engage in consensual sexual activity with him, and then slam her against a wall, pull her hair and otherwise engage in what he himself was pleased to refer to as “rough sex,” including a personal favourite of his, choking, in a celebrated Facebook posting, long, whiny and self-serving, which he posted right after being fired from the CBC. He also shocked other women he had taken on a date by similar “rough” behaviour. To no-one’s consent, and without safe words, which I believe is a practice of he S&M aficionados.

          I do not recall anyone accusing him of rape, only of unwanted sexual assaults. Colleagues at the CBC had frequently complained of unwanted and inappropriate sexual conduct, which — greatly to the CBC’s discredit — were ignored in order to protect a valuable asset. The CBC declined to investigate complaints, and later apologised to some of the women concerned – and several managers were dismissed.

          He was found not guilty on most charges but was forced to accept a “peace bond” with one accuser, in exchange for her withdrawing the charge that would have led to a further trial. Having seen the previous one, she decided she did not want to give him the opportunity to add to the lies, or to put herself through what the previous accusers had been.

          There were many ramifications to this story, and the trials. The one I found most distasteful, aside from Ghomeshi’s actions and arrogance (and I am in a position to know what was going on at the CBC at the time), was the fact that some of the young women he had attacked and who were obviously shaken up, continued to try to maintain a relationship with him afterward. Such is the lure of the celebrity in this age. His lawyer, armed with this information, was correctly able to discredit their testimony, though nobody doubted the truth of it.

          The complainants were also too active in the media and among themselves, lending some doubt as to their legal credibility. (Remember Marcia Clark, declining to use witnesses to the OJ situation who has sold their stories to tabloids? She forfeited some good evidence there as she correctly determined they had lost credibility by using the media for gain — much good that it did her to play by the rules).

          Ghomeshi’s whingeing and self-serving essay in The New York Review of Books was so thoroughly excoriated that it cost the editor HIS job. Ghomeshi has failed to take responsibility for acts he tries to write off as merely roguish. He lost his position, and his reputation, because he was a violent sexual predator, not because of any climate of victimology. Until he realises that, he stays out in the cold, which is where people with your attitude to the sexual abuse and exploitation of women belong.

    • peteresq says:

      You are correct; remember he is presumed innocent until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        No, you are wrong. The concept “innocent until proven otherwise” is a concept for criminal trials. This was a civil trial between the parties.

      • Bill says:

        In the eyes of the law in a criminal matter, yes, rightly so. Public opinion is not so bound.

    • Gina says:

      I agree with you 100%. I will miss Maestro Levine a lot!

    • william osborne says:

      The Memphis arrest? Whatever, he might be “innocent” but still completely unfit as a teacher and as any sort of representative of the Met. That’s the issue here.

  • Karl says:

    If he was physically able to conduct someone would hire him. It’s too bad. This is a terrible way to end a brilliant career.

  • Save the MET says:

    The question is, what did this cost the MET? They had the most to lose at this point. He was protected there for years and I’m sure Anne Ziff wrote a check to end the thing so it didn’t play out in court, as her poor little Peter Gelb might be implicated. It will eventually get out.

    • Edgar says:

      I agree. Still, for Levine, Gelb, and the Met: finire così…

      Now, if only Gelb’s contract would no longer be renewed, and the board replaced, then the house might -just might- have a chance to survive.

      Not even hundred Yannicks can save it.

      Besides, the Met is a wayto big a barn. The best thing would be to gut the entire building and install a house up to 21st century standard with an auditorium half the size of the current one. New Yorkers, conservative as they are, won’t like it. Nevertheless: the future of opera is, in this case, a smaller house with realistic expectations, artistically, financially, culturally.

      Anyway, a deficit funding board is not a business model that deserves to stay around. So why not push the Pause button and go for a Radical Reset?

      The only thing achieved is: saving face. That ain’t enough to secure a future.

      • Jack says:

        Excellent comment, Edgar.

        The current iteration of the Metropolitan Opera House is an ugly modernist monstrosity. Rudy Giuliani wanted to replace it twenty years ago as part of the redevelopment of Columbus Circle. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

        The Met needs a new, small theater and a scaled down season.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Please cite the source for your statement? Being with the Met during that period, it is totally unknown to me.

          • Save the MET says:

            In the early 1950’s, the Columbus Circle land was offered to the MET and by 1952 they rejected it as they were thinking of rebuilding the MET on the property where the old house was located further downtown. The NY Philharmonic was also part of the deal and instead the New York Coliseum was built. When they were looking at raising the Coliseum, which was an eyesore from the start and not well used after the Javits Center was constructed, it was again floated for the MET and rejected. Now it is Time Warner. You can go to the NY Times and Google New York Coliseum and find articles discussing the situation.

          • Jack says:

            Save the MET explained it better than I could, however, my specific source was Stanley Crouch in his book, Considering Genius.

            In said book, Crouch said that he and Wynton Marsalis met with Giuliani to pitch the idea of giving Jazz at Lincoln Center a permanent home at Columbus Circle. Crouch mentioned that Giuliani was partial to building a new Met opera house on the site. Ultimately, it was Crouch and Marsalis who prevailed and Columbus Circle became a home for jazz, not opera.

          • MWnyc says:

            Except that opera gets presented at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater numerous times each season, as either a rental or a presentation of Lincoln Center, Inc.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    A word to all you judgmental weasels swinging your cudgels at Levine: Go get a life. The Met’s amateurish handling of this matter is the real issue here. Gelb wanted Levine out, and he didn’t care what it would cost the Met. So now the Met has egg on its face, but Gelb got his wish.

    • Save the MET says:

      Gelb lived in fear of Levine until the MET decided his case was too hot to protect and longer. Levine was a genuine musical talent and a real hero for decades in the opera world, albeit a mental illness with his predilections. Gelb remains a talent-less hack who to this day should get on his knees and pray to Levine’s late manager Ronald Wilford that he is employed, as there was no where else for him to go in the recording business; he had demonstrated sheer incompetence. Amateurish is a description for everything Gelb does. It was very clear this Summer when Mostly Mozart presented the Komische Opera Zauberflote that that scrappy little festival stole a popular big fish that sold out every night with people outside begging to buy tickets and Gelb missed yet another big opportunity. One day Anne Ziff will wake up from her slumber and see the harm he has inflicted on that company.

      • Yes Addison says:

        The David H. Koch Theater, where the Barrie Kosky production of Zauberflöte was presented this summer, seats a little under 2,600 people. I’m sure it did sell out, but had the Met made this Zauberflöte their new one, there’s no guarantee it would have sold out the much larger Met (3,800 seats), especially past its first series of performances.

        If you’re suggesting that the Met should engage Kosky to create other productions there, I’m sure they’re aware of him. They may even have something in the works with him. However, his work in opera is exactly the Regietheater that the “old guard” here on Slipped Disc claims is opera’s ruination (the ROH Carmen with the gorilla, the Bayreuth Meistersinger with the final act framed as the Nuremberg trials).

        Also, blaming Levine’s decades of sleazy and all-too-common abuses of power on mental illness sounds like unsubstantiated apologism. I’m unaware of any diagnosis made by an expert in the mental-health field, and I have heard more about Levine’s medical history than I ever needed to. All I can say is that his work in his final years at the Met, including those when he still held the title of music director, was that of a badly diminished and grossly overpaid guest conductor only getting through a diminishing share of his formerly large repertoire with a lot of help and a lot of precious rehearsal time. You have to put to the side how good his performances may have been in 1979, 1985, 1994 or even 2002. In this decade, most of what he had to offer was a celebrated name. When even that was tainted by the allegations of his numerous accusers, the writing was on the wall.

  • KyleNJ says:

    I wonder if it cost the Met anything. The official court records don’t mention any type of financial settlement, only that Levine has discontinued all claims against the Met, etc. If there was a financial settlement, I would think it would have happened far earlier than this.
    I don’t suppose the Met will furnish any details.
    I am glad the whole sordid affair is now in the past.
    Time for the Met to move on.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      In other words, Levine lost the case. Or rather, withdrew his very flimsy case to try to salvage something of his reputation before he was humiliated in court.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Now if someone can figure out how to dispose of Peter Gelb, the Met may have a chance at greatness once again.

  • Martin Smith says:

    All this hope regarding Yannick!
    He’s by far no Sinopoli, Carlos Kleiber, Abbado…etc.

    • Marshall says:

      Yes, finally-why is N-S considered the second coming? I have every hope as his career goes on, but I have not heard anything so earth shattering. (I think he has also benefited from the rush to replace Levine with someone untainted)Originally I was not a Levine admirer, but over his long career he got better, much better. (and this idea that the Met orchestra was garbage before him is nonsense-maybe it was less consistent, but when I listen to performances on Sirius with great conductors, on a given Saturday, they were impressive)

      Levine had problems, and his abuse of power and attraction to minors is disgusting (and everyone knew about this for years), but he leaves a legacy as a significant conductor. (what also strikes me is his emotional immaturity. The philosophical question- can great art come from a flawed person, even a morally bankrupt one?-with music there is no doubt that is the case)

      • NYMike says:

        Although I’ve only heard Pelleas @ the MET conducted by YNS, I’ve heard all of his Philly/Carnegie concerts. He is indeed one terrifically talented musician, loved by the orchestras he conducts.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          I have seen him with more than one orchestra in Europe and it is clear the musicians like him (and that he seems to treat them nicely). The orchestras have definitely played for him and he has some talent as a conductor.

  • Sharon says:

    Doesn’t the Met have to tell the donors whether or not there was a settlement or if Levine just withdrew?

    As far as Kyle NJ comment that “If there is a financial settlement it would have happened far earlier than this” the Met may have tried but at the time Levine may have been so angry that he wanted his day in court.

    Now, after a year and a half, time may be beginning to heal his wounds and Levine may have started to feel that it is just costing him too much time, money and aggravation.

    Levine may now feel too old,sick or tired to continue conducting on even an occasional basis and the financial settlement, if there is one, might have been generous or close to what Levine had originally requested.

    Incidentally, in the public court documents, which are posted but which I do not have the computer skills to send to Slipped Disc, is a recent letter (I do not know the legal term) by the lawyer of Ashok Pai requesting that the court quash his subpoena for a deposition by videotape that was issued by Levine’s attorney.

    I am not an attorney but it appears to me that the legal argument used in Pai’s lawyer’s letter is that with regard to the defamation motion, which would be the only motion that would be relevant to Pai, the focus should be on the process by which the Met did their investigation to come to the conclusion that Levine had taken advantage of his position to sexually abuse others while at the Met, and Pai knows nothing about the Met’s investigation’s process.

    Pai’s attorney said that the focus should be on the breach of contract issue anyway and focusing on the defamation motion concerning Levine’s sexual behavior was a “sideshow”.

    The letter also mentioned that Pai was afraid that Levine’s people would edit the videotape and release the edited version to the media. Is this paranoia or did Levine’s attorneys actually threaten Pai with something?

    In reply to a motion months back Levine’s lawyer had already referred to Pai as a “grifter”. This is pretty strong language for a lawyer because I assume that the lawyer would know that calling people such names might open herself up to a slander suit. However if they did threaten Pai either directly or indirectly it was not mentioned in Pai’s lawyer’s letter.

    Perhaps other people that Levine’s side had tried to subpoena for depositions, who by court agreement had to be kept anonymous, had also contested their subpoenas, or for those that did provide testimony, that testimony did not provide the type of defense that Levine’s side had hoped it would.

    I had been fascinated (obsessed?) with this case for a while and I must admit that the salacious side of me is disappointed that this did not go to a jury trial (what a movie that would be !) and I do hope that someone will leak as to how this really ended.

    However, I do believe strongly that ending this mess is not only in the best interest of the parties directly concerned but also in the interest of opera and indeed classical music worldwide.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Levine likely withdrew his case to try to salvage something of his reputation before he was humiliated in court. I doubt that the Met made any offer (except not to pursue Levine for their costs since the action was in “bad faith, vexatious, wantonly and/or oppressive”).

      Certainly the Met have made no apology, nor did they agree that Levine should not have been fired. He has pretty much been “unpersoned”.

  • Sharon says:

    At one point in this mess Levine changed his attorney. Could it be that the original one was pressing Levine to take a settlement but at that time Levine could still have been too angry? He used to say in interviews that he was “married” to the Met and divorces can be very painful and messy.

    He might also have felt that given all the negative publicity about himself that accepting a settlement would be like an admission of guilt and that he had to clear his name. After all, Levine truly believes that he is guilty of nothing except possibly naivetee about “grifters” and bad judgement and sees himself as exploited by his accusers.

    However, after a year and a half in retirement with the possibility of him conducting again in any major venue in the future very unlikely, he may have stopped caring about his reputation

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  • M2N2K says:

    For about three decades (roughly 1975-2005), JL was arguably the best American-born conductor overall. His personal failings are a different story. Having sexual relations with several minors while being an adult in powerful position is wrong on many counts.
    Not everyone who was not found legally guilty is truly innocent.
    For example, a man named OJ does immediately come to mind.