NY Times has details of James Levine’s huge Met payoff

NY Times has details of James Levine’s huge Met payoff


norman lebrecht

September 21, 2020

The Met’s former music director was paid $3.5 million to drop his unfair dismissal lawsuit and walk away quietly, according to leaks to a pair of NY Times reporters.

Levine was fired in March 2018 for a history of alleged sexual misconduct.

Nobody comes out of this well. The money he was paid came from well-intentioned donors who expected it would go towards producing opera.

Report here.

The two reporters are Michael Cooper, who covers classical music and dance, and James B. Stewart, a Times columnist and author of ‘Deep State: Trump, the FBI and the Rule of Law.’

UPDATE: Zubin Mehta says it’s the media that ruined Levine


  • Watching the MET RUST..... says:

    Conveniently all of Levine’s numerous victims were thrown away with no settlements (both the youngsters and singers).

    This is PRECISELY why the integrity of the MET as a business entity and it’s 501c3 status is being investigated and thoroughly reviewed by the IRS.

    Don’t be surprised by a RICO suit filed by the feds in the future going back to the 80’s and Levine’s bathroom scrapes.

    It’s just as well since Gelb’s “emergency fundraiser” millions only went for business operations lining its coffers while the singers, chorus, players, crew and staff got……..NOTHING!

    The funny part is that the MET remains locked up and unable to make any money due to “circumstances beyond their control for the foreseeable future” by State order. Go Cuomo! HILARIOUS!!!

    • sam says:

      ” all of Levine’s numerous victims were thrown away with no settlements”

      How do you know?
      How do you know they sued the Met?

      • Collin I. says:

        You seem to know a lot about all of his dalliances with very young men and boys. You’re an insider?

        Enlighten us all with your FACTS sam.

        • Levineite says:

          If he told you he’d have to kill you.

        • sam says:

          Your prurient interest for lurid details is very disturbing. You should consider psychiatric help. Or chemical castration.

          • Peter Stoll says:

            You mean Jimmy Levine of course.

          • Levine is WHITE PRIVILEGE personified says:

            Levine basically mimicked the same behavior of slave holders but with males “of color” according to the facts in the NYT article along with numerous other insider sources.

            Overseeing darker and younger victims gave him a sense of power as they were beneath both his religion and race.

            The board of the MET always got him out of legal troubles using their own white privilege which further asserted his false sense of manhood.

            Now that the liberal NYT exposed him for what he is, he’s since been immediately put on leave, fired and treated like the trash he is. He will NEVER show his face at the MET again and too afraid to go out in NY so he fled to CA.

            It’s still quite perplexing that none of the board members, SINGERS, etc ever publicly stood up to support Levine as any other normal, innocent person of his former stature would have had. When things got rough, no big names or crowds..odd.

            Hopefully now that he’s gone with his hush money, victims can feel some semblance of vindication for all they suffered.

            Both the Catholic Church and the MET have had a lot in common and now suffer the same demise. Poetic justice.

          • Nick says:

            You’re right!!

          • Calvin J. Sedita, esq. says:

            Your hate needs to be directed at the perpetrator, Jimmy Levine and his enablers being his brother, the singers who did nothing and the MET Board plus their executives.

            There are dozens of VICTIMS who remain in pain trying to cope alone in Levine’s aftermath.

            Human dignity used to mean something to you people who hide, living in denial for superficial purposes!

        • Nick says:

          I do not think that ‘sam’ should enlighten you, but rather YOU should enlighten us!! Met got what it long deserved!!

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Absolutely good questions for Watching the Met RUST. He has no information.

        Also, there is no investigation into the Met’s 501c3 status by the IRS. Even it there were an investigation, it would be by the Charities Bureau of the NYS Attorney General’s Office.

    • Paganono says:

      Pal, what about your integrity? “Bathroom scrapes”? What documents do you have to support that? Your condemnations are based on cheap gossip, period.

      • Standing with victims over art says:

        Were it mere gossip, let alone “cheap”, the board wouldn’t have PAID Jimmy a penny, treating him as they have any singer of any stature. Placido is a great example as he and Jimmy were so close and untouchable for decades. He got kicked out after a Macbeth rehearsal. Jimmy finally got axed after a NYT article. Score a couple for that leftist rag!!

        All of those bathroom, practice room and high rise scrapes the MET along with their expensive lawyers have been privy to.

        Poor kids and singers (male of course).

      • This is who The MET really is says:

        Get EDUCATED!

        Directly from the article there are no less than 7 unidentified victims. There are clearly many more victims which were ignored by the MET since at least 1979 that a formal court trial with a jury would have invoked. However there are numerous tasty little snippets for both the stupid MET worshippers and Levine brown nosers in the NYT article. Ignorance costs both money and lifetimes people!

        …“But, armed with the findings of its investigation, the Met countersued. It cited seven unnamed people who had been the victims of what it called “sexually abusive and harassing conduct.”

        Mr. Levine was undeterred by the potentially embarrassing public disclosures. People familiar with his thinking said the conductor, who has never publicly discussed his sexuality, felt he could rebut the allegations. And he was already so humiliated that he felt he had nothing further to lose by litigating.

        The Met did not name any of the seven accusers. But one of the men in the Met’s court filing was identified by Mr. Levine’s lawyers as Ashok Pai, whose account of being molested by Mr. Levine as a teenager figured prominently in articles in The Times and The New York Post.

        Another accuser was a longtime Met employee who, the Met said, Mr. Levine had propositioned while wearing a bathrobe and had subsequently “inappropriately touched” at least seven times between 1979 — when the man was 16 and auditioning for Mr. Levine — and 1991.

        In a third incident, from 1985, the Met said Mr. Levine had driven an opera singer home from an audition, then locked him in the car and groped and kissed him against his will, later placing him in “a prestigious program” at the company. In another incident reported by the Met, Mr. Levine asked an artist if he “had a large penis.”

        Mr. Levine’s lawyers denied all the allegations, and were eager to question witnesses under oath, and to ask the Met’s leaders about other sexual improprieties at the company over the years and the degree to which they had been tolerated. The Met’s lawyers zeroed in on another sensitive area for Mr. Levine, demanding his medical records.

        Just as depositions were about to begin in earnest, the parties agreed to submit the case to mediation. Even then, tensions ran high as Mr. Gelb and Mr. Levine faced one another at the opening session, according to two people familiar with the proceedings. An exasperated Mr. Levine even left the session before being persuaded to sign off on the $3.5 million agreement.”

    • BTW says:

      At first, I thought you had some knowledge of this situation. But when you bring Cuomo and politics into the mix, it’s impossible to take you seriously on any of the other issues you bring up.

    • Larry D says:

      So glad you think this is all hilarious, and seem to be hoping that Bill Barr will destroy this obviously anarchist institution… Pandemics have a way of tickling some people’s funny bone, I guess.

  • Musician says:


  • Paul Dawson says:

    As one of the ‘well-intentioned’ donors – albeit, rather small-scale – I am appalled. I’d like opera companies – the prime beneficiaries of my donations – and comparable institutions to ring-fence donations against such use. Sadly though, as a finance expert, I am well aware of how claimed ring-fencing is open to abuse.

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    Before everyone starts in on their “Peter Gelb is the spawn of the Devil” rants I urge you to remember that Gelb reports to a Board of Directors. Do you really think he came to this agreement without Board direction? This is a perfect example of how non-profit boards in America have become no different from corporate boards. The members are primarily there because it’s “good PR” for their companies – not because they know the difference between Berg and Puccini (or even care, for that matter). They have complete “we need to run this like a business” mentalities – hence, this kind of pay-off which happens so frequently in the profit sector. I understand that Gelb recommended this settlement, but the legal system being what it is, would you have preferred he let this go to trial and spent at least that amount on lawyers alone? I’m certainly not saying Gelb is the perfect manager but please direct your ire to the people who truly own the responsibility. Gelb should not be their sacrificial lamb.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Make no mistake, while Peter Gelb is not the “spawn of the Devil”, he is nonetheless related. He defines the Dunning-Kruger effect, yet exercises total control over the board, with the exception of the Chairman of the Executive Committee.

      The feckless Met Board is not there for “Good PR” but rather for their money, which in and of itself generates PR.

      • NotToneDeaf says:

        The Met Board is there “for their money.” What does that mean? Are you one of those misinformed people who think that non-profit board members are paid to sit on these boards? Not the case. Being on the Met Board is socially prestigious for individuals. For large corporations, it is an opportunity to be able to point out how “civic-minded” they are. As to Gelb exercising “total control” over the Board, I invite you to look over its Board list and note some of the rather extraordinary names there. These are not people who accept being controlled either professionally or personally.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          You COMPLETELY misread “for their money”. It refers to their ability to give the Met money, not the receipt of any payment for their service as board members.

          I happen know a good number of the Met board members, and it is extraordinary–with few exceptions–how they are able to exchange their power/intelligence/prestige/wealth/brains for acquiescence to Peter Gelb when they step over the threshold of the Met boardroom. It is rarely in the spirit of civic-mindedness or love of the art form that they are there. They are grateful (some positively giddy) to be a part of a very exclusive club, which happens to come at a price that few earn in a lifetime.

          In this particular case, every member of the Met board was implicit by their silence and obfuscation, some over several decades.

          This ain’t your local charity. And, yes, I am informed.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      And I am also sure the Board — and perhaps even more importantly, the insurance company/ companies insuring that Board — was/were in close contact with experienced and savvy trial lawyers, who patiently walked them through various scenarios of “here is what could happen at a trial, here is the range of actual and punitive damages a jury could impose, and here is how the average juror might view the respective parties to the dispute.”

      $3.5 million can look mighty cheap after one of those presentations. All settlements look upsetting and outrageous until you hear a trial lawyer set forth the situation for you in cold and unemotional language. If the decision to reject settlement and go to trial is the least bit based on emotion, some very regrettable consequences can ensue. In fact the insurer might decide, or have the right to reject a claim if the insured party ignores the insurer’s advice about settlement. This is high stakes poker.

      Do not assume the money actually comes from the Met. The Met is insured. Of course the money to pay the premiums, which are unlikely to go down as a result of this settlement, comes from donors and the usual sources. Donors like to see buildings and cafes and chandeliers and such things named after them. Nobody really feels honored and special by having an insurance premium payment named after them.

  • sam says:

    1) The Met knew of Levine’s alleged sexual abuses and harassments, of his alleged hush-hush arrests and releases, during all these decades and still did not put a morals clause in his contract.

    That means Levine could’ve admitted to all allegations or even convicted of rape and still could not be legally fired (as long as he could work, say he was given no prison time).

    2) Considering that Levine would not have worked (thus gotten paid) during Covid (basically much of 2020 and possibly well into 2021) under ANY circumstance, his $3.5 million settlement is really equivalent to the full $5.6 million he was asking for.

    Levine won everything he asked for.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    This is disgusting.

    From now on, my money is going to the Catholic Church.

  • Mrs Doubtfire says:

    I think Levine should donate this money to the furloughed workers of the Met that worked so hard for him for all these years.

  • James Weiss says:

    This is absolutely disgusting. James Levine should be in prison not enjoying a huge settlement. He was a great artist – that doesn’t change – but he engaged in criminal behavior for years which was covered up by both the Met and the local Arts press. Enough is enough. A day of reckoning is long past due.

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      Remind me please, was Levine accused of criminal behavior, rape, statutory rape, something like that? I find descriptions of really creepy behavior, but I don’t see mentions of criminal charges. There were two 16-year-olds, one 41 years ago and the other 34 years ago, who accused him of (1) inappropriate touching and (2) really inappropriate behaviour. But at the time the age of consent in New York was 14. I’m not trying to defend anyone, but I’m curious about the mentions of criminality in this post and prison in other posts.

    • Alex says:

      He has never been charged with or convicted of any crime. Until he his, you have merely an opinion.

    • Eulalia Johnson says:

      Mr. Weiss, I agree with you that Levine skating off for the rest of his life with bags of money is displeasing, but I wonder whether he really was a great artist. I heard him conduct many times over a period of more than forty years. He was a great orchestra builder, a great technician–his “Siegfried” in 2004 was something to behold–but I never got from him, as I sometimes got from Maazel, Boulez and other maestri that there was a particularly individual Weltanschauung that he filtered his scores through to make them his unique readings that reflected any kind of metaphysical or philosophical understandings that were as much his as his fingerprints are his. Several opera singer friends who sang with him and an instrumentalist who played for decades in the Met’s pit have told me that his corrections were always technical and never addressed anything like meanings deeper than the literal.

      • NotToneDeaf says:

        I’m not trying to defend any of his non-podium actions, but as someone who has direct experience with his work, I can say that your assertions are incorrect. His musical insights are often extraordinary and galvanizing.

        • Eulalia Johnson says:

          Dear NotToneDeaf, I never meant to say that musically Levine was not extraordinary or a prodigious musician. It was as a consciousness that he struck me as undeveloped. The impression a Bruno Walter makes in conversation about music versus a Levine suggests, to me at least, a more “felt life” experience of the music, to use Henry James’s term, on the part of a conductor like Walter. And, of course, 3,800 people can hear a performance at the Met and each will register slightly different performances. Given a certain basic musicality, one’s impressions and tastes are inevitably personal. That Levine’s performances for you were extraordinary and galvanizing is a response I wouldn’t dream of contesting–it’s wonderful for you, and others, that his work was able to thrill you so. I found many of his outings impressive and admirable but other conductors reached me more deeply. You obviously heard something in Levine’s work that eluded me and I’m sorry I missed it but c’est la vie!

  • Happy lady says:

    Finally Levine kicked ass metoo and all corrupted media. Hope this can stop false accusations of metoo. Metoo is a new fascism.

  • phf655 says:

    The combination of his acceptance of this very large payout, combined with his ‘activities in the bathroom’ (to quote another commenter) delineates the profile of a narcissist. Unfortunately, we Americans know a good deal about those.
    Somewhere in all of this, though, we need to remember Levine’s strong musicianship and his role in raising and sustaining the company’s musical standards over a very long time.
    While it is hard not to be angry, the whole thing is very sad.

  • Janice says:

    Hmm, I guess justice is a lie “the weak” tell themselves. Come on, Levine is just being more honest! He’s a better artist than most too! You folks are just sore losers right? Maybe ones who didn’t practice enough!

    • Weak vs Woke says:

      Good point Janice!

      So when will The MET next be engaging maestro Levine??? He’s still welcome to work and be at least an audience member, right Janice?

      Unless you’re lying to yourself like all of those boys and young men….how typical.

  • Lucifer says:

    See you in hell Jimmy!

  • Karl says:

    The reason they gave Levine that much money is because they didn’t have a strong case. Rumors and innuendo are not strong facts that can be used in court. I have been reading things like this in NPR:
    “All five of the newly described alleged victims are mentioned anonymously in the Met’s counterclaim, which has been reviewed by NPR. The first individual says that around 1975 or 1976, Levine allegedly “demanded and received sex acts” from a musician in the Met orchestra; as music director, Levine had significant sway over those musicians’ career trajectories.”

    That’s just someone reporting a RUMOR to NPR with no names or corroboration. It never even should have been printed. Yet people keep reading these things and it snowballs until people see Levine as Hannibal Lechter thanks to the fake news machine.

    Another thing that no one is taking into account is that the rules were far different in the 70s. College professors could have sex with their students and no one batted an eye. The sexual revolution is dead and gone now, but I don’t think we should be vilifying people who had promiscuous sex in the time when it was considered acceptable.

    • annon says:

      It’s irrelevant whether the Met had a strong case or no case, since there was no morals clause in his contract, the Met couldn’t fire him even if Levine admitted to every single accusation.

      Under his contract, sexually harassing someone is not a cause for termination.

      The lesson to take from this is: Hire Levine’s lawyer for all your employment issues.

  • alex says:


  • Sanford Press says:

    I lived in New York city starting in the 1970’s. It was on the street then that he had an appetite for boys of color.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Yet another swamp for Trump to clear out!!! If Trump didn’t exist we’d have to invent him. He’s the chemotherapy for the malignant swamp and who in their right mind would opt for chemo if it wasn’t absolutely necessary?

  • Sotomayr says:

    I am all in favour of this. The Met is an anachronistic, atrophied institution. It makes sense that it should exist merely to move money from its dullard donors into the accounts of its disgraced former employees. While the victims of its vile abuses remain unrecompensed, at least the institution itself can rot from the inside out and hopefully spend itself into oblivion sooner rather than later.

    What a disgrace that the singers who feed most off the teat, and queue up for selfies with the ghastly Gelb – looking at you, Matthew Rose, Iestyn Davies, and the like – have so little to say about the egregious abuse facilitated by the vile institution they have attached themselves to. Such corruptness is seen and noted.

  • V. Lind says:

    Seems pigs CAN fly.

  • Levine’s lawsuit was never about clearing his name, it was about payback. It’s not just that almost everyone in the industry is one or two degrees of separation from a James Levine “story”, but that the Admins at the Met were fully aware for years. Levine knows where all the bodies at the Met are buried, and getting Gelb and others under deposition would have been devastating for the Met, and career ending for those admins. Everything would have been on the table, not just stories regarding Levine himself.

    Levine has tons of money, and all of his dirty laundry has been aired out, so the only surprise is that he accepted the settlement. He was holding all of the cards, and the size of the settlement confirms this. It’s not that the Met’s case was weak, but that Gelb and others would have been caught in the crossfire.

    The one thing that shady admins are very good at: convincing their board to take actions they think are in the best interest of their organization, when they are actually in the best interest of the admins in charge.

  • Truth says:

    Everyone in the business has known what this man has been doing for decades. But the arts are always trying to scrape by to balance the budget to live another year. They knew this scandal could topple this delicately balanced house of cards so everyone turned a blind eye… When it actually came out some acted surprised, some not so much but in the end this predator was paid more money to walk away without tarnishing the brand further. He absolutely should be in prison and those in power that enabled all this should have trouble sleeping.
    This is shameful and the Met should be ashamed of themselves.

  • fflambeau says:

    In law, a good settlement means no one is happy. This is probably a good settlement.

  • Ralph Bateman says:

    ==Since the settlement was reached, Mr. Levine has been living in California

    I’d wondered what he’d been doing with himself. Was doubtful he’d be in NY

  • Sharon says:

    To NotToneDeaf
    Many years ago, when I was a young teenager doing volunteer work for the Red Cross in their office I commented, “Wow! This is just like a business”. My boss replied, “Of course it’s a business. It’s a non profit business but it’s still a business”.
    All non profits look to the board to raise money. If it is a prestigious organization it will want a board of directors of people who have money to donate. If it is a small or local organization it looks to find people for its board of directors with connections in the community who can raise money, albeit in small donations that way. We and many others honored people in our fund raising dinner dancers whom we thought would bring a fairly large entourage to the dinner who might put ads in our dinner dance journals and participate in our raffles and silent auctions that were held at the dinner dance.
    That having been said I’m more than a little stunned that none of the money raised by the “free” operas on line that the Met is presenting every night, which I understand is now over 60 million dollars, is going to staff (except possibly Levine).

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      I’m sorry but I fail to understand what point you’re trying to make. My issue is not that non-profits should be run as businesses – but that they should be run as NON-profit businesses. They should not embrace the same practices as a profit business as most of the goals are different. Professionally run? Yes. But making every decision based on how it impacts the bottom line? No. Nor am I suggesting that Boards have no value. Of course, they bring in money. I’m bemoaning (and, I suppose, showing my age) that Boards are no longer made up of individuals who are there because they love and support the art form – and happen to be wealthy and generous. My experience from the several Boards I know at present is that very few, if any, Board members now have that passion, interest or knowledge.

  • Sharon says:

    With regard to Levine–I would be very interested to find out if his settlement included his prestigious attorneys’ fees, and Levine used two sets of attorneys because another set took over in the middle of this mess. If it did not, and the Met is responsible for Levine’s attorneys’ fees, which is likely, the cost to the Met could be double what is indicated here.

    In any event, especially the smaller donors will be furious, not only because of this but when they find out that the Met’s personnel are not receiving any of their donations, and may stop contributing, or will contribute less. As for myself, I do not answer the phone when it shows “Met Opera” which I know is a fund raising call from the Met. I get these calls all the time even though, although I’ve bought tickets, I have never been a donor or subscriber. The Met’s fund raising must be very aggressive.

    I was also surprised to read that Levine had moved to California. I have read about Levine’s career pretty closely since this mess started and throughout his career he did surprisingly little on the West Coast. I do not believe that he has any family ties there either.

    Perhaps he wants to start a new life in a place where he will not be recognized.

    I expect that his reception in Italy, where he has conducted relatively little throughout his career, will be very positive, if they can make sufficient accommodations for him to conduct successfully from a wheelchair.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    Of course this morally revolting specimen cost the company in so many other ways – through his hogging of the repertoire and of the best singers and productions for so many decades which prevented the hiring of other major conductors, his duplicitous treatment of major artists , complete lack of leadership in crisis situations (e.g. Kathleen Battle), and most of all his complete denial of his medically based incapacities and subsequent refusal to give up the throne even when unable to perform for a multitude of seasons. i.e. the very thing for which he was rightly dismissed by the BSO. This had a devastating effect on the Mets ability to carefully plan its future seasons but as usual with “Jimmy” it was all about himself and the undying adulation of his worshipful cult followers. Much like the orange man in D.C.

  • mary says:

    So who’s the leaker?

    1) Obviously someone who has access to the full file.
    2) Exclude Levine and Gelb, neither comes out well.
    3) Exclude the lawyers, they got bigger fish to fry.
    4) That leaves board members, who hate both Levine and Gelb, but not powerful enough to vote out either.
    5) Or a lowly administrative personnel who handled copying and archiving material, and decided to turn over copies to the NYT.

    You know Gelb is on the hunt for the leaker, confiscating everyone’s phones, scrubbing through everyone’s computers, searching for communications with the NYT.

    Gelb will get his scalp!

    • Larry D says:

      YOU may “know”, but could you provide some evidence for us less knowledgeable folk?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      If so, it will not be the first staff witchhunt during Gelb’s tenure. Sad, but in his defense, Peter has every reason to be paranoid.

    • Musicman says:

      Gelb can only look through work phones and computers..he has no power to confiscate personal devices. And I doubt that whomever leaked this would be stupid enough to due this on their work devices or email. And the reason the MET paid Levine was to prevent their coverups from coming out at trial. That is why there is a confidentiality agreement.

  • Stereo says:

    Disgusting decision. His antics were well known in the profession.

  • BrianB says:

    The Met can shower millions on him to settle. (How much would the probable years of litigation have cost the Met?) But that does not in any way prevent Levine’s victims from suing him either independently or in a class action.

  • Sharon says:

    Met Opera
    Is it a feeling of jealousy or a feeling of betrayal? I am a psychiatric nurse and one of the first things a psychiatric nurse learns is not to get to close to a patient. This is not only to maintain a therapeutic or professional relationship or because of the unequal power relations between the nurse and the patient but to protect the nurse as well.

    How? Eventually the nurse will have to refuse an explicit or implicit request of the patient and the patient, who thought he or she had a special relationship with the nurse, will feel betrayed. This is when nurses get physically assaulted.

    From what I have read of the interviews of those paramours or victims, depending on your point of view, who came forward, they thought of themselves as lovers (or maybe even as spouses as you say Anon) and expected Levine to make good on his explicit and implicit promises. When Levine did not but instead dumped them after they had made themselves professionally and emotionally dependent and vulnerable to him, they felt exploited and betrayed. To paraphrase “Hell has no fury like the wrath of a woman (or a man) scorned”.

    To top it off it seems as if one of Levine’s many talents was in sniffing out those who were the most vulnerable, because of their youth, professional insecurity, or whatever, probably because he knew they would be least likely to reject him and most likely to put up with his intermittent attention to them.

  • Reingald says:

    How do you prove something that largely happened in private dozens of years ago? Because there’s no solid evidence does not mean he didn’t do it! Would you admit to doing the alleged acts if there were no solid evidence 30 years later?