The dark side of James Levine

The dark side of James Levine


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2021

The first I knew there was something amiss was when a record company PR told me that James Levine had been rushed to Heathrow airport that morning, abandoning an Abbey Road recording of a Mahler symphony.

Word went around the orchestra that he had been arrested for ‘cottaging’ – approaching men in a public lavatory – but that a deal had been struck not to press charges if he left the country. The police, when I checked, said they had no record of the arrest since no charges had been brought. I heard of a similar incident in Switzerland, also unverifiable. Years later, when he was music director at the Verbier Festival, male musicians in their teens told me he asked them to go to his room and made them feel generally uncomfortable.

After he was sacked by the Met, the cellist Lynn Harrell was among those who spoke out about his abuse of young musicians.

He had no need to take risks in New York, where his brother Tom acted as bodyguard and cover for his activities. Where his needs grew intolerable was at the Metropolitan Opera itself where two young males told me they had been shut out of his circle after refusing his advances. When the music director refuses to meet your eye, you have no future in an opera company.

At the Met, Levine’s word was law. ‘What Jimmy wants, Jimmy gets,’ was the motto. He avoided personal conflict, leaving others to sack or sideline those he wanted dismissed.

Board members and general managers kept him away from the media. In rare interviews he would only discuss musical matters.

Those who knew him said he had little else in his life. There was not much intellectual curiosity or conversation. In recent years, he would be seen dining at a private club where rich men brought their young prey. Levine was always alone.

He was a fanstastic musician who saw the world in musical terms. He depended on his agent Ronald Wilford to secure him enormous fees – around $5 million a year while he was at both the Met and Boston – but Wilford complained in later years that Jimmy no longer listened to his advice.

When Wilford died, Jimmy conspicuously failed to attend his memorial service.

The oboist Sue Thomson, who was his flatmate from 1967, became his carer as his health collapsed. Tom Levine predeceased him. Others who once claimed his friendship melted away. James Levine died a very lonely man.




  • Anson says:

    “he had little else in his life. There was not much intellectual curiosity or conversation.”

    Even setting aside the ghastly “open secret” that brought him down — which I, for one, do not set aside in evaluating the man’s completely disgraced legacy — this anecdote is quite sad. For those of us who are just fans of music, even devoted and passionate ones, we imagine famous globe-trotting musicians as living some kind of intellectual high life. I never stopped to think that people who have the “smarts” to excel at music wouldn’t also be fluent in literature, current events, and the like.

    But then again, music is only a part of most of our lives. Not the whole of it.

    • TubaMinimum says:

      It’s an interesting point. There is nothing inherent to music performance that requires you to be a well rounded cultural person. I’ve know quite a few musicians like this who have blinders on to much of life, singularly focused on their craft even to the point of obsession. It can fuel them to be truly great. Others I’ve known are some of the most intellectually curious polymaths who find inspiration in a wide area of topics, draw interesting connections between seemingly unlike subjects, and they bring that spark back with them when they play. They are examples of the idea “to pour something out of yourself, first you need to fill yourself up.” Both can be tremendously successful musicians, though I know which way I’d rather live my life.

    • Manuela Hoelterhoff says:

      Levine had a nice rock collection along with an infinite assortment of polo shirts, khaki pants, sneakers. A galvanizing presence on the podium in the 1970s and 80s, he degenerated into a vain, decrepit mediocrity who was mysteriously supported by the Metropolitan Opera board. By the time Peter Gelb finally wrote him a huge check to go away, even his adoring orchestra had tired trying to follow his shaky baton. I’ll remember a lot of radiant Wagner performances — and also his cowardly refusal to speak out during the AIDS epidemic. After all, he had a girlfriend who played the oboe.

    • Zandonai says:

      You need to hang around music conservatories more. These kids only know music and not much else. I feel sad for them.

  • John Borstlap says:


    The man clearly did not know what human relationships are, let alone what love is. Probably he put everything in his music making.

    The farm animal drives became his undoing. Also from this story one gets the impression that those nice sixties were actually not so nice at all, and inspired some people to drop any pretence at decency.

    Why do some artists think they have the right to behave badly, because they have great talents? I have to think of Picasso who would pick-up women and throw them away when his appetite went to another. Art is about inspiration combined with constraint, as Gide said – as related by another commentator elsewhere on this site.

    • Fan says:

      The question is why artists are supposed to be morally good. Artists are not fundamentally different from scientists and engineers whose legacies are not tied to their moral integrity as tightly as that of artists.

      • John Borstlap says:

        But that is obvious: an age-long tradition has made connections between art and the spiritual, and this is a heritage from Christianity: all serious highbrow art forms in the West are the children of the medieval church, especially classical music. And ‘the spiritual’ has, of course, a very strong moral component.

        The arts have liberated themselves from that authority, but their status has always kept something of the awe and mystery of the divine about them. Which means that if artists are truly very gifted, there will be a painful split between what they produce and what they are if they reject the implied requirement of moral excellence. Often great artists suffered emotionally from such split and sometimes it can be observed that it negatively influenced their work.

        Just by way of examples: Beethoven knew that he had to try to be ‘good’, and this infused the high spiritual quality of his best works, especially from the late period. Wagner never bridged the gap and this obviously contributed to his emotional imbalances and worries. The desire to develop the highest possible ethical level inspired Mahler to his greatest works. Webern’s enthusiasm for the nazis has a direct relationship to the nihilism of his minute pieces. Shostakovich’s ongoing attempts to stick to ethical principles in a devellish situation stamp the psychology of his works with a strong authenticity and force. Etc. etc….

  • NOrbert says:

    Norman – wasn’t there some incident at the Salzburg festival, you circumlocuted in your book “The Maestro Myth” or have I misremembered / misinterpreted your story. You never put a name to it, but wasn’t he dumped at the Austrian border and told not to come back?

    I might have just imagined that…but….

  • David says:

    I have always wondered how many singers who sang at the Met turned a blind eye to his shenanigans?

    I only saw him late in his a series of godawful concerts at the Philharmonia, that even his guests, including Christa Ludwig and Jose Van Dam could make up for what Levine was doing.

    • Nik says:

      If Christa Ludwig was involved it can’t have been that late in his career. She retired from singing almost three decades ago.

  • jim says:

    It also has to be considered quite curious, not only that no cause of death has been announced, but that the death itself was kept secret for a week.

  • M says:

    i refuse to speak ill of the dead. does anyone really think mozart was a saint?

    • Nik says:

      What are you hoping to achieve with this farfetched comparison?

    • jim says:

      There is no one alive in today’s world who has been damaged by whatever sins Mozart may have been guilty of. Levine’s victims are still with us. So yes, we judge these things differently when the sin and the sinner exist in our own time. Also there is a whole lot of territory between being a sexual predator and being a saint.

      As for not speaking ill of the dead. That’s fine if you’re talking about your recently deceased Aunt Martha who ruined every holiday, but when you are speaking of people with importance and influence beyond your own dinner table it’s horse patootie.

      Obituaries are history being written. False obituaries can create narratives that can distort history and do real harm when the issues are still relevant. For instance, when H.W. Bush died most of the obituaries conveniently omitted any mention of his colossal failure in dealing with the AIDS crisis. For those of us who lived through that time and barely survived it was a very hurtful denial. It felt like we were being written out of history. To deny the truth about Levine’s life just because he has died would do the same to his victims. It would tell them that they don’t count and they have no place in history.
      Speaking the truth about the dead is not speaking ill – it’s just being honest.

    • Karl says:

      You are comparing Levine to Mozart? Let’s end this now and compare him to Hitler.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Actually he was canonized in 1924 by the pope as Saint Wolfgang, but whose spiritual power was only permitted locally within the Salzburg area, where the chocolateries got instructions from the vatican for the production of special round indulgences which – very catholic and as the term already implies – both titilated the senses and provided forgiveness for sinning music lovers.

  • Jack says:

    “Word went around the orchestra that he had been arrested for ‘cottaging’ – approaching men in a public lavatory – but that a deal had been struck not to press charges if he left the country.”

    I always thought it curious that Levine was known for his Wagner and Mahler, but that he did not conduct Bruckner, even though Bruckner is in the same “neighborhood” as Wagner and Mahler. I remember Levine said in an interview about 20 years ago that he didn’t understand Bruckner and that he himself didn’t know why.

    Now that we know more about Levine’s private activities, I think I know why. The music of Wagner and Mahler has strong Dionysian elements that are absent from Bruckner’s almost liturgical symphonies. Levine, like many other conductors and listeners, could not get past the sacred element in Bruckner.

    • John Kelly says:

      Bruckner also has a completely different set of symphonic structures. I would note that Bernstein conducted Wagner and Mahler – but not Bruckner (except I think the 9th). Leinsdorf likewise. Horses for courses…

      • Jack says:

        True enough, but Bruckner is similarly to Wagner and Mahler in terms of time scale and orchestration [e.g. use of Wagner tubas].

        You’re right about Bernstein. The video of Bernstein conducting the Bruckner 9th at the Musikverein is, I think, the most viewed performance of the 9th on youtube.

        This is ironic since Bernstein, like Levine, openly said that he disliked Bruckner. I remember reading somewhere that Bernstein said something to the effect that Bruckner’s climaxes are phony.

      • Gaffney Feskoe says:

        I believe that Leinsdorf conducted the Bruckner 8th in Boston and recorded the Bruckner 4th with the BSO for RCA. Bernstein recorded the Bruckner 9th with the Vienna Phil and conducted the Bruckner 6th with the NYPO.

        • Geoffrey Bellah says:

          I think Kelly has mistaken Leinsdorf for Levine in his Bruckner comment. As you note, Leinsdorf recorded the Fourth with the BSO, and performed the major Bruckner symphonies throughout his later career, all with understanding and sympathy. Perhaps Szell would have been a better comparison for Kelly.

      • Hilary says:

        and LB conducted the 6th , but it’s a notable ommision on the whole.

      • Olof says:

        Yes, to me Bruckner feels much more in the special Austrian tradition of Haydn and Schubert. Neither of these were Levine specialties either I believe.

    • Karl says:

      I was always hoping Levine would get around to conducting Bruckner. The same with Dutoit and Mahler. Dutoit did fill in for someone and conduct Mahler at SPAC once. I fear that like with Levine I will never get to see him conduct again.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That must be true. Bruckner must have fuelled his guilt feelings.

    • Sharon says:

      With everyone fawning to you and not doing anything to check your behavior in your early years, it’s easy to think that you do not have to follow the rules or that what one is doing is not so terrible because others are not objecting and not realizing that the reason that they are not objecting is because they are afraid to do so.

      I have very mixed feelings about Levine but is most egregious conduct appears to have been close to 50 years ago and was not a lot different than other powerful men in that era.

      Ironically I remember reading in an early interview that Levine said that when he was in England he saw a Noel Coward play twice because he was so fascinated by it. I forget the name of the play but the story involved a famous man whose former girlfriend was trying to blackmail him by threatening to print in a book letters pertaining to a gay relationship that he had had many years before.
      Life imitates art.

      • Hilary says:

        “Ironically I remember reading in an early interview that Levine said that when he was in England he saw a Noel Coward play twice because he was so fascinated by it.”

        The charge of lack of intellectual curiosity needs qualification I think as a result of anecdotes like this. Christa Ludwig made a similar observation about Karajan. Not as omnivorous perhaps as someone like Bernstein , but the engagement with opera as an art form necessitates something which is broader than simply pure music.

      • Karl says:

        Your logic is flawed Sharon. There were no rules against conductor – musician sex back in the time when Levine did it.

        • Sharon says:

          There is no need to rehash this but just to reply to Karl, the issue is not just conductor-musician sex but that, at least from the interviews of his alleged victims, he seemed to seek out students who were in their early twenties or teens, barely of age, who were particularly psychologically vulnerable and totally dependent on him for their careers and who were thus afraid to say no (and also thus felt extremely betrayed and angry even 50 years later).

          These were unequal power relationships on steroids. Nevertheless, I agree, those were different times and even this level of exploitation in the sixties and seventies would not have been considered as egregious as it would be today.

          In fact, in the “Make love, not war” era when repressed sexuality was considered to be sublimated into aggression, contempt, etc there were those who might have approved of Levine for helping the students reach their true artistic potential by “helping them get in touch with their sexuality”.

          • Karl says:

            I actually had a high school teacher who said the same thing. Teachers could “help students get in touch with their sexuality”. It wasn’t even against the law until about 2005.

            Check out some 1990s articles like this one:
            “Many high school students say they already are having sexual relations with other students or with older partners, and many see little difference when that partner happens to be a teacher.

            the leader of one workshop asked whether a teacher having consensual sex with a high school student is wrong, whether it is a form of “sexual violence.” No, said most of the 35 students in the primarily female group. Successive workshop groups throughout the day had the same response. ”
            “If it was my daughter, I’d hold her responsible,” said Sharon Rupert, the parent of an 11th-grader at Northeast, speaking to a television crew in the hallway outside the auditorium. “Girls will be girls, always trying to get the guys in trouble. It takes two to tango, you know.”

            So what would the rules and laws have been in the 70’s? They didn’t exist. Most people didn’t consider it egregious AT ALL.

          • Sharon says:

            1993 is not 2017. Sensibilities have changed. We are much more sensitive to power relations in sexual relationships.

            There also has been a major backlash BECAUSE of what was happening 1965-1990. People were beginning to realize that sex outside of a commited equalitarian relationship frequently causes a lot of pain and had long lasting psychological implications.

            I have always believed that the media circus and public interest about President Clinton and Lewinsky, which dominated the news for a full year, was a backlash to the free love, fulfill yourself , put your own needs first era. Too many people got burned, felt very angry and betrayed, and Clinton became the scapegoat.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Sexuality should never ever be disconnected from true intimate connection with the personality concerned (also decribed as love), to prevent it from being a serious violation of very functional ego boundaries and sinking to the level of promiscuity and farm animal drives which are damaging, especially to young people. Therefore power relationships are especially dangerous and damaging. Very simple truth and yet, for many people very difficult to understand.

          • Karl says:

            Morality is not universal. I studied many subjects in college and anthropology was one of them. In societies without sexually transmitted infections (STIs) sexual promiscuity was common.
            “The theory is that STIs could have been a powerful driving factor in forcing expanding societies to practice monogamy.. ”

  • Hilary says:

    To be clear , public lavatories in the U.K. were often designed in the style of a cottage , hence the nickname.

    • John Borstlap says:

      As we know, in England cottages have always been desperate coverings for both legitimate and inexcusable needs.

  • Hilary says:

    Lest there be any doubt : of all the misdemeanours and worse of James Levine , cottaging isn’t one of them.

  • Save the MET says:

    Levine was a mixed bag, a first rate musician, both as a pianist and conductor and then he had major psychological issues which led to criminal behavior both professionally and personally. There are those who loved him professionally, those that hated him professionally and many with mixed feelings. His sexual predilections which I first heard about in the 1980’s were more than an open secret buried by the Metropolitan Opera Board of Directors. They had charges against him dismissed, at least once in New York City and another in Boston using their influence in the 1990’s. (Both for attempting to pick up underage gays in Central Park and the Boston Common.)

    Conversely, he was a wonderful conductor who like Alfred Brendel spent endless hours studying scores. He had a top collection of first edition antiquarian opera scores that not many knew about. He regularly referred to them against modern scores. Stating that he did not have intellectual curiosity is short sighted. He did not like cuts, he wanted the whole piece presented in its’ entirety. He, like Alfred Brendel were originalists and his scholarship revolved around performing to the composer’s wishes and not straying. (Something he learned from George Szell.) He gained quite a following for that position, as he was cheered and adored as much as any singer on the stage of the MET. He conducted as one would expect to hear the work performed. (Though if you sat behind him, the grunts made Serkin and Gould’s grunts sound mellifluous.) He often was critiqued for not putting his own stamp on the music her performed, but that was not what he wanted. I think you will find that over the years, his recordings will stand the test of time. Speaking of Brendel, I listen to his box set of the Beethoven piano concertos with the Chicago Symphony regularly. For a complete set, it is about as good as it gets.

    When someone sits down to write a serious biography of Levine now that he’s gone, I think you will find if researched properly that his psychiatric issues which led him to his horrendous private criminal behavior rests with his upbringing and his relationship with his mother. There has been some allusion to this on writings about him to date, but no solid analysis as yet. Unfortunately his predilections were buried and covered up for too long.

    As I said, Levine was a real mixed bag, but his recorded legacy is pretty solid stuff.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    What a pack of judgemental harpies inhabiting this site! Of course you’re all snow-white angels who have a God-given right to regurgitate nasty unsubstantiated gossip about a musician who had far more talent than any other mortal who ever walked the earth. Your jealousy consumes you

    • Sisko24 says:

      “….who had far more talent than any other mortal who ever walked the earth”? Really? Did you truly intend to write than ‘any’, (any!) other mortal who ever (ever?) walked the earth? So Mozart, Beethoven and a few others I won’t bother listing take a back seat to Mr. Levine? Really? Wow, just wow.

      • Diane B. says:

        He is talking about talent, artistry – interpretation – not creativity, inventivité like for composers. So easy on your Wow, lol !

    • jim says:

      “more talent than any other mortal who ever walked the earth”
      Really? I hope your trying to be satirical because nobody who makes a statement like that about anybody can be taken seriously. You don’t have to be a judgemental harpy to find that statement absolutely ludicrous. Even if you were talking about Bach or Beethoven it would be beyond silly.

    • John Borstlap says:

      As we know, the more talent, the more moral freedom. If Hitler had possessed more artistic talent than the number of miserable postcards he produced, and had he been admitted to the Viennese academy of arts, we would have forgiven him everything.

    • Alphonse says:

      I don’t disagree with your assertion that Levine possessed extraordinary, sublime gifts- but “more talent than any other mortal who ever walked the earth”? To say merely that that statement is hyperbolic would be akin to saying that the ocean has some water in it, or that the sun is rather warm. Come to your senses, man.

  • Alviano says:

    I can’t help but think that had Levine preferred girls and not boys he would have suffered less and be remembered more fondly.
    I am also thinking of a former tenor and another, very heterosexual, conductor.

    • Leoncavallo says:

      I think 15-20 years ago, you would but be right. But with the recent examples of the Epstein and Weinstein cases, society would have gone after Levine just as harshly if underage women were involved.

      • Alviano says:

        I wouldn’t put Levine in the same bag as Weinstein and Epstein. W. was easily one of the nastiest men of the last 70 years and would have deserved everything he got even if he had never touched a woman. I also have not heard that he did anything to benefit any art. Epstein was a pimp providing, possibly unwilling, underage sex partners to the rich and powerful. Both are in a different category. At least for me.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is a story circulating among New York therapists that in fact JL was a gravely suppressed straight man because of his mother and sublimated his inner conflicts through music making and fashionable fun with young men.

  • MATTHEW VINE says:

    What is the difference between a baby and a conductor? The former sucks its fingers

  • Nijinsky says:

    Someone brought it up, finally, and of course there were more than serious psychological issues going on, and they have a real root, a source, there’s a whole history that has to do with his childhood, and then unfortunately the whole world he took his profession in, with it’s emphasis on whatever it’s emphasis is on: “escapist emotional extravagance that when given room can be dis-inhibited to a certain degree but not actually go one step further and go beyond the thrill of the sensual storm to gain an understanding of emotions themselves.”

    How on God’s green earth there could be a whole population of “professional” people who knew James Levine had problems, and there not be a means to actually address them, in order to understand also how such behavior is reflected in society, and how society causes it. What’s really sad is that this whole new movement to expose such predatory behavior may go up to a certain point and stop things to a certain degree or seem to, along with the whole media blitz, but after that it stops. Exactly because a deeper understanding that might change society in general is pushed to the side in order to start talking about monsters, and the whole arena of self righteous hatred and name calling, which actually is more of a cause for such behavior than that the “penal” system is putting a stop to it. Sure Epstein and Weinstein have been exposed, but the whole dark world behind them of people doing much worse stuff is more those choice morsels in the world of “authority” that are playing the game of feeding the media bubbles, same as they feed economic bubbles to get people all excited knowing it will eventually burst and they’ve made lots of money getting people invested in it, as well as making them believe things have changed or would change, and they can cover up their own behavior that’s much worse. And yet it comes from the very belief that one needs the right to hate, to traumatize and it’s considered “discipline” when one is trained to hurt others for righteous means, or obsessed with finding the “bad guy” in order to have someone to penalize as if this is the one necessary magic solution, and only if you take part will things change, and there’s no other way, ever….
    And it’s the need for name calling, and hatred, and self-righteous demands to be able to wield force that traumatizes others in order to believe it would be a deterrent that is actually creating the social consciousness that coercion is a means to an end, to them be mutating into the behavior it’s supposed to prevent. I think Jesus knew that, as did Buddha, Lao Tzu. Shakespeare’s characters wouldn’t have the depth they have if he didn’t bring this out…
    You don’t think a whole school of thought whose intent is to devise new and improved methods of clinically destroying, intimidating or coercing into control lives through weaponry that already can destroy all human life on the planet within the span of a few hours and do that more than 20 times over to instigate the defense of “overkill,” than when all human life on the planet has been destroyed the “enemy” is dead, or a school of thought that puts people in jail for running around naked or who knows what (not having a place to sleep and trying an inappropriate place, or not having money to survive) and kills innocent people because the system must be given that ability to maintain harmony when there’s always going to be collateral damage, you don’t think that such mentality doesn’t have a whole array of people that exercise their prowess going off and raping with such strategy it’s never found out by whatever means, indulge in snuff films, go to vulnerable countries to have an underaged child sold into prostitution for a snack to express their prowess over others and the thrill of such acts of domination!? And the saddest thing is that’s a logical effect of a society that forces others to lose their humanity in order to be the agents of societal “discipline” and traumatize others to “behave.” And the very paths of understanding and really addressing what needs to be addressed to prevent this vicious vicious cycle is suppressed, most people believing that what suppresses the solution is the answer, and further hating and ridiculing and traumatizing anyone that’s not going along keeping the cycle going.

    In self help groups that were based on the teachings of Jesus, although completely not mainstream, I came upon people who had been born into satanic cults, and then also in the mental health system a girl who had been born into such a cult and had gotten out of it. Among other things, she told me her father had raped her sister, and then had murdered the child she had in front of the whole family to show them what would happen would they leave the cult. I asked her how did he do that:
    “With a knife,” she said.
    Another time I asked her what those people in the cult were like, having an idea like they would have all of these really sinister traits, and with the same dissolute fatalism she said:
    “Just like anyone else….”

    What James Levine did pales in comparison, in ways it’s more a statement about the kind of drug people have tried to turn music into, rather than it’s truly there to do what it’s nature is, and that’s help understand emotions, and deep seated impulses and drives (themes, motiefs… sequences) allow for a chance to expose them, see where they come from, let the unwanted one’s dissolve….. and yet it’s all over the news, For years.
    Of course the other stuff that’s worse people wouldn’t want to believe, that couldn’t be, and why is that? Might it be because it might expose “too much…….” about a society that worships coercion as a means of control, even when violent, which is what it’s supposed to prevent!?

    The whole potential for not only finding out what went on, but also making a difference so such behavior is understood and then stopped is prevented just to keep the wheel and all it’s “heroic” excitement going.

    • Sharon says:

      If you’re saying what I believe you are saying, Nijinsky then yeah. I firmly believe that mass media advertising, and especially television advertising is at the root of a lot of what is wrong with this culture by brainwashing us to “indulge ourselves, “we deserve (whatever the product is) “put youself first” which is the theme of every commercial advertisement. The free love culture of the sixties fit right in with this in spite of the fact that some of the advocates of it criticized capitalism and mass media.

      I agree that this subtle continual brainwashing through advertising not only leads to selfishness but ultimately to competitive/ predatory behavior. Yet this advertising is what our capitalism needs to survive.

      It is also why most media play to the lowest common denominator which is generally accusing others of scandalous behavior; they need the most people possible to read the ads.

      Does being pilloried and denigrated just ultimately lead to more bad behavior on the part of the individual being criticized as you say Nijinsky? Probably, we learn what we live when we are younger and frequently take on the mentality and the behavior of the oppressor.

      Then there is the defiance which can become very self destructive “I don’t care what others say. I have the right to do what I want”. Criticism, whether public or private, seldom leads to rehabilitation or behavior change even if that would make life much easier for the individual being criticized.

      With regard to Levine it probably was a perfect storm. His status and praise he received led him to believe that he was o.k. doing what he wanted and made it easier when he faced rumor and criticism to be defiant.

      I believe that while Levine was an expert in sniffing out those who were most vulnerable and least likely to reject him he truly did not see the consequences and especially the pain and anger that setting himself up as a quasi cult leader and later savior who would create his “lovers” careers and then letting them down would later cause.

      Being kind and helpful to young people was a very important part of Levine’ self image and I believe that in many instances he thought (or rationalized) that his predatory behavior was truly helpful, and that most of the time Levine was generally and genuinely well meaning.

      Had those accusing Levine been kinder but yet more proactive in pointing out the potential consequences of his behavior, instead of just viciously gossiping, labeling him as “sick” or ignoring the behavior, especially in his earliest years at the Met and even before, maybe Levine’s life would have ended very differently.

      • Nijinsky says:

        I can’t say I know what was going on with Levine. I might have run into him recently, although it could have been someone else, just on a bus ride; but the impression I got from him was that he was just explosive, when he thought something had value in becoming a product and the whole production was out of control.

        What he made out of himself, such a production, he thought everyone else wanted to go the umpteenth yard as well, and thus the whole arena of exploitation. He was just out of control, unchecked impulses, but were the society different, from the very unregulated nature there in his impulses, they could have much more easily have been rerouted than a whole number of things people think are necessary, and “defend” to such an extent they don’t see what they are investing in. Which I mentioned: as to what people think they need to build a society, and what they think discipline is, not even checking it when defense means the ability to destroy all human life on the planet within a few hours, or having a penal system which always has collateral damage, and innocent people can end up having their life ruined, as well as that those who are trained to do the penalizing end up having a whole shadow group that do horrible horrible things because training people to hurt others does that to people.

        The whole thing is just all over the place, anyhow….

  • Stereo says:

    No loss to the world despite his talent

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    Extraordinary talent can never excuse or mitigate unconscionable behaviour.
    While James Levine’s serial sexual malfeasance deserves the highest possible condemnation, it is absurd to deny or discount his exceptional musical achievements because of such opprobrious activities.
    Can anyone seriously dispute Caravaggio’s genius despite overwhelming evidence of not only a penchant for paedophilia but Roman rap-sheet as a murderer?
    Surely it is far more reasonable to censure the sinner but retain dispassionate approbation of the artist.

    • John Borstlap says:

      For that reason Christ never produced any artistic thing, however tiny, and even at school refused to make a drawing of sing a song.

      • Nijinsky says:

        Actually, if you read the Urantia Papers, which in some ways is trying to make out the Universe has a governing body which would be impossible, and that “Jesus” created the whole Universe, as if we all aren’t doing that all of the time with our “dreams” or the way our thoughts as wave patterns weave reality into being (like a song, with chords, melodies, counterpoint, etc,) what the uncertainty principle talks about, but the Urantia papers, I think, does have a true account of Jesus life, and explains a lot of stuff that otherwise is rather Hollywood or even quite paparazzi like concoction in the monstrosity called the bible, there it says that he was very good at drawing landscapes, loved to make little sculptures out of clay (his best friend’s father or so was a potter), but in those times of severity regarding religious “virtues” that was seen as leading to idolatry, and so one day when he drew the teacher with charcoal a backwards students complained, and Joseph forbid him from indulging in such art. It says there also that he had learned to play the harp and astonished people with his songs and improvisations. He also has very insightful stories called parables, so…..

        And here I have reacted again, trying to say the simplest thing, to this mob where one can’t say anything without being called non reality based, insolent, who knows what else…..

        You can get the Urantia Papers free online as a download. Anyone can decide for themselves, and there shouldn’t be any law forbidding it because of any mainstream hegemony of those saying that the Great creating of the Universe inspires people to love him by dooming them to hell otherwise and the rest of such nonsense…..

        • John Borstlap says:

          Just to your information: there is no single evidence that JC ever existed in reality. ALL stories come from the early Christian community. For historical reality to be verified, at least three independend sources have to be found and seen to be confirmative. But that is irrelevant if the bible is read as literature or philosophy. Any possible truth or meaning found therein, has to stand on its own feet, and thus is open to interpretation and empirical verification.

          • Marfisa says:

            Tacitus, Annales 15.44 : ‘Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat’. Generally thought to be authentic. Also three references to Christ in Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. Tacitus and Josephus were not Christians! (Pontius Pilatus was governor of Judaea 26-36 AD under Tiberius. There is inscriptional and numismatic evidence of his governorship, besides historical sources.) The stories Nijinsky refers to about the childhood of Christ, clay birds and so on, are later and apocryphal (sadly). But it would be hard to explain the New Testament writings, and the historical evidence of Christian communities in the Greco-Roman world in the first century AD, if Jesus Christ never existed at all. Just for information …

          • John Borstlap says:

            But did Tacitus and Josephus get their story from the Christians? People knew about the story because of the Christians.
            I would trust neither Tacitus nor Josephus. The first wrote his story in 115, Josephus in the nineties of the 1st century, long after the supposed life of Christ. If you read the evidence, I don’t think it is very convincing.


            In that period there circulated quite some religious trends who competed with each other. Stories got round. The New Testament in itself and the spread of Christianity say nothing about the historic reality of Christ.

            But in the end that is not important at all. And maybe he did indeed exist:


          • Marfisa says:

            Yes, it’s a matter of probability. I think it far more probable that there was a historical Jesus than that he was an invented fiction. For Christians, of course, the matter is indeed of some importance!

          • Nijinsky says:

            If you are looking for any objective form of the truth, I don’t think you’ll ever find it. Even what is regarded as truth considering objective observation still is either based on belief or illicits it. Beyond that “objective” science already says that everything will at one point disappear into black holes, according to their “observations,” truth as Jesus taught it would be from an arena where there isn’t such change nor are his observations based on what clearly isn’t from forever, forever is where “miracles” come from, that’s also how wave patterns resonate with emotions. What you’ve basically said is that everything you say would determine reality can’t at all, unless reality can never last, ever, nor have meaning enough to relate to the human spirit explaining why we would experience the illusion called time. .

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    James Levine has passed away. Let him Rest in Peace.

  • Oski says:

    Quien esté libre de pecado que tire la primera piedra», cita el Papa

  • Oski says:

    He who has no sin, let him cast the first stone.I ll remember him as a brilliant musician .

    • John Borstlap says:

      Every sinner has a future as a saint, the only serious problem is when to start. As Saint Augustine desperately prayed: ‘O Lord, make me good, but not just yet!’.

    • Karl says:

      I know Oski. I would like to see the sexual histories of everyone posting hatred for Levine. I bet there are some naughty people! I remember when Larry Craig bashed Bill Clinton and then got caught himself.

  • Jim Cricket says:

    What’s that old phrase about not speaking ill of the dead? Hate the man’s actions, but how does that give you permission you to write what amounts as a sensationalstic a gossip column?

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    I only saw James Levine once live- with the Philharmonia live in the mid 90’s- an efficient Emperor Concerto with a very young Evgeny Kissin & a glorious/inspired Brahms German Requiem after the interval. All the JL hallmarks were there- beautiful orchestral sonority & his deft handling of the chorus. JL was undoubtedly a very great musician- both as conductor (one of the finest of the last half century) & fantastic pianist. His talents were awesome- his private life not so much. Clearly he got up to some pretty despicable things which many find understandably repulsive to their moral compass. I was a conducting student in the US 20 years back & heard rumours of his misdemeanours & a few sick jokes doing the rounds. But in mitigation- he was just a Gay man afterall & as far as I’m aware (although I may be contradicted) his accusers were all above the age of consent which provides a very different legal framework. History will probably judge him harshly but perhaps fairly. But it would also be fair to say- we should remember his fantastic musical legacy, recordings etc… & not his personal life

    • jim says:

      Baloney! When powerful people use their position to intimidate less powerful people into sexual submission and when they use their powerful position to derail the careers of those who say “no” what constitutes consent becomes considerably more complicated than you want to pretend.

  • Scott says:

    No comparisons of Levine to Trump? Most of you folks need to get a life!

    • jim says:

      Maybe some of us are just sick to death of having trump dragged into every freaking conversation no matter how spurious the connection.
      Unfortunately even out of office he is still a fact of life that must be dealt with, but constantly invoking his name just helps to keep him relevant and that gives him power.
      Maybe the person who needs to get a life is you.

  • jim says:

    Apparently some people need a reminder of what we are talking about:

  • Philip Kraus says:

    When I was a young baritone in the late 70’s with the CSO chorus, I sang a small solo part in Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Ravinia with Levine. A schoolmate of mine, Philip Creech was also singing.
    After the concert at a party, we both approached Levine to ask to audition for him in New York. He told us both to call his secretary at the Met (he gave us the number) and he’d arrange for a proper audition. To make a long story short, Levine ignored my calls but immediately hired Phil Creech to sing at the Met. The difference; Creech was black, thin and cute. I was hefty and Jewish. Creech sang for years as a comprimario at the Met. I ended doing supporting parts at Lyric Opera Chicago for 20 seasons where you didn’t have to be “cute” to get a job.