James Levine estate and the Met face $25m sex abuse claim

James Levine estate and the Met face $25m sex abuse claim


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2021

A victim has filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court, claiming $25 million in damages for sexual and mental abuse by the former Metropolitan Opera music director, James Levine.

The man, named as ‘John Doe’, says the abuse began in 1985 when he was 15 and continued for nine years. He claims Levine ‘routinely connected the sexual abuse with promises of a career with the Metropolitan Opera’. He further alleges that ‘Levine provided plaintiff with thousands of Euros, while continuing to sexually abuse him’ and that at least three Met employees were aware of the abusive relationship.

The New York Post maintains that details given by the plaintiff match those of Ashok Pai, who came forward to several media including slippedisc.com in 2016 with a similar account.

The plaintiff’s laywer told the Post: ‘James Levine used his position at the Met Opera and the Met’s facilities, resources and employees to groom and sexually abuse young boys, including our client.’

Levine died five months ago, aged 77, having previously obtained a multi-million dollar settlement for his dismissal.



  • CSOA Insider says:

    “ at least three Met employees were aware”

    Boy, does this ring a bell.

    • anon says:

      He’s just looking for a quick settlement, from either the estate or the Met, preferably both.

      The Met’s litigation fees are covered by insurance, so it has no incentive to settle.

      The estate, from what was reported in the press, is the long time assistant of Levine’s, and she is unlikely to have bought enough insurance to pay for full litigation, so she has more incentives to settle.

      Unless the judge throws out the suit immediately (it is pretty meritless, absolutely no evidence to substantiate a single claim), $20,000 after his lawyer gets his 33% cut will leave both client and lawyer happy as a clam.

  • Francesca says:

    “Levine provided plaintiff with thousands of Euros, while continuing to sexually abuse him”
    This is called “prostitution”. If he took the money, it means that he had been fine with that.

    • TheOtherSide says:

      Exactly, he knew what he was getting in return for his services and now he wants to fleece the Met for money.

      Not only what he was doing was prostitution, and he knew it. Now he is extorting the Met. I am sorry, but this guy is no more of a good guy than James Levine. He is probably worse because James seemed to actually care about him, paying all of his bills for decades.

      • David says:

        With all due respect, I hope you don’t have kids or in a position to care for someone. Your lack of understanding of power dynamics, abuse, and quite frankly, human emotions in general, is staggering, and can possibly turn abusive if directed at the wrong person.

        Who willing becomes a “prostitute” at 15? How can you even make the judgement that he “knew what he was getting” ? Are you him? And how do you even compare him and James Levine, let alone deem him to be even worse. The false equivalence just blows my mind, as if someone is trying to convince themselves at 1+apple=3x/4.

        I wonder what compels you to make such an absurd statement in defense of this conductor? What is at stake for you? You might want to look deep inside yourself and sort out your issues before you make yourself and others around you utterly miserable.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          If this was my 15 year old I’m pretty sure I’d know about it, from my child’s behaviour. At the very least I’d want to investigate.

          • Anon says:

            It does seem odd that South Asian parents of that generation would allow this kid to neglect his math and science studies in order to hang out with Levine.
            What did he do as a musician? Conductor, instrumentalist, singer? What was Levine helping him with?
            In any case, what he experienced was awful.

          • Saxon says:

            Sue Sonata: “If this was my 15 year old I’m pretty sure I’d know about it, from my child’s behaviour. At the very least I’d want to investigate.”

            You don’t seem to grasp that not everyone comes from a happy home with supportive parents. Moreover, regardless of the parents, the law is quite explicit that a 15-year-old can not consent to a sexual relationship.

    • MB says:

      A callous statement. Perhaps you could reflect on the situation: underage, in the overpowering gravitational pull of a sexual predator in a position of great authority.

      If you have children, or siblings, imagine them in that situation, then come back and tell us if you still feel the same.

    • Gustavo says:

      Sex for food.

      A common practice.

    • J Barcelo says:

      No, it’s called grooming. Common tactic of perverts.

    • J Barcelo says:

      No, it’s called grooming.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      If you drill down you’ll find it’s usually all about money. Don’t be naive enough to deny that. “Oh look at all the money in his estate: I’ll have some of that, thanks very much”.

      This whole sorry tale is one of pathetic personal inadequacy, abuse, cover-ups, the fetishization of conductors – and greed.

  • justin says:

    “…with promises of a career with the Metropolitan Opera”

    So it’s a breach of contract claim, not a sexual abuse claim, I mean, he traded his body for a shot at the Met, he didn’t get what he bargained for, so he’s bitter about it, so now he’s suing after the man died and can’t defend the claim.

    So he would’ve been perfectly content to continue to have sex with Levine so long as he got to sing at the Met.


    Practice, practice, practice, that’s the only (honest and honorable) way to get to Carnegie Hall, or the Met.

  • Sanity says:

    He. Was. A. Child.

    • Mathias Broucek says:

      Exactly. I feel almost dirty reading some of the comments above 🙁

    • Karl says:

      That’s what he says. Maybe that part isn’t true and he was over the age of consent. If it were not Levine would have been charged with rape.

    • mary says:

      Until. He. Wasn’t.

      According to the full article, he claims it began in 1985 when he was 15 and ended in *2010* when he would have been 40!

      Forty Years Old!

      (NL is wrong above, the “nine years” refer to the 9 years prior to 2010 when he was “paid in Euros”.)

      If the accuser is the same Ashok Pai, then he contradicts his prior claim when he said it began when he was 16 years old.

      15 or 16, still a child, but 15 is illegal, whereas 16 is legal in Illinois at the time. So he changes the age to sneak in his claim.

      Fine, let’s say morally speaking, one is a child until 21.

      That still leaves 19 years in which he kept having sex with Levine, during 9 of which he got paid for “in Euros” from when he was 31 years old to 40 years old.

      He. Was. No. Child. Then.

    • Mark (London) says:

      He was not

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Were his parents not one scintilla curious about where he was getting money?

    • Frank Cooper says:

      He was not a child for nine years – or was he simple-minded?

  • George says:

    Where were the parents?

    • V. Lind says:

      I often wondered that, never having been in the position of an abused person. But victim after victim has reported that they were either afraid to tell their parents or another nearby responsible adult, or they DID tell and were not believed. This was particularly true of victims of religious leaders or teachers, but it may well be a built-in fear in underage, even young, utterly confused and terrified kids regarding any abuser.

      There are also families where the parents are simply NOT responsible — alcoholics, drug-addicted, or otherwise neglectful, just bad bad parents. Reading and watching docs about the Jeffrey Epstein case, I was a little sceptical about some of the accusers, who seemed to me old enough to turn away from the situation they found themselves in, sometimes starting out innocently but later aware of what was being asked of them. It seemed that the predators chose carefully — young women with dysfunctional families, or absent or neglectful parents, or irresponsible ones. I still wondered if the perqs of the situation were sufficient inducements for people who, while groomed by pros, still were not under coercion.

      But I speak, as I say, from a position of never having known this sort of abuse. I am not unaware of it — I was “come on to” and even pursued by a surprising number of married MPs, let alone other men with wives or girlfriends. Not something I ever encouraged, and nobody got into bad situations. And I got through a Catholic upbringing and music lessons without ever having any inappropriate behaviour from anyone I dealt with. When a somewhat older man I had met at a theatre party came to pick me up for a movie, my mother refused me permission to go — I had just turned 16 — and when I protested after she had politely sent him away, she gave me a facts-of-life rundown on our relative experience. It was a more innocent time and I had previously only dated in my age group, and although I was resentful for a time, I took a lesson on board.

      I am also aware of a case of false accusation, born of a split family situation and teenage rebellion. I assume it was false, because I knew the man as well as the teenage girl, and yet…she was not believed, with the dominant resister to the accusation being the man’s powerful and not unvindictive mother.

      So I tend nowadays to try to give victims a fair hearing, which a court will do. They found against Levine’s accuser the last time. They found against Gomeshi’s. In the end they will find for Prince Andrew, if he ever lets it come to that. Rightly or wrongly, but probably legally in each case. The onus is ultimately on the accuser, which is burden enough if they have indeed been abused. But anyone who has not walked in their shoes cannot know the real truth of any abuse situation.

    • Westfan says:

      The same can be asked of Epstein’s victims. Usually they come from dysfunctional family backgrounds with little parental support or supervision. Abusers seek out the most vulnerable for this reason. Easier to abuse when no adult is near. 15 is under age, it’s illegal any way you slice it.

  • HR says:

    After reading some of these comments, is it any wonder survivors of sexual abuse often wish to remain anonymous? Calling someone who was groomed and violated a prostitute? What kind of monster does that? I mean, besides Karl, who probably won’t jump in this time because there are no women to hate.

  • Charles says:

    The Met did turn a blind eye to Levine’s shenanigans, surely? As well as most famous singers at the Met during his reign?

    Maybe a few of them could say they never knew and are telling the truth, but stories about his actions were so widely spread, across continents, I really doubt there are many who never heard at least a general rumour that he liked them very young.

    • Saxon says:

      Don’t forget that Levine was run-out of London and informally “banned” on the basis of his shenanigans. Not everyone turned a blind eye to his activities.

  • Couperin says:

    Bleed ’em!!

  • BigSir says:

    So he received thousands of euros and now wants millions. so that makes him a very high paid…?

  • Nightowl says:

    I am just gonna say it.
    So you can all dislike my comment, I don’t care…

    JL was a great conductor and artist….
    But if he was touching underaged boys (or anyone underage or overage), I sincerely hope that he is burning in hell.

    I have a young son. If I found out that someone had sexually abused my son (especially when he is underage or non-consent), I would have killed the perpetrator.

  • Karl says:

    A person who anonymously accused Kevin Spacey of sexually abusing him as a teenager was removed from a lawsuit against the actor after a federal judge decided the case couldn’t continue if the accuser is unwilling to publicly reveal his name. Shouldn’t that be the case here as well?

  • Save the MET says:

    Perfect opportunity to rid the House of Gelb. The board can then shrug. That said, this guy waits months after Levine dies to file the claim? His brother is dead as well. Sounds like an Epstein copycat suit. Found a lawyer under a rock to file the claim to see if the MET would settle. They might to make him go away.

  • fcg says:

    With all due sympathy to the alleged victim of sexual abuse – and with all appreciation that civil plaintiffs will go after those with the deep pockets (some irony thinking of the Met having deep pockets)…

    What on earth do the claims (assuming they are Ashok Pai’s) have to do with the Met and why would there be any New York State jurisdiction if the behavior occurred in Illinois?

    And if Levine claimed that he could help the guy jump the line for a spot in the Met orchestra, that’s on Levine, not the Met.

    I am sorry about any damage that this has done to the musician’s life, but I don’t see the role of the Met here.

    • Karl says:

      What on earth do the claims have to do with the Met? The Met has $$$. That’s what counts. When you shake the money tree you find the one with money to shake.

      • fcg says:

        I said that in my comment. It doesn’t mean that there is remotely a case to be made that the Met should pay any of these damages.

    • Jack says:

      It has to do with the Met because the argument the plaintiff will make is that the Met knew what was going on, but did nothing because they wanted to protect Jimmy Levine.

      • fcg says:

        But the Met has already made it’s case that the NYPD never told them the claims were valid. Presumably, were that not the case, the NYPD would already protesting loudly.

      • Karl says:

        He wasn’t doing anything illegal because the age of consent was 16. That’s why the Met did nothing.

        • Saxon says:

          Not true: the Met can and should act against poor behaviour by employees that does not amount to illegal activity. Whether or not this case would justify such action is an open question, but there will be cases where action needs to be taken.

  • Pianoman says:

    One good thing here…..Levine is DEAD. Can’t cause any more pain. His estate should pay all his victims a tidy amount of $$$$$$.

    • Saxon says:

      The beneficiaries of the estate may prefer not to pay out the claims, especially if they believe the claims are without merit.

  • MacroV says:

    I’ve been thinking for some time that the MET must be vulnerable to serious legal liability here. Having heard about Levine’s shenanigans over 20 years ago and with no connection to the MET, it is just not plausible that the MET management and Board weren’t aware.

    • Saxon says:

      They undoubtedly were aware. But proving they were aware is something that is quite difficult to do: the rumours were widely known, but that is not quite the same as having demonstratable proof or wrong-doing. And you would have to demonstrate that the MET can reasonably be held liable for Levine’s behaviour. Overall, the burden of proof is pretty high.

  • Nijinsky says:

    At how many levels is this not OK?

    At what “stage” (in parenthesis that it’s not on which stage) did James Levine start hauling out his ego trips, like others who go sneak to the convenience store to get a bottle? Or if they are more politically correct a Xanax or other legally controlled substance. And why was it never challenged. We’ve heard from top players who were AROUND him, when it started, and we’ve heard from people who were around when it continued. Gheorghiu said everyone knew this about him, Renee Fleming during intermission, broadcast publicly, is gushing about his conducting abilities, and what a blessing it is to work with him when he breathes with the singer. What kind of game theory is going on at all levels that there’s some kind of loss seen would any of this be open, or simply challenged. It’s like the scurrying you see when one puts the lights on in the kitchen when the bugs and the rodents had their chance but are startled by the light going on. And you hear afterwards “we all knew this,” as if that says anything. What litany of compromises is going on here BEYOND what’s “known,” not talked about and considered “necessary” to be “cool” enough to make it, and then “shine” in this “glamour.”

    One can hardly believe this all was making Mr. Levine “happy,” unless you want to believe such devious behavior is some amazing prestation, which you see portrayed and glorified in most pornographic films, that in contrast to the chase scenes and the good guy winning in Hollywood productions, where AGAIN it seems quite a number of those actors, directors, and who knows who else getting people addicted to chase scenes, trotting morality and the allure of produced “beauty” and “sexiness,” were taking part in such mind control games as goes on behind the “scenes.”

    Is there any understanding that when one is playing Violetta or Tosca one is portraying what Mr. Levine seems to have put others through, to then just say regarding his behavior: “we all knew this,” or even worse judge people who lost their bearings, were stuck in it, possibly lost their sanity, and then dismiss them because having been through what they had just WERE NOT into playing these image games, because while living through it couldn’t just ignore what afterwards was said “everyone knew,” while NOTHING was done about it, and…..

    And I actually believe in forgiveness, and what Jesus taught, or TRIED to share but was met with the discrimination against what might restore the human condition, rather than control it with fear, and maintain the whole arsenal of institutions that wield this right to force people to comply using fear, which requires training people to dehumanize others. To actually see what’s going on, beyond the game theory of fear, then one has to be allowed to make oneself vulnerable, things have to be out in the open, and one has to look at how such festers in what’s called a “society.”

    A whole mob going around calculating what they would or wouldn’t or will or won’t, or would have or wouldn’t have gotten out of actually openly responding, witnessing or even acknowledging what’s going on, while trying to get the populace addicted to their portrayals of “beauty,” somehow quite misses the point.

    And it does, it misses the point. You can have the whole Met, the whole glamour of celebrity, the whole media game, whole concert halls and societies and institutions, but it’s not about art….. and all of that doesn’t make it about art.

  • Frank Cooper says:

    For nine years – and the boy was not being held a prisoner?

  • Nightowl says:

    Ugly, Perverted, Old, (but a Genius for Opera as people say…),

    If he was great and wanted to touch your “Wiener” what would do at age 10, 15, or 17?

    Ok, it is not about what would you do…

    “What would you do for your kid?”??

  • Lucy Westenra says:

    Another reason to love Anna Netrebko is that she handed the phony, hypocritical #metoo movement’s ass for them and exposed it for what it is, a money scam. Unless you’re physically restrained or raped, you say NO. And walk out. The rest is prostitution. Anyone putting up with abuse for decades because of their job, their career or the consequences of walking out, they’re not victims, they’re prostitutes.

    Levine was accused by four men starting when they were 16, 17, 17, and 20 years old, which was over the respective ages of consent in each state at that time. He was just a few years older. The relationships went on for years and we only heard their anonymous versions of what happened. Levine’s dead so he can’t defend himself. He was fired and found guilty on the court of public opinion without the benefit of confronting his accusers. A sham, like the movement itself.

    I’m delighted James Levine walked away with $3,5M and the Met was the one left with no credibility, along with the woke mob in charge of the #metoo fraud. They say “believe women” unless they’re rape victims of Bill Clinton or Joe Biden. Or Kathy Shelton, who was raped when she was 12. Hillary Clinton the defense attorney defended her rapist KNOWING he was guilty and laughed about it on tape.

  • Sharon says:

    Unless this is just a way to disguise Pai why would Pai be given euros when he had never been with Levine outside of the United States? This could be another person coming forward with whom Levine might have been involved with in Europe, possibly in conjunction with the Verbier festival. Because the victim is in Europe, if indeed he is, he might not have come forward or seen an attorney who knows US law until later. If he continues with the lawsuit I expect the other victims in both the US and elsewhere will jump on the bandwagon.

    Prostitution? There have been plenty of posts on Slipped Disc showing that until very recently that’s just the way it is in the world of music; to make it one generally needs the “mentorship” of someone powerful and do whatever he/she requests in return.

    It happens in business; it happens in government (for example Cuomo and his sidekick Rahm Emanauel) in happens in academia; it happens in the arts, both performing and visual; it happens in the family. One can make a very strong case that a traditional marriage ( a woman being supported by her husband) is a form of prostitution.

    I am not justifying this at all. Everything indicates that Levine was a genius for sniffing out the most vulnerable, whether minors or not, who were afraid to say no, whether for reasons of psychological dependency, financial dependency, professional dependency, or any combination thereof.

    Having said this I agree with Nijinsky, for people heavily involved in the arts life begins to imitate art. Woody Allen makes films about a middle aged man involving himself with a younger woman and then does so himself. If you are directing the characters of Don Juan, Tosca etc. again and again ultimately one identifies with the characters in spite of the consequences they ultimately suffer.

    Levine, knowing full well the risks he was taking, continued to play the role of the hero with the tragically fatal flaw to its self destructive end. I remember reading an early 1970s interview of Levine when he was no older than his mid thirties. He let slip that he when he was in England he was fascinated with the Noel Coward theater piece “Suite in Three Keys”, three one act plays and that he saw it several times. One of its plays is about a famous author whose girlfriend of many years ago is writing a memoir involving him and wants permission to quote his letters to her. Apparently she believes that she needs to do so in order to sell the book. She tries to blackmail him by threatening to discuss in the book her knowledge of a gay affair that she knew that he had had in the past if he refuses to give her permission.

    On some level, I have no doubt that Levine knew what the end result of his behavior would be (although he might not have guessed that the Met, to whom he had said numerous times that he was “married,” would be the instrument of his downfall). Yet he persisted in the self destructive downward spiral.

    In the arts the lines between fact and fiction begin to blur and our media hype of famous people and their personal lives as well as social media only exacerbates this. Those who have been bloggers since 2018 might remember that I was and perhaps still am obsessed with the Levine story However, it has not prevented me, a psychiatric nurse, who hypocritically is constantly exhorting my patients to live healthy and rational lives, from engaging in my own self destructive behavior. If anything, we think, “Well, self injurious behavior is just part of the human condition” as if there is no difference between a human being and a lemming.

    I can only hope that someone with a long philosophical view of society and culture will write a book on how Levine’s whole sorry story is so symbolic of how Western society, and especially the society of the arts and the individuals within it, functions, economically, socially, politically, and emotionally.

    Whether the fatal flaw is sexual predation, substance abuse, food, drug, sex, work or alcohol addiction, ego, insecurity, anger, paranoia, defensiveness, bullying, etc. all of which hurt not only ourselves but those who around us, for many of us, if not most of us, Levine’s story is our story.