Met conductor James Levine accused of molesting teen

James Levine, legendary music director for 40 years at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, has been accused of molesting a teenage boy in the 1980s. — AFP pic
James Levine, legendary music director for 40 years at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, has been accused of molesting a teenage boy in the 1980s. — AFP pic

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NEW YORK, Dec 3 — James Levine, legendary music director at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, yesterday became the latest titan ensnared in the firestorm of US sexual misconduct allegations, accused of molesting a teenage boy in the 1980s.

The alleged victim, who was not named, told police in Illinois that the abuse began in 1985 when he was 15 years old and Levine 41, and continued until 1993, leading the unidentified man to the brink of suicide, The New York Post reported.

The Met, one of the premier opera companies in the world and a hugely respected cultural institution in the United States, did not immediately respond to a request to comment. The Post said the opera company’s general manager was informed of the allegations in 2016.

“He inflicted shame and guilt on me,” the paper quoted the now 48-year-old alleged victim as having said in a statement to police. “Emotionally, I have been hurt by this and confused and paralysed.”

A titan in classical music, Levine made his Met debut in 1971, going onto lead more than 2,500 performances of 85 different operas, and working with greats such as Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

He was music director at the Met for 40 years before retiring at the end of the 2015-16 season for health reasons — he has Parkinson’s disease — but has stayed on as music director emeritus.

He conducted a performance of Verdi’s Requiem at the Lincoln Centre yesterday, shortly before the Post published the allegations.

The alleged victim told police in Lake Forest, Illinois that Levine would masturbate in front of him and kiss his penis, the Post said.

The allegations cannot be criminally prosecuted as the state’s statute of limitations has expired, but the Post said police investigated and submitted findings to the local state attorney.

No charges have been brought.

‘Alone and afraid’

The Post said the alleged abuse began while Levine was guest conductor at the Ravinia Music Festival in Chicago’s posh North Shore suburbs, where the man first met the maestro as a four-year-old.

Over subsequent years, Levine sent him gifts such as conductors’ batons, before in 1985, driving him home and stopping the car in his family’s driveway, the newspaper reported.

“He started holding my hand in a prolonged and incredibly sensual way,” the Post quoted him as saying. “I was very uncomfortable.”

The man reportedly said Levine first fondled his penis when he was aged around 16 at a luxury hotel in Lake Forest, which he claimed was the scene of “hundreds of incidents” over the years.

The alleged abuse “nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide. I felt alone and afraid. He was trying to seduce me. I couldn’t see this. Now I can,” the paper quoted him as telling police.

Since an avalanche of sexual assault allegations broke against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in early October, a torrent of misconduct claims has shattered the careers of a growing list of powerful men, including Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, comedian CK Louis and morning television news anchors Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose.

Nominated for 37 Grammy Awards and winner of 10, Levine also conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Disney’s Fantasia 2000 movie.

The alleged victim said the encounters continued until 1993, some of them taking place in New York, and that Levine gave him $50,000 (RM204,500) in cash over the years, the Post said. — AFP

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