Conductor James Levine, accused of molestation, is suspended from The Met
The Metropolitan Opera suspended legendary conductor James Levine on Sunday after The Post exclusively reported that the classical music maestro had allegedly molested a teen boy in the 1980s.
Officials revealed the move in a statement, as two more alleged victims have come forward and accused the 74-year-old of sexual abuse.
“The Metropolitan Opera announced today that it is suspending its relationship with James Levine, pending an investigation,” the statement said.
“Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season,” it added. “The Met has appointed Robert J. Cleary, former United States attorney and currently head of the investigations practice at Proskauer Rose, to lead a full and complete investigation into the relevant facts.”
The decision to suspend Levine was said to have been fully supported by the leadership of the Met board and its executive committee. It’s unclear if they informed Levine of his suspension prior to releasing the statement Sunday.
“Based on these new reports, the Met has made the decision to act now, while we await the results of the investigation,” explained Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. “This is tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
The sexual misconduct allegations against Levine date back to the 1960s — during the earlier part of his conducting career at the Met. The famed opera house says his alleged abuse continued until at least the 1980s.
Three men have now come forward and publicly accused Levine of misconduct, saying it occurred several decades ago when they were teenagers.
One of them, Ashok Pai, of Illinois, was just 16 when the alleged abuse began in the summer of 1986 — and he claims he became suicidal as a result.
The two others — identified Sunday by the New York Times as Chris Brown and James Lestock — both met Levine while playing in their school orchestra. They were each 17 when the abuse allegedly started.
“I don’t know why it was so traumatic,” Brown, now 66, told the Times.
“I don’t know why I got so depressed,” he said. “But it has to be because of what happened. And I care deeply for those who were also abused, all the people who were in that situation.”
Brown had been a student at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan, specializing in principal bass, while Lestock played the cello. Levine allegedly began abusing them both in the summer of 1968.
“I’m still trying to figure out why it’s so incredibly emotional, and sticks with you for your whole life,” Brown said.
“It’s shame, a lack of intimacy, and sheltering yourself from other people.”
The men told the Times that the abuse initially began with Levine coaxing them to masturbate in front of him before escalating to more twisted sexual encounters.
“I think it was basically a combination of fatigue and being young,” Brown said, noting an incident in which Levine fondled him in his dorm room late one night.
“It was the bottom bunk,” he explained. “Almost immediately, he asked for reciprocation. And I have some very, very strong pictures in my memory, and one of them was being on the floor, and he was on the bottom bunk, and I put my hand on his penis, and I felt so ashamed.”
The famous conductor had so much power over his students — and was such a popular, rising star in the performing arts industry — that he would often convince large groups of teens to put on blindfolds and masturbate each other, the Times reports.
Levine allegedly did this on several occasions.
“This was the extent to which he had control,” Lestock said.
The 67-year-old remembered an experience he had in the early ’70s at a hotel, when Levine repeatedly pinched him on the legs — in an effort to “expand” his “range of emotions.”
“Once I started to break down and cry, he continued to try to hurt me,” Lestock said.
The abuse has left Levine’s victims mentally scarred, with all three still searching for answers as to how it happened.
“I’m making this public because this behavior can be continuing and may have affected other people,” Pai told The Post on Sunday in a statement.
“In the press, the general consensus is there are strong, well-circulated, known rumors about James Levine’s pedophilia — but no one has officially come forward,” he said. “So, I am doing so.”
A spokesman for Levine declined to comment when reached by the Times on Sunday night.
The composer has dismissed abuse allegations in the past, saying: “Both my friends and my enemies checked it out and to this day, I don’t have the faintest idea where those rumors came from or what purpose they served.”
Additional reporting by Isabel Vincent
This article was originally published by the New York Post