Saturday November 17th, 2018 8:17AM

Opera waited year to act on accusation against conductor

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEW YORK (AP) — A big question remains after renowned conductor James Levine was suspended from the Metropolitan Opera amid accusations of sexual abuse: Why did it take so long for the company to act after it was informed by police that he had been accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy?

The Met was in crisis mode Monday after The New York Times published interviews with three men who said that Levine, 74, had sexually abused them when they were teenagers.

The opera company said after the report Sunday that it was suspending its relationship with Levine, its music director from 1976 through 2016. As music director emeritus, Levine was still conducting and had been scheduled to lead upcoming productions, including a planned New Year's Eve gala featuring Puccini's "Tosca." He conducted Verdi's "Requiem" Saturday — a live, global radio broadcast that could well prove to be his last Met appearance. The first report of the allegations, in the New York Post, was published not long after the performance.

Later Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Ravinia Festival was cutting all ties with Levine, who was music director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's summer residencies at the music venue north of the city from 1973 to 1993. He was to have started a five-year term next summer as conductor laureate, a position created for him.

Those quick actions, however, came more than a year after a police detective in Illinois first reached out to the Met.

The detective from the department in Lake Forest, Illinois, first contacted the opera in October 2016 and said she was investigating an allegation made by a New York man, Ashok Pai, who reported that Levine sexually abused him in Illinois when he was 16.

The Met's general manager, Peter Gelb, said he briefed leaders on the opera company's board about the investigation and also spoke to Levine, who denied the allegations. But at the time the Met took no action.

"The Met did not wish to interfere with the police investigation and thought it was the purview of the Illinois police department to follow through and question those who could corroborate (the) allegation," the opera's spokeswoman, Lee Abrahamian, said.

That police investigation slowed last fall, but the Lake County state's attorney's office spokeswoman, Cynthia Vargas, told The Associated Press on Monday that it was still active.

Possibly complicating the decision for the Met last year on whether to act against Levine was the fact that it had — for decades — been asked by reporters about persistent, unproven stories about his sexual habits and had always written them off as the product of an overactive rumor mill.

As part of its Sunday report on Levine, the Times unearthed a 1979 letter written by the Met's executive director Anthony Bliss to a board member who had received an anonymous letter accusing Levine of misconduct.

"We do not believe there is any truth whatsoever to the charges," Bliss wrote.

Bliss also suggested in his letter to John T. Connor that, perhaps, the allegations were driven by a vendetta against homosexuals.

"I do not believe that the existence of homosexuals within management, or for that matter on our Board, can be considered a cause for dismissal," he said.

Levine himself addressed the rumors in The New York Times in 1987, recalling an old story that he had been arrested "in Pittsburgh or Hawaii or Dallas."

"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," Levine said.

Levine addressed the stories again in 1998 when they were alluded to in German newspapers after he was named as music director at the Munich Philharmonic. He called them "such nonsense."

An author, Johanna Fiedler, also wrote about the Levine rumors in a 2001 book, "Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera," commenting that inside the company "the stories were dismissed as preposterous."

"Everybody in the classical music business at least since the 1980s has talked about Levine as a sex abuser," said Greg Sandow, a faculty member at the Juilliard School and a widely respected veteran music critic. "The investigation should have been done decades ago."

Gelb said Levine will not be involved in any Met activities while a lawyer hired by the opera conducts "a full and complete investigation."

Andrew Ousley, president of the New York-based firm Unison Media that specializes in classical music publicity and marketing, said any organization confronted with allegations like the ones made against Levine shouldn't wait to act.

"I would always say, be out with it because in this era of social media and exposure that the internet offers, the truth will come out," he said.


Associated Press Writer Michael Tarm contributed to this report from Chicago.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Entertainment, AP Online Recordings News, APOnline Celebrity News
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Opera waited year to act on accusation against conductor
Metropolitan Opera waited a year to act after it was informed of sex abuse allegations against conductor James Levine.
7:29PM ( 5 minutes ago )
California lawmaker faces inquiry over sex misconduct claim
Sexual misconduct allegation lodged against Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, who denies wrongdoing and says accuser is doing it for self-promotion
6:53PM ( 41 minutes ago )
Trump takes rare step to reduce 2 national monuments in Utah
President Donald Trump has taken the rare step of scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah
6:32PM ( 1 hour ago )
U.S. News
Trump heartily endorses Moore as GOP comes to grips with him
Trump formally endorses embattled Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race as Washington prepares for his potential victory
7:22PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Trump backs Sen. Hatch for 8th term in bid to block Romney
President Trump pushes Utah senator to run again in secret bid to block Mitt Romney
7:14PM ( 19 minutes ago )
10 Things to Know for Tuesday
Among 10 Things to Know: How high court rules on Trump travel ban; lawmakers seek to reconcile dueling tax bills; Trump rolls back protections on some Utah public lands.
7:01PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Meek Mill's lawyers seek judge's removal, citing FBI probe
Rapper Meek Mill's lawyers renew call for judge who sentenced him to step aside, saying 'there was an FBI investigation' into her conduct
5:02PM ( 2 hours ago )
High court hints it could side with state on sports betting
The Supreme Court is indicating a willingness to side with New Jersey's effort to permit sports gambling in a case being closely watched by states interested in allowing betting on sports
4:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
'House of Cards' to resume taping minus star Kevin Spacey
Production is resuming will resume next year on "House of Cards" for the show's sixth and final season
4:52PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Dave Matthews to perform at hurricane relief concert in NYC
Dave Matthews and Trey Anastasio Band will perform at a concert in January to benefit hurricane relief efforts in United States and the British Virgin Islands
12:45PM ( 6 hours ago )
Judge to keep Meek Mill in prison despite outcry
A Philadelphia judge says Meek Mill is a "danger to the community" and will remain in prison
11:34AM ( 8 hours ago )
2017 Kennedy Center Honors recognize artists, bypass drama
This year's Kennedy Center Honors recognizing outstanding artists and performers managed to bypass political drama - just ask honoree Norman Lear
1:09AM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Online Recordings News
Indian tycoon calls money-laundering accusations 'baseless'
Indian tycoon facing extradition from London calls money-laundering accusations over troubled Kingfisher Airlines 'baseless'
1:00PM ( 6 hours ago )
Veteran Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor dies at age 79
Shashi Kapoor, a leading Bollywood actor and producer from the 1970s and '80s, has died after a long illness at age 79
9:11AM ( 10 hours ago )
Billy Bush says Trump 'Access Hollywood' tape is real
Billy Bush says it was indeed Donald Trump's voice captured on a 2005 'Access Hollywood' tape talking about fame enabling him to grope and try to have sex with women
6:04AM ( 13 hours ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
California lawmaker faces inquiry over sex misconduct claim
Sexual misconduct allegation lodged against Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, who denies wrongdoing and says accuser is doing it for self-promotion
6:53PM ( 41 minutes ago )
Trump takes rare step to reduce 2 national monuments in Utah
President Donald Trump has taken the rare step of scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah
6:32PM ( 1 hour ago )
Attorney: Ex-cop who shot black man had no 'racial animus'
An attorney for a white former police officer who shot an unarmed black man to death as he fled a traffic stop in South Carolina says the officer never had any "racial animus" toward minorities
5:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
Ex-Illinois Rep. John Anderson, who ran for president, dies
Family: Longtime Illinois Congressman John Anderson, who ran for president as an independent in 1980, has died at age 95
5:11PM ( 2 hours ago )
1963 church bombing echoes throughout Alabama Senate race
A deadly act of racism is echoing in Alabama's U.S. Senate race, as the Democratic nominee touts his role in the prosecution of two one-time Ku Klux Klansmen
4:58PM ( 2 hours ago )