N.Y. Metropolitan Opera suspends conductor James Levine after sexual abuse claim

New York’s Metropolitan Opera suspended its famed longtime conductor James Levine on Sunday while it investigates allegations of sexual misconduct.

In a statement, the opera’s general manager, Peter Gelb, said Levine wouldn’t be in involved in performances or other activities while it investigates.

“While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now,” Gelb said, adding that the opera’s board and executive committee fully supported the suspension.

“This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected,” he said.

Gelb told NBC News on Sunday that the opera company first became aware of the allegations when Illinois police opened their investigation in October 2016.

“At the time [Levine] said that the charges were completely false, and we didn’t hear anything further from the police,” Gelb said in a written statement. “We need to determine if these charges are true and, if they are, take appropriate action. We will now be conducting our own investigation with outside resources.”

The opera’s announcement followed a report in the New York Post that Levine was accused in a police report of molesting young man beginning when the man was 15 years old and that the sexual abuse continued for years.

The man detailed the allegations to the Lake Forest, Illinois, Police Department in 2016, according to the Post, which first reported the accusation. Lake Forest is where the boy lived when the alleged abuse began and near the site of the Ravinia Music Festival, north of Chicago, where Levine, now 74, was a conductor during summers from 1971 until 1993, according to the festival’s website.

A copy of the police report was obtained by the New York Post and The New York Times.

Levine’s accuser told police that he first met the conductor attending the festival as a young boy and continued to have harmless encounters with him for several years, according to the Post. Then, in 1985, Levine became physical with the boy in a car after dropping him off at home, the New York Post reported.

“I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him,” the alleged victim, now 48, said in a written statement to police, according to the Post. “It 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 younger man wasn’t identified in either report, but The Times reported that it had interviewed the alleged victim on condition of anonymity and that he confirmed that he made the accusations in the police report. A relative of the man also told The Times that the alleged victim first complained of the sexual abuse privately in 1993.

Levine’s manager at Columbia Artists Management Inc. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Levine, who first became musical director of the Met in 1976, continued to work there as recently as Saturday night, when he completed his run conducting Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem.” Levine was next scheduled to conduct Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” on New Year’s Eve.

The conductor, known for his wild hair and revered for his musical talent, has won 10 Grammys and been nominated 37 times. He was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2002, along with Paul Simon, Chita Rivera, Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones. He was also the conductor in Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.”

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