Sex after dating
Met Opera suspends James Levine after several sex abuse claims dating back to 1960s
The Metropolitan Opera suspended James Levine Sunday and launched an investigation after two more men stepped forward with molestation allegations against the famed music conductor.
The opera nixed Levine from conducting the New Year’s Eve performance of Puccini’s “Tosca” and other shows the day after news surfaced of an Illinois police report lodged against the maestro.
“Based on these new reports, the Met has made the decision to act now, while we await the results of the investigation,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. “This is tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
The Met has hired Robert Cleary, the former U.S. Attorney who led the Unabomber prosecution, to conduct an investigation at the music house.
The Met said in a statement the allegations date back to the 1960s and continued until the 1980s.
So far, Levine has publicly been accused by three men, including one who told the Daily News that Levine was grooming him for years of sexual abuse.
Ashok Pai, who filed a police report in Illinois last year and accused Levine of sexual misconduct, recalled the conductor’s mentorship that took a perverted turn.
“He basically sexually assaulted me hundreds of times,” Pai told The News.
He learned of Levine’s suspension Sunday night and disclosed few emotions at the outcome of going public.
“It was something I needed to do,” Pais said after coming forward. “It’s just healing for me.”
Pai said he first met Levine after rushing backstage to meet his maestro hero at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill., in 1973. He was just 4 and developing a love of classical music.
Levine, now 74, directed the summer music show from 1973 to 1993.
Pai provided The News with a redacted version of the police report he filed last year with the Lake Forest Police Department, an eight-page description of his alleged history with Levine, as well as a college recommendation letter Levine wrote for him on Metropolitan Opera stationery in 1987.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra said it was unaware of any inappropriate behavior by Levine during his tenure there from 2004 to 2011.
The New York Times identified two more men claiming to have been victims of Levine, one recalling alleged abuse that began in 1968.
Reflecting on the abuse left former St. Paul Chamber Orchestra bass player Chris Brown, 66, in tears.
Brown said he and Levine, then 25, masturbated each other at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan. He was 17.
“I don’t know why it was so traumatic,” he told the Times. “I don’t know why I got so depressed. 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.”.
Another alleged victim, James Lestock, told The Times he was similarly abused by Levine at the same school.
Levine allegedly groomed all three victims for abuse by encouraging their musical talents.
Pai recalled Levine telling him he showed promise as a violinist, pianist and conductor.
“He told me I was the greatest guy — he had never seen so much enthusiasm in his life,” Pai said. “It was a spiritual thing going to the symphony. He violated that trust.”
Pai said he’d thought Levine offered a means of escape from a “tough family.”
“I thought he was someone who would save me from my life,” he said, ,” adding he received gifts of conductor’s batons from Levine in the mail.
In 1985, when the accuser was 15, their relationship took a turn while Levine drove him home following a classical concert, he said.
“He started holding my hand in a very sensual way,” he said. “That’s when it started.”
Levine allegedly fondled Pai’s privates parts when he was about 16 at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, near the Ravinia Festival. The hotel was the site of “hundreds” of encounters, Pai recalled.
The abuse continued until 1993. Their last encounter occurred in 2010 when Pai was in his 40s, he said.
“He would masturbate himself at his bed or in the bathroom,” Pai told police. “He was able to call this safe experimentation and create a justification based on his wanting to help me.”
Classical music insiders said Levine’s behavior has long been an open secret.
“These stories have been around for 40 years,” said Greg Sandow, a former music critic for The Village Voice.
Levine is among the world’s most famous conductors. He became the Met’s music director emeritus after chronic back problems and Parkinson’s disease affected his ability to conduct — though he still occasionally performs.
The bombshell reports on the sex abuse claims emerged after he conducted a matinee performance of Verdi’s “Requiem.”
Levine could not be reached for comment.
The conductor denied the accusations when confronted by the Met over the victim’s Lake Forest police report in October 2016.
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