On Sunday, New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Met Opera) said it was suspending its relationship with longtime conductor James Levine pending an investigation into multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
“Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season,” the Met said in a statement.
“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, Met General Manager. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
The Met Opera — the nation’s largest performing arts organization and one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses — finds itself in the position that Hollywood studios, television networks and newsrooms have found themselves in during this national reckoning over sexual misconduct.
Levine is among the most prominent classical music conductors in the world. He served as music director of the Met Opera from 1976 to 2016, when he assumed the position of music director emeritus. He stepped down last year due to health problems.
The action to suspend Levine comes after The New York Times reported accounts from three men accusing him of sexual misconduct.
“I don’t know why it was so traumatic,” Chris Brown told The Times during an interview at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota. “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.”
Brown, who was 17 at the time of his accusations, details late night meetings with Levine, who was 25, in his dorm room. At their third meeting, Levine brought up sex.
“At that point I think it was basically a combination of fatigue and being young that allowed me to go to the bed — it was the bottom bunk — and have him masturbate me,” Brown said. “And then, 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 next morning I was late to rehearsal,” said Brown, who was raised a Christian Scientist and explained he had received little sex education. “I was in a complete daze. Whatever happens when you get abused had happened, and it wasn’t just sexual.”
Brown explains that at their next meeting, he told Levine that he would not repeat the sexual behavior, and asked if they could continue to make music as they had before.
“And he answered no,” Brown said, explaining that Levine ignored him for the rest of the summer, even when conducting him. “It was a terrible, terrible summer.”
“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.”
Levine has yet to release a statement responding to his suspension.