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Met Opera waited a year to act on accusation against conductor James Levine

Met Opera waited a year to act on accusation against conductor James Levine
From CBC - December 5, 2017

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 RequiemSaturdaya 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.

Met contacted in 2016

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.

Persistent rumours overthe years

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

'Should have been done decades ago'

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