Sometimes allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct are not believed simply because it is inconvenient to believe them.
Four men have accused renowned conductor James Levine of sexually abusing them when they were teens or students of his at Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan.
Early this week, the Metropolitan Opera announced it was suspending Levine due to the allegations. These allegations were first reported by the New York Post and the New York Times over the weekend. The Chicago Tribune also reports that the Ravinia Festival, which had created a conductor laureate position for Levine that was set to begin next summer, has cut all ties with the conductor. The Juilliard School plans to replace Levine at a concert he was scheduled to conduct in February.
At first glance, these actions seem to have been taken quickly, but the Associated Press reports that the Met Opera was aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Levine much earlier. In fact, more than a year ago, an Illinois police detective contacted the Opera and said she was investigating an allegation that Levine had sexually abused a New York man when the man was only 16 years old.
After briefing the board and speaking with Levine, who denied the allegations, the Met took no action whatsoever based on the allegation.
“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,” said the opera’s spokesperson.
The New York Times also found a 1979 letter by the Met’s executive director indicating that another allegation of misconduct was perhaps an attack on Levine’s homosexuality, which the Met did not consider cause for dismissal.
Stories of sexual misconduct by Levine have followed the conductor for years. Each time they were addressed publicly, the Met and Levine denied any knowledge of their sources.
Yet “everybody in the classical music business at least since the 1980s has talked about Levine as a sex abuser,” a veteran music critic and Juilliard faculty member told the Associated Press. “The investigation should have been done decades ago.”
According to the New York Times, the Met’s general manager categorically denied receiving any verifiable complaints or making any legal settlements in regard to Levine.
After Levine’s suspension, the Times reports, two musicians’ unions made statements pointedly noting the opera’s legal obligation to provide a safe workplace.