December 4, 2017 at 2:58 pm EDT | by Mariah Cooper
Met Opera conductor James Levine suspended over sexual abuse allegations

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons.)

New York’s Metropolitan Opera has suspended conductor James Levine after three men have come forward with allegations that Levine sexually abused them as teenagers.

The New York Post first reported that Chris Brown, who played principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than 30 years, claimed that Levine masturbated him while he was a student at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan while Levine was on the summer program’s faculty. Brown was 17 at the time and Levine was 25.

“I don’t know why it was so traumatic,” Brown said in an interview with the New York 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.”

James Lestock, now 67, alleges that when he was a 17-year-old cello student at the school Levine also masturbated him.

Ashok Pai also accuses Levine of sexually abusing him starting when he was 15 years old. Pai says he first met Levine at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill., in 1973 when Pai was four years old. He claims that once Pei became older Levine sexually abused him multiple times for years. A Lake Forest, Ill., police department report filed by Pai last year details the abuse including an incident where Levine allegedly lay naked in bed with Pai and touched his penis.

“I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him,” Pai wrote in a statement to the police. “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 Met announced on Sunday that Levine has been suspended pending police investigation. Former U.S. Attorney Robert J. Cleary, now head of the investigations practice at the Proskauer Rose law firm, has been appointed to the case.

“While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now,” Met General Manager Peter Gelb said in a statement. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”

On Saturday, Levine, 74, conducted Verdi’s “Requiem” for a worldwide radio broadcast. It’s expected to be Levine’s last performance with the Met as police investigate the claims. Levine, who has been struggling with health complications including Parkison’s Disease, served as the Met’s music director from 1976-2016.




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