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Longtime Met Opera Conductor Sues Over Firing

Blasting what he called the Metropolitan Opera’s “kangaroo court,” conductor James Levine sued the New York cultural institution for firing him over sexual molestation allegations that he describes as tabloid rumor.

MANHATTAN (CN) – Time’s up for the Metropolitan Opera, conductor James Levine told the New York cultural institution in a lawsuit protesting his firing in the wake of molestation allegations that he denies as reheated tabloid rumor.

Levine’s falling out with the Met started late last year on Dec. 2, when the New York Post published details of an Illinois police report accusing the famed maestro of driving a 15-year-old boy to the brink of suicide in a years-long campaign of sexual abuse.

The Post article reported that other young boys has made such allegations for decades, as recorded in a 1987 New York Times article on the rumors.

The Met and its general manager Peter Gelb suspended Levine the next day on Dec. 3, opening up an investigation that would lead to his firing earlier this month.

On Thursday night, the maestro struck back in a blistering New York County Supreme Court lawsuit accusing the Met and Gelb of “cynically hijacking the good will of the #MeToo movement” in an internal probe that he described as a “kangaroo court.”

“Using McCarthyite tactics, the Met refused to provide Levine with any of the names of his accusers, before or during any proposed interview, and thereby denied Levine an ability to respond to the allegations against him, about which he had no prior indication,” his Hughes Hubbard & Reed attorney Edward Little wrote in a 47-page complaint.

In an unsigned press statement on March 12, the Met contended that the allegations against Levine were well-founded.

“The investigation uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct both before and during the period when he worked at the Met,” the statement reads.

“The investigation also uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct towards vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority,” it continues. “In light of these findings, the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met.”

Levine insists that he has never heard of such a complaint against him during his 45-year career.

“The Met itself has confirmed that no employee has ever complained about Levine,” the lawsuit states.

After a fourth accuser came forward late last year, Gelb himself told the Times, "Since I've been at the Met there has not been a single instance of somebody coming forward to make a complaint, ever, about Levine in recent Met history."

A few days later on Dec. 7, Levine broke his silence by stating: “As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded.”

“As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor,” he continued. “I have devoted my energies to the development, growth, and nurturing of music and musicians all over the world - particularly with the Metropolitan Opera where my work has been the lifeblood and passion of my artistic imagination.”

The Met did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Levine seeks $5.8 million plus punitive damages for claims of breach of contract, promissory estoppel and defamation.

Categories / Arts, Employment

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