"Legendary" opera conductor James Levine, who has for years led the orchestra that serves the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, has been accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old teen from Illinois, according to the New York Post.
Levine conducted the Met's orchestra and served as the Opera's musical director for four decades before retiring to become the director emeritus, and presided over Chicago's Ravinia Music Festival for two decades. It was in the latter position, the Post reports, that Levine met the youngster, who was 15 at the time (Levine was 41).
The alleged victim came forward in 2016, but far too late for law enforcement to act on his claims of abuse.
“I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him,” he said in a written statement to Lake County, Illinois 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.”
According to the statement, the man met Levine at the Ravinia Festival when he was just 10, and again when he was 14. A year later, Levine began driving him home after concerts at the Festival concluded, and that's when, the victim says, Levine began to take liberties.
“He started holding my hand in a prolonged and incredibly sensual way,” the victim wrote. “I was not aroused as I never was during my relationship with him as I am a heterosexual individual. But there were some feelings of affection and mostly confusion. … I was very uncomfortable with the hand holding.”
Levine allegedly went on to increase the pressure, exposing himself and asking the boy to touch and kiss his penis. The victim says that no one ever said "no" to Levine, and he felt immense pressure to continue to see Levine in both public and private for the next several years.
"He inflicted shame and guilt on me. Making [it] hard for me to see the wrong. Emotionally I have been hurt by this and confused and paralyzed,” the victim said.
The victim finally told his parents about the abuse, nearly a decade after it started.
Rumors have swirled that Levine has had some inappropriate relationships before, but in the past Levine has either denied the rumors or publicly speculated that the allegations were designed to shame him, an openly gay man, back into the closet. In 2016, a member of the Met's Board of Directors brought the victim's story to the Met's general manager, but when the Met didn't hear anything further from police, they dropped the issue.
They're picking it back up again, they say.
“This first came to the Met’s attention when the Illinois police investigation was opened in October of 2016,” Met manager Peter Gelb told the Post. “At the time Jim said that the charges were completely false, and we didn’t hear anything further from the police. We need to determine if these charges are true and, if they are, take appropriate action. We will now be conducting our own investigation with outside resources.”