Abuse Victims Going Public: Now Hitting the Classical Music Business (Updated)

Since my commentary on Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Al Franken, Bill Clinton et al., now we are hearing about the world-renowned opera and symphony conductor James Levine, with three adult males now coming forward to accuse Levine, 74, of sexual misconduct toward or with them when they were teenagers (and possibly pre-teens).

Now, I’ve been a classical music listener for decades and decades. Not particularly opera but definitely symphony orchestra music. Rumors of James Levine spending too much time with young male musicians including boys and of possible child molestation have been around for decades. So, I am not surprised to hear these most recent allegations.

The descriptions of the alleged sicko abuses are really gross.

According to this New York Post article, “The alleged victim said that Levine first fondled his penis when he was around 16 years old. He said the alleged encounter happened at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Ill., 10 miles from the Ravinia Festival…Levine would masturbate in the bed or in the bathroom, the alleged victim told police….In 1987, he said the alleged abuse escalated and Levine ‘put his finger in my anus,’ according to the report…’Levine was not a person you ever said no to,’ he told police.”

How disgusting! The police report was filed just last year.

The Metropolitan Opera of New York, of which Levine was music director for 40 years and associated with for 46 years, has suspended Levine and cancelled his scheduled appearances based on the allegations, according to the New York Times. The Times noted that the alleged violations go back to 1968, and named the first accuser who was not named in the Post article, and named the other two accusers. I am not naming the accusers here.

According to the Times, one accuser, “who played principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than three decades, said that Mr. Levine masturbated him that summer — and then coaxed him to reciprocate — when [he] was 17 at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan. Mr. Levine, then 25, was a rising star on the summer program’s faculty. [Another accuser] said that Mr. Levine also masturbated him there that summer when [he] was 17 and a cello student — the first of many sexual encounters with Mr. Levine that have haunted him. And [the first accuser referred to in the Post article] who grew up in Illinois near the Ravinia Festival, where Mr. Levine was music director, said that he was sexually abused by Mr. Levine starting in the summer of 1986, when [he] was 16…”

According to the Times article the 66-year-old accuser said he decided to come forward because of all the news of famous people being accused of sexual misconduct.

While the rumors of James Levine’s alleged extra-musical divertimentos have been around for decades, the British music critic Norman Lebrecht has emphasized the importance of presumption of innocence for Levine on Lebrecht’s blog, “Slippedisc.com.” One commenter on that post pointed out Lebrecht’s 1997 book, Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros, Managers, and Corporate Politics, in which Lebrecht wrote, “[James] Levine’s foes were murmerous, among them some board members who barely suppressed their outrage at extra-mural activities that, according to TIME magazine, involved ‘liaisons with people of every age and hue.’”

In another post, Lebrecht wrote, “A couple of decades back, when the Verbier Festival named James Levine as music director of its youth orchestra, I asked the festival’s founder, Martin Engstroem, if he shared the awareness in music circles that Levine had a predilection for teenaged boys. Engstroem replied that he had known Levine for years, and that precautions would be taken to safeguard orchestra members. No Verbier incident has ever come to light.”

But if those above descriptions by alleged victims mentioned above from the New York Times and New York Post are really true, I want to know exactly what the hell is going on with James Levine, for crissakes? Who the hell does those things, and with little boys or teenage boys (or girls)? Like with Bill Cosby, I mean, Cosby has admitted to drugging up women and then having sex with them, like while they’re unconscious? Who the hell would DO that? Wait a minute, now as I’m googling I’m learning that Cosby admitted to also doing those things with teenagers. Doh! What the hell is going on with these people?! They’re very sick people, in my view.

But in the Lebrecht posts on James Levine including in the comments, it is becoming clear that the people at the Metropolitan Opera and Boston Symphony Orchestra, and several other musical organizations Levine has been a part of, probably had knowledge of Levine’s alleged behaviors off stage, but they swept it all under the rug. It sounds very much like what we are now hearing about in the show-biz industry with Harvey Weinstein, in the TV news business with Matt Lauer et al., and in politics. Well, politics, the very nature of politics is dirtiness, corruption, invasiveness, criminality, etc. etc. I guess show-biz and news “journalism” is very much like politics. It’s all very sleazy, it seems.

With the Bill O’Reillys, the Charlie Roses, the Matt Lauers and the Harvey Weinsteins, and their abuses and assaults toward women, it seems as though some people are just extremely narcissistic and believe that their attractions toward others are automatically reciprocal. But with the child molesters (whether or not that includes James Levine, we’ll hear a denial or admission soon, I hope), there’s something really sick going on with those people, very disturbed people.

The behaviors of the womanizing degenerates are very “inappropriate,” whether on a date or (but especially) in the workplace. But when someone gets sexual or in an unclothed manner with a child (and when it’s a grown adult doing something with a teenager, I call that a “child” in relation to the grown adult), it is violating and invasive, and exploitative as well. The child molesters out there should know the kind of negative, haunting effects that go on for years within the victims, as noted by some of the victims in those articles above. Those violators are real criminals, in my view.

Have there always been this many degenerates among the general population, though?

UPDATE, 12/10/17: James Levine has issued the following statement of denial, according to the New York Times:

“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” he said in a written statement. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”

Mr. Levine made it clear in his statement that he hopes to resume conducting.

“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,” he said in the statement. “My fervent hope is that in time people will come to understand the truth, and I will be able to continue my work with full concentration and inspiration.”

The Times continued:

“He is lying,” (one accuser) said of Mr. Levine’s statement in an email. “The examples of instigating sex with a minor, physical abuse using physical pain leading to break down crying, all happened. I will take a lie-detector test. Will he?”

(The accuser) said that he was a 17-year-old cello student at Meadow Brook when he was abused in Mr. Levine’s dorm room. He described numerous later incidents of abuse; he said that once Mr. Levine had pinched him painfully until he cried, and then continued pinching him, to wound him.

And (another accuser), 66, who played principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than three decades, stood by his account that Mr. Levine had abused him the summer before his senior year in high school, when he was 17.

“Sexual abuse at any age is inexcusable,” he said. “Further, belittling those of us who were abused as less than fully human is repugnant. I stand by the story.”

UPDATE, 3/2/18: A feature article at the Boston Globe gets into the story behind the story of the “cult” that James Levine had close to him, at the Curtis Institute and elsewhere. It is extremely SICK stuff!


Former members, many of whom went on to play in some of the country’s top orchestras, say the maestro encouraged them to break off relationships with people outside the group. He discouraged them from reading newspapers, watching television, or going to the movies with outsiders. Levine’s dominance was nearly absolute, they say, as he drew his disciples close for nightly meetings that included everything from chamber music and studying opera scenes, to loyalty tests and anonymous group sex he said would enhance their musicianship.