Metropolitan Opera fires James Levine after finding 'credible evidence' of sexual abuse

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James Levine, a towering figure on the American music scene who spent 46 years at the head of the New York Metropolitan Opera, was sacked on Monday after an investigation found evidence of sexual abuse and harassment. After years of ill health, he stepped down as music director two seasons ago.

The Met said today its investigation, conducted by outside counsel, "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 Met said in its statement that it had ended its relationship with Levine because of his sexually harassing and abusive conduct over decades. "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".

Mr Levine has led more than 2,500 performances at the Met, one of the world's most illustrious opera houses, and is often named among America's top conductors.

The Met added that in addition to its findings on the allegations against Levine, the investigation suggested that any claims of a cover-up are "completely unsubstantiated".

James Lestock, a cellist, said that he, too, was abused that summer when he was a student, and said that the abuse continued in Cleveland, where a tight-knit clique of musicians followed Levine, who was then an assistant conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra on the cusp of a major career. He was also removed as artistic director of the Met's young artists' programme.

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The Met investigation comprised interviews with more than 70 people.

A representative of Levine's did not respond to Associated Press's request for comment.

Levine has not been charged with any criminal offence. He alleged that the much-older Levine fondled his penis when he was a teenager and masturbated naked in front of him, describing hundreds of incidents.

Instantly recognizable by his bushy frock of hair and towel draped over a shoulder during rehearsals, he regularly conducted at the Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Bayreuth Festival and Salzburg Festival.

The conductor, now 74, was music director at the Met for 40 years.

The opera house said it was "committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and harassment-free workplace for its employees and artists".

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