James Levine, a towering figure on the American music scene who spent 46 years at the head of the New York Metropolitan Opera, was fired on Monday after an investigation found evidence of sexual abuse and harassment.
"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 company said in a statement. "The investigation also uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority."
The Met did not release specifics of the evidence, though said that more than 70 people had been interviewed.
Levine made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1971 and became one of the most significant artists in the company's 135-year history. He conducted 2,552 performances and held sway over its repertoire, orchestra and singers as music or artistic director from 1976 until 2016 when he stepped down due to Parkinson's disease.
He held the position of music director emeritus and remained head of its young artists program, but was suspended on December 3 after accounts surfaced in the New York Post and The New York Times of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1960s.
The Met said in a statement that "the investigation also found that any claims or rumors that members of the Met's management or its board of directors engaged in a cover-up of information relating to these issues are completely unsubstantiated."
Levine has not been charged with any criminal offense.
Many of Levine's performances were televised by the Public Broadcasting Service, and singers rearranged their schedules to appear in his performances or even to audition for him.
Levine was held in very high esteem by the Met's orchestra, and was also music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Ravinia Music Festival from 1973-1993 and the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004-2011, and chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic from 1999-2004. He regularly conducted at the Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Bayreuth Festival and Salzburg Festival.
Levine is just the latest musician to quit or lose a position over reported abuse. Others include hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and, Charles Dutoit, until recently the principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.
av/cmk (AP, AFP)