New York's Met Opera suspends star conductor James Levine

Allegations of sexual abuse hit the American classical music scene over the weekend as reports of misconduct by conductor James Levine of New York's Metropolitan Opera led to his suspension.

Conductor James Levine has been suspended by New York's Metropolitan Opera on Sunday. The suspension comes following reporting by The New York Times and The New York Post that alleges sexual misconduct by the longtime conductor.

Accusations first came to light over the weekend after The New York Post reported that one of Levine's accusers claimed he had sexual contact with Levine as a teenager. After officials of the Metropolitan Opera had called for an investigation, further reporting by The New York Times revealed two similar accounts of misconduct. The incidents were said to have taken place from the 1960s to the 1980s and are being investigated by Robert J. Cleary, a former U.S. attorney and the head of investigations at the Proskauer Rose law firm.

The Associated Press news agency reported that in recent weeks, one of the accusers, Ashok Pai, had spoken to them but declined to tell his story on record. The New York Times reported details of those allegations, which said that Pai was sexually abused by Levine beginning in the summer of 1986, when he was 16.

A police report was filed in Lake Forest, Illinois, in October 2016; the location was chosen as it is where the events were alleged to have occurred. Levine was music director of the nearby Ravinia Festival from 1973 to 1993.

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After two additional accounts were published, the Met General Manager, Peter Gelb, made a statement announcing Levine's suspension. "Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season."

"This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected."

The accusations against Levine are the latest in a string of sexual assault allegations against a number of high-profile members in the entertainment industry, which began coming to light in October following on reporting about Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

While the Met officials said the Music Director Emeritus had denied the charges, Levine has not yet commented on the allegations.

ct/eg (AP, dpa)