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Met Opera to investigate alleged conductor teen abuse

AFP  |  New York 

The Metropolitan Opera announced it would investigate claims that its music director sexually abused a teenage boy decades ago, as the US avalanche of misconduct allegations spread to classical music.

"We are deeply disturbed by the articles that are being published online today about James Levine," said the New York house, one of the world's most prestigious opera companies.

"We are working on an investigation with outside resources to determine whether charges of sexual misconduct in the 1980s are true, so that we can take appropriate action."

The probe is based on a 2016 Illinois police report, the said. But Levine, now 74, continued to work there until now. He conducted a performance of Verdi's "Requiem" at the Lincoln Center yesterday.

"At the time, Mr Levine said that the charges were completely false, and we relied upon the further investigation of the police," the said, referring to last year's police report.

"We need to determine if these charges are true and, if they are, take appropriate action."

The report indicated Levine's alleged abuse of the unnamed man began in 1985 when he was 15, according to The New York Times and New York Post.

Levine, who was in his early 40s at the time, was said to have driven him home and stopped the car in his family's driveway.

"He started holding my hand in a prolonged and incredibly sensual way," the alleged victim told the Times, saying the abuse escalated the following summer.

The now 48-year-old man reportedly told police in Lake Forest that Levine would masturbate naked in front of him and kiss his penis.

The alleged victim, who aspired to become a conductor, said the abuse continued until 1993 and pushed him to the brink of suicide.

"He inflicted shame and guilt on me," the Post quoted the alleged victim as having told police. "Emotionally, I have been hurt by this and confused and paralysed."

A titan in classical music, Levine made his debut in 1971, going on to lead more than 2,500 performances of 85 different operas, and working with greats like Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

He was music director at the Met for 40 years before retiring at the end of the 2015-16 season for health reasons -- he has Parkinson's disease -- but has stayed on as music director emeritus.

The allegations cannot be criminally prosecuted as the state's statute of limitations has expired. No charges have been brought.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, December 03 2017. 14:15 IST