NY's Met sues fired conductor Levine in abuse case

New York (AFP) –


New York's Metropolitan Opera has sued its former conductor James Levine, detailing seven alleged incidents of sexual abuse or harassment turned up during an internal investigation.

In a complaint filed with the New York Supreme Court, the Met said the alleged cases took place between 1970 and 1999.

It said the influential conductor had repeatedly "used his reputation and position of power to prey upon and abuse artists."

The prestigious opera demanded at least $5.85 million in damages and interest, saying Levine had caused "significant reputational and economic harm" to the institution.

The Met's filing did not name the victims of the alleged abuse.

But it chronicled one case of a musician -- only 16 years old when the alleged abuse began in 1986 -- allegedly pressured by Levine to engage in mutual masturbation sessions, and whom he had paid some $50,000 over several years.

Levine was said to have also "made sexual remarks and/or inappropriately touched" another 16-year-old artist at least seven times between 1979 and 1991.

In another instance, the Met said Levine, while driving a singer home from an audition, had locked the car's doors and "began groping and kissing" him against his will.

Levine then placed the performer in a "prestigious" Met program, according to the suit.

The New York Times and New York Post had detailed some of the cases in early December, but five of the seven cases described by the Met had not previously been known.

In all, nine persons have accused the influential conductor publicly or anonymously of sexual abuse.

The Met's filing also seeks to rebut accusations Levine himself had lodged in a suit filed after his firing in March that attacked the opera company for breach of contract and defamation.

His suit demanded $5.8 million in damages and interests from the Met.

Levine has rejected all the harassment and abuse accusations, accusing the Met of taking advantage of the anti-abuse #MeToo movement to pursue a vendetta against him. He has so far faced no criminal charges.

Levine officially retired after the 2015-16 season following 40 years leading the Met's musical program, citing health reasons.

But he had remained its honorary musical director and had returned several times to conduct the orchestra, most recently for a December 2 presentation of Verdi's "Requiem."

Canadian conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin has taken over Levine's former duties.