The Metropolitan Opera fired renowned conductor James Levine today. It was long overdue.
The story first became public a few months ago when the New York Post broke a story alleging that Levine had abused teenage musicians that were employed by The Met. The abuse charges dated back as far as 1968.
Now, you probably don't care about an opera conductor being fired. Nor should you. But the case of an important man using his power to sexually abuse underage victims is one we've heard entirely too many times. Sadly, this one isn't very different.
I used to be an opera singer in another lifetime. I never made it anywhere NEAR the Met (except for the time I bought a ticket to see a performance.) But even I had heard the rumors about James Levine. And yet the board who just fired him claims that it found no evidence “any claims or rumors that members of the Met’s management or its Board of Directors engaged in a coverup of information relating to these issues.”
Yeah, right. Everyone was shocked to hear that there was gambling in Casablanca. This story followed the exact same pattern as other high profile pedophile scandals. Someone comes forward with an accusation. Famed person denies said allegation. Famed institution defends alleged abuser. Then launches an investigation. Then fires him. Then claims they had NO IDEA THAT ANY OF THIS WAS GOING ON!
Does that sound familiar? Isn't that essentially the same statement issued by Penn State after Jerry Sandusky was arrested? Or Michigan State after Larry Nassar was arrested?
I'll spare you the sick details of Levine's abuses. If you really want to read about it, The Boston Globe (the same group that has done such outstanding investigations in its "Spotlight" series) has an in depth report (https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/02/cleveland/cn2Sathz0EMJcdpYouoPjM/story.htmlhttps://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/02/cleveland/cn2Sathz0EMJcdpYouoPjM/story.html)
Once again, we ask "How did this monster manage to get away with it for so long?" And again, the answer is the same: because too many people were invested in protecting the institution instead of the children. Too many people admired the achievements of the predator. Hoped to benefit from his talent. Blair Tindall, musician and author of "Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music," stated last December “A lot of the reason that this has happened with these men in power in classical music...— but much of the problem is that so many of these people are regarded are ‘geniuses.’ ”
They may be geniuses, but they're still monsters.
The Met may think they can wipe their hands of James Levine and declare themselves clean, but there are still some serious issues to be addressed. The Met also has a famous children's chorus. Were any of its members Levine's victims? He was the director of its young artists program since 2011. The civil and criminal statutes of limitation would not have passed for any abuses during that period. Did any of Levine's assistants cover up for abuse in NY or other locations?
A simple "Hey, we fired him. What more do you want us to do?" isn't good enough. The Met's donors need to demand answers before they end up on the hook for a lot of civil litigation.
And those of us advocating for the victims of sexual abuse can wait for the next scandal to break.