Met Opera fires conductor amid abuse claims

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    US conductor James Levine pictured in 2007Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
    Image caption US conductor James Levine has called the allegations “unfounded”

    New York’s Metropolitan Opera has fired eminent conductor James Levine, after an internal inquiry found “credible evidence” to support claims he sexually abused young male musicians.

    Mr Levine, who denies the allegations, was suspended in December when they were made public.

    The conductor, now 74, was music director at the Met for 40 years.

    He retired for health reasons in 2016, but had continued to work with the opera as music director emeritus.

    “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 opera house said in a statement.

    It said there was also evidence that the conductor abused and harassed “vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers”.

    The Met said more than 70 people were interviewed during its investigation.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption New York’s Met is one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses

    Four men have accused Mr Levine of sexually abusing them decades ago. Some say they were teenagers at the time.

    An Illinois police report, seen by the New York Times, said one of the alleged victims claimed that the abuse began in 1985 when he was 15 and Mr Levine was 41, and continued until 1993.

    The conductor has previously called the accusations “unfounded.”

    “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor,” he said in a statement.

    Mr Levine is one the most high-profile figures in classical music to face claims of sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

    In December London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra relieved its principal conductor and artistic director Charles Dutoit of his duties following allegations against him, which he denies.

    Mr Levine has led more than 2,500 performances at the Met, one of the world’s most illustrious opera houses, and is often named among America’s top conductors.

    He has struggled with Parkinson’s disease and other health issues and now conducts from a motorised wheelchair.

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