Berkshires React To Allegations Against Former BSO Music Director James Levine

Dec 4, 2017

The Metropolitan Opera has suspended conductor James Levine after reports over the weekend detailed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct dating to the 1980s. The Boston Symphony Orchestra says it received no complaints during Levine’s time as music director.

According to published reports, the Lake Forest Police Department says an investigation is underway into claims against Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, who allegedly molested an Illinois teenager over the span of several years in the 1980s.

No charges have been brought.

In a statement released December 3rd, The Met said it was suspending its relationship with Levine. The company says the 74-year-old maestro will not be involved in any Met activities or scheduled performances. The Met is conducting an internal investigation.

Peter Gelb, general manager of the Met, told The New York Times December 2nd the allegations against Levine “first came to the Met’s attention when the Illinois police investigation was opened in October of 2016.” Gelb says, at the time, Levine denied the charges.

Levine was the music director at the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2011. He was a frequent presence at Tanglewood in the Berkshires. In a statement, the BSO says it adhered to a due diligence process, including a personal and professional review, before the appointment process, and management was never approached by anyone in connection with inappropriate behavior by Levine during that time.

Levine, heard here on WAMC’s Roundtable in 2009, could not be reached for comment.

“The standard is so high and the interaction from one instrument and one section to another is so vital of everyone kinds of works together in a really constructive artistic harmony,” Levine says.

WAMC political observer Dr. Alan Chartock is part of the Roundtable crew that interviewed Levine at Tanglewood – the BSO’s summer home in Lenox.

“The accusation by an individual is very damning, and if it is true then Levine is a pedophile. And if you are a pedophile in this society right now, you are in real trouble,” Chartock says.

Levine has not conducted the BSO since January 2011 and is not scheduled to conduct the orchestra in the future.

The BSO says it learned about the allegations against Levine on December 2nd.  The BSO says the allegations are “deeply disturbing and awaits the findings of further investigations on the matter.”

That sentiment was echoed by Massachusetts State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat.

“It’s extremely unfortunate. Everything, everything that is going on the last few weeks are extremely unfortunate, and I have always had no sympathy for anyone who has been accused of child sexual abuse whatsoever,” Pignatelli says. “When it comes to the maestro, I mean these are charges from several years ago and we have debated in the Legislature in the last few years whether there should be a statute of limitations on when a victim could come forward. I have always believed there should be no statute of limitations.”

Pignatelli says he hopes there were no incidents with students in the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Hundreds of students from around the world participate in the program every summer.

Executive Director Hilary Respass could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t want to believe that the BSO hadn’t done their due diligence and made sure that the BUTI folks were, you know, in the appropriate places at the right time. So I don’t want to go to that dark side at this point in time but I find it somewhat destressing,” Pignatelli says.

While not addressing the Levine case specifically, Tim Hathaway, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse New York, discussed the current environment regarding sexual misconduct on WAMC’s Roundtable Monday.

“We need to talk more with kids about emotional health and healthy sexuality and sometimes sexuality is a taboo topic and we worry about that as adults – how do we do that – but that’s a way we immunize kids and protect kids as well as build healthy strong relationships with kids too,” Hathaway says. “We need informed adults and a climate of openness in our communities.”