Levine's May Festival Appearance Canceled Amid Sex Abuse Allegations

Dec 4, 2017

The Cincinnati May Festival has canceled the appearance of James Levine this May following allegations over the weekend of sexual misconduct that began in the 1960s.

The festival announced on Monday that the performance of Verdi's Requiem will take place as scheduled on May 18, 2018. A replacement conductor will be announced at a future date.

The festival's decision followed news that the Metropolitan Opera has suspended Levine after reports surfaced that he had allegedly molested at least three young men for years, according to the New York Times.

Levine, now 74 and suffering from Parkinson's disease, is a native of Cincinnati, where he began his musical training and was a graduate of Walnut Hills High School. He was scheduled to open the festival on May 18 with Verdi's Requiem, a work that he conducted in New York on Saturday, which was broadcast live over public radio from the Met.

Levine was May Festival music director from 1973 to 1978. His last appearance at the festival was in 2005. His appearance was to have celebrated the return of the May Festival to Music Hall after its $143 million renovation.

The New York Post broke the news on Dec. 2 about a 2016 Illinois police report detailing the allegations of sexual abuse of a then-teenage musician in 1986, while Levine was music director at the Ravinia Festival outside of Chicago. Peter Gelb, general director of the Met, told the New York Times that, at the time, Levine had denied the accusation and the Lake Forest Police Department did not follow up.

However, in graphic accounts reported by Michael Cooper in the Times online edition on Sunday, two more men have come forward to allege sexual misconduct with Levine when they were teenagers.

Levine is one of the most celebrated conductors in America. Salacious rumors have swirled around his private life for decades, but he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.  According the Times, Gelb said that the Met had investigated allegations twice previously during Levine’s 40-year tenure at America’s most important opera house.

Levine has been a beloved figure at the Met, where he has conducted more than 2,500 performances. Now confined to a motorized wheelchair after widely-publicized health problems, he stepped down to become music director emeritus last year.

The Met has canceled his upcoming conducting engagements.