New York's Metropolitan Opera said Monday it was terminating its relationship with legendary longtime conductor James Levine after finding "credible evidence" that he sexually abused younger musicians.
Levine was suspended by the Met in December pending the investigation. "The investigation also uncovered credible evidence that Mr Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct towards vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr Levine had authority".
The Met added that in addition to its findings on the allegations against Levine, the investigation suggested that any claims of a cover-up are "completely unsubstantiated". He alleged that the much-older Levine fondled his penis when he was a teenager and masturbated naked in front of him, describing hundreds of incidents. He was also removed as artistic director of the Met's young artists' programme.
"We just announced the termination of James Levine's contract, obviously a major event in the history of the Met, and it is therefore necessary that I not leave NY at this critical time", Gelb wrote in an email to Four Arts President David Breneman late Monday afternoon.
The more than three-month-long investigation involved interviews with more than 70 individuals, according to the Met. Law enforcement officials said past year that they would not bring criminal charges against Levine, noting that while the state's age of consent is now 17 - and 18 in some cases - it was still 16 in 1986.
Levine, now 74, has previously responded to the accusations by saying they were "unfounded".
Levine started conducting from a chair in late 2001 and tremors in his left arm and leg became noticeable a few years later. He had another operation that September after falling and damaging a vertebra, an injury that sidelined him until May 2013.
Levine was held in very high esteem by the Met's orchestra, and was also music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Ravinia Music Festival from 1973-1993 and the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004-2011, and chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic from 1999-2004. So maybe this was the boot the Metropolitan Opera secretly wanted.