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Met Opera, James Levine Avoid Public Dispute In #MeToo Accusations, Settle Lawsuit

James Levine, conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at New York's Carnegie Hall in February 2010.
Hiroyuki Ito
Getty Images
James Levine, conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at New York's Carnegie Hall in February 2010.

One of the most potentially explosive #MeToo situations in the classical music sphere has been quietly shut down. The Metropolitan Opera and its former music director, James Levine, have reached a settlement in competing court claims that had been filed in New York State Supreme Court.

The terms and conditions of that settlement, which was filed with the court on Tuesday but signed on July 8, were not disclosed, nor was any financial arrangement by either side. In the original suit filed by Levine in March 2018 and in the opera company's counterclaim, each side asserted more than $5.8 million in damages.

In an amended complaint filed in June 2018, Levine's legal team argued that there was nothing in his contract with the Met that stipulated any behavioral standards for the conductor. In March of this year, Judge Andrea Masley dismissed most of the claims in Levine's defamation suit against the opera company.

The Met first suspended, and then in March 2018 fired, Levine, who had been associated with the New York opera house for more than 40 years. His dismissal occurred after a series of accusers came forward to share alleged incidents of sexual abuse that spanned the 1960s to the 1980s, and after the Met hired outside counsel to conduct an extended investigation. In total, nine men have made public accusations against Levine; several say that they were teenagers when Levine allegedly abused them.

A spokesperson for the opera, Tim McKeough, told NPR on Tuesday: "The legal dispute with James Levine has been resolved, and as a result the case will not be moving forward. We are not able to make any further comment." A lawyer for Levine, Edward J.M. Little, told NPR: "I'm sorry, but all I can say is it is settled." The New York Times broke news of the settlement on Tuesday.

The Met was not the only prominent classical music institution with a longstanding relationship to Levine that distanced itself from him in the wake of the allegations being made public. The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), where Levine had been music director between 2004 and 2011, said in December 2017 that the conductor "will never be employed or contracted by the BSO at any time in the future," as did the Tanglewood Music Festival, the BSO's summer home. The Ravinia Festival in Illinois, which is connected to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (and where, one alleged victim has said, some of his abuse took place), also "severed all ties" to Levine in December 2017.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
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