Rumors of sexual misconduct ended the career of storied conductor James Levine, and the investigation into the allegations has tarnished his legacy. At least, that’s the position being taken by Levine in a lawsuit filed against the Metropolitan Opera recently.
Levine accuses officials at the Met of “exploiting baseless allegations” in order to hurt his image, before firing him “without so much as a phone call.” The suit contends that the Met: “Cynically hijacked the good will of the #MeToo movement…” and “brazenly seized on these allegations as a pretext to end a longstanding personal campaign to force (me) out of the Met…”
The Met contends this version of events is not consistent with the facts. They argue that Levine was fired because of “credible and corroborated” evidence of sexual misconduct. Met attorney Bettina Plevan issued a statement that says, in part: “It is shocking that Mr. Levine has refused to accept responsibility for his actions and has today instead decided to lash out at the Met with a suit riddled with untruths…”
Levine is having none of that, suing the Met for defamation and breach of contract to the tune of nearly $6 million in damages.
Directly after the firing, there were rumblings that Levine would fire back, and the suit appears to be his way of doing so. Initially, though, this effort may have backfired to some degree, because a lot of additional details are coming out subsequent to the initial reports, because of the lawsuit. Among these details is that some accusations of misconduct against Levine date back several decades, establishing what may be seen by some as a pattern of abuse.
Levine has a perspective on that as well. He says that many of the current accusers have been on friendly terms with him for years, even decades, after the alleged abuses took place. He argues that, had the abuse happened, these people would not have remained on friendly terms with him. The victims say they were being polite, because of the power Levine wielded and because of his larger than life reputation.
Some of the accusers say the harassment and abuse took place when they were only teenagers, so they didn’t come out about it, because they feared the negative impact it might have on their careers.
Levine dismisses all of this as unfounded, claiming his is not “an oppressor or an aggressor…” Now, it appears, that question will be decided both in the courts, and in the court of public opinion.