Report: Suspended Met Opera Conductor Led Blindfolded Masturbation Sessions in Cleveland in 1969-1970

click to enlarge Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra - PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra
Famous conductor James Levine, with whom New York's Metropolitan Opera has severed ties after multiple allegations of sexual assault, was once an assistant conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra.

While there — from 1964 - 1970, first as an apprentice to conductor George Szell, then as an assistant conductor — Levine was the leader of a close-knit circle of friends and musical acolytes, the members of which he sometimes forced into "humiliating" sexual encounters.

According to musician James Lestock, who gave a detailed account of his experiences to the Times, Levine once "encouraged the members of [the Cleveland group] to put on blindfolds and masturbate partners they could not see." Another member of the Cleveland group confirmed the account.

Levine is accused of sexually assaulting two teenage boys at Michigan's Meadow Brook School of Music in the summer of 1968. Levine was then 25, the two teenage victims, both male, were 17. Another man accused Levine of sexual assault that began in the summer of 1986, when he was 16.   

Via the New York Times, Levine retired from the Met last year with ongoing health issues, but he was scheduled to conduct a production of "Tosca" and two other performances in 2018. The Met has canceled those engagements and announced that it was "working on an investigation with outside sources" to determine appropriate action.

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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