Content warning: This article contains mentions of sexual misconduct.
A man who accused longtime Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine of sexual misconduct over many years — beginning when the survivor was 15 years old — filed a lawsuit against Levine's estate and the Metropolitan Opera on August 14 seeking $25 million in damages.
The lawsuit, filed anonymously in the New York Supreme Court under the name John Doe, accused Levine, who died in March 2021, of "sexual and mental abuse" from 1985 through 2010.
According to court documents, the suit alleged that the Metropolitan Opera knew about Levine's abuse and did not intervene — and thus accused the organization of negligence in hiring, retention, supervision, and infliction of emotional distress. The survivor, himself an aspiring conductor at the time, sued Levine's estate for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress which occurred in his years under Levine's mentorship but have had lasting damaging effects.
The plaintiff had the ability to file the case due to the New York Child Victims' Act look-back window — which allows adults with claims of childhood abuse to sue the relevant people and institutions until August 14, 2021, regardless of when the abuse occurred. The extension of the look-back window was signed by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who himself resigned last week over sexual harassment allegations.
Levine allegedly used his position of authority within the Metropolitan Opera to force the plaintiff to endure sexual abuse — including fondling and masturbation — in apartments, hotels, and other locations. Court documents read that the alleged abuse often occurred late at night during what was set up as meetings for "promised" auditions or discussions about how Levine would help him build a musical career, financially and otherwise.
The accuser claimed in the suit that Levine, a man he had looked up to as a musical hero since age four, often made comments such as "I want to see if you can be raised special like me" and promised career advancements to justify his continued abuse without consent. In the 2000s, court documents claim that Levine provided the survivor with "thousands of Euros" while allegedly continuing to sexually abuse him.
The suit goes on to mention that the Met, including three full-time employees, allegedly knew about the inappropriate relationship between the plaintiff and Levine but did not do anything despite a "duty of care to keep minors safe from sexual abuse."
The Met did not respond to a request for comment in time for the publication of this article.
When allegations of sexual misconduct against Levine first surfaced in 2018, after he had been at the opera for more than 40 years, Levine sued the opera company. The Met responded with a countersuit — each side asserting more than $5.8 million in damages. At the time, NPR reported, Levine's legal team claimed that nothing in Levine's contract outlined any behavioral standards for the conductor.
An external investigation commissioned by the Met found evidence that Levine abused or harassed at least seven individuals, and dozens more have publicly accused Levine of sexual misconduct. The 2018 dispute between Levine and the Met ended in a settlement in the summer of 2020, the terms of which have not been disclosed.
Over the course of his career, Levine conducted over 2,500 performances at the Met.