Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine denies sexual misconduct allegations in statement

FILE - In this July 7, 2006 file photo, Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine conducts the symphony on its opening night performance at Tanglewood in Lenox., Mass. New York's Metropolitan Opera says it will investigate allegations that its longtime conductor, Levine, sexually abused a teenager in the mid-1980s. Details of the police report were first reported Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, on the New York Post website. Levine, 74, stepped down as music director of the Met in April 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
James Levine. –Michael Dwyer / AP, File

NEW YORK (AP) — Longtime Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine denied allegations of sexual misconduct, saying he wants to resume his work “with full concentration and inspiration.”

“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” Levine said Thursday in a statement first published by The New York Times. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”

The opera suspended Levine on Sunday after the Times published accounts from three accusers who say that Levine sexually abused them when they were teenagers. A fourth accuser later came forward.

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The opera appointed Robert J. Cleary, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm, to investigate the accusations against Levine as it weighs his future. The company has been naming replacements for his scheduled performances.

“I have devoted my energies to the development, growth and nurturing of music and musicians all over the world — particularly with the Metropolitan Opera where my work has been the lifeblood and passion of my artistic imagination,” Levine said in the statement. “My fervent hope is that in time people will come to understand the truth, and I will be able to continue my work with full concentration and inspiration.”

James Lestock, 67, who says he was abused by Levine as a 17-year-old cello student, issued a strongly worded statement in response to the conductor’s remarks.

“He is lying,” he said in an email to the Times. “The examples of instigating sex with a minor, physical abuse using physical pain leading to break down crying, all happened. I will take a lie-detector test. Will he?”

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they decide to tell their stories publicly, which Lestock has done.

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