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James Levine Under Investigation For Sexual Abuse


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The intro of conductor Kenneth Woods piece sums it up:

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James Levine was not a great man with a single tragic flaw.

He was an almost completely horrible person, with a single, tragic talent.

 

There are a couple of orchestra musicians, including from the Met orchestra, who respond under their own names.

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To put my two cents in, it is complicated. Levine made the Met orchestra what it is today. He coached singers to be their greatest. His genius as a conductor/coach/teacher is widely acknowledged. I do not have to go on. His "issues" were known for many years and many people looked the other way. Back in the day, there were many misunderstandings about homosexuality. It was often equated with pedophilia. Who is an adult and who isn't has also changed over time. 

I am not trying to excuse or explain away  his behavior. I know a lot because my husband worked at the Met for many years. I'm just saying it is complicated. I for one am sad to see the passing of a great artist. I am sad for those he hurt. I hope that in the future there will be fewer enablers who indulge the whims of talent, whatever they are - I don't have much hope for that.

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To put my two cents in, it is complicated. Levine made the Met orchestra what it is today. He coached singers to be their greatest. His genius as a conductor/coach/teacher is widely acknowledged. 

vipa, I think it's fair to acknowledge what he did for the benefit of the Met orchestra and many singers, as well as his other gifts which were considerable. (I don't know about the genius part.)

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I hope that in the future there will be fewer enablers who indulge the whims of talent, whatever they are - I don't have much hope for that.


 

Yup.

 

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14 hours ago, vipa said:

Back in the day, there were many misunderstandings about homosexuality. It was often equated with pedophilia.

The problem with Levine was not his homosexuality,  but his harassment and exploitation of musicians under his authority.  Several major conductors have been fired for similar behavior towards women.  However Levine was also notorious for abusing underage boys of color.  Adults can fend for themselves,  but why didn't any of those decrying Levine now protect those children,  his coaching and conducting skills notwithstanding?  Why didn't the New York Times run an exposé on him when he was alive?  He was allowed to get away with it.

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"Back in the day, there were many misunderstandings about homosexuality. It was often equated with pedophilia.."

Back in the day homosexualy was associated with a weakness of character, a personality flaw. Novelists such as John O'Hara and Raymond Chandler regularly used it as a character type, somewhat undependable, in contrast with the narrator's virility.

With Levine, what is incredible is how when he would bring an entourage of children to rehearsals, everyone accepted it as a tolerable eccentricity.

Regarding the perfection of Levine's art that many people seem ready to make the necessary sacrifices for, I'm wondering if it was not just conventional music playing with a very attractive sheen. Disclaimer: I don't really listen to opera, my taste runs to the uneven lieder singing of Elisabeth Schumann and the rousing Mozart recordings done at La Scala in the 1950s and 1960s. But the Guardian does hint at a different take on Levine's esthetic from non-American, non-perfectionist perspective:

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Janáček’s Katya Kabanová had to wait until 1991 (70 years after its first performance) [to be performed at the Met]. Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron and Berg’s Lulu were both imparted with a high gloss that helped to disguise their dissonance ...

He had hoped to succeed Herbert von Karajan at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic on the latter’s death in 1989, but was passed over. He was better favoured by the Vienna Philharmonic, whose traditional approach to Mozart made him the orchestra’s popular choice for a complete set of the symphonies.

 

Edited by Quiggin
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There is hardly a consensus regarding Levine's supposed "genius," though it is indeed "widely acknowledged" within certain cultural circles.

I, too, fail to understand how "misunderstandings about homosexuality" from "back in the day" are at all relevant to grappling with the atrocities he allegedly committed.

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