Three days after his firing from the Metropolitan Opera, James Levine has sued the organization for breach of contract and defamation. Levine held the title of music director emeritus after serving as music director with the company for nearly 40 years.
Levine was suspended from the Met in December as an investigation into allegations of sexual assault and abuse launched. The Met, upon corroborating the accounts, announced his termination March 12.
Now, Levine is seeking in $5.8 million in damages, reports the New York Times, claiming Levine was not given “a reasonable opportunity to respond to the accusations against him,” and that his ten-year contract as music director emeritus (which began in 2016 after he stepped down as music director) had no stipulations for termination or suspension.
The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court by attorneys Elkan Abramowitz and Edward J.M. Little, accuses the Met of “McCarthyite tactics” and “cynically hijacking the good will of the #MeToo movement” to remove Levine from his position, eliminate compensation commitments, and “completely erase his legacy from the organization.”
“There is no basis for Mr. Levine’s assertion that the Met was on a vendetta against him, when in fact the Met supported him through prolonged and repeated periods of illness that kept him from the podium,” Bettina Plevan, counsel for the Met, said in a statement. “The Met continued to support him in the position of music director emeritus, a position created especially for him, and only suspended its relationship with him when Levine was accused of multiple acts of sexual misconduct, charges that have been corroborated following a more than three-month investigation.”
Plevan also notes that Levine had declined to be interviewed during the investigation, only agreeing toward the end (“upon realization that termination was imminent”) on terms that would disclose the identities of the accusers who had been promised anonymity.