Mounting accusations in the media of sexual abuse of teenagers prompted the Ravinia Festival to sever all ties with James Levine, conductor laureate for the coming season and its music director between 1973 and 1993, according to a December 4 statement from the organization.
“Ravinia maintains a zero-tolerance policy and culture on sexual harassment,” the organization wrote in its statement. “We are deeply troubled and saddened by the allegations and sympathize with everyone who has been hurt.”
Two more men accused former Levine of sexual abuse when they were teens over the weekend after a Kenilworth native made similar allegations a day before, according to a New York Times story.
New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where Levine was the music director for 40 years from 1976 to 2016 when he became its director emeritus, started an investigation when it learned about the initial allegations. The Met suspended him December 3 after the additional accusations surfaced, according to the Times.
Allie Brightwell, a spokesperson for Ravinia, said in a statement to DailyNorthShore.com December 3 Ravinia would await the outcome of existing investigations before making any decisions about Levine’s future at the summer festival. That changed after more allegations.
As the Lake Forest Police Department and Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim continue their investigations into Levine’s activities, three alleged victims are now talking about what they claim Levine did to them between 1968 and 1993 when they were teens and young adults .
“We have that case and we’re reviewing it,” Nerheim said to the DNS. “I have not reviewed the whole file yet so I cannot confirm anything other than we’re reviewing it.”
Cynthia Vargas, communications manager for the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, said she could give no further information on the situation because it is a “pending case under review.”
Rob Copeland, a Lake Forest deputy police chief, was also limited in what he could say about the ongoing investigation. He said the initial allegations of sexual abuse were alleged to have taken place in Lake Forest in the 1980s.
One of the men, Ashok Pai, a Kenilworth native who now lives in New York City, claims he had a number encounters with Levine between 1986 when he was 16 and 1993, in a Lake Forest hotel room. Copeland said those facts are contained in a report filed with his department in October of last year. Pai was the first alleged victim to come forward.
Another alleged victim, James Lestock, said he had his first encounter with Levine in 1968 when he was a 17-year-old music student in Michigan, according to the Times. Lestock is now a cellist with the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina, according to its website.
Lestock said in the Times story one his experiences with Levine took place in a hotel room not far from Ravinia “a few years later.”
Copeland said these allegations are not currently part of his department’s investigation.
Click here to read the New York Times interviews with all three victims.