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He assured me that special precautions had been put in place.When the accusations against Levine came to light last month, Engstroem professed himself ‘disturbed and saddened by these accusations’.A maestro is never absent without leave, only ‘indisposed’. Without a commitment to transparency, the likelihood of further abuse remains.In 2000, when James Levine was named music director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra, whose players are as young as 16, I asked the festival’s founder, Martin Engstroem, if he knew the risk he was taking.Several music insiders saw her come out of that green room. Because sex is taken for granted as a conductor’s prerogative.
The ostracised victim in this case had enough sense to get out and make his life far from the maddening Met.It is rare for that authority to be challenged and rarer still for the challenger to survive. The real reason for the recent departure of at least one classical performer in this country will not be publicly explained, even though it is well known backstage.Classical music conducts its business behind a screen of secrets, lies and euphemisms. The code of silence in classical music is as tight as Sicilian omertà. As the writer who exposed at book length a quarter of a century ago, I am encouraged that victims of sexual assault have now found the courage to breach the taboo of silence. Montreal, unaccountably, has yet to begin its investigation and the Met has made clear it may never publish its findings. My middle-aged maestro would sit up half the night reading poetry to a young woman before he made anything so crass as a lunge.They knew that Georg Solti was a Lothario at Covent Garden (he told me so himself).
The allegations have not been tested in a court, and may never be resolved.