James Levine, the acclaimed conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, told The New York Times that accusations of sexual misconduct were “unfounded.”
“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” Levine told The Times on Thursday evening in a written statement. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”
Levine did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CNN.
The denial comes just days after The Times reported that three men had come forward and accused Levine, 74, of sexually abusing them in a time period stretching from the 1960s to the 1980s, during the early parts of his career at the Met. The three accusers were under the age of 18 when the sexual encounters occurred, according to the newspaper.
The Metropolitan Opera announced on Sunday that it was suspending its relationship with Levine, pending an investigation. Levine had been the music director for the Met from 1976 until he stepped down due to health problems in 2016.
“While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now,” general manager Peter Gelb said in a statement on Facebook. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
The accusations against Levine brought the world of opera into the national reckoning regarding allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct among powerful men.
The Metropolitan Opera said on Facebook Thursday that Levine will be replaced by conductors Marco Armiliato and Bertrand de Billy in productions of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” and “Luisa Miller,” respectively, over the next few months.
Other orchestral groups moved to distance themselves from Levine amid the investigation.
“We are horrified and sickened by the recently reported allegations of sexual abuse by Mr. Levine,” the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM, of which Levine is a OperaMetropolitan Operamember, said in a statement earlier this week. “It is incumbent upon our community to decisively and immediately denounce actions of abuse, assault and sexual harassment.”
The Boston Symphony Orchestra, which employed Levine as music director from 2004 to 2011, in a statement on Twitter said the information was “deeply disturbing.” The symphony said management had never been approached by anyone about inappropriate behavior.
Levine, in his statement to the Times, said he wants to resume conducting.
“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,” he 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.”