Ashok Pai, an Indian American, is among three victims who were reportedly sexually harassed for years when they were in their teens by New York’s Metropolitan Opera’s celebrated conductor, James Levine.
The Metropolitan Opera Dec. 3 suspended Levine, 74, after what it said were “multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Levine that took place from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.”
The opera’s general manager, Peter Gelb, said on social media that Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season. “While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now,” he wrote. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
Pai, who filed a police report in 2016 in Illinois, and accused Levine of sexual misconduct, recalled the conductor’s mentorship, which he alleged took a perverted turn, to The New York Daily News.
“He basically sexually assaulted me hundreds of times,” Pai alleged to The News.
And after he came to know of the suspension, Pai told the publication that “It was something I needed to do. It’s just healing for me.”
Pai told The New York Times that he first met Levine when he was four years old and his parents took him backstage after a Ravinia concert. In 1985, when Pai was 15, he said, Levine gave him a ride home and began holding his hand in an “incredibly sensual way.” The following summer, he told the publication, Levine touched him inappropriately in a hotel room near the festival, beginning what he described as years of sexual encounters.
“I was vulnerable,” Pai, 48, told The New York Times, “I was under this man’s sway, I saw him as a safe, protective person, he took advantage of me, he abused me and it has really messed me up.”
He said that the relationship continued for years and that his feelings were complicated: He shared a copy of a Western Union Mailgram he had sent to Levine at the Salzburg Festival in 1988 that contained the postscript “P.S. I love you” with the daily, but added that he came to realize that, in those early years, he had been too young to give consent.
“I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him,” Pai said in a written statement to the police department, according to The New York Post. “It nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide. I felt alone and afraid. He was trying to seduce me. I couldn’t see this. Now I can.”
The New York Post report quoted Pai as saying that Levine showered him with $50,000 in cash over the years.