Met Opera Fires Stage Director, Citing ‘Inappropriate Behavior’

Posted January 31, 2018 9:06 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Opera fired the veteran British stage director John Copley this week after receiving a complaint about what the company described as “inappropriate behavior in the rehearsal room.”

Copley, 84, has been one of the opera world’s foremost directors for decades. He was at the Met directing a revival of his 1990 production of Rossini’s “Semiramide” when a member of the chorus reported that Copley had made him uncomfortable at a rehearsal on Monday with a sexually charged remark, according to two people familiar with the complaint.

The Met said in a statement that “following a complaint from a chorister about inappropriate behavior in the rehearsal room that was received on Monday, Jan. 29, John Copley is no longer directing the revival of ‘Semiramide’ that will open on Feb. 19.”

William Guerri, Copley’s manager at Columbia Artists, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Copley’s dismissal came as the Met has been investigating accusations against its former music director, James Levine, whom it suspended in December after The New York Times reported the accounts of four men who said that he had sexually abused them decades ago, when the men were teenagers or his students. Levine has denied the accusations.

Questions have been raised about what Met officials knew about Levine’s suspected behavior, given that he had been with the company for more than four decades and that rumors about his private life had swirled for nearly that long. In the case of Copley, the company acted swiftly after receiving a complaint.

Copley has long been a mainstay at both the Royal Opera House and the English National Opera in London and has also had a prominent international career. At the Royal Opera, where he was the former principal resident director, he created productions that stayed in its repertory for years. His staging of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” held the stage for 21 years, his “Così Fan Tutte” for 24, and his “La Bohème” for 41, before it was finally replaced this season. At the Met, in addition to “Semiramide,” a rarely staged bel canto gem, his work has included stagings of Handel’s “Giulio Cesare,” Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore,” and two Bellini operas, “Norma” and “Il Pirata.”