Four women accuse Charles Dutoit of sexual misconduct; orchestras sever ties with the conductor

Posted on: December 22, 2017

“Three opera singers and a classical musician say that world-renowned conductor Charles Dutoit sexually assaulted them,” writes Jocelyn Gecker in Thursday’s (12/21) Associated Press. “The accusers provided detailed accounts of incidents they say occurred between 1985 and 2010 in a moving car, the two-time Grammy winner’s hotel suite, his dressing room, an elevator and the darkness of backstage. The women accuse the 81-year-old artistic director and principal conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of sexual misconduct … in … Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Saratoga Springs, New York.… Dutoit … did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him…. All four women”—mezzo-soprano Paula Rasmussen, soprano Sylvia McNair, and two others who did not want to be identified—“said the Swiss-born conductor either lured them to a private place to discuss or practice music, or simply seized a moment alone to make his move. The women all said they resisted him and escaped. The AP spoke with colleagues and friends of each accuser who confirmed the women shared details of their experiences at the time. The women said they never filed formal complaints because they were young and Dutoit was the maestro, but felt inspired to come forward now by all the women speaking out about sexual misconduct.”

In response, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony issued statements expressing abhorrence at Dutoit’s alleged misconduct and reiterating their zero-tolerance policies concerning workplace sexual harassment. In addition, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony severed their ties with the conductor, and Dutoit has withdrawn from concerts in winter and spring 2018 with the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Elsewhere, London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, where Dutoit is artistic director and principal conductor, issued a statement saying that it and Dutoit “have jointly agreed to release him from his forthcoming concert obligations with the orchestra for the immediate future.” In Canada, an article in Time magazine reports, “Pascale Ouimet, spokesman for the Montreal Symphony, where Dutoit served as music director for nearly 25 years until 2002, said he had no comment on the allegations.” Australia’s Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which Dutoit has guest-conducted frequently, announced that it “will not be engaging Mr. Dutoit as a conductor in the future.”

Posted December 22, 2017

Charles Dutoit directs the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the George Enescu International Festival in Bucharest, Romania, September 2017. Photo: GHEMENT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock