Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

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Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

Post by jserraglio » Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:14 pm

Time/Associated Press

'I Felt Like I Was in Hell'
4 Women Accuse World-Renowned Conductor Charles Dutoit of Sexual Assault

By Jocelyn Gecker (AP)

(SAN FRANCISCO) — Three opera singers and a classical musician say that world-renowned conductor Charles Dutoit sexually assaulted them — physically restraining them, forcing his body against theirs, sometimes thrusting his tongue into their mouths, and in one case, sticking one of their hands down his pants.

In separate interviews with The 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 on the sidelines of rehearsals and performances in five cities — Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Saratoga Springs, New York.
Of Dutoit, she said, “There is nothing wrong with him as a musician, but he has been allowed to operate as a predator off the stage.”
“He threw me against the wall, shoved my hand down his pants and shoved his tongue down my throat,” retired mezzo-soprano Paula Rasmussen recounted of an incident she said occurred in his dressing room at the LA Opera in September 1991. She refused to ever be alone with the Swiss-born conductor again, she said.

Soprano Sylvia McNair, herself a two-time Grammy winner, said Dutoit “tried to have his way” with her at a hotel after a rehearsal with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1985.

“As soon as it was just the two of us in the elevator, Charles Dutoit pushed me back against the elevator wall and pressed his knee way up between my legs and pressed himself all over me,” she said.

The other two accusers did not want to be identified, saying they feared speaking up because the power the famous maestro wields could lead to them being blacklisted from the industry.

Dutoit, who holds the titles of conductor laureate of the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor emeritus of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo, did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him through the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and his office in Montreal. The Royal Philharmonic said Dutoit was currently on vacation, but that it had forwarded the AP’s emailed requests for comment directly to him. The AP also reached out to Dutoit’s office with several phone calls and emails.

In a long, distinguished career, he also has led highly regarded orchestras in Paris and Montreal, and traveled the globe as a guest conductor. He is scheduled to conduct the New York Philharmonic next month in a four-day program honoring Ravel.

All four accusers’ stories are similar, and the AP spoke with their colleagues and friends, who confirmed that each of the women shared details of their experiences at the time.

One of the women who asked not to be identified said Dutoit attacked her three times in 2006 and once in 2010, grabbing her breasts, pinning her wrists against his dressing room wall and telling her that they would make better music if she willingly kissed him.

All four women said Dutoit 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. They said they never filed formal complaints because they were young and Dutoit was the maestro.

In interviews with the AP, more than a dozen singers, musicians and stage staff spoke of a culture of sexual misconduct in the classical music world that they said has long been implicitly tolerated by people in positions of authority.

Dutoit’s accusers said they felt inspired by all the women speaking out about sexual misconduct by powerful men in Hollywood, politics, the media and other industries, and ultimately felt empowered to break their silence after the Metropolitan Opera suspended conductor James Levine earlier this month when misconduct accusations surfaced.

“I never went to the police. I never went to company management. Like everyone else, I looked the other way,” said Sylvia McNair, now 61. “But it is time now to speak out.”

McNair was 28 in March 1985 when she worked with Dutoit at the Minnesota Orchestra where he was conducting and she was singing the Bach B Minor Mass.

After a rehearsal, McNair said she returned to her hotel with Dutoit and other performers and that the elevator gradually emptied until only she and the conductor remained. Dutoit immediately jumped her, she said, forcefully restraining her against the elevator wall and pushing his body into hers.

“I managed to shove him off and right at that moment, the elevator door opened. I remember saying, ‘Stop it!’ And I made a dash for it,” she said.

When she got to her room, she said she almost immediately called another singer who had been in the elevator with them.

The AP spoke to the colleague, who confirmed receiving the call, saying “she was frantic because Dutoit had pressed her against the side of the elevator, pressing into her with his whole body.” He said he asked McNair the next day if Dutoit had apologized and she said he had not, and instead acted as if nothing had happened. The colleague asked not to be identified because he feared speaking out could harm his career.

McNair, who went on to perform with many of the world’s major orchestras and opera companies, said she does not feel traumatized by Dutoit’s behavior 32 years ago. “But what he did was wrong,” she said.

In September 1991, when she was 26 and trying to build her career, Paula Rasmussen landed a principal role with the LA Opera in “Les Troyens.” Dutoit showed special interest in her at rehearsals, she said, prompting a veteran soprano, now deceased, to warn her to watch out for him.

Rasmussen had dealt with inappropriate behavior before, she said, but her inner alarm bells did not sound when Dutoit summoned her. She assumed the maestro wanted to talk business. “He called me into his dressing room right before a dress rehearsal. Over the loudspeaker: ‘Ms. Rasmussen to Mr. Dutoit’s dressing room’,” she said.

Rasmussen, 52, now an attorney in the San Francisco area, said she recalls feeling momentarily paralyzed after Dutoit grabbed her hand and stuck it down his pants and forced his tongue into her mouth. Then came a knock on the door. The conductor opened it, she said, “and I went past him, and ran up to my dressing room.”

It was the only time she ever went to Dutoit’s dressing room unaccompanied, she said. “He called me back repeatedly that night, and up until we opened,” Rasmussen said. “Every time he wanted to give me notes on the performance after that, somebody would go with me.”

Baritone John Atkins, who was part of the production, said he remembers Rasmussen being reticent upon getting called to Dutoit’s dressing room after the incident. “I volunteered myself to stand at the dressing room door, as a witness, for lack of a better term, to be there while she went to get notes,” he said.

Atkins said he still remembers the cold stare from Dutoit. “He looked at me like, ‘Why are you standing here?’ And I looked at him like, ‘You know why.'”

The AP also spoke with a member of the production’s staging staff who said it was known backstage that Dutoit had approached Rasmussen “in an unwanted manner” and that the singer had been visibly upset that night. The staffer asked not to be identified for fear of losing work in the industry.

On a subsequent occasion, Rasmussen said the conductor passed her in a hallway and whispered, “You kissed me back,” which she assumed meant to suggest that she had invited his behavior.

Rasmussen said she is breaking her years of silence “because people are listening — and nobody would listen before.”

A third singer told the AP that Dutoit assaulted her on four different occasions when she was in her 30s during performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra — first in 2006 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York and then in 2010 in Philadelphia.

She didn’t see it coming the first time, the soprano said, considering it “the chance of a lifetime” to work with the famed conductor as a featured soloist. When Dutoit offered her a ride to their hotel in Saratoga Springs after the first rehearsal, she happily accepted, she said.

“We get in his car, he starts driving down the road and he literally starts grabbing for whatever he can get,” including her breasts, she said. “For a minute, in my mind I thought, ‘Is he having a stroke?'”

She said she batted his hand away and put her bag between them until he dropped her off at the hotel.

After the next rehearsal, she said Dutoit called a meeting in his dressing room but that she felt safe because other people were there. At one point, when she looked up from the score, she realized they were alone, however.

As she walked toward the door, she said, Dutoit pressed her against the wall, restrained her wrists and pushed himself against her, telling her she would relax if she kissed him. He suggested they become friends, she said, and told her she should come to his hotel room.

The AP spoke with the woman’s voice teacher, who recalled an occasion where the conductor told the soprano he wanted to speak to her. “I physically see her start to shake,” said the teacher, who requested anonymity to protect the soprano’s identity. “She grabbed my hand and said, ‘Don’t leave me alone.'”

A final act of aggression that season came on opening night, the soprano said.

Just before the performance, the soprano said she was standing on the side of the stage in her evening gown when Dutoit approached in his tuxedo. “Toi, toi, toi, maestro,” she said, meaning “good luck.” In response, she said, “He turns around, he inspects me, reaches out, grabs both my breasts and keeps walking” onto the stage.

The woman said she worked with Dutoit again four years later at the orchestra’s home base in Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall.

When she was instructed to deliver a message to the conductor in his dressing room, she said, “it was almost worse, because I knew what I was walking into.” In a repeat of the 2006 incident, she said he pushed her against the wall, forcing his mouth on hers.

“I was so angry that I had let it happen again,” she said. “I felt like I was in hell.”

Of Dutoit, she said, “There is nothing wrong with him as a musician, but he has been allowed to operate as a predator off the stage.”

The fourth accuser was a 24-year-old musician with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago when Dutoit came to town in spring 2006 to guest-conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

After a few rehearsals, the musician — who now works with a different orchestra — said Dutoit offered her a seat in his box for a concert. She assumed others were joining them, since a box typically seats a half-dozen people. But they were alone, she said.

As the music played, she said, Dutoit reached for her hand, then tried to grab it repeatedly as she pushed him away. “All the while I kept thinking, ‘How do I handle this? I can’t make him mad. I’ll try to laugh it away.'”

After a few more rehearsals, she said, he suggested they meet for lunch at a restaurant but then changed the venue to his suite at the Four Seasons Hotel. “At the time, I thought I could handle myself,” she said.

But once she arrived at the suite, Dutoit forced himself on her, she recalled. “He was just pushing himself against me, trying to kiss me, grabbing hold of my body, pushing his body on me,” she said. “I absolutely said no, pushed him away, went to the other side of the room.”

He didn’t chase her, she said, but tried to coax her to stay and even invited her to visit his apartment in Paris.

A former member of the orchestra said the woman spoke to him at the time about Dutoit, recalling she felt “utter disgust” at his advances. The man asked not to be identified to protect the musician’s identity.

After he attacked her, the musician said, Dutoit emailed her about a dozen times. She would not show the AP the emails, saying she did not want them published, but read excerpts over the phone.

In one, she said, Dutoit wrote that he was unaware “that an affectionate hug and kiss could have such a negative effect,” adding, “Of course, I forgot you are still a child.”

“You could tell this was business as usual,” the musician told the AP. “Like he knew what he was doing, and didn’t seem put off by the fact that I was saying no.”

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Re: Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

Post by jserraglio » Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:28 pm

The BSO has already issued a statement and severed all ties with Dutoit. That was quick.

The RPO says they are looking into the matter but that nobody had ever complained to them about Dutoit.

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Re: Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

Post by lennygoran » Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:48 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:14 pm
4 Women Accuse World-Renowned Conductor Charles Dutoit of Sexual Assault[/b][/size]

Soprano Sylvia McNair,
Wow I know I've heard her at the Met but couldn't remember when-never heard of Rasmussen. Regards, Len

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Re: Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

Post by jserraglio » Fri Dec 22, 2017 4:53 am

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:48 pm
never heard of Rasmussen.

Not a good day for the hands-on maestro. According to NL's Slipped Disc blog, the SFSO, CSO, NYPhil and PhilO have all followed Boston in cutting ties with him. ... es-dutoit/

Apparently, another musician has gone on the record about being attacked as a teenage Curtis student. ... -reported/
The pianist Jenny Q Chai has contacted Slipped Disc with an allegation that the Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit molested her in Philadelphia after a concert. She says that his daughter and ex-wife witnessed the incident.

Here is Jenny’s story:

‘When I was 17, still a student at Curtis, I went to see Charles Dutoit and (Martha) Argerich with Philadelphia orchestra, after the concert, I went back stage to see Argerich.

‘Instead of her, Dutoit greeted me with the utmost friendliness, wrote Love and big kisses and signed my program, then ran his hands all over my body and tried to kiss me and stick his tongue in my mouth.

‘Many schoolmates saw too.

‘I was grossed out and in fact quite traumatized, as a 17 year old musician. I think I’m ready to speak up openly only now, 17 years later.

‘Many male students just laughed and joked that they will see me making out with him the next day at Curtis. Which made me feel embarrassed. Like I did something wrong. So I didn’t say anything more about it.

‘My schoolmates’ reactions made me feel like it was all my fault. As if I was trying to climb the power ladder or something.

‘Argerich and their daughter was there. They saw it happening! They just gave a look. Like kind of a disgusted, but it’s normal kind of a look.’

Jenny did not report the incident at Curtis. She changed the way she dressed, went into therapy and is still oppressed by the sight of Dutoit, who is now 81.

Four women have recounted assaults by Dutoit to the Associated Press. A fifth described her Dutoit encounter last night on Slipped Disc.

US orchestras have swiftly ended their contacts with Dutoit.

Jenny Q Chai, who is based in Shanghai, Paris and New York, is a noted interpreter of late 20th century piano repertoire.
Last edited by jserraglio on Fri Dec 22, 2017 5:29 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

Post by jserraglio » Fri Dec 22, 2017 5:20 am

Another accusation comes anonymously from an intern at Tanglewood.
Fiona wrote:I’m glad these women have come forward. I spent a summer as an intern at Tanglewood. Charles Dutoit manouvered me against a wall and put his hand on my breast. I fled his dressing room- I’d only gone in to drop off some documents.

I alerted the orchestra manager, who told me (too late…) that they usually advised women not to enter his dressing room unaccompanied, as there had been previous complaints.

So they knew what was going on… I have never felt angrier or less protected by an organisation. They continued to employ him, whilst knowing he harassed women. ... lted-them/

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Re: Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

Post by lennygoran » Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:55 am

The NY Times today had an article. Regards, Len

Charles Dutoit, Noted Conductor, Accused of Sexual Assault


Several major American orchestras announced on Thursday that they were distancing themselves from the conductor Charles Dutoit, after The Associated Press reported that four women claimed that he sexually assaulted them in incidents between 1985 and 2010.

Mr. Dutoit, the 81-year-old artistic director and principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, became the latest high-profile figure in the classical music world to be accused of sexual misconduct.

The Associated Press said that four women — two of whom were named — gave accounts of behavior that included Mr. Dutoit physically restraining them, forcing his body against theirs, putting his tongue into their mouths, and, in one case, sticking one of their hands down his pants.

The report quoted the soprano Sylvia McNair as saying that Mr. Dutoit had cornered her in a hotel elevator after a rehearsal with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1985. “As soon as it was just the two of us in the elevator,” she told the A.P., Mr. Dutoit “pushed me back against the elevator wall and pressed his knee way up between my legs and pressed himself all over me.”

The A.P. said that Mr. Dutoit had not responded to “multiple attempts to reach him.” The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra did not immediately respond to an email from The New York Times seeking comment.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra, with which Mr. Dutoit had a longstanding performing and recording relationship, said in a statement that “given the extremely troubling allegations” against him, the orchestra “will end its relationship with him and he will no longer appear as a guest conductor.”

The New York Philharmonic, which Mr. Dutoit had been scheduled to conduct next month, said that he had withdrawn from the concerts; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra likewise said that he had withdrawn from concerts in March and April. The Philadelphia Orchestra, of which he is conductor laureate, said it “had no knowledge of these allegations” and that he had no future engagements with it. The San Francisco Symphony said it had “severed all ties” with Mr. Dutoit, who was scheduled to lead it in two weeks of concerts in April. ... ction&_r=0

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Re: Sexual assault accusations levelled against Charles Dutoit

Post by Ricordanza » Fri Dec 22, 2017 5:10 pm

Not surprisingly, this was front page, above the fold, news in the Philadelphia Inquirer. They ran the AP story, plus an article by cultural affairs writer and music critic Peter Dobrin about Dutoit's long and close association with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

This afternoon, the following statement was issued by the Philadelphia Orchestra association and emailed to subscribers and contributors to the orchestra:
Dear Friends and Supporters of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association,

Because you are an important member of the Orchestra family, I wanted to let you know how The Philadelphia Orchestra Association is responding to the deeply troubling accusations against Charles Dutoit.

Effective immediately, The Philadelphia Orchestra Association has discontinued its affiliation with Mr. Dutoit and removed his honorary title of Conductor Laureate. We offer our deepest sympathy to those who have been impacted.

The Association does not tolerate harassment of any kind and is committed to providing a safe, supportive, and respectful work environment. We deplore the type of behavior described by Mr. Dutoit’s accusers and recognize our responsibility to be a forceful opponent of abuses of power. We are encouraging anyone in our organization who has experienced inappropriate conduct of any type to come forward, and we will respond with the utmost seriousness and sensitivity.

You can find our official statements on this matter in our pressroom:


Richard Worley
Board of Directors

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