Singers, Civic Orchestra member accuse Dutoit of predatory sexual behavior; major orchestras cut ties

Thu Dec 21, 2017 at 5:59 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Charles Dutoit conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last April. Photo: Alex Garcia
Charles Dutoit conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last April. Photo: Alex Garcia

In yet another case of sexual harassment allegations in the classical music world, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that four female musicians have accused conductor Charles Dutoit of predatory behavior and sexually forcing himself upon them.

Within just a few hours Thursday evening, most of the major U.S. orchestras who have long relationships with Dutoit had either cut their ties with the 81-year-old conductor or allowed him to withdraw from this season’s concerts. These include the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.

The accounts in the AP story by one orchestral musician and three opera singers–including soprano Sylvia McNair and mezzo Paula Rasmussen–are said to have happened between 1985 and 2010.

One of the two anonymous accusers is a former member of the Civic Orchestra, the CSO’s training ensemble. In 2006 when she was 24 years old, the musician said that Dutoit invited her to lunch in his suite at Chicago’s Four Seasons hotel where he pushed himself against her, grabbed her and tried to kiss her repeatedly, she said.

As of late Thursday night, the Swiss conductor had made no public response to the allegations.

Dutoit is an annual podium guest with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and he was scheduled to lead two weeks of performances in March and April. He has also long been a guest conductor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and most of the world’s leading ensembles.

The BSO announced late Thursday that Dutoit “would no longer appear as a guest conductor” with the orchestra.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association released a brief statement Thursday afternoon. “The CSOA takes these allegations seriously and will make a determination on how to proceed as more information becomes available,” it read. Just a few hours later, the CSOA released a statement saying that Dutoit had withdrawn from his two weeks of CSO concerts scheduled for next spring.

The Dutoit allegations follow the flurry of stories about conductor James Levine in recent weeks with an Illinois man and three professional musicians charging that the celebrated conductor had sexually harassed them when they were young teens decades ago.

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