About Superconductor

Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Broken Baton

Charles Dutoit accused of sexual misconduct, loses major conducting jobs.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

The Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit stands accused of four separate incidents of sexual misconduct.

In a detailed and harrowing story in the Associated Press, three opera singers and an orchestra musician recalled sexual advances and assaults by Mr. Dutoit. The story, by Jocelyn Gecker, shines light on four unrelated incidents. All involved the Swiss maestro. In response to the story, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic cut their ties with the 81-year-old Swiss maestro.
The story broke today. In separate interviews, Ms. Gecker detailed how soprano Sylvia McNair, now-retired mezzo Paula Rasmussen and two women who did not want to be identified for professional reasons were allegedly attacked in turn by Mr. Dutoit over a number of years. These harrowing stories shed new light on the conduct of this famous musician, who is known as a specialist in the music of Berlioz, Ravel and Debussy.

The stories relate a disturbing pattern of behavior on the part of Mr. Dutoit. He is currently music director of the London-based Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Ms. McNair tells of being cornered in a Minneapolis hotel elevator, and escaping when the doors opened. Ms. Rasmussen describes how she was assaulted in Mr. Dutoit's dressing room in Los Angeles. Corroboration of their stories and secondary sources are provided in the article, which is viewable here. Mr. Dutoit could not be reached by the AP for comment.

With his long black tailcoat and imperious podium manner, Charles Dutoit cuts a familiar figure on the New York stage. He has led concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, although curiously he has not conducted at the Metropolitan Opera since 1990. Until this year, he held the post of conductor laureate at the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he stepped in after the orchestra rebelled against its former music director Christoph Eschenbach.

 (UPDATE: In a statement tonight, the Philadelphia Orchestra Association stated they were "horrified" to learn of these accusations, and are "committed to providing a safe and respectful work environment for all of its employees and guest artists." The statement continued: "We have had no communication with Mr. Dutoit and he has no future engagements with the Orchestra." In a second announcement on Dec. 22, the orchestra has stripped Mr. Dutoit of his title of "conductor laureate." )

(SECOND UPDATE: In an announcement tonight, the Boston Symphony Orchestra followed suit, announcing on its Twitter feed that Mr. Dutoit will not be engaged as a guest conductor due to the allegations. Mr. Dutoit was scheduled to lead the New York Philharmonic in a program of works by Ravel in early 2018. The Philharmonic press office released a statement tonight, announcing that Mr. Dutoit had "withdrawn" from his planned engagement scheduled for January 17-20.)

(THIRD UPDATE: The Royal Philharmonic announced today that it is distancing itself from Mr. Dutoit "for the immediate future" until this matter is investigated.)

At the time the alleged incidents happened, no charges were filed. Mr. Dutoit is a powerful figure in the world of classical music, and each artist stayed silent because they were afraid that the story would ruin their respective careers. In the article, Ms. Rasmussen states that she is coming forward now "because people are listening--and nobody would listen before."

Charles Dutoit is the second conductor this year to find himself under the cloud of sexual misconduct. Last month, the New York Post ran a piece accusing James Levine, the longtime music director of the Metropolitan Opera of engaging in unwanted touching of underage boys. Mr. Levine is currently suspended and the matter is under investigation.

Trending on Superconductor


Share My Blog!

Share |

Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

My photo

Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.