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Famed Conductor Charles Dutoit Faces Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct

Dec 22, 2017
Originally published on December 22, 2017 7:51 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A major figure in the classical music world, conductor Charles Dutoit, has been accused of sexual misconduct in an article published yesterday by the Associated Press. Since then, several major symphony orchestras have ended their relationships with him. Jeff Lunden has this report.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: The AP detailed accounts from three opera singers and a classical musician of unwanted sexual aggressions by the now-81-year-old conductor. The incidents occurred between 1985 and 2010. Paula Rasmussen is one of the singers interviewed. When she was 26, she was given a principal role with the LA Opera in a production conducted by Dutoit. Just before the final dress rehearsal, she was paged to his dressing room. They spoke about the opera. Then she turned to leave.

PAULA RASMUSSEN: And he was right behind me and forced me up against the door, grabbed my hand, put it down his pants and kissed me.

LUNDEN: She says she spoke with other people about the incident, but still had to work with Dutoit in a toxic environment.

RASMUSSEN: There was one particular entrance that I had where I had to get my cue from the conductor. And I would come in, look down, and he wouldn't cue me.

LUNDEN: But Rasmussen says she didn't want to jeopardize her career by reporting the incident to the opera company.

RASMUSSEN: There was nobody to really tell. You know, opera companies don't have HR. They don't have a department to talk to. You're kind of a visiting artist generally. You're in and out with people for six weeks or eight weeks, and then you move on.

LUNDEN: Orchestras have now moved to distance themselves from Dutoit, among them the San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, where he's principal conductor. In a statement, that ensemble said they jointly agreed to release him from forthcoming concerts, adding that Dutoit, quote, "needs to be given a fair opportunity to seek legal advice and contest these accusations," unquote. According to the AP, Dutoit did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him, and attempts by NPR have been unsuccessful. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF ORCHESTRE SYMPHONIQUE DE MONTREAL PERFORMANCE OF HECTOR BERLIOZ'S "LES TROYENS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.