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Breaking: Four women say the conductor Charles Dutoit sexually assaulted them

December 21, 2017 by norman lebrecht

44 comments.


Among the four accusers is the soprano Sylvia McNair, who tells the Associated Press:

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. 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.

Dutoit, 81, spent quarter of a century as music director in Montreal. He was a regular participant at the Tanglewood and Verbier festivals, two of the locations where James Levine was active.

For the past decade, he has been music director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.

The alleged incidents took place between 1985 and 2010.

‘He threw me against the wall, shoved my hand down his pants and shoved his tongue down my throat,’ said mezzo-soprano Paula Rasmussen of an incident she said occurred in his LA Opera dressing room in September 1991. Baritone John Atkins, who was part of the production, said he stood guard for her after the incident “as a witness, for lack of a better term.”

UPDATE: Lack of surprise at Dutoit and Levine.

UPDATE2: Orchestras throw out Dutoit.

UPDATE3: A sixth assault

UPDATE4: RPO calls for time out.

UPDATE5: Dutoit denies all, vows to clear his name

UPDATE6: A Maestro’s wife reflects.

UPDATE 7; Dutoit quits the RPO

UPDATE 8: Charles Dutoit is accused of rape.

UPDATE 9: Dutoit’s name is banned from Canada airwaves

UPDATE 10: Dutoit denies rape.


Comments (44)

  1. Fiona says:

    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.

    1. Grazzidad says:

      It’s pretty clear they made a quick calculation that it was better to protect him than let him go. Imagine if organizations had to face CLASS ACTION SUITS from women (and others) they systematically failed to protect.

      It would be terrific if there were a validated registry where people who’d suffered obvious physical harassment could have it lodged, so that it wasn’t a he-said/she-said decades after the fact. Organizations would have a strong self-interest in not allowing these things. In the end, they only care about money (no surprise there).

    2. Ruben Greenberg says:

      It is brave of you and you are so right to come forward. Nobody should get away with such behaviour.

    3. boringfileclerk says:

      I’ve heard the rumors for years. Thank you for coming forward. I’m now considering not renewing my Tanglewood subscription. Anyone that condones sexual assault doesn’t deserve anyone’s money. Until we hurt these institutions where it counts, nothing will change.

    4. Tanglewoodfan says:

      I hope that Fiona finds the courage to share her allegations re Dutoit @ Tanglewood with the AP reporters (Jocelyn Gecker or Janie Har) who broke this story. The BSO needs to answer to the suggestion (based on the orchestra manager’s alleged comment) that they were aware of Dutoit’s behavior.

      1. Fiona says:

        Yes I have spoken to Janie Har yesterday. I too would like to hear the orchestra’s views. There is no doubt in my mind that they were aware that there was a problem.

  2. boringfileclerk says:

    Two down, and many, many more to go…..

  3. Mark Mortimer says:

    What a shock- now Charles Dutoit to add to the veritable rogues gallery. Tremendous respect for his conducting- its masterful- a real hero of mine in this regard. Would it be right to label all successful conductors as nasty pieces of work- using their power to harass & humiliate all those who desperately need their patronage? Who knows- maybe or maybe not. There seem to be plenty more out there other than Dutoit & Levine. But then again- we have a deputy prime minister who seems to have spent most of his free time in the commons watching either porn or harassing his underlings. Its good that more & more women are coming forward but there seems to be a genuine crisis out there in how men control their sexual desires.

    1. Grazzidad says:

      I’ll bet Marin Alsop doesn’t do this 🙂

      There are surely many conductors who, er, conduct themselves like professionals. It would help if they were part of the solution, helping to “out” those in their profession who treat it like a bordello.

      1. harold braun says:

        But she is not nearly as good as Dutoit,or Levine,sorry….

        1. Bruce says:

          Your point being…?

        2. Musician says:

          The truth hurts!

          1. harold braun says:

            Exactly.The point is….the difference between beating time and making music.

          2. Bruce says:

            And this is relevant because …?

  4. Janie Har says:

    Fiona, my name is Janie Har and I’m a reporter with AP and would like to talk to you about what you told management and its response. [redacted: we don’t permit trawling on this site]

  5. Been Here Before says:

    I am shocked (really!). I wonder why would somebody who apparently had much success with women need to engage in sexual assault. But I do believe the accusers.

    1. Tom Inkansas says:

      “Success” with women is one thing. Assaulting underlings with impunity, knowing they are helpless, is another. It’s like when famous actors have sex with their housekeepers: crime of opportunity, among unequals. One guess is that it’s just about power…

  6. Michael Blim says:

    Apparently, he so terrorized the entire Montreal Symphony that its members demanded after 20-odd years that he be relieved of the post of music director. He also has had a longtime and extensive relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra — another organization that should be listening to its artists and employees.

    1. pooroperaman says:

      Indeed, he so terrorised them that they became a world-class orchestra with a major recording contract for the only time in their history. Shame on him!

      1. Mark Mortimer says:

        Yes- he certainly did turn the Montreal into a great ensemble- perhaps the most wondrous orchestral machine of the late Twentieth Century if the sonic marvel of the Decca recordings, particularly in the French repertoire, are your benchmark. But this isn’t the point. When the debacle arose with his Montreal players a decade ago- I was inclined to believe it was another case of an ungrateful orchestra turning against their esteemed maestro who’d brought them such glory. But now I’ve changed my views. Modern orchestral professionals are a talented & worldly bunch who play too well to tolerate the antics of all powerful conductors. Perhaps the Montreal players knew all along that Dutoit was a sexual predator. Willing to put up with his martinet tendencies in rehearsal but not the greater crimes behind the scenes. If so, on balance, the OSM made the right decision to hasten his departure.

        1. Andy says:

          It was an ambitious union paperpusher who hastened Dutoit’s departure from Montreal. CD insisted on “rehearsing” during “sound checks” while on tour. The steward objected. Things escalated, and a brand new GM was floundering. It was CD’s unusually high standards and expectations that were at the heart of the 2002 dispute. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EniVU6XD2wc

          1. db says:

            That could hardly have been the main reason. Most orchestra musicians resent rehearsing during sound checks, most conductors like to do it anyway. It’s just that long-term relationships always come to an end at some point in the orchestra world, and usually not on the best of terms: see Toulouse/Plasson for example.

          2. Andy says:

            That’s the main reason. The musicians just couldn’t keep up with CD or his standards. Apparently there’s no such problem with Nagano.

      2. Eddie Galon says:

        So his behavior is justified in your opinion because he brings success to the orchestra’s coffers? Ethics. Look up the definition. You have none.

  7. Barry says:

    While he was interim Principal Conductor in Philadelphia for a few years, he was passed over for Music Director post several times and he made it clear he was very unhappy about that, to the point where he eventually stopped coming to conduct here.

    I’m now wondering if the refusal to hire him longer term had something to do with this. I’d hope not in light of the fact that they didn’t have any problem hiring him on an interim basis.

  8. boringfileclerk says:

    I just hope that he doesn’t take this as an opportunity to publicly announce to the world that he has chosen to live his life as a heterosexual man.

  9. The View from America says:

    … and here we go:

    “Boston Symphony Orchestra Cuts Ties with Conductor Over Sex Allegations”

    https://www.boston.com/news/music/2017/12/21/boston-symphony-orchestra-charles-dutoit

  10. Barry says:

    Season schedules for 2018-2019 are due to start coming out in another month or two. I can see a number of top American orchestras where Dutoit is a regular guest conductor scrambling to make last minute adjustments to those schedules.

    1. The View from America says:

      … and there are a number of fine Francophile conductors who could easily step in and replace him, too.

    2. Barry says:

      I forgot about the current season. But I just did a news search and it looks like those orchestras I had in mind in that last post are already announcing cancellations for the coming months.

    3. Brian says:

      This could be a real opportunity for orchestras to replace Dutoit with female conductors and show their dedication to moving beyond the age of the old white male maestro. But somehow in this ultra-cautious age, I don’t see it happening.

      1. harold braun says:

        Oh please….Good opportunity for third rate time beaters to take over work from first rate musicians.Same way many conductors in 30s Germany made their careers.Personally,i am not interested in this.

        1. Bruce says:

          Well yes — naturally they would have to be 3rd-raters.

  11. Anton Bruckner says:

    Dutoit’s tenure at the RPO has been a disaster of mainstream repertoire played by a bored orchestra. That’s a good oppurtunity to bring some new life to tje RPO.

    1. SteelyTom says:

      Too much Ravel and not enough Bruckner, Bruckner!

  12. Cyril Blair says:

    Reminded me of the Dutoit reference in Janet Malcolm’s New Yorker profile of Yuja Wang last year:

    “Dutoit, a tall man of seventy-nine, appeared with his fourth wife, Chantal Juillet. After husband and wife hugged Yuja, Dutoit stood back to look with elaborate mock lecherousness at her tight [leather] trousers. Dutoit and Yuja go back a long way….”

    Perhaps the fourth wife makes a habit of accompanying her husband to visits to the solists’ dressing rooms, to make sure Dutoit is only looking, not touching.

  13. Manu says:

    Dutoit has always been a pig and everybody knew. Those who have played with him and those who engaged him, are the ones to be asked. And there are plenty to be asked why they tolerated him…

    1. Tom Inkansas says:

      Well, it’s pretty simple, isn’t it? These people knew where they stood in the food chain, understood who was expendable and who wasn’t. If you were a rank and file player, or worker in the organization, and you’re merely heard rumors, or had it happen to you without corroborating physical or video evidence, would you REALLY approach someone whose paycheck depended on keeping everyone happy and try to get them to bring down the orchestra’s meal ticket?

      Anyone with experience in hierarchical organizations knows that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. Even, apparently, when adolescents are involved, like in Levine’s case, allegedly.

      1. Peter says:

        You are absolutely right, thankfully some people like you care to mention this fact.

  14. Scooby-Doo says:

    Finally!
    I also heard similar stories about [redacted] and others. Ladies, come out, tell the truth.

    1. Saxon Broken says:

      And gents too, if they have had bad experiences.

  15. Henry deSade says:

    Mis. McNair and Rasmussen obviously rided a very old/slow lift toward the tip of a very high building to give Mr. Dutoit the time to minister to her.
    May I remind Ms. Rasmussen that you cannot reach the throat but through an OPEN mouth.

  16. "Alexandra" says:

    On separate occasions, my friend and I were both groped by [redacted] when we were in graduate school. But what do you do when he is the father of one of your dear friends? #MeToo

    1. Tom Inkansas says:

      I’m no expert, but this is a whole different level of insanity. It’s one thing to assault powerless people who are “under” you. It’s another to do it to an inner circle of people connected to your family, especially your daughters. If this is literally true (and there’s no reason to doubt it), he’s not just a power-mad abuser, but a psychopathic creep.


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