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Charles Dutoit: A sixth assault is reported

December 22, 2017 by norman lebrecht

80 comments.


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. There has been no public response from the conductor.

Jenny Q Chai, who is based in Shanghai, Paris and New York, is a noted interpreter of late 20th century piano repertoire.


Comments (80)

  1. Stephen Munslow says:

    I think it’s high time we instituted an official ceremonial procedure for rendering people (i.e male people) unpersons.

    1. Mr. Schwa says:

      Wow, what a stupid idea. Thanks for your useless, PC in-put.

    2. Frankster says:

      Everyone must go down to the bottom of the comment section here and read the comment of “Mark” who actually knew the accuser and was there that evening…

      1. Mr. Schwa says:

        True!! Busted!! She is a shallow loser. He did the right thing by exposing her.

      2. L says:

        I, like “Mark”, also recall the incident in question. I was at the concert too, but I wouldn’t be able to say exactly what happened because I didn’t go backstage afterwards to greet the artists. (However, I do happen to remember things very similarly to “Mark” in terms of way this was being recounted at Curtis in the following days both by Jenny and by others who had witnessed it all.) I can say one thing for absolute certain, though: the incident occurred in late 2002, not 17 years ago like Jenny claims.

  2. Michael says:

    We’re hearing from the people who said no to Mr. Dutoit. I wonder how many people went along with these sick advances hoping it would help their career? [redacted]

    1. Simon says:

      That comment needs changing. You cannot suggest the name of specific people who may have given in. That is misogyny of the highest level.

    2. herrera says:

      You mean like Argerich who allegedly saw everything and did nothing? If true, I would count her as part of the power structure that allowed Dutoit to continue his behavior.

    3. ANON says:

      Indeed this is dismaying. Why did Argerich give in and say nothing? Was she afraid that had she spoken out conductors would stop engaging her, especially given that she stopped giving solo recitals?

  3. Andreas B. says:

    appalling!

    I wonder, is it necessary (or appropriate, or tasteful) to illustrate this post with the artist’s chest?

    perhaps it might have been possible to find another preview picture of the late Akiko Sigfridsson, rather than also her chest?

    1. Been Here Before says:

      The site uses ancient tech, so the images can’t be manipulated. What you get as a close up is automatically centered from the image, without matter if it is a face or chest. People have complained previously about this – unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done (except investing in new web site design).

    2. herrera says:

      Right, women musicians should wear burqas, in fact, women musicians should play behind a screen wearing their burqas, in fact, women musicians should not be allowed in public unless accompanied by a male relative behind a screen while wearing their burqas.

      I would even cover up their instrument in a burqa.

      1. Andreas B. says:

        yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say … thank you for formulating it so much more eloquently!

        now, seriously:
        I have no problem with people wearing whatever they want, in concert or privately.

        however, generally I tend to be most interested in a person’s face, in the case of a performing musician also in their playing or singing.

        therefore my question is merely:
        why is it possible to show a face as preview picture of Mr Dutoit, but not in some other instances?
        surely, there are more than enough artist’s head shots to choose from which would not automatically be cropped to show their chests only.

        by the way, I find it quite interesting that you would rant about women and burqas after my comment – I was not referring to women specifically and would also be questioning the practice of showing men’s crotches to illustrate a post.

      2. Andreas B. says:

        in my original response, the ‘appalling’ referred to the incident described by Jenny, of course.

        perhaps that’s where you misunderstood my post …!?

    3. Mark says:

      What chest ? She is Asian …

      1. Anon says:

        Good one – I bet you are a really happy person.

      2. Mcgarriglebear says:

        What?! Completely inappropriate comment

        1. Mark says:

          Suck it up, snowflake

          1. Nick2 says:

            Mark’s remarks are as disgraceful as the charges being levelled against Dutoit. It is indicative of a particular state of mind that brackets a billlion+ women with a particular trait – just as Dutoit and others bracketed certain women as vulnerable to his charms. He then adds insult to injury with his pathetically childish remark – “Suck it up, snowflake!” Disgraceful!

          2. Mark says:

            @Nock2 So sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities. Do you require a safe space with stuffed animals and crayons ?

      3. Scotty says:

        Mark’s efficiency is to be applauded. Exhibiting racism, sexism, and ignorance in only five words, with a seemingly unnecessary ellipsis alluding to vile exposition. Well done, sir. I tip my hat!

  4. Been Here Before says:

    I am shocked! Why do this? I am not a psychiatrist, so I don’t understand how these people’s brain work. Why harass and assault when you have attractive women willingly throwing themselves at you? And I personally know several ladies of certain age who had “sympathies” for him.

    1. Concerned Clevelander says:

      Maybe because conductors enjoy exercising power over others?

      It’s just been announced that Dutoit has withdrawn from performances with the Cleveland Orchestra, scheduled for February.

    2. Bruce says:

      I think It’s clear that some men get a thrill out of foisting sexual behavior on someone who is unwilling. Someone like Dutoit — famous, powerful, charistmatic, reasonably good-looking — would have no shortage of starstruck young hotties throwing themselves at him; but that wouldn’t provide the same kind of thrill as overcoming the resistance of someone who didn’t want him. The helplessness of the prey is a big turn-on for a predator: young, insecure (i.e., in this case a student at Curtis: clearly talented & ambitious, but doesn’t know for sure yet if she’s got what it takes to make it in the music world), wanting to make a good impression… and probably naive enough to be surprised & unsure what to do when someone starts groping her in front of a group of other people. The shock, panic, maybe even fear, that such a person experiences is pure heaven for a predator.

      A starstruck young hottie throwing herself at him might be nice, but it wouldn’t provide the same kind of satisfaction at all.

      1. Mcgarriglebear says:

        And again? Hottie? So inappropriate.

        1. Bruce says:

          I was trying to describe them from the big star’s point of view. (Good thing I didn’t refer to them as “beautiful pieces of ass”)

          1. Mcgarriglebear says:

            And yet again inappropriate. I suppose you think it’s funny trying to be clever with what you think are smart comments. Making light of a serious situation.

          2. Bruce says:

            McGarrigle — no, I just recognize when I’m taking to someone who will never accept my explanation no matter how clear I try to be. You’re not my first. 🙂

          3. Bruce says:

            ^ *talking* not taking

        2. Derek says:

          Bruce has made a decent shot at describing the mind set of a predator and showed empathy for a vulnerable victim.
          You take issue with the one word “hottie” which he was using in a conversational, colloquial way to describe the predator’s view.
          His comments are not outrageous or disrespectful. I, for one, find his thoughtful and often insightful views refreshing (most of the time!) as he pricks the bubbles of pomposity that arise sometimes.

    3. Robert Holmén says:

      Why?

      At middle-age men get a mirror that tells them they are 10x more attractive than they really are and that they deserve partners in the 21 and under range.

      I have one.

      1. Sixtus says:

        I want one.

  5. harold braun says:

    And why did she come out and join the band only now????Strange.

    1. Luk Vaes says:

      Not strange at all. From her facebook page:

      “Thank you all! It’s nice to be heard, once one gathers the courage to speak up.
      It’s interesting. I never considered myself as a weak woman. But only last night, I realized, how much psychological pressure one needs to overcome, to come forward.
      But once I’ve done it, and so many of you have supported! It really empowers me.
      I urge all women who have suffered from such behaviors to stand up for themselves and others, to make the world a better, kinder place.
      heart you all!”

      I wish people could muster the empathy necessary to know this answer without having to be told.

      1. harold braun says:

        You know,after a concert at Verizon,there are tons of people backstage.Am i really to believe that this happened in front of all those people?????I mean,who would be so stupid to do this!
        Find it very hard to believe….

        1. Adam says:

          Your attitude is the exact reason people don’t come forward. Are you really not capable of understanding how difficult it would be for a 17 year old to speak out against one the most respected musicians of the century?

          Allow me to spell it out for you: after an incident described above the victim will think ‘maybe I should tell someone about this, but nobody will believe me’. That is the psychology, and the perpetrator understands that. The perpetrator and the victim both understand that out there in the world are a million Harold Brauns who have little else to do with their lives than comment on blogs saying ‘should I really believe that, who would be stupid enough’. So the victim doesn’t speak out, and the offender continues until someone finally comes forward and is listened to. So it isn’t ‘strange’ at all that she’s only just ‘come out and joined the bandwagon’.

          For you to find it ‘hard to believe’ is an astonishing admission of your naivety and ignorance.

          1. Joanna says:

            Well said, Adam.

        2. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          My only comments is this: if this incident occurred 17 years ago, it would have been in the Academy of Music where the backstage facilities were much more constrained and less in public view than in Verizon. I can fully understand how this incident could have happened even in apparent view of witnesses who were probably distracted by the throng trying to see Martha. Who would be so stupid as to do this? I think we now know the answer…Charlie…

    2. Cyril Blair says:

      “And why did she come out and join the band only now????Strange.”

      Do you have a learning disability? People have been trying to explain to you for weeks exactly WHY it is that victims wait SO LONG to come forward. If only you had read and comprehended the victim’s OWN words, you would understand. You must have the thickest skull since tyrannosauri roamed the earth.

  6. Pianofortissimo says:

    I don’t mean to be offensive. Maybe I’m too hard-skinned and insensitive, but all this snow-flake attitude is revolting. So here is my reaction to the post: Why blaming an unsuccessful career to a kiss? The conductor’s behavior, if true, was bad, but per se not bad enough to demand therapy.

    1. Adam says:

      If true, she went backstage to see Martha Argerich and instead was groped and kissed by an older man in front of a bunch of people who did nothing. Of course that’s going to be traumatic! It’s appalling. How do you know it’s not bad enough to demand therapy?!

      1. harold braun says:

        In front of a bunch of people…..that´s exactly what i find quite dubious about the whole story….

        1. Adam says:

          And that’s exactly why you are naive

          1. harold braun says:

            It´s exactly,why you are naive,Adam….

        2. John says:

          Yes, of course Harold. It’s much more likely that, after five other women came forward with stories about Dutoit doing more or less the same thing, Chai decided to totally fabricate a story about a famous conductor with whom she has no professional relationship, and by which she stands to gain absolutely nothing.

          Pianofortissimo: where does this article say she is 1.) blaming Dutoit for anything other than molesting her as a teenager, and 2.) having an unsuccessful career? Where do you come up with this? What “triggers” you to say this about her??

        3. Robert Holmén says:

          We could put Harold Braun’s assertion to the test.

          He could volunteer to be the victim of a surprise, back-stage, post-concert sexual assault in some corner of a crowd of otherwise-occupied musicians and we’ll see if any of them immediately drop what they are doing to call the police and alert the media.

          1. maureen says:

            Harold has predictably defended sex pests with a refrain reminiscent of a broken record. He has also consulted with his lawyer. Perhaps these two behaviours are unrelated. Perhaps not. What is clear however is that Harold is utterly devoid of empathy.

    2. Bruce says:

      Does she have an unsuccessful career? If so, is she blaming it on him? What are your criteria for someone to be justified in “demanding” therapy?

      1. harold braun says:

        Does she have a career?

    3. Mr. Schwa says:

      I agree. These people should shut up and get over it. Therapy?? Weaklings. Speak up at the time or shut up. Everybody puts up with crap every day. It might be a pig-conductor acting like an asshole. It might be one’s boss being insulting or unfair. It might be the IRS ruining your financial outlook. It might be a diagnosis that you have cancer. It might be that you are forced to listen to Elliot Carter’s music. It might be that you are mugged and robbed. Stop being a whiney crybaby and go on with your life.

      1. Walter Delahunt says:

        “These people”……”shut up”…..”everyone takes crap”……

        So crap is ok, according to you. And the people who hand it out are also ok, according to you.

        1. Mr. Schwa says:

          No, I never said that. Don’t be so brainless. Read what I wrote and shut up. Your defense of PC crybabies does not help anyone in the least. This stuff has been going on forever, and will al;ways go on. It is human nature. It is how people behave. If there is a god, he/she/it did an incredibly poor job of creating the human race. Social media entices people to spend most of their time there, and to We each have to go on with our own lives. Some of us use our time well. But others waste theirs with PC, unoriginal comments and shallow, cliché thinking. Everybody needs to be the center of attention, it seems. Maybe you wish you were molested, so that you could get sympathy and attention. Grow up.

          1. Frankster says:

            So grabbing someone unexpectedly and forcing their mouth on yours is “human nature.” You live in a very different world than me.

  7. Steven Honigberg says:

    It’s assault and the witnesses (Argerich) who stood by doing nothing are guilty as well. Shame on her. Add Dutoit to the growing list of monsters in our industry.

  8. pyte says:

    1) She Was 17.

    2) If she was an opportunist, then why would she come out now and expose herself as the victim?

    3) Why would she risk implicating other famous witnesses; Truly taking a risk.

    4) She is the 6th person to accuse him.

    5) …

  9. Hidalgo Arroyo says:

    Evidently, men are pigs. A new law should be passed banning them completely.

  10. Maddie says:

    https://nexttribe.com/therapist-patient-sexual-abuse/

    Thank you Adam. And for those who remain baffled as to why women don’t speak up, check out this story

  11. Rodney Marsalis says:

    It is heartbreaking to hear about colleagues who have been harassed by men in positions of power. It takes a lot of courage to speak up, no matter how much time has passed. One does have to wonder why there are so few women who are conductors of major symphony orchestras around the world. The talent has been there for a long, long time. Is it possible that our field fosters an environment that is oppressive to women when it comes to power? I am not sure that pulling down a few giants in the industry will address the problem any more than pulling down statues fixes deeply rooted societal woes. I would love to see more building up, i.e. hiring many more women who are qualified to be music directors of major symphony orchestras.

  12. Peter says:

    Indeed it’s appalling news. I reckon this character flaw of Dutoit was probably known to those who have worked with him (I didn’t but have heard vague hints nonetheless from a musician who knew him in his younger years).
    Likewise I know of “my” principal conductor that he has a certain reputation but it’s also very vague and unspecific except when you look very closely. People choose to look the other way because principal conductors can be very powerful, ferocious and merciless. The good thing if there is a good thing about such things is that the young Dutoits of this world will now start to understand that their behavior is a ticking time bomb which sooner or later will absolutely destroy their careers and reputations. Which is right because such abuse of power is about as low as it gets.

  13. Walter Delahunt says:

    The question “why are people speaking up only now?” has a simple, albeit depressing, answer.
    Until very recently – bearing in mind the decades and centuries which have passed – the law didn’t concern itself with domestic violence, for example. The victims were left to suffer in silence, there were no support groups, safe houses, or legal recourse. Where I live, until 1967 the divorce law stated that who leaves the house loses the children. No need to elaborate on the implications of that.
    I see the current situation as essentially no different. For a VERY long time, women had very little recourse if sexually assaulted, the term “sexual assault” itself is relatively young, voracious and violent male sexual appetites have long been considered normal, and as in most other areas of power and the challenging of power, the complainer is scapegoated and ostracized.
    One need only deposit a complaint about airport security to witness this behaviour.
    So what? The critical mass has tipped the scales and victims are demanding justice and change.
    And rightly so.

    1. fierywoman says:

      Thank you for writing this so well.

    2. Stephen Moore says:

      Nonetheless, these are unproven allegations and all the accused should be innocent until proven guilty. One has only to read of the growing number of accusations in the UK which on closer investigation have proved to be false for the the importance of that basic principle governing our legal system to be self-evident.

  14. Stephen Moore says:

    Chai didn’t report the incident to the police or the Curtis authorities at the time. She blames her fellow male students for her trauma as much as she blames Dutoit. 17 years on she doesn’t go to the police but to an online blog. Please.

    1. harold braun says:

      Exactly my point!

      1. Stephen Moore says:

        Maybe Chai thinks all her fellow male students who upset her should be named and shamed and have their lives, the lives of their families and their careers destroyed. After all, aren’t they as bad as Dutoit?! Maybe Mr Lebrecht could be usefully occupied researching their names and current locations.

    2. Walter Delahunt says:

      Your point is well taken. But I wonder – after 17 years there’s unlikely to be hard proof of sexual assault, no? Fluids, bruising, etc…….
      Isn’t this the reason for going to a blog and for some of the cases you mention being inconclusive?

    3. Mr. Schwa says:

      Just another time-wasting loser who spends all her time on FB getting attention. So now she jumps on the bandwagon attacking men so she can get sympathy from all the angry, men-hating women . The only thing more depressing than such a person is the fact that so many men are trying to come off as good-guy knights in shining armor by being PC and defending their ‘honor’. Get a hobby or read a good book.

      1. Frankster says:

        Do you every consider how you might sound to others? Look up misogyny in the dictionary.

  15. F says:

    Wow, this comment section is the reason nobody should ever read comment sections. If you wonder why she took so long to speak out YOU HAVE NOT BEEN LISTENING; if you make comments about her appearance in this context YOU HAVE NOT BEEN LISTENING; if you have the temerity to suggest this might not have happened, or to upbraid this brave person for coming forward YOU ARE MISSING SOMETHING FUNDAMENTAL.

  16. Jaime Herrera says:

    Well, I am in a tiny, tiny minority in saying this: I believe the women but – let’s forget about it and move on. Forgive and forget. It’s not really a big deal. This is a very convenient time for these women to be speaking up and I think they are doing it for the publicity – just like Yuja wearing her tiny skirts – only for attention. Think about the hundreds of thousands of women Dutoit has been around whom he did NOT grope!!!! I think slapping or punching a woman is a far, far more serious offense than fondling her. Think of the hundreds of girls Elvis Presley fondled – I don’t hear them complaining.

    1. Mark says:

      Finally, an intelligent person. Thank you !

      1. Frankster says:

        Misogny-lite is OK?

        1. Mr. Schwa says:

          Learn to spell.

          1. Frankster says:

            That’s your defense?

    2. Esteban Creswell says:

      Attention ≠ honor. You say you are paying attention to the women who accuse, but you also say that the thousands fondled with consent by Presley were seeking attention. In any case, you have no concept of honor. It would require that you be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and consider the basic requirements of human dignity. I think you cannot stomach imaging yourself as 1) Yuja Wang 2) a girl fondled by Elvis Presley or 3) my 19-year-old sister being propositioned by Charles Dutoit in a hallway somewhere in Philadelphia. This indicates a certain trend in your thinking that is dualistic and pointless for the purposes of the nuanced discussions here. Defend your honor as a human being, please, if you can possibly re-conceptualize what dignity means.

  17. Pmf says:

    It is traumatizing to any woman of any age to be groped by an uninvited “guest”. Espnif ue is famous and powerful. One becomes
    Paralyzed and isn’t thinking anything except oh my god. What is happening. And don’t blame Martha for not “stopping”
    It. I am a psychoanalyst and a musician who has treat men like this. He was saying to Martha. See what l can do and you can’t stop me. Another power play over a powerful woman. And why hasn’t anyone mentioned the trauma to the daughter

  18. Mark says:

    I was with Jenny at the Argerich/Dutoit concert when this happened and what she’s now claiming in the media is totally untrue, and completely exaggerated, which knowing her over the years doesn’t surprise me at all. First, she wasn’t 17, she was 19 (she was born in 1983 in May or June and the concert took place winter either late 2002 or early 2003), and she didn’t describe it like this back then AT ALL. She was so excited that Dutoit was flirtatious with her and kissed her and she talked about it back then like she loved it, she was very excited that a famous conductor found her attractive. In fact back in those days she loved getting attention from men and would feel this proved her attractiveness, she was known at Curtis for this. She was especially after men who were married or in relationships. Knowing her this is just her trying to get the media to write about her so she can be in the spotlight, promote her career etc. I don’t know about the other women and if the allegations are true I support them fully and whatever response might be appropriate, but I felt it necessary to say what I personally know about the case of Jenny Chai.

  19. Gary says:

    One thing I don’t think anyone considers is that conductors command eye-watering fees and unless you are in the financial position to defend a libel suit you may prefer not to say anything; especially as these alleged events happen (mostly) unwitnessed.

  20. Music school is a strange place, populated by young people whose talent often outstrips their maturity. They are young enough to be testing out their sexual attractiveness, too, which is all the more reason for the old, powerful, and famous to maintain boundaries and keep their go∂∂am paws to themselves. What poster Mark doesn’t get is that a young person can be thrilled and repelled all at once. He sounds as if he never outgrew the puerile concerns of his conservatory days.

    Note to Jaime Herrera, your big “but” tells me all I need to know. Move on? No, speaking out is the only way to keep “move on” from devolving to “same as it ever was.” It will take speaking up and naming names to prevent the next Levine or Dutoit from taking these gross liberties.


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