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Montreal raises new claims against Charles Dutoit

February 4, 2018 by norman lebrecht

63 comments.


A number of musicians in the Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal have accused the former music director of ‘psychological harassment‘ and ‘humiliation’.

Some of these complaints were at the heart of the events that prompted Dutoit’s resignation in 2002, but the musicians say they were ignored by the organisation over several years.

They follow claims of sexual harassment against Dutoit, including rape, which he denies.

Lucien Bouchard, present chairman of the orchestra board, has issued the following statement:

‘We are very compassionate and moved by the suffering expressed in these recently published musicians’ testimonies, namely today in LaPresse+ and Le Devoir. They will serve to strengthen the OSM’s determination to ensure that the dignity and fundamental rights of its musicians and employees are respected at all times. Current administration has made considerable efforts to provide for a harmonious and collaborative working environment. In this regard, we will persist in taking every means to ensure that the climate of respect that has prevailed since the arrival of Music Director Kent Nagano in 2006 is maintained.’

The orchestra has commissioned a private investigation into the complaints by an unnamed individual.


Comments (63)

  1. Stephy says:

    If the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has really had a long time, why did they invite Maestro Dutoit again in 2016 again? I strongly criticize that the attitude of media and orchestras toward Maestro Dutoit is too rude. Whether Maestro Dutoit occured sexual misconduct still does not have any legal evidence. Are you all want him to retire from musical activity? It is a big fool that you do not know how big pity that we lose Maestro Dutoit.

    1. harold braun says:

      I agree wholeheartedly.I had the”pleasure” to play under one of his replacements at a big American orchestra a few years ago.An artistic experience i´ll never forget.The players response to inviting him again was 93 percent against him.Sad times indeed….

      1. Stephy says:

        So OSM is doing metoo achivement? I hate OSM rather than Dutoit.

      2. Michael Comins says:

        A roster search on the AFM website – available only to members – fails to find you listed in any category (including deceased). Can you explain how you would’ve played in any US/Canada orchestra? Thanks

        1. Stephy says:

          So what? And you? Have you played with Dutoit before? Why has to be “US and Canada” only?

          1. Emil says:

            Geez you don’t read, do you? Read the comment above and you’ll see it all makes sense.

          2. harold braun says:

            You misunderstood.I played for one of the conductors replacing him at one US top orchestra in the wake of the allegations now,in Germany(i live and work here for 32 years).I wanted to point out what a poor choice this guy is,in comparison to Dutoit!

          3. harold braun says:

            Not with Dutoit,but with one conductor taking over one of his programs at a big US band.i played for this conductor stepping in now some years ago in Germany.Orchestra decided not to reinvite him,with good reason(the replacement conductor of Dutoit´s concerts now,not Dutoit!)I don´t want to give away more details here,don´t want to harm anybody.
            My point is that i was looking forward to as many Dutoit concerts i could go to,for he is 81 now(if very youthful for his age).I am not interested to see and hear some lame replacement.

    2. Bruce says:

      Ask yourself why so many orchestras reacted the way they did.

      “If the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has really had a long time, why did they invite Maestro Dutoit again in 2016 again?”

      Here are some possible reasons: Because as long as the rumors were nothing but rumors, they could be ignored. Also because, 14 years after he left, musicians might be willing to let bygones be bygones. (Also, he was probably aware that, as a guest conductor with, shall we say, a complicated history with this orchestra, he presumably knew he had to be on his best behavior — like an ex-husband who comes to dinner at the home of his re-married ex-wife.) And possibly also because the management cares more about ticket sales than about the psychological well-being of its musicians. (They did give musicians the option of not playing for him, and some of them did choose not to play. I seem to recall the option was only offered after some public outcry though.)

      It certainly looks like “everyone” did indeed know, and they realized that they couldn’t defend him in the name of “fairness.” If any orchestra’s management truly believed that the accusations were baseless, or even that they might be baseless, they could always “suspend” their relationships with him until it was all sorted out, and issue a noncommittal statement saying something like “we look forward to the time when this issue is resolved.” It wouldn’t make them look bad. But no — they cut all ties with him immediately.

      Considering that orchestras generally have, or should have, lawyers on hand to check out contract language etc., and that most orchestra boards are partially made up of lawyers, I’d venture to guess that the orchestras that cut ties with him did so after some legal consultation. It just seems like a knee-jerk reaction because they took “only” a few days or a week to do it.

      1. Stephy says:

        Your comment is never logial. So the result is that OSM is making claim against Dutoit for marleting reason, as you say it welcomed Dutoit in 2016 for marleting reasons. But we should not make a great musician lose his job just with marketing reason.

        1. Emil says:

          you think the OSM gains anything by launching an investigation into its handling of the Dutoit tenure?
          The director, Madeleine Careau, has been in charge since 2000; she is at risk of being personally blamed. What does she have to gain?
          And if you don’t believe the many musicians on the record, the many women who have accused Dutoit of sexual harassment and assault, and the administration of the OSM, then I can’t help you. Again, a retired musician has nothing to gain personally from speaking out now – so why not believe them? And the idea that twenty musicians over the world would conspire to take down Dutoit is, well…quite fantastic.

          1. Stephy says:

            What the retired musician want are money and famousness. That’s why they are making claim now.

          2. Emil says:

            Yes, because a section violinist will become famous in his retirement by talking to a newspaper about how the former MD caused psychological illness. Seriously??

        2. Bruce says:

          I don’t understand how you get “OSM is making claim against Dutoit for marleting (sic) reason” from my assertion that one reason they invited him back may have been because of marketing.

          Perhaps you mean that they are finally investigating these allegations in order to make themselves look a little bit less uncaring & negligent? I suppose the term “damage control” might come under the heading of “marketing reasons”…

          I stand by my armchair analysis, that all these orchestras dropped him like a hot potato because they knew what was going on. Like Levine, he was good box office for many years, and that enabled them to rationalize continuing to hire him. After all, the rumors were “only rumors” until recently.

    3. Emil says:

      If you bothered reading the articles, they ask exactly that question.
      The orchestra’s director’s defense – also in the articles – is that they did not know about the petition, which occurred under previous management which did not disclose it to the new administration.

      That being said, Madeleine Careau has been in charge since 2000, so she dealt wit Dutoit’s resignation. The “I didn’t know” defense sounds quite dubious.

      1. Bruce says:

        Why bother reading a bunch of articles if you already know what you think?

    4. Judith Despaties says:

      Dutoit, repeatedly, turned down OSM’s invitation to return, including for their 80th anniversary when they were inviting all their past MD’s. He only accepted the Montreal en lumieres’ invitation to conduct the OSM scheduled for 2016. Interesting !!
      While we’re here, following is a very abundant document, a repertoire of maestro’s temper..aments, behaviours, etc…….autres temps, autres moeurs……other times, other manners……are we going to have a whole list of
      « victims » of the generation gap ?
      http://slippedisc.com/2014/02/when-a-conductor-hits-a-player/

      1. Judith Despaties says:

        … « maestro’s » temperaments should read « maestros’ »…

  2. Weneger says:

    I love Charles Dutoit

    1. harold braun says:

      I love him too.One of the most effective rehearsers i have ever seen.Inspiring,fantastic body language,sense of orchestral color and balance.Especially in french and russian rep,but not limited to that.I feel really sad for being deprived from attending his concerts because of the travesty and madness going on here.It reminds me all a bit of Philip Roth´s The human Stain(haven´t the PC Ayatollahs and their friends from some media removed his works from the libraries allready,for their content….).

      1. Stephy says:

        Then why you are making Dutoit lose his jobs?

        1. harold braun says:

          What do you mean?I repeatedly stated i detest the move of the orchestras to ban him,inviting people to take over his concerts who are not the least comparable to him..Innocent till proven guilty!!!

          1. Saxon Broken says:

            Stating “innocent until proven guilty” means you don’t understand the law. This is not a criminal trial but would be a civil case if taken to law which uses “balance of probabilities”. In any case, the orchestras can hire whomsoever they like and don’t have to hire Dutoit even if he is probably innocent.

  3. harold braun says:

    Respect is the only thing Nagano installed.His performances are unbelievably boring,uninvolved,superficial…in comparison to Dutoit,he is a joke.

    1. Stephy Chan says:

      If Charles Dutoit has truly had sexual misconduct for 30 years, then why did Montréal Symphony Orchestra invited Charles Dutoit as a guest conductor again in 2016? Why did the Montreal citizens welcome him to come back? I really hate the your rude attitude toward Charles Dutoit, even though it does not have any legal evidence.

      1. harold braun says:

        Spot on.Some refused to play,like the fabulous assistant principal trumpeter Russel DeVuyst.Dutoit and DeVuyst were at loggerheads wen DeVuyst was on the player´s comitee….

        1. Stephy Chan says:

          I know some refused to play. But they finally played with Charles Dutoit. That was the decision of the orchestra. The audience were pleased too.

          1. harold braun says:

            I know.

          2. harold braun says:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJiDCYssBf8……But where are these friends now?

          3. Emil says:

            No – it was the decision of the orchestra management. Musicians do not choose their conductors or concerts – this isn’t the Vienna Phil.

            May I remind you that no one questions Dutoit’s music making skills. But when you have multiple musicians on the record – as here – plus lawsuits, petitions, union complaints, etc. (Not to mention the separate – but equally relevant – issue of sexual assault and harassment), it is only fair to question whether that excellent music did not come at too high a price. And the answer to that should be self-evident.

          4. Stephy says:

            No, if the musicians of the orchestra don’t want to invite Dutoit, the orchestra management cannot make decision to invite him.

          5. Emil says:

            Stephy, with all due respect, that is not how it works. The orchestra musicians do not choose their conductors.

      2. Bruce says:

        Stephy – please see my response to your earlier (similar) comment.

        1. Stephy says:

          I hate OSM in that there ware many claims since when Dutoit was Music director, though it invited him again. It’s different from Philadelphia.

    2. erich says:

      Bravo…Nagano is completely overrated, boring, a one-dimensional automaton.

      1. harold braun says:

        And totally lost at conducting opera.a nightmare for singers and players.

        1. Bruce says:

          Never played for him; but I think his recording of “Billy Budd” (on Erato) is wonderful.

          Just expressing my opinion, like you.

          1. harold braun says:

            Right.But it is done in a studio,and was done in concert version before at Bridgewater Hall.Conducting a staged version,from the pit,live,is something very different.

      2. sue says:

        He speaks well of you, though.

  4. harold braun says:

    fot those who can read german…

    1. erich says:

      Blimey! It seems Nagano continues his third-rate mess of a music directorship from Munich. Who the hell pushes this ghastly man?

      1. harold braun says:

        It seems,he is very good at politics…..which also can be a virtue.At least he got Montreal a great new hall.Wonderful orchestra,in spite of him….

        1. Emil says:

          You can say what you want, but the fact is that the OSM sounds much better under Nagano than under any guest conductor at the moment.

          And like Bruce, I wonder, why is this relevant? Or are you suggesting you would prefer a serial harasser as MD to one who isn’t, as long as you get a nice concert out of it?

          1. Stephy says:

            Hello? Some people say Dutoit is harasser, but it doesn’t have evidence, so you shouldn’t call him a harasser. I’m angry with those who call Dutoit a harasser with no legal basis.

          2. Emil says:

            The standards for employment and for legal condemnation are different. I think there is ample evidence – over twenty separate testimonies, plus documentary evidence, including from the time of the accusations – to suggest that Dutoit should not be in charge of or hold power over others.
            And psychological harassment is generally not a criminal offense. That does not mean it doesn’t exist, or that one cannot be a harasser.

          3. Bruce says:

            Stephy – keep in mind that abusers of whatever kind (Dutoit, Levine, Catholic priests, Harvey Weinstein — not to mention everyday non-famous spouse- or child-abusers) usually commit their crimes where there are no witnesses.

            There’s only the (less powerful) victim’s word against the (more powerful) abuser’s. Meanwhile — and this is important — the abuser is usually very charming, kind, and wonderful in every way to people who are not his targets, which makes it harder for others to believe terrible things about him.

            Naturally people don’t want to believe bad things about someone they respect or even idolize, so they accuse the victims of lying, seeking attention, exaggerating, misinterpreting, being hysterical, hoping to advance their careers (or get revenge for their lack thereof), etc. etc… and ask why they waited so long to come forward (as if “I was afraid” is not a reason)… and ask for “proof,” which by the nature of the crime cannot exist.

          4. Stephy says:

            No, the victims should take legal action, if they are real victims.

          5. Bruce says:

            OK, well thanks for illustrating my point.

          6. harold braun says:

            The orchestra is terrific,yes!But his interpretations,dull,lifeless.Only 20th and 21th century music fares better.And what baffles me is,that his performances with the DSO Berlin were musically so much more interesting 20 years ago…

          7. harold braun says:

            That´s my point.There is no proof for the sexual harassement so far.The story about the Curtis piano student has already been debunked by her former fellow student.And,yes,i am not sure,if i would prefer a lame,PC friendly,nice guy with poor skills to some authoritarian with fantastic musical abilities.The articles posted by Mr.Lebrecht are not so much about sexual harassment,but more about Dutoit´s temper and sometimes rude behaviour in rehearsals.Barenboim also is much less of a Menschenfreund in rehearsals sometimes,nor were Masur,or Celi.But they got great results!

          8. Emil says:

            This is not about “being rude” but about severe psychological harassment. And you’re of course entitled to your own preferences, but I tend to prefer conductors who do not cause severe health problems among their musicians, results or no results.

          9. The Voice from America says:

            I don’t know how anyone can make Mily Balakirev’s colorful tone poem “Tamara” sound boring.

            But Kent Nagano manages to do just that in Montreal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAvua455dls

  5. harold braun says:

    My great uncle played for Fritz Reiner,Szell,and many others of this generation….Psychological harassment?Yes,you could say that…Even Bernstein,Maazel and,yes,Masur(for whom i played once) were not always nice.Dutoit too.But they got results.Those who don´t fulfill the standards sharpening their knives often,as here.I recently played very substandard for a young maestro at a rehersal,because i was unwell and not well enough prepared.He made same nasty remarks,some really hurt,in front of my colleagues.I didn´t blame him,practised my ass of for three days,and everything went smoothly afterwards.Do you think in football or hockey or soccer teams everything is nice and cozy?Get a life!Of course i prefer to work in a friendly atmosphere of mutual respect,but if a conductor has limited skills,no ideas about the music,that doesn´t help much either.Of course,my favorites are both great musicians and menschs,but being a professional musician isn´t always a comfort zone….

  6. Bruce says:

    Could someone please explain why Nagano’s alleged boringness and third-rate status is relevant in this conversation? Thanks.

    1. Stephy says:

      Some people here compare performance of Dutoit and Nagano, but I don’t like criticizing someone by comparing with others.

  7. Alan booth says:

    It was all,about the lucrative contract with Decca nothing else…money was the most important factor to them

  8. Doug says:

    Here’s a possible solution moving forward in the orchestra industry. It would be funded by adjusting all conductor salaries and/or fees accordingly. Every orchestra hire two security personnel. Ex-SAS, KGB, SEAL, whichever the case may be to accompany the conductor 24/7 to assure this type of activity never occur again. A cracked skull would be a small price to pay.

  9. MacroV says:

    Dutoit’s abusive behavior at the OSM was well known in Montreal even before he resigned; even as a temporary resident in 2001-3 I knew about this. Abusive behavior (aka “being a jerk”) is – or was at the time – tolerated more than sexually inappropriate behavior, but the musicians’ rebellion against it is largely what led to his resignation. Nobody at that time was making accusations of Dutoit engaged in sexually abusive behavior at the OSM; I still don’t think there have been such accusations.

    Dutoit returned in 2016 under the auspices of the Festival en Lumiere. Technically, it was their management, and not the OSM, that invited him. Though I’m not sure it’s meaningful distinction since the OSM obviously had to agree. And they had been asking Dutoit for years to return; the festival was probably a face-saving way for Dutoit to return.

    As for all those folks in denial about Dutoit’s predatory behavior: A number of women have come forward, giving their names, as well as dates and places of incidents, and descriptions of the offenses. Might not get him convicted in court but it certainly seems to meet the “preponderance of evidence” test for an orchestra wary of engaging him.

  10. bill says:

    I guess this re-confirms a truth:

    That the conducting career is lovely attractive for many a primitive narcissist or a sociopath.

    Disclaimer!

    I’m not saying Conductors are as a rule primitive narcissists or a sociopaths.

  11. Anon says:

    Why doesn’t someone ask the RPO about Dutoit?!

    1. Saxon Broken says:

      Yes, I wondered about that too.

  12. Emmanuel Macron says:

    The OSM is worth not a lot since Dutoit left.


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