Just in: Montreal admits complaints against Charles Dutoit were ignored

The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal has admitted it ignored complaints of ‘psychological harassment’ by music director Charles Dutoit dating back to the 1990s.

The complaints were made by musicians in the orchestra. In 1997, a majority of OSM players signed a letter requesting a meeting with the management to discuss the matter. The request was refused.

Five years later Dutoit resigned from the orchestra, blaming the musicians for his departure.

Le Devoir has published a report on the early complaints here. The OSM is refusing to comment, saying it has appointed ‘an independent individual’ to investigate.

Dutoit, 81, has withdrawn from all conducting activity following a spate of harassment claims, which he denies.

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  • Thomasina says:

    A big report by the trustworthy newspaper. Everyone knew. There were also the Guild meeting and the petition(against the verbal and physical harassment) but Mr.Dutoit completely ignored them.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Did Dutoit have have firing power when he was with OSM?

    • Emil says:

      OSM players are unionized, so I believe they cannot be fired without due process. That being said, from what I understand, a number of musicians either left or went on sick leave as a result of bullying and psychological harassment.

      I should specify that the OSM maintains that they were never informed of any sexual harassment, misconduct, or assault by Dutoit until the recent accusations.

      • Thomasina says:

        I thought that the sexual harassment was included in the physical harassment, even if they say that they did not know about that. I’m surprised that after the petition in 1997, they endured until 2002. (and I must correct my first comment…the Guild meeting was after the resignation of Mr.Dutoit.)

        • Emil says:

          Separate issues here. Dutoit was accused during his tenure in Montreal of being psychologically abusive against many members of the orchestra, leading to his departure in 2002. This included things such as insults and bullying during rehearsals, abusive dismissal procedures, etc. There were no complaints of sexual harassment/assault when he left in 2002.

          The OSM acknowledged now that they were aware in the late 1990s of Dutoit creating a toxic work environment and being psychologically abusive. They continue to state that they only learned of the allegations of sexual abuse in 2017, at the same time as everyone else.

          P.-S.: It is unclear how many, if any, musicians of the OSM (current or past) have filed complaints of sexual harassment against Dutoit. The orchestra has received at least one complaint concerning Dutoit’s tenure in Montreal, but no information about the victim is available.

          P.-P.-S.: The OSM insists that their current investigation is not limited to Dutoit, and that it will address any allegation against current or past OSM staff.

    • Bruce says:

      Conductors of North American orchestras don’t normally have “firing power,” in the sense that a conductor can say “You’re fired!” and the person is gone from the job.

      Depending on the orchestra’s CBA (collective bargaining agreement, also sometimes called the master agreement or master contract), there is a process outlined which must be followed for a musician’s employment to be terminated. It takes longer, as there is usually a probationary period — the conductor has to specify problems in the musician’s performance, and the musician is given a set period of time to correct them — and some form of appeals process, but it can be done if the conductor has the patience and self-discipline to follow the rules.

      Or, without resorting to official termination, the conductor can resort to making the musician’s life miserable: nitpicking in rehearsals, eye-rolling at every mistake, condescending/ disrespectful comments, etc., in hopes that the musician will get tired of it and quit. This may be less reliable than the official method, but I guess the advantage is that even if the musician stays, the conductor doesn’t have to keep quiet about his dissatisfaction.

  • BSO knew says:

    Surprise, surprise.

  • YoYo Mama says:

    I loved his repertoire but never liked the way he conducted. He turned all the beautiful colors of French music dark and murky. He apparently thought it should all sound like Berlioz, and in his world-monopoly on French repertoire, he single-handedly destroyed the great traditions of French conductors such as Ansermet, Martinon, and Monteux. Perhaps now, the managements will allow truly knowledgeable and sensitively eared conductors to replace him, Kent Nagano, being one possibility.

    • Bruce says:

      It’s funny – I love his recording of Daphnis & Chloe (mostly because of Timothy Hutchins — I’m a flute player), but if you listen to the Ozawa/ Boston recording from around the same time (late 70’s), there’s so much more life and color.

  • Hilary says:

    To the immense credit of whoever devised it, not all the questions in this quiz concern the conductors of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra so signs of a new outlook. I scored 7/10.
    https://www.theguardian.com/atom/quiz/119ec522-84c7-4b5a-852e-3abbb648eaaf/music/quiz/2015/may/11/the-berlin-philharmonic-quiz

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