Allegations of buttock touching against Texas music director

Allegations of buttock touching against Texas music director


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2018

Seven women have now come forward with allegations against Richard Buckley, who was fired as music director of Austin Opera at the start of this month.

The litany of complaints include:  touching women’s buttocks, making sexual comments about their bodies, making crass jokes and giving unsought massages.

Buckley has issued this apology: ‘These accusations are very serious and upsetting. I ask for excellence from myself and everyone I work with, and at times use humour to release pressure and defuse tension. If I have ever said or done anything that has offended anyone or made them feel uncomfortable, I deeply apologise.’

He had been music director in Austin for 15 years.




  • Mark says:

    Oh, the horrendous crime of buttock touching.
    The offender is to be sentenced to a life term of studying Gloria Steinem’s oeuvre with the mandatory attendance of a daily screening of “Thelma and Louise”

    • Doug says:

      I’d opt for capital punishment before accepting that sentence.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Considering that the average time between sentencing and execution in the United States lies at +15 years, i don’t think you’d see much of a difference.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Nobody is saying it’s a horrendous crime, but it is a crime according to the law of Texas.

      • stephen Moore says:

        And so was fallatio when I worked in North Carolina, which just shows that some lawmakers are pretty stupid. And as was ever the case with sexual repression hypocritical because nobody took a blind bit of notice of it, not even the people who wrote it.

        • Alex Davies says:

          That’s a ridiculous comparison. Clearly there is no similarity at all between on the one hand a sexual assault upon somebody who does not consent and on the other hand sexual activity between consenting adults. Many jurisdictions have historically had, and, indeed, do currently have, laws which prohibit sex between consenting adults, e.g. homosexuality, anal sex, oral sex, pre-marital sex, adultery, group sex. I don’t agree with any of these laws. I think that consenting adults should be free to do whatever they want to do. But what I am talking about here is a law that is intended to protect a victim from an unwanted assault. That is not sexual repression; it is a law that protects people from being subjected to unwanted behaviour.

    • Sue says:

      Bearing in mind that the average age of contributors to these comments is 20-something I don’t think they’d even know about “Thelma and Louise”. But you could tell them something about how to humorously reject sexual overtures. Maybe.

  • James says:

    Has decency fallen so low?
    Who can tell me what buttocks are for?

    I need a drink.

  • Mark H says:

    It was a Dick touching a butt, technically.

  • Doug says:

    You realize buttocks feeling and off color jokes about massages are in fact part of the MD’s job description?

  • anonymous says:

    Oh my lord, he touched some woman’s buttocks! He should be shamed for the rest of his live and sentenced to 5 years in prison! This is getting so ridiculous.

    • Alex Davies says:

      “Some woman”? She was “a woman”. Let’s not minimise this by suggesting that the victim isn’t even quite a real person. You can imagine the Klan saying, “We put a burning cross on some negro’s lawn”, “We lynched some colored fellow”. He touched a woman’s body without her consent. That’s a crime. It’s not nothing.

      • stephen Moore says:

        A ‘victim’? The perp is compared with the Klan? Bonkers, like so much in the United States.

        • Alex Davies says:

          You are so busy being self-righteous that you can’t even be bothered to read properly. I wasn’t talking about the alleged perpetrator; I was criticising Anonymous’s choice of language. Don’t you see how disrespectful and minimising it is to say “some woman”? She’s not just “some woman”; she is an individual human being who is just as important as any other individual human being. What I am saying is that this is all too often the mindset of people who commit these offences and of the people who defend them. It’s when you are comfortable with reducing somebody to the status of “some woman” that you become comfortable with the idea of sexually assaulting that woman. By the way, I’m not sure why you assume I am American.

        • harold braun says:


  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    I’ve been in the industry for over 40 years and no one has ever touched my buttocks. And they are nice buttocks.

    Am I doing something wrong?

    I am willing to post a picture to prove it but this is a family show and I don’t want to get Norman in trouble.

      • Alex Davies says:

        Well, aren’t you two just hilarious. Nothing funnier than joking about rape and sexual assault.

        • stephen Moore says:

          The refusal to take seriously that which is not serious can be profound, as a certain poet wrote………….

        • Stephen Diviani says:

          And the context doesn’t involve ‘rape or sexual assault’, so the relevance of the quote stands. Auden is writing of the dangers of mistaking shadow for substance in public affairs, which is pertinent to the current moral panic. Anyway, is it fair to fire anybody on evidence untested in a court? I think not, while you clearly think it is fine. I thought you were American because of your reference to the Klan, and some of your views struck me as more American than English. I’m done now, but be careful though because the new puritanism could easily be turned against women’s rights: wouldn’t surprise me if women were soon being asked to cover up by all the God botherers, then it’ll be abortion………

  • Paul Davis says:

    Surely, this is the right time to warble, (or wobble- depending on fleshiness), that hoary old favorite, the well-known: “Could I but Express in Song…” – (Kodaly: Buttocks-Pressing Song).

  • V.Lind says:

    Well, we have heard from Mark, Doug, Max, James, Paul, an Old Man in the Midwest and an Anonymous, who is male judging by his text. Here’s a female point of view: of course it is all getting ridiculous, and the least gesture of what used to be known — and accepted — as flirtation has somehow become conflated with serious matters of assault and abuse of power. But as Jo Brand memorably told a panel of four men also making light of it all on Have I Got News for You a few months ago, “If I can just say, as the only representative of the female gender here today – I know it’s not high-level, but it doesn’t have to be high-level for women to feel under siege in somewhere like the House of Commons. Actually, for women if you’re constantly being harassed, even in a small way, that builds up and that wears you down.”

    She is absolutely right. Women are now acting out because they are fed up not just with major Hollywood producers derailing careers if young actresses won’t accommodate them but with their bodies and persons and EARS being constantly treated as if they were there strictly for male amusement. I think most women have a sense of proportion about these things, but everyone has a breaking point. It is not women saying hang ’em high over what is basically a tasteless demonstration by an insensitive or arrogant man. As it is, we see rapists get off with pretty trivial sentences in many cases (of the relatively few that are prosecuted successfully).

    So wake up, fellows. This is not false allegation, which outrages me as much as serious offences.This is another instance of the drip,drip, drip of treating women as sex objects and their playthings by some of the drip, drip, drips of the male part of society.

    • Pierre says:

      Thank you for that.

      As a general rule, I wonder to myself, would I let another man do that to my sister, daughter, or mother?

      • Alex Davies says:

        Yes, or your wife, grandmother, niece, cousin, friend, work colleague, chancellor of Germany, prime minister of the United Kingdom, or, in fact, any woman. Or man.

    • Stephen Diviani says:

      ‘Constantly being harassed’. Please. It is simply untrue. After 45 years working in theatre & television I have never seen rampant harassment against women. Of course, I have seen men flirting with women, men (AND women) in positions of power making unwanted advances, and heard of one director suggesting that an actress sleep with him if she wanted to be cast; as Jonas Kaufmann showed in his interview with NL you don’t have to say yes, you can walk away.This repressive witch-hunt should end. Richard Buckley should be re-instated unless more serious allegations are made and proven. I write this as a gay man who has enjoyed working with women and most definitely never, ever come on to one. I have experienced low-level homophobia, but you know what, I didn’t have a breakdown or go into therapy, I got over it.

      • Alex Davies says:

        If what is alleged is true, he has committed a misdemeanour under the State of Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 22:

      • V.Lind says:

        It’s not necessarily one man doing it over and over again. It’s that a woman is one place, and it happens, and she goes to another, and it happens again, and another, and another…that’s the build-up.

        As I tried to make clear, I do not conflate these “minor” offences — which are still indicative of a mindset — with the much more serious offences that take place. Someone is right: to some extent situations like this one are “first world problems.” But that’s like saying that to be hungry because you have not ha a chance to eat all day is not a fact because there is starvation elsewhere in the world. WE LIVE IN THE FIRST WORLD. If we can’t address and sort our own problems, we are not much use to those whose needs are diametrically greater.

        And this issue IS solvable: it has not solved itself through feminism, the evolution of men, etc. So it is being fought with campaigns, male support, institutional support, admissions, and a growing climate of opinion that says enough is enough. Attitudes basically need just a 90 degree turn to make men think before they touch or utter. And that should reduce the grosser activities of the likes of Weinstein. It may take some time and some action, but it is under way.

        I would hate to think a man could not put a hand on my shoulder as we walked along, or even joke in a lightly provocative way if he were pretty certain of his audience. I do not condone rushes to judgment, as in Montreal considering stripping Dutoit of honours in the absence of evidence. I am appalled by false allegations. But the consistency and the sheer volume that have emerged against certain people discussed here, let alone in other fields and in many private circles we will never hear about have to carry SOME weight, despite absence of evidence: sexual activities of any sort are usually carried on in private, after all.

        The sneering attitude of some here is indicative of the problem: there are some men who just do not see it. And that will be the hardest nut of all to crack — inability to see the problem is a sign of a small and unformed mind, but it is stoutly resistant to another point of view.

        • Stephen Diviani says:

          Your comment represents the reason I – and many older female feminists – have qualms about the whole #MeToo mind set. You are too proscriptive, too puritanical, too easily melding a vast range of interpersonal behaviours into one rubric: inappropriate behaviour. For which the perp should have his whole professional life ended and his character destroyed.You say that is not what you are doing & then do it. Justifying it by writing that it is by policing all levels of sexual behaviours that you can ‘reduce’ the ‘activities of the likes of Weinstein’. (Who, incidentally, has not been charged with any sexual offences.) Next thing you know, you’re prescribing what constitutes acceptable behaviour: a friend can only ‘joke in a lightly provocative way’ (whatever that means), but so insecure are you that you feel it necessary to add a caveat: only if ‘he were pretty certain of his audience’. This is nonsense, and entirely counter-factual to how people relate to one another in different situations as independent adults. The very real danger is that it will lead to injustice and oppression. Let’s take the Woody Allen case. Dylan Farrow’s accusations were first made in 1992; they were thoroughly investigated by the Yale-New Haven Hospital, the New York Department of Social Services and the Connecticut State Police. Go and research their conclusions. Allen continued to work. Now suddenly his career is trashed, he most likely won’t be making another film. So what changed? Nothing, as far as I’m aware, there was no new evidence submitted to the police, no new testimonies. This new moral panic happened, that’s what changed. One other thing: as somebody who has been in a position of power, I can assure you that try as one might it is impossible not to make some enemies.

          • Alex Davies says:

            For what it’s worth, I think you are right about Woody Allen. The allegation was investigated thoroughly at the time it was made. Medical experts found no evidence that any assault had taken place and the State brought no charges against him. The case bears some similarities with that of the British soap star Michael Le Vell. I am also sure that it is important to note that some years after this allegation was made Allen and his wife (they have now been married for over 20 years) were allowed to adopt two girls. It is simply unimaginable that the authorities would have allowed him to adopt two girls if there had been any plausible evidence for his guilt. Remember that the threshold of evidence for adoption will be significantly lower than the threshold of evidence for a criminal trial. If there had been any real belief in his guilt the adoptions would not have been allowed to go ahead. It’s not enough to say, “Well I was never actually charged.”

            But I do take issue with the rest of what you say. I am hearing this a lot these days, but I really think that people are conflating two issues about which there has never really been any confusion. I think we all know what constitutes an assault—something which is actually a criminal offence. This basically means any unwanted sexual touching. I just don’t buy the argument that this is the thin end of the wedge, the beginning of a slippery slope, etc., and that innocent behaviour is being criminalised. I think people know when it is and isn’t appropriate to touch somebody’s buttocks.

          • V.Lind says:

            I certainly do NOT think people should have their characters smashed and careers destroyed over “inappropriate behaviour” of a sort that basically causes little or no harm. And I have strong reservations about the “Me, Too” movement although I can see why it has taken flight. (Vide Jo Brand, above). I think in most cases reprimands or interviews with the people in charge of an organisation would suffice, along with a request for an admission that perhaps some activity was inappropriate and will be dropped from the perp’s lexicon.

            As for Woody Allen: hard to prove either way. The authorities could not prove wrongdoing so correctly did not proceed. I do not know the rights and wrongs of the matter, but I also do not see why his word is better than Dylan Farrow’s. As I said above, sexual activity is usually conducted in private, and so there will often be a dearth of evidence. All these high profile men, from Weinstein and Dutoit and Levine to all the others, are denying all accusations. As such, it is very hard for the courts to proceed against them. But people’s activities and proclivities are also known in their environments, and these talented people have not been fired, suspended, released from activity or whatever without some strong suspicion from people who knew them that there was truth in at least some of the allegations. When dozens of women come forward with similar tales about the same person, you have to start wondering.

            I don’t consider myself puritanical. I would prefer an atmosphere in which casual congress between the sexes was enjoyed by all involved. And I do not like exaggeration of “offence.” I remember some years ago a Canadian Minister of the crown, John Turner, patted a female MP — I don’t recall if she was a Minister herself at the time — on the backside, in public. She created an almighty feminist roar about sexual harassment, which I thought, then and now, was in far excess of what the gesture had meant. He was an old-fashioned sort of man, and probably meant no slight at all. It’s a bit like a certain generation, now fading, that refers to Negroes rather than blacks or African-Americans — they have missed some of the discussion on people’s preferences. But perhaps Iona Campognolo — the lady in question — had been patted on the bum once too often. However, I felt she should have tackled Turner privately to state her objections to his action, and at most written something — maybe an op ed — saying such actions were indeed inappropriate and ought to be curtailed.

            A sense of proportion is required. But men must come to grips with the fact that women are not there to be patronised or played with for their own amusement or gratification. A little more respect all round would be a good thing. What consenting adults do is their own business, but it’s time to leave off the notion that men can do whatever they like and exploit women just because they are there.

    • Doug says:

      It must be sad being your boyfriend, er, girlfriend, er, what’s the current non-binary nelogism you currently use?

      • Bruce says:

        “Significant Other.” The term has been around since the 1970’s and was originally intended to describe heterosexual non-marital relationships.

  • Alex Davies says:

    Come on, all you people who are trying to make out that this isn’t a big deal. Touching somebody else’s buttocks without their consent is a sexual assault (at least to use the term used in English/Welsh law). It’s wrong and it is against the law. Would you let some guy get away with touching the buttocks of your mother, wife, sister, daughter, niece, female friend, etc? Or for that matter your father, husband, brother, son, nephew, best mate, etc? I doubt it. No more excuses, no more minimising. Assault is assault. You’re not entitled to touch somebody else’s body just because you want to.

    • stephen Moore says:

      ‘Would you let some guy get away with touching the buttocks of your mother, wife, sister, daughter, niece, female friend, etc? Or for that matter your father, husband, brother, son, nephew, best mate, etc?’

      Probably, but it would depend on the circumstances. I once had my bottom groped by a woman at a wrap party, who told me that she had wanted to do it since filming began. I didn’t mind in the least & it certainly wasn’t a sexual assault. It was fun. The problem with your slightly hysterical argument is that it diminishes real sexual crimes. Anyway, when you read daily of the horrors perpetrated on women across the world, where they tortured and murdered, it’s difficult to understand why you are so worried about bottom slapping. Talk about First World ‘problems’.

      • Alex Davies says:

        Flawed reasoning. Just because something isn’t the worst possible thing you can imagine it doesn’t mean that it’s ok. Sexual assault may not be as serious as torture and murder, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem. Furthermore, one of the reasons why it is a problem is because it defines the whole culture in which we live. Once you begin to say that it’s ok to touch a woman’s buttocks without her consent, that provides the basis for the culture in which men like Max Clifford were able to operate. It’s about having respect for the dignity of the human person. Today we are talking about a man touching a junior coworker’s buttocks without her consent. Tomorrow we may be talking about a man rubbing up against a woman on public transport, covertly filming up women’s skirts, a doctor performing an intimate examination that wasn’t medically necessary, a man shouting obscenely at a woman in the street, touching a woman’s breasts without her consent in a nightclub, posting revenge porn on the internet, and so on. None of this amounts to torture or murder, but it’s all part of the same mindset: the idea that it’s ok to violate another person’s dignity and integrity.

        • Stephen Diviani says:

          I just don’t think that there is any comparison between Max Clifford and the abuse of underage girls and physical contact between adults in a work situation – especially a rehearsal context – involving patting a woman’s bottom. And as for your referencing night clubs, have you been to a straight disco? Not long ago, I was taken to one, partly as a joke because I am gay, and I could not believe what I saw going on, with girls lifting their T-shirts and pushing their bare breasts into lads’ faces. Some lads look to be enjoying it, so who am I to judge. I’m afraid I ran away. It made most gay discos look like sedate tea parties.

          • Alan says:

            Agreed Stephen! While being straight (and no great Lothario) I have encountered many sexually aggressive and sexually permissive women over 40+ of my adult years. Was that not a part of the “swinging 60s” that so-called casual sex made headlines and was entirely acceptable? But now someone touches a buttock? Tells a sexually offensive joke? Horror. Please let most of them to all get real lives!

        • Alan says:

          Rubbish.I am male and have had my “buttocks fondled” by a woman. Should I have had her exposed in public? Arrested? For god’s sake get a grip! It is the 21st Century, an era where men and women can say “no.” This whole #MeToo# rubbish is what it is – rubbish. The pathos is tangible and self-seeking.

    • James says:

      Is it not equally a big deal NOT to defend oneself against unwanted deliberate contact on the spot:

      Hands off!
      No thanks.
      Get lost!
      Take that! (whack, slap, kick)
      Beat it
      Take a hike….

      but to yield to said vulnerability and powerlessness, storing up ever more grapes of wrath for a more propitious day? If one’s priorities tend to maintaining
      a career, say, as opposed to one’s own self-respect, is one not doing just the wrong thing? What’s done cannot be undone, as any fool knows.

      Poor dear V.I.Lenin would say ‘you run with the wolves, you howl with the wolves’,
      a good take on all too human behavior.

      • Alex Davies says:

        I don’t think it’s always as simple as you make it out to be. I’d like to know how you would react to being sexually assaulted. I don’t think it’s always as simple as having the presence of mind and the certainty to fight somebody off physically or verbally at the time.

        I’m sure we’ve all been in situations in which we look back and reflect that we probably didn’t respond very constructively at the time. For example, I used to have a coworker who held some pretty repellent views, e.g. disabled people should be compulsorily/forcibly sterilised, unborn disabled children should be compulsorily/forcibly aborted, mentally disabled and mentally ill offenders, including children, should be executed. One day she was holding forth and I simply didn’t know what to say or do. To make matters worse, this was a Christian organisation, and I’m sure that the management would have agreed that her views were incompatible with the organisation’s aims and values. She had no concern for the fact that there were people in the office who had mentally and physically disabled and ill family members. I’d probably know how to handle it now, but I was young and had never come across anything like it before.

  • SVM says:

    As V.Lind explains, whilst the physical impact of this type of molestation may seem minimal, the psychological impact is potentially enormous, in that it makes the victims feel vulnerable and powerless in their personal space. Now, some instances of such physical contact are genuinely accidental and unintentional (despite one’s best efforts), and, provided that the person responsible had not been careless and apologises for his/her mistake immediately, I think it would be unfair to vilify him/her. However, where such physical contact is deliberate (or occurs so often and/or in a context such that the person responsible could be described as unreasonably careless), I have absolutely no sympathy for the perpetrator: it is unprofessional and unacceptable behaviour.

    • Alex Davies says:

      I’ll second everything you say, and I’ll add that it’s not just unprofessional and unacceptable, it’s against the law of Texas (and any other civilised jurisdiction).

  • Bruce says:

    Thank you, V. Lind.

    By the way, here are the US Dept. of Justice’s definitions of “sexual assault”

    Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

    and “sexual harassment:

    Sexual harassment occurs when employment decisions affecting an employee, such as hiring, firing, promotions, awards, transfers or disciplinary actions, result from submission to or rejection of unwelcome sexual conduct. Sexual harassment can also be any activity which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment for members of one sex, whether such activity is carried out by a supervisor or by a co-worker. This could include such workplace conduct as displaying “pinup” calendars or sexually demeaning pictures, telling sexually oriented jokes, making sexually offensive remarks, engaging in unwanted sexual teasing, subjecting another employee to pressure for dates, sexual advances, or unwelcome touching.

  • Sam says:

    This story has already received more comments than the announcement of Dimitri Hvorostovsky’s passing. How utterly depressing and upside down is our world…

    • Bruce says:

      Well, to be fair, there’s not much room for debate about Hvorostovsky’s death. Whether we think he was a great singer or not, we all agree (I think) that his death was tragic and much too early. Also it’s not really possible to argue about whether he’s actually dead, or some group of people with a warped social agenda just thinks he is.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    ” I ask for excellence from myself and everyone I work with, and at times use humour to release pressure and defuse tension.”

    It’s humor, he says. That was the best he summon for humor. That was his reliable go-to for humor.

    Har dee har har.

    Was his assessment of his competence in other areas as un-humorously mistaken?

  • Rob says:

    Wow, bottom of the barrel?

  • Sue says:

    Just about the only person making sense (as does one particular below-the-line comment):

    • Alan says:

      Indeed someone indeed making sense but let no-one disturb a good “witch-hunt”. Will common-sense never prevail? “He touched my buttock (gasp) and used humor.” Obviously not enough. Reverse Salem? The gas chamber? But we are all so precious today.