French orchestra overrules its musicians in hiring Charles Dutoit

Musicians in the Orchestre National de France were asked by their management if they agreed to have Charles Dutoit come in place of Emmanuel Krivine to conduct Berlioz next week.

Radio France reports that a vote was taken among 83 musicians. Sixty percent said they did not want Dutoit, who has been accused of sexual misdemeanours by eight women.

The management then said it had already invited Dutoit and it was too late to disinvite him. Quite a few players are furious.

The musicians’ union has declared itself powerless to do anything in this situation.

This is democracy in the age of Emanuel Macron.

Earlier, soprano is horrified at Dutoit’s return.

 

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  • Clovis Marques says:

    You’re misreading the official note to prove your thesis. Please read and reproduce it correctly to take into account the whole circumstances and present the facts to your readers

  • Max says:

    How I would love to sit in that first rehearsal…

  • Mike Schachter says:

    This type of consultation is popular everywhere. You ask people’s opinion and then ignore it.

  • R. Brite says:

    A little clarification: management did consult with the musicians’ official representatives (what SD is calling their union) before extending the invitation to Dutoit, who was the only conductor available among 15 or so they contacted. After the decision led to negative buzz among the rank and file, a poll of all 120 or so musicians was taken, and 83 replied.

    • Bruce says:

      Google Translate’s version: “The members of the Permanent Representation told us that they had been consulted and quickly agreed. The decision caused some stir in the ranks of the orchestra and an internal survey was organized. 83 musicians voted and 60% of them declared against the arrival of Charles Dutoit. Despite this, the management had already made its decision and it was too late to back down.”

      So it sounds like the union agreed without consulting the musicians, then organized a survey once they became aware of discontent within the ranks. The survey was done, the votes came in (83 total votes, 60% of which were against, i.e. 50, if the article is to be believed — not 120 votes, 83 of which were against: that would be a tad over 69%), and then the musicians were told “too bad, we already invited him.”

      “The permanent representation of the musicians of the orchestra considers to have found itself between the hammer and the anvil. She regrets that she did not organize the internal survey before approving management.” (Ah yes. It is with sincerest regrets that we inform you of your powerlessness and our disdain for your opinion. — That could be one way to read that, if one has been made sufficiently cynical by life experience.)

      The paragraphs quoted and “translated” are the final two paragraphs of the article, BTW.

      • R. Brite says:

        I never said there were “120 votes, 83 of which were against”. I said there were 120 orchestra members (a figure not mentioned by Radio France; I found it elsewhere), of whom 83 responded to the poll put to the whole orchestra. Of these 83 respondents, 60% opposed inviting Dutoit. It’s always so great to have to clarify one’s clarification.

        • Bruce says:

          Oh! Sorry about that. I thought I was posting a new comment, i.e. a “clarification” of the original post, not a reply to one. In fact, now that I read your comment (which I honestly don’t remember seeing before), we are posting exactly the same information.

          Since the switch to the new format, which I acknowledge happened several months ago, I have made that mistake a couple of times. So, as tempting as it is to blame a bug in the software, I’m pretty sure it was my fault.

  • Caravaggio says:

    So what the musicians must do is simply not show up or, if they do, to refuse to play. That would send no clearer a message. And the orchestra’s administration must be given the boot.

  • Thomas says:

    You write, “this is democracy in the age of Emanuel Macron”. Not really. This is just the way that things are sadly and all too often done in France, treating others with enormous contempt, arrogance and cynicism, particularly if those other people are subordinates. Things have been done like this in France well before Macron ever became president. One might ask, why did they even take a vote and then not respect its outcome? In the perverse French way of doing things the most probable reason was to show the musicians that they don’t have the final word at all, and that others hold all the power and decision making authority. Having myself worked in French companies for twelve years I have seen this sort of similar sick and twisted “game” on several occasions. In traditional French companies and institutions, the directors are like a caste apart, isolated and distant from their staff, interacting only with certain subordinates and shunning and disdaining the others. Nobody should be surprised by this, nor should anybody be surprised by the current ‘yellow vest’ movement and the violent demonstrations and civil insurrection that is taking place now. This too is a result of the contemptuous, arrogant and disdainful attitude that so many French people are subjected to on a daily basis by the ruling elite caste. The Orchestre National de France is just following the same cynical, arrogant and disdainful French behaviour when dealing with the vote of the musicians. Sad story. Sad place.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Macron has meanwhile understood the ampleur of colère and tries to rebuild a productive contact between high and low. Maybe he should also talk to the staff of this orchestra.

    • R. Brite says:

      While I don’t disagree with what you say about how things are often done in France, it’s not really what happened in this case: the musicians’ elected representatives were consulted beforehand. See my note of clarification in the main thread.

    • CJ says:

      More French bashing? Yawn…
      Come on, get over it!

  • Mark Hildrew says:

    Spineless management, asking for a vote and then overriding it ! A sorry story.

    • R. Brite says:

      That’s not really what happened in this case. It would be nice if people read earlier comments before tossing in their two cents.

      • Mark Hildrew says:

        ==It would be nice if people read earlier comments before tossing in their two cents.

        Err…the problem is that comments on SD aren’t real-time. There are good and bad points here. Mr L and his team can get rid of some of the nastier commenters (when appropriate) but also there are occasions where people post and earlier postings are still in the loop waiting to be reviewed, and hence un-viewable.

        You have to assume good intent, you know

  • Emil says:

    What in all the world does Emmanuel Macron have to do with any of this?

  • anon says:

    Believe me, neither the union not the musicians are powerless, if they choose not to be.

    A chorister at the Opéra Bastille refused to continue after intermission at a performance citing a threat to herself when she spotted a Muslim woman in full veil sitting in the audience (because terrorists buy front row orchestra seats to operas and sit through the first half before blowing themselves up just in case heaven doesn’t have French opera).

    If enough orchestra members call in sick, bye bye Dutoit.

  • Jon H says:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s Simon Rattle conducting – if the majority of musicians really don’t want you there, you don’t want a performance like that.

    • Bill says:

      Without taking a stand on whether CD is such an individual or not, if one is of the opinion that one is of such stature that forcing subordinates into unwanted physical encounters is acceptable, would it be such a great leap to forcing yourself on an orchestra and pocketing a big fee? Or a country?

  • jan neckers says:

    Once more, most people here (including Lebrecht) are probably not able to order a cup of coffee in French. Still they discuss the issue without being able to read the tekst. It clearly says the representatives agreed with the hiring of Dutoit and consequently the management went ahead. Afterwards the buzz started and a vote was organised and taken. In the last sentences of the article it says the representatives regret they didn’t think of that earlier. This clearly means it was not the management which polled the orchestra. It were the representatives.

    • Sarah says:

      Sir,
      That well may be the case, that a small group of members initially decided to hire Dutoit and then, when there was an outcry from many rank and file musicians, they decided to have a vote. In that vote 60% said that they didn’t want Dutoit to conduct them. Since that vote superseded the previous committee vote, it should take precedence, otherwise why do it? This is disgraceful and I sadly must agree with an earlier post expressing disgust for the French way of doing things. I too have been a victim of French idiocy, as a performing musician and soloist, being cheated, not paid at all, lied to, insulted, humiliated in front of my colleagues and have my quite good French berated in an open rehearsal. France should be boycotted until they learn some manners, get themselves into the 21st Century and realise that they are far from being exemplary in what they do or try to do. Actually, in my opinion, they have become quite mediocre as a society and bluster and arrogance don’t cover that up anymore.

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    Dutoit-bashing is unfortunately a favourite pastime of this website and when you can add some French-bashing into the mix you have an irresistible double-whammy. In any orchestra the representatives are in place to represent the orchestra and they apparently did just that. Instead of meddling uselessly into the internal affairs of the orchestra I wish we could get back to basics, as I have repeatedly said here ad nauseam, and ask how we can sit back and accept that a man can be hung drawn and quartered on allegations, without any proof of guilt. In this case a very credible witness disputing one of the alleged incidents was ignored. That a man can wake up to find his life, career and reputation in ruins because of unproven accusations and when, as now, he is engaged by an orchestra with courage and integrity whose aim is to have a first class conductor lead the orchestra in a great performance, which I am sure it will be, the useful idiots come out in force like jackals with teeth freshly sharpened!

    • Amos says:

      Perhaps you should read or re-read the accounts of the women assaulted here in Boston. The man is a pig regardless of his nationality and no organization with a shred of interest in maintaining a safe workplace should employ him in any capacity. The potential quality of the performance is irrelevant unless you subscribe to the notion that if you are really accomplished professionally then you are free to conduct yourself in as anti-social and criminal manner as you please. Assuming that the resident assistant/conducting fellow wasn’t up to the task just cancel rather than engaging a molester.

      • Lady Weidenfeld says:

        If you look back to the comment on these vary pages by a witness and a fellow student of the woman “assaulted” in Boston you can see for yourself what he says of the incident and about her! I quote Mark
        December 25, 2017
        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.

    • Bill says:

      I missed the “very credible witness” disputing the reports, could we have a name, so that we might learn more and draw our own conclusions?

      • Lady Weidenfeld says:

        A fellow student of the accuser who was there at the time and had this to say in December 2017 on these pages. As before, I quote Mark:

        December 25, 2017
        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.

  • Bruce says:

    I like the nickname Google Translate gives him: Charles of the roof. Maybe we could anglicize it into something like “Rooftop Charlie”?

  • Julius says:

    It baffles me that they wouldn’t hire someone younger!!! I personally know several younger conductors who are better conductors than both Dutoit and Krivine, and who are good people to boot! This is a case of managers hiring their friends and keeping the gravy train of geriatric superstars chugging along. Their blind refusal to engage the youth is responsible for the decay of classical music. This is what people ignore: the future rests on fresh names and fresh faces. These famous conductors need to be adopting and promoting understudies, and the administrations need to put them on stage!

    • Amos says:

      Agreed! I attended a BSO concert at which Krivine substituted for an ill Mackerras. I never thought the BSO was capable of performing Berlioz in a pedestrian manner. The concert was Harold and Symphony Fantastique. Forget about Munch even Ozawa would have been appalled by the wooden fingered performance.

    • Mustafa Kandan says:

      Amazing! Who are those younger & better conductors? When it comes to French music Dutoit is still as good as it gets.

    • Mustafa Kandan says:

      I have to acknowledge, among younger conductors, Alan Altinoglu is excellent in French repertoire.

  • Jamesay says:

    Easy solution. If enough musicians who don’t want Dutiit happened to call in sick o performance days there’ll be no concert!

    • Bruce says:

      There would still be a concert… the orchestra would just be packed with last-minute subs who are sight-reading most of the piece. The reviews might mention that the orchestra sounded bad, and might even blame the conductor; but by that point the tickets would have already been bought, so the impact on the orchestra would be minimal.

  • Mark (London) says:

    Musicians dont decide who is the Music Director! Berlin may like that way but thankfully “Orchestras Pets” are not common ! Suck it up players or resign !

  • Kananpoika says:

    My Hero: Lawrence Eagleburger…. When interviewed about a particular international political issue, he was asked what he thought about the French proposal. He replied….

    “Always leave it to the French to come up with something
    Ridiculous….”

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    I hear from friends who attended a fabulous Damnation de Faust this evening in Paris that the Orchestra, soloists and Charles Dutoit gave a superb performance. This was no orchestra playing with resentment under duress. They received a standing ovation, not one boo. So much for the jackals, a bad night for them!

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    For those who speak French and hoping at least some of the jackals do! There is always Google translate to get the gist of this rave review for Charles Dutoit and the French National Orchestra who clearly gave their best on Sunday night. https://toutelaculture.com/musique/classique-musique/berlioz-en-majeste-a-la-philharmonie-de-paris/

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    https://www.olyrix.com/articles/production/2780/la-damnation-de-faust-berlioz-philharmonie-paris-3-fevrier-2019-orchestre-national-france-choeur-radio-maitrise-dutoit-osborn-lindsey-pierro-mercer-batic-jeannin-krivine-article-critique-chronique-compte-rendu
    Google translate always there to help!
    Well worth reading to get an idea of how great a performance Dutoit and the French National Orchestra gave on Sunday. This one puts it into the context of the initial furore created by a few mealy-mouthed trouble makers and just how much effect they had on the night! Bravo to the orchestra for courage, faith and steadfastness!

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