Departed conductor denies sexual harrassment

Departed conductor denies sexual harrassment


norman lebrecht

June 21, 2019

The conductor Stephen Lord, who stepped down this week at Michigan Opera Theater after a spate of allegations, has given his first response via email to The Detroit News.

He says: ‘”I could fight all of this and I still might… Yesterday I had two of the world’s most famous opera singers, one from Moscow even, call. And three former employers. These are friends and people with whom I have lived and who know me inside and out and they were in tears seeing their friend assassinated.’

He adds: ‘It was very well-planned by whoever it is who wrote it. I appreciate the well-meaning MeToo movement and respect its goals. Ruining people must not be one of them.’

Read on here.



  • Herr Doktor says:

    While I believe in treating people as innocent until proven guilty, I also believe that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    It would be timely for people to re-read Dan Kempson’s article on this subject:

    I’ve also heard the rumors about Stephen Lord over the years, and I would be surprised if they are inaccurate. Also, the fact is, Mr. Lord was removed from his association with the New England Conservatory a few years back.

    If it is true that he is a serial sexual harasser, which I believe is likely, then shame on him for his putrid comments to the Detroit Free Press.

    As punishment, he should be forced to listen to nothing but Milton Babbitt and Elliott Carter for the rest of his life.

    • Karl says:

      Where’s there’s smoke there can also be a smokescreen and no fire. It’s so easy to ruin someone’s career now. Anyone who is disgruntled can shout “sexual harassment!” anonymously.

      The daycare child abuse hysteria of the 1980s became a witch hunt. Thirty years ago America was experiencing an “epidemic” of sexual abuse in day care. But it wasn’t true. Just like #metoo now. Doesn’t anyone else see the similarity?

      • Laurence says:

        I see the difference. The testimony of children can be unreliable, but we are speaking of the testimony of adults. So you believe that #metoo in general simply isn’t true? An “epidemic” all the product of diseased minds?

  • IntBaritone says:

    Glad to see Stephen defending himself, as nothing has been proven or even verified for the public. I do hope he takes some action against Basil Considine if he has a case, as publishing an article with no sources that destroys a man’s career as an act of spite is a cowardly act.

    Further, even if most of those messages that were allegedly sent exist, do we really want the music world to be a puritanical environment? And what established singer/conductor/manager/company representative has not said or done something “inappropriate”? This house of cards would topple mighty quickly if we looked into the servers of many of the top agencies. Should they all be fired? No. The difference between this and Levine/Weinstein cannot be overstated. Those were serious abuse cases. This is not, and the fact that people are losing their minds over it, shows just how far off base we have gotten.

    During my career, I have had people say things to me that are beyond the pale during rehearsals or coachings, but you go on, you take it for what it is, and you make art (I, and many others, would argue this makes you a better artist). This wave of “burn it all down” from, frankly, unsuccessful singers seems to me more of a response to their own failures and perceived causes for them. People are angry for all sorts of reasons, and this seems to be their only way of dealing with it – to ruin others. Opera is messy, it is sexual – if you can’t get to the heart of it (loin of it?) then what is the point in even doing it? The greatest singers understood this. Happy go lucky opera = a dead art form.

    • Remy M says:

      It’s people like you, just as much as the harassers and abusers, who make this industry such a horrific one in which to work. To speak out against sexual harassment is Puritanism? Do you have no respect for your colleges or fellow human beings? “Should they all be fired?” Yes. Every single person in this industry guilty of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault should and will be fired. There is no place for that anymore. None.
      And to use “art” as an excuse for abuse and harassment is absolutely disgusting. “Opera is messy”? Please. There is also no place in this industry for people like you who engage in that kind of apologia.

      • IntBaritone says:

        In no way am I using “Art” as an excuse for abuse. I’m saying there is a difference between abuse and harassment. Abuse is fucked up, criminal, and should be prosecuted. I’m also saying, that we have gone too far on the scale of what we think is harassment. Opera deals with sexuality, immorality, etc etc. To remove that would be wrong. Sorry, you’ve obviously had some bad experiences Remy, I wish that had never happened to you. But this is misplaced rage.

        • Remy says:

          In what ways does saying that sexual harassment is unacceptable in a workplace necessitate the removal of themes of “sexuality” or “immorality” from operatic works? That’s a totally nonsensical argument.
          I think it’s you who has a warped idea of what constitutes harassment. Any unwelcome sexual remark or physical advances in or related to a workplace is harassment. The vast majority of industries recognize this to be the case. Your views are perhaps only warped because this industry is such a haven for abusers.
          And in this case, Lord is accused of offering employment and professional advancement in exchange for sex. Do you really think that’s acceptable? If so I hope you’re not actively involved in the industry anymore, because there is just no place for your views in it.

    • Jaime Herrera says:

      Indeed – very well said. Bravo!! If the past were known in its entirety, nobody would be left unblemished. Why not censor Wagner or Saint Saens or Vivaldi or Paganini or Liszt or Chopin or Pavarotti or Szeryng or Kleiber or (fill in the blank) as well?

      • Remy says:

        Those who are not guilty of harassment, abuse or assault are left unblemished. If you don’t hurt other people, you have nothing to worry about.

        • Karl says:

          Not true at all. People who are on the verge of getting fired for poor performance have an easy defense now – bogus sexual harassment complaints. I’ve seen it happen. I know a woman who told me her husband had to deal with that.

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Making accusations is a technique that many people use to avoid being held accountable for poor performance or failing to get the job/promotion. We do have to accept that not every accusation is true, and that many times accusations are not made in good faith.

            Of course, my comments say nothing about the current case.

      • Laurence says:

        I believe the people you list are all dead. They are not currently the problem.

    • Ken says:

      How are Levine and Weinstein comparable to the extent of a / again? Don’t get it, probably never will.

    • Elementals says:

      What do you mean, no sources? The sources were not named in the article, but they spoke on the record.

      • IntBaritone says:

        Anonymous accusations from what could be called, at best, a blog seem obviously suspicious. Combined with the fact that Basil posted this days after SL offended a woman that Basil had helped in the past, the “article” seems less reliable. This is not a publication like the NYT or WaPo, etc, which have earned the right to suspension of judgement (not that either would ever publish something with as horrible writing or lack of named sources), and so, yeah, this comes across more as an act of cowardly revenge, citing no sources.

  • Robert Groen says:

    Deja vu.

  • Karl says:

    Just touching someone on the shoulder is considered sexual harassment now. Really. That’s what I was taught at my workplace sexual harassment training. I can’t believe how many times I’ve been the victim of sexual harassment! And I didn’t even know it until now!!

    • Donald Hansen says:

      Excellent point. Years ago I would compliment a fellow employee on her new hair style or dress. I wouldn’t dare do that now.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Touching some who doesn’t want to be touched is actually, legally, assault.

      Of course, if you tapped someone on the shoulder then I doubt that the courts would actually punish you.

  • Hmm... says:

    Not sure if saying he has lots of important friends is the best defensive strategy.