In defence of Stephen Lord

John McMurray, former head of casting at English National Opera, is first out to bat for the fallen conductor:

I have no comment to make on the allegations made by Basil Considine against Stephen Lord as I know nothing about them nor have seen any of the evidence which Mr Considine says he has. However, as ENO’s Head of Casting and then Senior Artistic Adviser between 2006-2017, I was involved in Stephen Lord’s engagement to conduct four productions for ENO. I worked closely  with him on these productions, dating back to 2009, I have served with him on competition panels, and I have participated in masterclasses with him in addition to innumerable informal conversations about singers. Throughout this time not only have I never had any cause to be concerned about his behaviour but nor have I heard from singers or other colleagues any hint of such behaviour. In contrast the opera world is small and I cannot immediately think of any previous “metoo” case which particularly surprised me.

What I am certain of is Stephen’s complete artistic integrity. I do not believe he would promote any artist in whose talent he did not believe and nor would he advocate against one for non-artistic reasons. In all my dealings with him I have never had any sense of an ulterior motive in our discussions of singers. I could not say the same for every other conductor or director I have encountered.

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    • Oh Jaime, the times are a-changin’, yet you still persist in standing in the doorway and blocking off the halls…

  • If a man can be fired on the basis of unproven allegations can he be reinstated when people he has worked with speak up for his character?

    Or does #metoo only work one way?

    • We have to stop confusing “this man is a wonderful artist and a good colleague with people in equal or higher stations of power” with “this man is not an abuser.” Abusers hide their abuse from those they respect. I know Stephen Lord, I was a recipient of his advances online, I ignored them, he did not pursue them. I believe him to be someone who craves power and wishes to be remembered as the man who single-handedly molded generations of great American singers. Young Artist Programs, like the one he ran in St. Louis, are ripe pickings for both advancement and abuse. I have a very hard time imagining that he physically assaulted or made physical advances towards many young men. I have no problem at all imagination that he dangled career advancement in front of them or issued vague threats in exchange for sexual favors. He is beloved by many in his community as an artist, but since his “home” was in America, I don’t doubt that someone at ENO would be ignorant of his reputation in the US. This is far more complicated than we would like to believe.

    • It’s rather obvious, I think, that reinstating an alleged perpetrator of sexually predatory behavior because some “people he has worked with speak up for his character” would be a terrible standard.

      She said “…”, oh, but they said “…”. Back to work everybody!

      There should certainly be a careful and thoughtful process prior to the point a person is fired or forced to resign.

    • The article makes reference to a great many personal messaging exchanges provided by those involved. While we haven’t seen them, Mr. Lord has provided only a blustery and non-sorxguc defense of himself on the grounds of his superior talent and some notion of people out to get him.

      • “Mr. Lord has provided only a blustery and non-sorxguc defense of himself on the grounds of his superior talent and some notion of people out to get him.”
        So, you would expect Maestro Lord to defend himself, even though the allegations were neither clear nor specific, never mind documented?

    • A very interesting question that cries out for further exploration. Another case for a responsible and disinterested journalist with no axe to grind, just a philosophical question.

    • No, it doesn’t work that way at all. I think it is safe to assume he didn’t proposition every artist he’s worked with… I’m sure Weinstein and Cosby didn’t assault every woman they met. Doesn’t make them innocent of the ones they did.

  • “I never saw him do it, so I can’t believe he did it. Also, he only [allegedly] assaulted artists whose talent he really believed in.”

      • Oh my goodness, you’re right. I apologize – he has not been accused of assault as yet. I got confused by his defense of that baritone accused of assault. Mr. Lord was only [allegedly] attempting to use his power and influence to gain sexual favors. But only from people he found really, genuinely talented.

        Much better.

        • Interesting, Melstep, see you’ve been editing SL’s wikipedia page as well. I smell a bit of a vendetta here.

          On topic, it’s ok to be wrong (which you were), but to continue with snarky sarcasm because you believe you have the moral high-ground is very telling.

          • No vendetta. Just regret that he wasn’t outed years ago. And your defense of him seems … motivated by something.

            You are correct – I was wrong in using the word “assault.” I stand by the sentiment of the post, however.

            And you can save the condescending tone – it has no power here.

  • I know Stephen Lord and I respect him and abilities. I remember Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart speaking very highly of him. I have NEVER had occasion to doubt his talent and ability.

    • We have to stop confusing “this man is a wonderful artist and a good colleague with people in equal or higher stations of power” with “this man is not an abuser.” Abusers hide their abuse from those they respect. I know Stephen Lord, I was a recipient of his advances online, I ignored them, he did not pursue them. I believe him to be someone who craves power and wishes to be remembered as the man who single-handedly molded generations of great American singers. Young Artist Programs, like the one he ran in St. Louis, are ripe pickings for both advancement and abuse. I have a very hard time imagining that he physically assaulted or made physical advances towards many young men. I have no problem at all imagining that he dangled career advancement in front of them or issued vague threats in exchange for sexual favors. He is beloved by many in his community as an artist, but since his “home” was in America, I don’t doubt that someone at ENO would be ignorant of his reputation in the US. This is far more complicated than we would like to believe.

      • Ken: I can understand that you were unhappy that he made a pass at you. But did he damage any singer’s career when he was turned down?

      • Do you know Stephen Lord ? It’s so easy to write a career ending story about anybody . I live in London and have always believe that you are innocent until proven otherwise so show some evidence if there is any if not shut the fuck up and let the man get back to a job that he is very good at . .

    • Congratulations on never having occasion to doubt his talent and ability. His talent and ability are not in question in this case.

    • What? His talent and abilities are irrelevant. And Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart speaking highly of him means what exactly? Is the implication here that if someone is talented and knows some famous people they are also incapable of doing bad things? No one is doubting his abilities, just how he pursues relationships with young singers in exchange for promises of work.

  • Please people. Don’t be so daft.

    Say what you will about skill.

    Just remember Pedophiles are also known to be great at their jobs.

  • Is it possible that there are artists who get propositioned and accept gladly? No one talks about that. They only talk about those who are deeply offended by an advance and call it sexual harassment. That is not to say that sexual harassment does not exist. Clearly it does. However, let us not delude ourselves into believing that the artistic world is pure and there are no artists out there who are willing to advance their careers by any means necessary. As for Mr. Lord; this is now the fourth article I have seen here regarding his dismantling. Something tells me it will not be the last.

    • I don’t understand this counterbalance of “those that are offended by an advance and call it sexual harassment” and those that agree to the act to further their career.

      How are these two related other than to pull focus on the issue at hand?

      People in power, leveraging that power over those that are significantly disadvantaged and in a finicky paper-thin industry.

      An industry where one wrong move means you are using that overpriced vocal music degree to coach young singers in rural Kansas for the rest of your days.

  • Stephen is a superb opera conductor and coach. However, I do believe the accusations of harassment are both true and, in some cases, substantiated via electronic messages. I know nothing of any assaults but I do believe that he sexually harassed artists and used his power to try to negatively impact their careers when they rebuffed his advances. The quotes in the original article are shockingly similar to statements he made to a dear friend of mine years ago. Maestro Lord told my friend that if they didn’t have sex, my friend would not be hired back. My friend was appalled; he refused and Stephen made good on his threat. The exchange was confided to me *at the time*. Lest you think that this merely a mediocre artist concocting an excuse for not being hired, this man has gone on to have a huge well-deserved career in opera. Which is precisely why he never risked making a complaint to the company.

    I’ve since learned that Maestro Lord behaved similarly with others who refused sex as a quid pro quo.

    All I can say is that Maestro Lord should sue if he truly believes that he is being unfairly accused. It’s the only way an artist is going to risk their career by going on the record other than to a journalist respecting his source’s wishes to remain anonymous. I don’t think Lord will risk a court case, however, because he knows that the accounts are true.

    If you aren’t the victim of a predator, or a close friend of a victim, you might never know that a given person is a sexual predator. It is sad, it is a loss to the opera world, but I personally believe the accusations are many – and true. Not having been harassed does not mean the harassment didn’t take place, I assure you! I am especially sad for both MOT and OTSL, but I believe they acted properly and, ultimately, in the best interests of their artists.

    • In the best interest of artist ? Wake up to the real world it was to safe guard sponsors for the coming season . It’s a business , and money is all that matters as for a mans standing who has put he’s life and soul that doesn’t matter to Detroit or St Louis . When times are hard , you know who your real friends are . Me too! come forward for your 5 minutes of fame or blame because you didn’t make it .

  • This has nothing to do with talent or ability. It has to do with sending inappropriate and unsolicited sexual messages to young singers, promising them career advancement if they slept with him.

    He has talent and ability of not giving off a predatory vibe, too. Doesn’t mean he should be around young singers.

    He also has the ability to get a known sex offender hired in his theater.

    This talent and ability has no business in a professional workplace.

  • I have known Stephen personally as well as professionally for over 6 decades. I am still more than dismayed at the allegations and find them more than questionable, as I never saw any evidence of such behavior during this long period of time.

    • As others have pointed out, there would not ever have been a reason for you to have seen evidence of this behavior. However, it seems unlikely that four opera companies would have swiftly severed ties with him had *they* not seen the evidence. Or that afterwards he would refrain from aggressively pursuing justice and recompense, if he actually believed he was entitled to it.

      • I see your point. However, as this case is still quite fresh, it remains to be seen if legal actions will be forthcoming. I myself, at 70, would question if I had the energy to do so. I imagine that the opera companies found it simpler to sever the ties in an attempt to cover themselves legally, and chose not to wait for a trial in a court scenarioo. I can’t say I’m a big fan of ‘trial by press’ in general, as it is not due process.

        • There would only be a trial if there was good evidence of a criminal offense. These things really are `civil offenses’ hence the injured party has to sue.

          It is difficult to believe any singer would sue since it would destroy their career. And Stephen Lord may be reluctant to sue the opera houses at his age, especially given the content of the electronic messages. If he keeps quiet there may always be some other opera house willing to hire him.

  • From what I’ve read, Lord’s cock-sure attitude is exactly what I would advise my clients to stay away from. He is a legal fire bomb. No legal counsel would advise a corporation or organization Dependant on donor funding in their right mind would go near his wonderful talents, regardless of what they may be.

    He’s pulling a Trump.

  • Reading this makes my skin crawl because it’s the exact same sentiment that kept Lord, and many others in that industry, in power.

    It’s most likely you were viewed as an equal colleague and were not privileged to hear his passive banter about young men with other like-minded men. Also – most likely he didn’t want to engage with you on that level, or have sex with you.

    I worked with Lord many times in the past and often had to manage his online attempts to message me with wildly inappropriate comments followed by awkward exchanges the following days.

    He is a predator. David Daniels in a predator. The gay-mafia that once led the opera world is full of predators and their complicit colleagues.

    You need to put down the opera glasses and champagne glass that is paid for by the dying aristocracy – and join the real world.

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