Rhinegold Photo credit: Larry Ho

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Charles Dutoit denies sexual assault accusations

11:35, 2nd January 2018

Conductor Charles Dutoit has denied sexually assaulting four female musicians.

The 81-year-old rejected allegations that he forced himself onto three opera singers and a classical musician between 1985 and 2010.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Dutoit has been artistic director since 2009, has cancelled the conductor’s appearances ‘for the immediate future’.

In a statement, the ensemble said it was taking the accusations ‘very seriously’ and that ‘Dutoit needs to be given a fair opportunity to seek legal advice and contest these accusations.’

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony have also distanced themselves from the conductor, and Dutoit has withdrawn from engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra.

Dutoit’s accusers spoke to the Associated Press, saying that James Levine’s suspension from the Metropolitan Opera had given them confidence. Recalling an incident from September 1991, retired opera singer Paula Rasmussen said that Dutoit ‘threw me against the wall, shoved my hand down his pants and shoved his tongue down my throat’, while singer Sylvia McNair said the conductor ‘pressed himself all over me’ following a rehearsal with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1985. The other two individuals chose to remain anonymous, fearing that speaking up would affect their careers.

Responding to the allegations, Dutoit said: ‘The allegations made against me are as shocking to me as they are to my friends and colleagues. I do not recognise the man or the actions being described in the media.

‘Whilst informal physical contact is commonplace in the arts world as a mutual gesture of friendship, the serious accusations made involving coercion and forced physical contact have absolutely no basis in truth.

‘I am taking legal advice and plan to meaningfully defend myself and I believe within this current climate, media accusations on serious physical abuse do not help society tackle these issues properly if the claims are in fact not true.’

Dutoit has received two Grammys and was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal in 2017. He was artistic director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, music director of the Orchestre National de France for ten years, and is currently music director emeritus of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.

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