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Conductor Charles Dutoit accused of sexual harassment

Charles DutoitImage copyright
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Charles Dutoit amassed 10 Grammy Award nominations between 1982-2008

Several major orchestras have distanced themselves from renowned conductor Charles Dutoit after he was accused of sexual harassment by four women.

Three opera singers and a musician say Dutoit forced himself on them, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The conductor has not responded to requests for comment from the agency.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, where he is principal conductor, has released him “from his forthcoming concert obligations for the immediate future”.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony have severed all ties with the Swiss-born conductor.

The New York Philharmonic said he had been withdrawn from conducting five concerts scheduled for January, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra said he had withdrawn from concerts scheduled in the first half of next year.

‘He pressed himself all over me’

Retired opera singer Paula Rasmussen described an incident she said occurred in Dutoit’s dressing room at the LA Opera in September 1991.

“He threw me against the wall, shoved my hand down his pants and shoved his tongue down my throat,” she told the Associated Press.

Ms Rasmussen, 52, now an attorney in the San Francisco area, said she had been summoned by Dutoit to his dressing room. She refused to ever be alone with him again, she added.

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Charles Dutoit conducts Japan’s NHK Orchestra in 2001

Another singer, Sylvia McNair, said Dutoit “tried to have his way” with her at a hotel after a rehearsal with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1985.

“As soon as it was just the two of us in the elevator, Charles Dutoit pushed me back against the elevator wall and pressed his knee way up between my legs and pressed himself all over me,” she said.

The other two accusers asked to remain anonymous, saying that they feared Dutoit could have them blacklisted from performing.

One said the conductor assaulted her three times in 2006 and once in 2010, grabbing her breasts and pinning her wrists against his dressing room wall.

‘Legal process should find the truth’

In a statement, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) said it and Dutoit had “jointly agreed” to release him from his engagements to “allow time for a clear picture to be established”.

Dutoit has been the orchestra’s principal conductor and artistic director since 2009.

“These accusations are taken very seriously by the orchestra and the RPO believes that the truth of the matter should be determined by the legal process,” the statement said.

“The immediate action taken by the RPO and Charles Dutoit allows time for a clear picture to be established. Charles Dutoit needs to be given a fair opportunity to seek legal advice and contest these accusations.”

Dutoit has conducted in the world’s major opera houses and has been nominated for 10 Grammy Awards, winning twice.

He was artistic director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, music director of the Orchestre National de France for a decade, and is currently music director emeritus of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.

The four women who have made accusations against Dutoit said they felt confident to speak after Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine was suspended earlier this month after allegations against him surfaced.

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