Tuesday 23 April 2019

Conductor Charles Dutoit denies sexual assault allegations

He said he was taking legal advice.

Conductor Charles Dutoit (Kyodo News via AP)
Conductor Charles Dutoit (Kyodo News via AP)

By Joe Nerssessian and Sherna Noah, Press Association

Renowned conductor Charles Dutoit has denied allegations of sexual assault, saying they have “absolutely no basis in truth”.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) principal conductor and artistic director said he was taking legal advice after he was accused by four women of forcing himself on them.

He said the allegations were “as shocking to me as they are to my friends and colleagues”.

On Friday, the RPO cancelled its principal conductor appearances, while symphonies in Boston and San Francisco in the US and Sydney in Australia severed ties with him.

Classical orchestras in New York, Chicago and Cleveland have also announced that the Swiss-born 81-year-old has withdrawn his services for forthcoming concerts.

Dutoit said on Saturday: “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.”

The Associated Press had four accounts from three opera singers and a musician alleging that Dutoit attacked them on the sidelines of rehearsals and performances with orchestras in five cities — Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Saratoga Springs, New York.

They alleged that the incidents occurred between 1985 and 2010 in a variety of places, including a moving car, Dutoit’s dressing room, a hotel lift and his suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.

The RPO said Dutoit had been released “from his forthcoming concert obligations with the orchestra for the immediate future”.

In a statement, it said that the orchestra and Dutoit have “jointly agreed” to release the world-renowned conductor to “allow time for a clear picture to be established”.

Dutoit was appointed artistic director and principal conductor of the RPO, billed as “Britain’s national orchestra”, in 2009 after a decades-long association with the orchestra.

The RPO said in a statement: “As a leading international ensemble, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is committed to the highest standards of ethical behaviour…

“The orchestra takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain a safe working environment for all its artists, musicians and staff.

“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 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.”

Press Association

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