Tue, Feb 05, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Swiss conductor accused of abuse returns to the stage

AP, PARIS

A renowned Swiss conductor on Sunday returned to a major world stage for the first time since 10 women accused him of sexual assault, harassment, and in one case rape — and he earned repeated ovations from the awed Paris audience.

Charles Dutoit, 82, denies wrongdoing, and has faced no charge.

The women said they feared that turning to police would have damaged their careers at the time of the alleged misconduct, between 1985 and 2010.

They revealed their accusations to The Associated Press in 2017 and last year, when many cases were too old to pursue in court.

Many concertgoers at the Philharmonie de Paris shrugged off the accusations.

However, Dutoit’s appearance shocked Anne-Sophie Schmidt, a retired French soprano who says he pushed her against a wall, groped her and forcibly kissed her in 1995 while she was performing in Paris.

Schmidt lamented the “catastrophic message” his return sends to victims of assault, and issued a statement calling attention to the allegations against him by women in three countries.

Among those sharing the statement on social media were others who have played for Dutoit.

Dutoit led a performance of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust as a last-minute replacement for the lead conductor of the Orchestre National de France, who fell ill two weeks ago.

Dutoit’s return caused divisions behind the scenes.

The orchestra allowed musicians to vote on whether to support Dutoit’s return, and a majority voted “no,” according to one woman who performed on Sunday.

The decision ultimately fell to orchestra management, which said Dutoit was the only conductor available on short notice with the necessary expertise.

Dutoit is a Berlioz specialist and Grammy winner who has conducted some of the world’s leading orchestras, but a singer who performed on Sunday said other worthy candidates were passed over for the job, without explanation.

Both performers spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing professional repercussions.

The lead female soloist, Kate Lindsey, said she was aware of the allegations, but was not consulted on the choice of conductor.

The public seemed happy to welcome him back.

Michelle Jolivet shrugged off accusations against Dutoit as probably “fake news,” then added: “I hope it’s fake.”

Her husband, Michel, said: “It’s up to justice to decide... If he’s not convicted, let him live his life.”

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