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Sexual assault allegations against SD Symphony guest conductor

A leader does no harm to those he leads

Charles Dutoit circa 1984. Photo credit: Erling Mandelmann
Charles Dutoit circa 1984. Photo credit: Erling Mandelmann

Several orchestras, according to an Associate Press report, have severed ties with conductor Charles Dutoit following accusations of sexual assault. Dutoit has followed that up with severing ties from his side with The New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra.

Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra mutually agreed to part ways. Dutoit had been the artistic director of the Royal Philharmonic since 2009. He remains music director of Japan's NHK Symphony Orchestra.

Video:

Charles Dutoit conducts Tchaikovsky in 1975

The term sexual assault means unwanted sexual contact which stops short of rape. There is a wide spectrum of behaviours which can fall into that definition. However, the allegations against Dutoit are aggressive in nature.

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Four women have come forward with allegations regarding Dutoit. The incidents occurred between 1985 and 2010. In a Guardian article, former Philadelphia Orchestra President, Joe Kluger, explained that Dutoit was turned down — twice — for the Philadelphia music director position because of his reputation. “I do recall telling our staff to be wary around him and encouraged them to report any inappropriate behavior immediately.” Kluger served as the President of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association from 1989 to 2005.

Dutoit is now 81 and has been married since 2010. The lack of recent incidents could be for any number of reasons. Dutoit could have aged out of his sexuality. He could be devoted to his current marriage, or there could be more allegations forthcoming.

While these incidents are currently darkening Dutoit’s legacy, will they have a lasting effect? I doubt it. There is a balancing act here. We cannot deny the seriousness of the accusations but neither can we allow these incidents to be what defines who Dutoit is and what he has accomplished as an artist. As I’ve recently mentioned, the concerts which Charles Dutoit conducted at the San Diego Symphony were the best I’ve heard the orchestra play.

If Karl Böhm can continue to be a legend after being a personal friend of one Adolph Hitler then Dutoit's status will more than likely remain for posterity. If London/Decca records decides to pull the more than 200 recordings by Dutoit then it might be a different story.

I feel as though the point of these allegations is to bring the truth of the situation into the broader conversation in order to remove that type of behavior from our culture rather than to villainize the content of Dutoit’s artistic achievements.

The allegations against Dutoit are yet another opportunity for us, as a society, to address the truth of what has been “business as usual.” Business as usual has been for men in powerful positions to abuse the authority and influence granted them.

Could Dutoit be the high caliber conductor he is without sexually assaulting women? Of course. Though Dutoit reportedly said that he needed to understand these women sexually in order to understand them musically but surely a consensual situation is the only one which makes sense.

Besides the sexual nature of this situation, Dutoit's alleged actions betray a lack of leadership. A leader does no harm to those he or she is supposed to be leading.

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Charles Dutoit circa 1984. Photo credit: Erling Mandelmann
Charles Dutoit circa 1984. Photo credit: Erling Mandelmann

Several orchestras, according to an Associate Press report, have severed ties with conductor Charles Dutoit following accusations of sexual assault. Dutoit has followed that up with severing ties from his side with The New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra.

Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra mutually agreed to part ways. Dutoit had been the artistic director of the Royal Philharmonic since 2009. He remains music director of Japan's NHK Symphony Orchestra.

Video:

Charles Dutoit conducts Tchaikovsky in 1975

The term sexual assault means unwanted sexual contact which stops short of rape. There is a wide spectrum of behaviours which can fall into that definition. However, the allegations against Dutoit are aggressive in nature.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Four women have come forward with allegations regarding Dutoit. The incidents occurred between 1985 and 2010. In a Guardian article, former Philadelphia Orchestra President, Joe Kluger, explained that Dutoit was turned down — twice — for the Philadelphia music director position because of his reputation. “I do recall telling our staff to be wary around him and encouraged them to report any inappropriate behavior immediately.” Kluger served as the President of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association from 1989 to 2005.

Dutoit is now 81 and has been married since 2010. The lack of recent incidents could be for any number of reasons. Dutoit could have aged out of his sexuality. He could be devoted to his current marriage, or there could be more allegations forthcoming.

While these incidents are currently darkening Dutoit’s legacy, will they have a lasting effect? I doubt it. There is a balancing act here. We cannot deny the seriousness of the accusations but neither can we allow these incidents to be what defines who Dutoit is and what he has accomplished as an artist. As I’ve recently mentioned, the concerts which Charles Dutoit conducted at the San Diego Symphony were the best I’ve heard the orchestra play.

If Karl Böhm can continue to be a legend after being a personal friend of one Adolph Hitler then Dutoit's status will more than likely remain for posterity. If London/Decca records decides to pull the more than 200 recordings by Dutoit then it might be a different story.

I feel as though the point of these allegations is to bring the truth of the situation into the broader conversation in order to remove that type of behavior from our culture rather than to villainize the content of Dutoit’s artistic achievements.

The allegations against Dutoit are yet another opportunity for us, as a society, to address the truth of what has been “business as usual.” Business as usual has been for men in powerful positions to abuse the authority and influence granted them.

Could Dutoit be the high caliber conductor he is without sexually assaulting women? Of course. Though Dutoit reportedly said that he needed to understand these women sexually in order to understand them musically but surely a consensual situation is the only one which makes sense.

Besides the sexual nature of this situation, Dutoit's alleged actions betray a lack of leadership. A leader does no harm to those he or she is supposed to be leading.

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