The Boston Symphony Orchestra has ended its relationship with renowned conductor Charles Dutoit – who was recently in Australia for performances with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra – following allegations that he sexually assaulted four women between 1985 and 2010. Dutoit has served as guest conductor with the BSO since 1981.

“Given the extremely troubling allegations against Charles Dutoit reported by Associated Press this morning, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will end its relationship with him and he will no longer appear as a guest conductor,” the BSO said in a statement. “The Boston Symphony Orchestra is committed to a zero tolerance policy towards anyone who exhibits inappropriate behavior in the workplace, and behavior that runs counter to these core values will always be met with serious consequences.”

The announcement follows a report by The Associated Press in which four women – three opera singers and an instrumentalist – accused the 81-year-old Swiss conductor of sexually assaulting them. Dutoit has yet to comment publicly on the allegations.

“He threw me against the wall, shoved my hand down his pants and shoved his tongue down my throat,” now retired mezzo-soprano Paula Rasmussen told The Associated Press, referring to an incident that allegedly took place in Dutoit’s dressing room in at the LA Opera in 1991.

Two-time Grammy-winning soprano Sylvia McNair claimed Dutoit “tried to have his way” with her in an elevator 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.

Two other women spoke to The Associated Press, but asked not to be identified for fear of being blacklisted in the industry. None of the women filed formal complaints, though The Associated Press reportedly spoke to colleagues and friends of the accusers who confirmed that the women shared details of their experiences at the time.

The allegations against Dutoit, who is also Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, follow a series of allegations made against another high-profile conductor, James Levine, who was suspended by the Metropolitan Opera in New York following allegations of sexual abuse.

“I never went to the police. I never went to company management. Like everyone else, I looked the other way,” said McNair. “But it is time now to speak out.”

Update: Sydney Symphony Orchestra Responds to Dutoit Allegations


Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine