Uproar over French orchestra's hiring of conductor dogged by sexual harassment claims

A soprano has claimed she was molested by veteran conductor Charles Dutoit.
A soprano has claimed she was molested by veteran conductor Charles Dutoit.PHOTO: CHRIS LEE

PARIS (AFP) - A soprano, who claims she was molested by veteran conductor Charles Dutoit, has condemned the French National Orchestra for hiring him for a concert on Sunday (Feb 3).

Swiss-born Dutoit was hit by a flurry of allegations in 2017, with eight women accusing him of harassment and assault.

He has now been called in at short notice to conduct the French National Orchestra in Berlioz's The Damnation Of Faust, after Emmanuel Krivine dropped out because of illness.

The orchestra said it had consulted its musicians and soloists before taking the decision.

But retired French singer Anne-Sophie Schmidt felt betrayed by the decision. "I am sickened that Dutoit has been hired... when eight artists across the world have had the courage to denounce him for sexual harassment," she said.

"It is a knife in the back for those trying to stop violence against woman," she wrote on Facebook.

Schmidt told the Journal de Montreal newspaper that Dutoit assaulted her in 1995.

"He pushed me against a wall and forcibly kissed me," she said, claiming that similar things "have happened to lots of my colleagues".

Several major orchestras had severed ties with Dutoit, 82, who stepped down from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 2002 after being accused of mental cruelty by musicians who said he had acted like a "tyrant".

An internal inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment during his 25 years there closed in November, with the orchestra saying its findings were inconclusive.