SAN FRANCISCO >> Six more women have stepped forward to accuse prominent conductor Charles Dutoit of sexually assaulting them in the United States, France and Canada, including a musician who says the maestro raped her in 1988.
The women said they were compelled to speak out after The Associated Press published a story Dec. 21 detailing accusations from three singers and a musician who said Dutoit forcibly restrained them, groped them and kissed them without permission.
The 81-year-old Grammy-winning conductor emphatically denied the accusations, but eight major orchestras immediately distanced themselves from him and two launched their own investigations.
The new accusers said they were angered by his initial denial and wanted to show the scope of Dutoit’s sexual misconduct during his globe-trotting career. They said the Swiss-born conductor attacked them in Paris, Montreal and the United States over a four-decade period, starting in the late 1970s.
Dutoit had been principal conductor and artistic director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. Hours after the AP sent Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic detailed summaries of the fresh allegations, the orchestra announced Wednesday that he was leaving those posts.
Dutoit issued a statement saying he was “sickened” to be accused “of the heinous crime of rape.” ”I am shaken to the core by this bewildering and baseless charge. To this, I submit my categorical and complete denial,” he said.
During a career leading the world’s top orchestras, Dutoit has held such notable positions as music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The woman who accused the conductor of raping her said the assault occurred when she was working with him at an orchestra on the East Coast of the U.S in early 1988. The AP does not publish the names of people who say they are victims of sexual assault without their permission so, to protect her identity, the AP also is not disclosing the instrument she plays, her orchestra or the city where she said she was attacked.
The musician said she was 28 and auditioning for an orchestra where Dutoit was guest-conducting. One night, she rode the elevator up with him to their shared hotel floor, the woman said.
“As soon as I got to my room, the phone rang. It was Maestro Dutoit,” she said, adding that he told her his luggage was broken and asked for a tool used to fix musical instruments. She brought it to his room, where he quickly forced herself on her, she said.
“He came closer to me and tried to kiss me, and held my head so strongly it ripped my earring out,” said the musician, now in her 50s. “He pinned my wrists to the wall and pushed me to the bed.”
“His pants were down in a split second and he was inside me before I could blink,” she said. She said she started crying, told him to stop and that she was married, but that it made no difference.
When she blurted out that she was not on birth control, he quickly pushed her out the door, she said. “‘I’ll get some condoms and I’ll get you back,’” she quoted him as telling her.
AP spoke with three male musicians who said she confided in them after the encounter. One of them recalled she was afraid to be alone and said he served as her chaperone at subsequent concerts. Another said he urged her to report Dutoit to police but that she never did.
French soprano Anne-Sophie Schmidt told the AP that Dutoit pushed her against a wall, groped her and forcibly kissed her in 1995 at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Shortly after the opera’s run ended, she said Dutoit dropped her from upcoming performances he had scheduled with her.
Canadian soprano Pauline Vaillancourt told the AP that Dutoit asked her to dinner to discuss work issues after a performance with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in March 1981. She said he then drove her home, stopping the car to grope her breasts and other parts of her body.
Canadian musician Mary Lou Basaraba said she was in her early 20s when she was asked to interview Dutoit for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in the late 1970s. The interview took place in Dutoit’s apartment, where he put his hands on her breasts and crotch and tried to kiss her as she sat on his sofa, she said.
Fiona Allan, now 50, told the AP that Dutoit pushed her against the wall and put his hand on her breast when she delivered documents to his dressing room in 1997 while interning at the Tanglewood festival, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Allan said the Boston Symphony was aware of the conductor’s behavior and did nothing.
The symphony said it had received no complaints against Dutoit, a regular guest conductor since 1981, prior to Allan’s.
Pianist Jenny Chai said she was attacked when she attended a Philadelphia Orchestra concert in the early 2000s in which Martha Argerich, an ex-wife of Dutoit’s, was playing. Chai went backstage to meet Argerich but instead spoke with Dutoit, who she said hugged her, put his hands on her waist and back and tried to stick his tongue in her mouth.
The AP cross-checked all the accusers’ accounts with friends or colleagues they talked to about their experiences.