Renowned maestro Charles Dutoit says allegations of sexual misconduct made about him "have absolutely no basis in truth." He has already been suspended from several major symphony orchestras.
The well-known Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit has vowed to mount a meaningful defense after being accused this week of serious sexual misconduct, a statement from his office said on Saturday.
Three singers and another musician alleged that the 81-year-old had sexually assaulted them while they were working with respected US symphony orchestras, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Responding to the allegations, Dutoit wrote that the claims "were as shocking to me as they are to my friends and colleagues."
"I do not recognize the man or the actions being described in the media," his statement to the AP continued.
Legal action planned
"Whilst informal physical contact is commonplace in the arts world as a mutual gesture of friendship, the serious accusations made involving coercion and forced physical contact have absolutely no basis in truth," he said, adding that he planned to take legal action.
The sexual assault incidents allegedly took place on the sidelines of rehearsals and performances in various US cities between 1985 and 2010, the AP reported.
Two of the women named said Dutoit had physically restrained them, forced his body against theirs and, in one case, stuck her hand down his pants.
The women concerned told the news agency that they had not come forward at the time for fear that their careers might be damaged. The recent allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, among other high-profile men, had given them the confidence to speak out now, they said.
Dutoit is artistic director and principal conductor at London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which said on Friday it had jointly decided that he would be relieved of upcoming concert obligations.
Seven other major orchestras have ended their relationships with Dutoit since the story was first published on Thursday, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, of which the Swiss-born Canada resident was chief conductor from 2008-12.
"Effective immediately, the Philadelphia Orchestra Association has discontinued its affiliation with Charles Dutoit and removed his title of Conductor Laureate," the orchestra said in a statement posted to social media.
Others to issue suspension notices include the Sydney, Boston and San Francisco symphony orchestras.
Meanwhile, orchestras in New York, Chicago and Cleveland quickly released statements saying that Dutoit had withdrawn his services for upcoming concerts.
The accusations make him the second major classical conductor to be recently accused of sexual misconduct after New York's Metropolitan Opera suspended its star maestro James Levine following multiple allegations at the start of December.