Charles Dutoit, the principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London and a major figure in the international classical music scene, is facing accusations of sexual assault from four female musicians, The Associated Press says.
In a statement on the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra website on Friday, the orchestra said it had jointly agreed with the conductor "to release him from his forthcoming concert obligations [...] for the immediate future," adding that Dutoit needed "to be given a fair opportunity to seek legal advice and contest these accusations."
AP said that several US orchestras, including in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and San Francisco, had severed ties with Dutoit, 81, over the accusations.
Assaults over years
A report issued by the news agency on Thursday said four women had come forward with accounts of being assaulted by Dutoit on the sidelines of rehearsals and performances in various US cities between 1985 and 2010.
The women told AP that they had never filed formal complaints up to now for fear that their careers might be damaged.
Dutoit on Saturday denied the allegations and said he was planning a legal defense, according to AP.
The accusations make Dutoit 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.
Dutoit, who was born in Switzerland and resides in Canada, has had a long and distinguished conducting career, taking to the podium of many highly respected orchestras worldwide.
Accusations of sexual misconduct have been increasingly leveled at prominent personalities in the arts, political and sporting worlds in recent months, with the case of famous film producer Harvey Weinstein being seen as a watershed moment for harassment victims.
Weinstein is facing a snowballing series of sexual harassment, assault and rape allegations after an original article in The New York Times brought the first accusations in October.