Famed Chicago Symphony guest conductor accused in sex scandal

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner via WLS logo
Friday, December 22, 2017
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A world-famous conductor, who frequently leads the Chicago Symphony, is the latest subject of a sex scandal.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A world-famous conductor, who frequently leads the Chicago Symphony, is the latest subject of a sex scandal.

Globetrotting conductor Charles Dutoit is being accused of sexual misconduct in numerous cities and locations-by several alleged victims including women in Chicago.

A popular Chicago soprano confirmed to the ABC7 I-Team that Dutoit "tried to have his way" with her. She is among several women who accuse Dutoit of sexually assaulting them in Chicago and other cities across the country beginning in 1985.

Dutoit, now 81 years old, has not responded to the accusations first reported Thursday afternoon by the Associated Press.

He is currently scheduled to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in early April.

The AP interviewed three opera singers and a classical musician who described sexual misconduct in a car, an elevator, his dressing room, backstage and a Chicago hotel room.

The soprano, Sylvia McNair, confirmed to the I-Team that she was jumped by Dutoit in 1985 in an elevator while working with the maestro in Minneapolis. McNair said he pinned her against the elevator wall.

Retired mezzo-soprano Paula Rasmussen, now an attorney, told the AP it happened to her in a Los Angeles dressing room in 1991.

Dutoit is also being accused by an unnamed Chicago musician of sexually assaulting her in 2006 when he was guest conducting the CSO. That attack allegedly occurred at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago during lunch in his suite.

As with the other alleged victims, the 24 year old woman didn't file a criminal complaint, largely because of Dutoit's reputation as a star of symphonies around the world.

In a statement released late Thursday, executives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association said the allegations were being taken seriously and that CSOA would make a determination on how to proceed as more information became available.

A short time later, in a new statement, the CSOA said that in response to the allegations, Dutoit withdrew from conducting concerns with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra scheduled for March 8-11 and April 5, 6, 7, and 10 in 2018.

While the Chicago Symphony pondered a decision, the Boston Symphony on Thursday already took action, cutting ties with Dutoit, who had performed with them since 1981. The Swiss-born conductor is currently also artistic director of London's Royal Philharmonic and holds positions in Tokyo and Philadelphia.

Also on Thursday, the New York Philharmonic, where Dutoit had been scheduled to conduct next month, said he withdrew from the planned concerts. Officials at the San Francisco Symphony said they had "severed all ties" with Dutoit, who was scheduled for concerts in April.

Dutoit's accusers said they were inspired by other victims of sexual misconduct who have recently come forward.