Tuesday, January 02, 2018

More on Dutoit and Levine

It's been a couple of weeks since the allegations about Charles Dutoit came out.  Here are some follow-up articles about him and about James Levine.

Dutoit Denies Accusations (AP) Dutoit's comments; apparently he thinks that whatever happened was "informal physical contact." We'll see whether he actually takes legal action to defend himself.
"The allegations made against me are 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," Dutoit said in a brief statement emailed to the Associated Press.
"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. I am taking legal advice and plan to meaningfully defend myself and I believe within this current climate, media accusations on serious physical abuse do not help society tackle these issues properly if the claims are in fact not true."
By the time this article was published on December 23, Dutoit had withdrawn from or been relieved of engagements with eight (8) orchestras in the US, Europe, and Australia.

Montreal Symphony Orchestra Launches Probe (AP) This probe, at an orchestra where Dutoit was music director for 25, involves a fifth woman, in addition to the four who had previously come forward. These days, Dutoit is a guest conductor there only.

Dutoit Out at Eight Orchestras (AP) "The four women who spoke to AP said Dutoit attacked them on the sidelines of rehearsals and performances with orchestras in five cities — Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Saratoga Springs, New York. All four told the AP they never filed formal complaints because they were young and Dutoit was the maestro; they figured they would lose their jobs, not him."

Mark Swed says some dumb things about James Levine: Among other comments: "The age-old discussion of whether you can separate art from the artist has once more been ignited." No, Mark, he's not dead and buried, like Wagner, where that is the issue. The problem with Levine is whether someone who committed unethical acts should be hired to conduct, especially given his enormous stature and influence. This is someone who could and possibly still can make or break careers. How much power do you want to give him? Do you want to let him anywhere near, say, 16-year-old, male, aspiring singers?

More stupidity: "But before everyone starts throwing stones, let me point out that we make peace with politicians, Wall Street and Silicon Valley. We convince ourselves that this is the way things must be because it is the culture, until we get a Weinsteinian shock." Speak for yourself, Mark. Women have been trying to get this crap changed for, you know, decades. (Centuries?) You're old enough to remember Anita Hill, right?

And more: "It would not be unreasonable to assume that the young Levine lacked emotional maturity. The most successful musicians spend much of their lives alone practicing. They bask in praise. They attend conservatories, institutional hothouses where they hone their aggressively competitive skills to make it to the big time. They are pawns of the Wilfords, who look after careers, not lives." Oh, come on! It is amazing how many men manage not to be sexual abusers.

And more: "Levine also brought the Met into the 20th century, greatly expanding the repertory." Mark, take a look in the goddamn Met archives. This just isn't very true.

And more: "Not coincidentally, opera is an art form that abounds in the value of forgiveness and the potential for redemption." SO? Real life doesn't work that way. This is a terrible, terrible argument. Is it...a call for the men abused by Levine to forgive him? Did you read about how the abuse eroded their confidence and affected them for years and decades?

Nobody is disputing the greatness of Levine's musicianship. That's not the question and it's not central to whether he should continue to work and in what position. The question is the extent of his past acts of abuse - do you really believe they stopped in the 1970s? - and whether or not he should continue to work. (His health problems also bear on whether he should continue to conduct.)

UPDATE, re Swed: He's making lots of attempts to explain and excuse Levine, and none to hold him responsible. That's the problem.


AJ said...

On Levine, the press failed to realize that his credibility is negligible. Sadly, he lied outright about having Parkinson's Disease for years. Only after it was impossible to conceal the symptoms did he (and the Met) admit the truth. An accurate summary of the history of this untruth, complete with citations to the published documents, can be found in the Wikipedia article on the conductor (see last paragraph of section designated "health"). When one is dishonest about a hardly shameful physical condition apparently to stave off questions of competency, then the chances that individual would not lie about shameful wrongdoing far more threatening to employment are obviously pretty slim. His denial thus carries no weight.

Unknown said...

Wake me when the Mark Sweds recognize they are as much of the systematic problem as are the Weinsteins, Levines, and Dutoits.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think that the Met must have known about Levine's health, Parkinson's and all. They concealed the news about that fall for what, a year? Quite a long time, anyway, and very irresponsibly.

I think that his health problems were so debilitating that he should have retired from conducting a few years ago. Reports about the orchestra having to follow the concertmaster, etc. are just....very sad.

And yeah, re Swed.