Sunday, January 14, 2018


I've been posted here and there on the internet about the Levine and Dutoit sexual abuse cases. I've gotten some comments about process and the swift ending of careers in the cases of both the conductors. Herein some thoughts on process.

There was an article in the Washington Post a couple of weeks back about a sexual harassment case in a completely different part of the public world, but it's awfully similar in some ways to what happened with Dutoit, different in other ways that bear on Dutoit.

The case in question is that of Judge Alex Kozinski. Some features of the situation:
  • Kozinski has a long history of questionable behavior.
  • Multiple women attesting to this.
  • Incidents took place over decades.
  • There's a whisper network of women warning each other about him.
  • These women generally told friends and family what had happened contemporaneously with the harassment.
  • Non-denial denials: "In an initial statement to The Post, Kozinski said he would 'never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done.'"
  • The federal judiciary has a procedure for dealing with this stuff, and a judge asked Chief Justice Roberts to appoint a an investigator. Kozinsky resigned (retired) a few days later.
Kozinski was not reported earlier in part because clerking is a big stepping stone in a lawyer's career and women he'd behaved inappropriately with were concerned about the effects of complaining on their careers. That's also a feature of the Dutoit case, where the conductor could hire or not hire soloists, and it's a feature of other music business harassment cases, I expect - nobody knows how many unreported harassers there are.

Also regarding Dutoit, with several of these orchestras, he resigned ahead of being fired. What I understand is that music director contracts almost always have "morals clauses," which govern how the MD is to behave, including not making the orchestra look bad. Guest conductor contracts can contain clauses setting forth circumstances under which an orchestra can fire the conductor. I would expect that some of these do cover the conductor's behavior. So that is part of the process: Dutoit signed contracts knowing what they contained and what the expectations are.

It is difficult to set a procedure for how to handle incidents that are far in the past. There's the question of whether behavior is unacceptable or illegal. There are statutes of limitations that come into play, but an organization that has someone under contract is also not obliged to ignore reports of past bad behavior, especially when there are reports from unrelated people and the incidents took place over decades. The fact that Dutoit withdrew from some engagements is telling, also: if these incidents never happened, he is free to hire a lawyer and take action against the accusers. He is apparently not doing this and his denials are of the sort "something happened and they're interpreting it differently from me."

Earlier this week, another six women came forward about their past experiences with Dutoit. He is alleged to have raped one of these women. Several of the women went on the record, though not the rape victim. Anne Sophie Schmidt, a now-retired opera singer, says that Dutoit never hired her again after she refused him.

Dutoit's behavior hasn't been a secret. Back in 1995, journalist Natasha Gauthier reported on this; nobody denied it and no orchestras did anything about it. The Philadelphia Orchestra passed over him twice as a potential music director because of his reputation for "extreme flirtatiousness" (and what a euphemism / lie that is).

The problem isn't that abusers such as Levine and Dutoit are losing their careers because of a lack of process. The problem is that musical organizations didn't have processes in place to protect musicians and other members of their organizations.

Here's an example: Fiona Allan, who says that Dutoit assaulted her at Tanglewood, was told the following by the BSO's manager:  "Before you see maestro, I need to tell you something,” she recalled the manager saying. “Look, we advise, we’ve had some complaints, and I wouldn’t go in there alone." That was the BSO's process! What bullshit! This was in 1997, 20 years ago, when Allan was an intern at Tanglewood. So if you see the BSO claiming that they never knew about Dutoit, well, they are lying. And if the BSO knew, other orchestras knew also.

If you work at a big company, and you find evidence that an accountant - or the CFO - has embezzled a couple of million dollars, you fire that person right away, before the charges are filed or the trial is held. You can't keep someone like that around. And nobody would complain about "lack of process."

This is no different. Don't tell me all about how Dutoit and Levine's careers were destroyed because of lack of process. Their own actions destroyed their careers. It's too bad that didn't happen decades ago, before they had the chance to damage their victims' lives and careers.


CruzSF said...

Thank you.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You are very welcome.

Henry Holland said...

I apologize if I've already told this story here, please don't post it if it seems familiar.

I moved across the river from NYC to New Jersey in 1990 to take a job with a guy I'd met at the...erm...Met in 1989. In the few months I lived there, I went to the Met a lot, it was easy to get cheap standing room tickets. Even back *then* James Levine's habits were known. I mean, I walked in to a record store catering to symphony/opera recordings and the clerks were "joking" about Jimmy and his like of late-teen guys. A little later, I saw Levine by the stage door and sure enough, he was with a late teen guy. My friend just snickered "Oh that Levine.....".

I point this out as James Levine was known even by fans of the Met to have a predilection for late teen guys almost 40 years ago. For it to take this long to blow up in his face is just mind-boggling. And if record store clerks knew of his habits, for the orgs that employed him to pull the "We're shocked! Shocked I tell you!!!!" thing is really offensive.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I don't think you've told this, but yeah, everybody knew the rumors. Terry Teachout heard about Levine in Kansas City MO in the 70s; I saw some tweets on Twitter from a fellow who heard about Levine in 1995....when he was a 15 year old living in LA.