Conductor Charles Dutoit denies 'forced physical contact' claims

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Charles DutoitImage source, Rex/Shutterstock
Image caption,
Charles Dutoit amassed 10 Grammy Award nominations between 1982 and 2008

Renowned conductor Charles Dutoit has said allegations by a number of women of "forced physical contact" have "absolutely no basis in truth".

Dutoit issued a statement after the Associated Press news agency reported three opera singers and a musician as saying he had forced himself on them.

Dutoit said he was taking legal advice and planned to defend himself.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has cancelled its principal conductor and artistic director's appearances.

The RPO said on Friday it had "jointly agreed" with Dutoit that he would not appear "for the immediate future", following the allegations.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and New York Philharmonic have been among those distancing themselves from the Swiss-born conductor.

Dutoit's statement read: "The allegations made against me are as shocking to me as they are to my friends and colleagues. I do not recognise the man or the actions being described in the media.

"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 continued: "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."

One of the accusations reported by AP was from retired opera singer Paula Rasmussen, who alleged that Dutoit had "shoved my hand down his pants and shoved his tongue down my throat".

Another singer, Sylvia McNair, alleged Dutoit "tried to have his way" with her at a hotel after a rehearsal with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1985, AP reported.

The four women who have made accusations against Dutoit said they felt confident to speak after Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine was suspended earlier this month after allegations against him surfaced. Mr Levine says the claims are "unfounded".

The RPO said the accusations against Dutoit were being "taken very seriously by the orchestra".

It said: "The immediate action taken by the RPO and Charles Dutoit allows time for a clear picture to be established. Charles Dutoit needs to be given a fair opportunity to seek legal advice and contest these accusations."