Montreal Symphony launches probe after Dutoit allegations

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Montreal Symphony launches probe after Dutoit allegations

SAN FRANCISCO - A Canadian orchestra launched a sexual harassment investigation after receiving a complaint that named renowned conductor Charles Dutoit, a spokesman said Sunday.

The probe by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, where Dutoit served as music director for nearly 25 years, comes after The Associated Press on Thursday reported allegations against him by three opera singers and a classical musician who said he sexually assaulted them in incidents between 1985 and 2010.

His first public response to the allegations was defiant.

“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 statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Dutoit’s office issued a statement saying those allegations “have absolutely no basis in truth.’’ An email to his office seeking comment on the new complaint was not immediately returned Sunday.

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra said its executive committee on Saturday decided to have an independent third party conduct an investigation following the complaint to “establish the relevant facts’’ and make recommendations on how to prevent sexual harassment.

Spokesman Pascale Ouimet confirmed that the complaint refers to Dutoit. He also said it was not made by two women named in AP’s story.

The four women who spoke to AP said the Swiss-born conductor physically restrained them, forced his body against theirs, sometimes put his tongue in their mouths and, in one case, stuck a woman’s hand down his pants.

Eight major symphonies have ended their relationships with Dutoit since AP’s story was published.

The 81-year-old Dutoit is artistic director and principal conductor at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. The orchestra said Friday it had jointly decided with Dutoit to relieve him of upcoming concert obligations.

The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Sydney, Boston and San Francisco symphonies announced they were cutting ties with Dutoit, citing the “serious nature of the allegations’’ detailed by the AP. Meanwhile, orchestras in New York, Chicago and Cleveland quickly released statements saying that Dutoit has withdrawn his services for upcoming concerts. He was scheduled to appear at the New York Philharmonic next month; the other performances were scattered through 2018.

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