London orchestra releases conductor from duties

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The alleged incidents were said to have taken place at multiple locations, including in a auto, his hotel suite and in a dimly lit backstage area, the women told an investigation by the Associated Press. Dutoit was nevertheless artistic director of the orchestra's summer festival for 20 years, and now holds the title of conductor laureate there. "I alerted the orchestra manager, who told me (too late...) that they usually advised women not to enter his dressing room unaccompanied, as there had been previous complaints", she wrote.

"The Orchestra takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain a safe working environment for all its artists, musicians and staff". The company took immediate action by initiating a legal investigation, prompting Gomes' resignation.

The Royal Philharmonic statement says the facts should be determined by a legal process and that Dutoit "needs to be given a fair opportunity to seek legal advice and contest these allegations".

He was also scheduled to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in San Francisco on a tour in January as part of the Orchestra's Great Performers Series.

The women allege that Dutoit did everything from groping their breasts to restraining them and thrusting himself upon them. Retired mezzo-soprano Paula Rasmussen, now an attorney, told the AP it happened to her in a Los Angeles dressing room in 1991.

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"He threw me against the wall, shoved my hand down his trousers and shoved his tongue down my throat", she told the Associated Press. In 2006 when she was 24 years old, the musician said that Dutoit invited her to lunch in his suite at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel where he pushed himself against her, grabbed her and tried to kiss her repeatedly, she said. She refused to ever be alone with him again, she said.

The Associated Press first reported the allegations from Rasmussen, soprano Sylvia McNair and two others who asked to remain anonymous.

"And I turned around, he pushed me against the door, grabbed my hand, shoved it down his trousers and shoved his tongue down my throat", she said.

McNair, who went on to perform with numerous world's major orchestras and opera companies, said she does not feel traumatized by Dutoit's behaviour 32 years ago. He is the conductor emeritus of Tokyo's NHK Symphony Orchestra and has been music director of orchestras in Montreal, Switzerland, and Paris.

Dutoit's accusers said they felt inspired by all the women speaking out about sexual misconduct by powerful men in Hollywood, politics, the media and other industries, and ultimately felt empowered to break their silence after the Met's suspension of Levine earlier this month when misconduct accusations surfaced.

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