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Accuser stands by claim against Boston Symphony Orchestra

Liza Voll

Boston Symphony Orchestra guest conductor Charles Dutoit.

By Globe Staff 

A woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a guest conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra is standing by her statement that a BSO manager was aware of previous sexual improprieties involving the conductor, despite a BSO denial.

The BSO launched an investigation into longtime guest conductor Charles Dutoit after Fiona Allan said that the conductor pushed her against a wall and groped her breast while she was working as an intern at the Tanglewood music festival in the summer of 1997.

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The BSO investigation, which was conducted by an independent investigator, confirmed Allan’s account of the alleged assault and also found three other women who “credibly described incidents in the 1980s and 1990s in which they too were victims of sexual misconduct by Mr. Dutoit.”

The symphony stated that none of the women “complained to the BSO, and there were no indications that BSO management was aware of Mr. Dutoit’s alleged sexual misconduct prior to Ms. Allan’s public statements in late December and early January.”

That finding stands in direct opposition to what Allan told the Globe in a January report, when she stated that then-BSO orchestra manager Ray Wellbaum had warned her against visiting Dutoit alone.

“We’ve had some complaints, and I wouldn’t go in there alone,” Allan recalled Wellbaum telling her immediately following the alleged groping incident.

“I said, ‘Well Ray, I think it’s too late, because I just did, and I think I know why you’re telling me that,’ ” she recalled telling Wellbaum at the time. She did not give details of the alleged incident to Wellbaum, she said.

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Allan, who now works as artistic director and chief executive at the Birmingham Hippodrome in England, said Wellbaum’s warning led her to believe he was aware of previous incidents with Dutoit.

“They had a system in place,” Allan told the Globe. “The system was called: Don’t go in there by yourself. Like, we’ve had complaints, therefore the way we get around that is that we send people in pairs.”

On Tuesday, the symphony told the Globe the investigator had interviewed both Allan and Wellbaum.

“The investigator found that Ms. Allan’s account of events regarding the incident with Mr. Dutoit was credible,” the BSO said in a written statement to the Globe. “However, the investigator expressly did not share in Ms. Allan’s conclusion regarding her inferences about what Mr. Wellbaum knew concerning sexual misconduct by Mr. Dutoit. The investigator found that Mr. Wellbaum was not aware that Mr. Dutoit was engaged in sexual misconduct.”

Allan took issue with the investigation’s finding that BSO management was unaware of problems with Dutoit. “Whilst it may be true that none of the four women, including myself, who were subject to sexual misconduct by Mr. Dutoit formally reported the incidents, I stand by my previous statement that I was warned not to go into his dressing room unaccompanied,” Allan said this week via e-mail.

Allan said she was heartened by the BSO’s commitment to “creating a harassment-free workplace,” but was critical of the symphony for not contacting her more quickly with the results of its investigation.

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“[BSO managing director] Mark Volpe says they are ‘extraordinarily thankful to the women who participated in its independent investigation’ but to issue the report to the media, and not send a copy to me at the same time, beggars belief,” said Allan, who first learned of the investigation’s completion from a reporter.

Wellbaum, who continues to work with the symphony in a part-time advisory role, did not respond to a request for comment. Since the Globe’s January report, his name has been removed from the BSO’s staff and administration web page.

The symphony did not describe the nature of Dutoit’s alleged sexual improprieties or identify the three other women in the investigation, which included interviews with “current and former BSO employees.”

The BSO was among a host of symphonies to cut ties with the Swiss-born conductor after the Associated Press reported last December that four women had accused Dutoit of sexually assaulting them in a variety of cities between 1985 and 2010.

Dutoit, who stepped down early as principal conductor and artistic director of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, has previously denied charges of sexual misconduct.

He is the second high-profile conductor the BSO has abandoned in recent months following accusations of sexual misconduct. Last December, the symphony distanced itself from former music director James Levine after four men stepped forward to accuse him of sexual improprieties.


Malcolm Gay can be reached at malcolm.gay@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter at @malcolmgay