Conductor Stephen Lord, the former music director of Boston Lyric Opera and a major opera figure nationwide, has resigned from positions in Detroit and St. Louis and withdrawn from planned performances in the wake of recent allegations of sexual harassment published in the Minneapolis-based online Twin Cities Arts Reader.
The allegations, which came from “more than two dozen individuals” according to the report, included accusations that Lord sent sexually explicit messages to performers and offered career opportunities in exchange for sexual favors. The accusers were anonymous, reportedly telling the Arts Reader that they were afraid of career repercussions if they spoke out publicly.
Lord, 70, who grew up in Massachusetts and resides in Bolton, was music director at Boston Lyric Opera from 1991 to 2008 and served as artistic advisor to New England Conservatory’s opera program from 2010 to 2015.
After the claims surfaced, Lord resigned from posts as principal conductor at Michigan Opera Theatre and music director emeritus at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
He was also removed from a planned July production of “The Magic Flute” with Portland’s Opera Maine, where he had been principal conductor since 2016. According to Opera Maine executive director Caroline Musica Koelker, Lord has been removed from that position, which was that of an independent contractor, by the company’s trustees.
Lord was not immediately available to comment on the claims, according to a spokesperson for his agency.
Lord’s manager John Anderson, president of New York City-based Barrett Artists, read a prepared statement when reached on the phone. “Barrett Artists has represented conductor Stephen Lord for nearly three decades. He has worked with many of our singers over the years, and I have sent many young artists to audition for or coach with him,” said Anderson, who has managed Lord for 27 years. “Not a single individual has ever told me there were issues of any kind with Mr. Lord’s behavior towards him. Moreover, not one opera company has ever called me or my staff to report a single incidence of any of the anonymous allegations against Mr. Lord.”
Anderson indicated that while he had reached out to Lord following the Arts Reader article, he had not heard from the conductor.
Michigan Opera Theatre communications manager Erica Hobbs said that the Arts Reader contacted the opera company on June 16 to inform it of the allegations. Lord, who became the company’s principal conductor in 2016, submitted his resignation on June 17 to president and CEO Wayne S. Brown.
“While Stephen initiated his resignation, the allegations against him prompted us to accept it immediately,” Hobbs wrote in an e-mail. She said that the company had never received any prior allegations against Lord.
Hobbs said that Lord will no longer be conducting or involved with Michigan Opera Theatre, and his name has been struck from his two engagements in the 2019-20 season as previously listed on the company’s website.
Lord assumed his Detroit position following a 37-year stint at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he started out as head of music staff and moved up to become music director in 1991. He stepped down in 2017, becoming music director emeritus until his resignation, effective June 18.
Reached via phone, an Opera Theatre of Saint Louis representative declined to comment, but forwarded a statement from general director Andrew Jorgensen that said the company was “shocked” to hear of the allegations.
“We have not received any complaints or reports of harassment against this company member at our organization, but we take any allegation of possible misconduct extremely seriously,” Jorgensen said in his statement. “Given the serious nature of these allegations, we will be conducting a full and thorough independent investigation into this matter.”
Lord was previously scheduled to conduct a June 25 concert for the company, but has been replaced by resident conductor and head of music Roberto Kalb.
Reached via phone, Boston Lyric Opera spokesperson John Michael Kennedy said that Lord had not been affiliated with the company since his departure in 2008, and the company did not know of any formal or informal allegations of sexual misconduct made against the conductor.
“Obviously, any news like this is concerning and disheartening, because it puts a black mark on the industry and BLO has always tried to have an open and welcoming work environment with its artists,” said Kennedy. “We certainly feel solidarity with the artists who have been affected by this.”
On Wednesday, Lord’s staff profile was taken down from New England Conservatory’s website.
“We are deeply disturbed to learn of news reports of alleged misconduct by Stephen Lord, who held a part-time position at NEC from 2010 to 2015,” wrote Michael Sarra, vice president for communications at New England Conservatory, in a statement to the Globe. “While the institution has not received any complaints of misconduct by Stephen Lord, we take all reports of misconduct seriously and encourage anyone with concerns to file a report with our Title IX coordinator.”
Sarra added that NEC is “committed to providing a safe environment in which all members of our community are valued and can reach their full personal and artistic potential.”
Via e-mail, Opera Maine’s Koelker wrote that the company was “saddened” to learn of the allegations, and had never received a complaint of sexual harassment against Lord. “In the best interests of Opera Maine, Maestro Lord will not conduct our production of The Magic Flute this summer,” she wrote. “The performances will continue as scheduled.”
Zoë Madonna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.