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Leading Orchestra Fires Conductor After Sexual Misconduct Allegations Widen

Daniele Gatti has been fired from his post as chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.
Pablo Faccinetto
Daniele Gatti has been fired from his post as chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, considered one of the world's top orchestras, has fired its conductor, Daniele Gatti, after two women publicly accused him of sexual misconduct. A statement published Thursday on the orchestra's website notes that it has "terminated the cooperation with chief conductor Daniele Gatti with immediate effect."

The firing comes in the wake of a July 26 Washington Post article which outlined accusations made against Gatti by two female singers who had worked with him.

In the Washington Post article, soprano Alicia Berneche alleges that in 1996, while she was enrolled in a young artist program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Gatti forced himself on her. After inviting her to his dressing room, she says, she found "his hands on my rear end and his tongue down my throat." Another soprano, Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet, told the paper a similar story about having to push Gatti off of her during a run of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman in Bologna, Italy.

In its statement, the Concertgebouw Orchestra says that since the Washington Post story was published, a "number" of female colleagues in the symphony have come forward and "reported experiences with Gatti, which are inappropriate considering his position as chief conductor. This has irreparably damaged the relationship of trust between the orchestra and the chief conductor."

On Thursday, the conductor issued a new statement through his lawyer, saying that he is "extremely surprised" and "firmly denies all sorts of allegations." The statement from Gatti's lawyer also states: "The Maestro has asked his lawyers to protect his reputation and to take all needed actions should this smear campaign continue."

Previously, Gatti made two other, separate apologies since the two women's allegations were initially published by the Washington Post.

In the Washington Post's initial coverage, Gatti, 56, said via a spokesman, "Every time I have approached someone, I have always done it fully convinced that the interest was mutual. The facts referred to took place a long time ago, but if I have offended anyone, I sincerely apologize."

But in a second statement, released July 28, after securing the services of a PR firm called Reputation Doctor, Gatti said, "Today and moving forward, I plan to focus much more on my behaviors and actions with all women. This includes women both young and old, to be sure no woman ever feels uncomfortable ever again, especially women that I work with in my profession in classical music. I am truly sorry."

Gatti is the latest in a series of classical musicians and administrators to face consequences since allegations against them surfaced in the Washington Post story. Violinist William Preucil was suspended from his post as concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and has resigned from his high-profile teaching position at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Bernard Uzan, a veteran artist manager and co-director of the Florida Grand Opera's young artists program, has announced that he is leaving the field of music altogether.

Gatti became the Concertgebouw's chief conductor in September 2016 after his post in Paris as the music director of the Orchestre National de France. He has led orchestras and opera houses in Rome, London and Zurich, while conducting important opera productions at New York's Metropolitan Opera and at Bayreuth in Germany.

Concertgebouw officials say that all future concerts scheduled with Gatti will "proceed with other conductors."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.