Classical music must protect the vulnerable from harassment

The cult of the maestro has both nurtured great performances and led to abuses of power. The industry needs a code of conduct – and a change of culture – or its future is at stake, writes mezzo Jennifer Johnston

0
215
Abusive behaviour
Orchestral players - many of whom are freelance - can be some of the most vulnerable people in the industry. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The seriousness of the allegations swirling around James Levine, the erstwhile music director of the Metropolitan Opera, has precipitated the classical music industry to ask uncomfortable questions of itself, in particular about the cultural legitimisation of abusive behaviour. Rumours have abounded in industry circles for decades about certain individuals’ predilections and activities, yet only now is there a media storm. It is fueled, it seems, by our prurient interest in – and appetite for – sex scandals, and the suspicion that major organisations may have been complicit in silencing alleged victims, to avoid the “embarrassment” of a criminal trial.

The cult of the maestro has long been endemic in classical music. A maestro is not necessarily a conductor; it can be any distinguished and authoritative figure who commands great respect, whether he – and it is almost invariably a man – be soloist, director or teacher. To a significant degree, the success of the industry depends on this cult; it encourages audiences to flock to performances to witness dazzling displays of supreme skill, ones that thrillingly plumb emotional extremes and inspire performers to reach ever greater technical and interpretative heights. Classical music, competing as it does with other art forms and music genres in an increasingly crowded market, needs the stardust of its major players.

As a singer, I have witnessed numerous incidents of harassments, when maestros have taken advantage of their positions

It is only when victims believe they will be fully supported that they will summon the courage to report their abuser

Continue reading…
Source: Opera News from the UK Guardian