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The sex lives of conductors

Norman Lebrecht examines the sordid underbelly of conducting where sex is considered a perk of the job

Norman Lebrecht

I once knew a great conductor who claimed that he never boarded a plane to a new orchestra without a tube of lube in his pocket. Just in case he got lucky (which he often did).

Conductors are migratory birds who fly where their agents point them, hopping from one hotel bed to the next. There is no shortage of bright young things on an orchestra’s staff and besotted fans backstage who are open to a wink and the whisper of a room number. A maestro is never alone for very long.

Sex is one of the perks of conducting. Mostly, it’s consensual. My middle-aged maestro would sit up half the night reading poetry to a young woman before he made anything so crass as a lunge. Down the years, there have been few complaints about maestro sex. Seduction techniques vary. An opera conductor I know makes eye contact at the first rehearsal with younger members of the chorus, one by one, until someone stares right back.

Inevitably, in so gregarious an activity as opera, everyone knows. They have always known. They knew that Wilhelm Furtwängler’s secretary would bring a woman to his dressing room before a concert. They knew that Georg Solti was a Lothario at Covent Garden (he told me so himself). They knew that certain Italian maestros were too free with their hands, that Leonard Bernstein preferred young males, that an early music master was a philanderer.

They also knew that there were certain conductors with whom you did not go alone into a room. Interns were warned about them. Not always in time.

All this has tended to be seen in the musical world as a joke. And this has, on many occasions, given cover to greater abuses, which are only now coming to light.

The most serious case I know of is the soloist in her late teens who was summoned to the conductor’s room in one of Europe’s most famous halls an hour or so before a concert to discuss a few points in the score. She emerged a while later, sobbing uncontrollably. She had been raped, and she still had to go on stage, perform a concerto, and take a bow with her rapist. I have tried to persuade her to speak out, but she — understandably — wants to get on with her life and is probably still more than a little afraid that the man who raped her can, after all these years, still damage her career. Several music insiders saw her come out of that green room. Nobody confronted the aggressor.

Because sex is taken for granted as a conductor’s prerogative. Never an act of love, it is a raw and explicit expression of power. The deal is: sleep with the maestro, or you’ll never work again.

Far more pervasive is the power of silence. An American administrator contacted me recently to report that, while he was a twentysomething music staffer at the Metropolitan Opera, the Met’s long-serving music director James Levine approached him and ‘stuck his hand down my pants’. The young man indicated that he was not interested.

From that day on, the young staffer was shut out of all music activity in the building. No one, he says, wanted anything to do with him because Levine — or those around him — had put out word that he was persona non grata to the music director. Like a Premiership footballer who is benched by the manager, all he was ever told was ‘you’re not good enough’. The ostracised victim in this case had enough sense to get out and make his life far from the maddening Met. Others stay on in a state of demoralisation until they are unfit for work.

Levine was suspended from conducting at the Met last month after claims that he molested young men in Chicago, Boston and New York, which he denies. The allegations have not been tested in a court, and may never be resolved. What is undeniable, however, is that anyone at the Met who did not get on with Levine during the 41 years he was music director had absolutely no future in the place.

Abuses of power are not random or incidental. They are as routine in music as they are in Putin’s Russia, where all authority flows from a short man with a little stick. It is rare for that authority to be challenged and rarer still for the challenger to survive.

As the writer who exposed The Maestro Myth at book length a quarter of a century ago, I am encouraged that victims of sexual assault have now found the courage to breach the taboo of silence. But the denial is not over. Montreal, unaccountably, has yet to begin its investigation and the Met has made clear it may never publish its findings. Without a commitment to transparency, the likelihood of further abuse remains.

In 2000, when James Levine was named music director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra, whose players are as young as 16, I asked the festival’s founder, Martin Engstroem, if he knew the risk he was taking. He assured me that special precautions had been put in place. When the accusations against Levine came to light last month, Engstroem professed himself ‘disturbed and saddened by these accusations’. Levine’s successor at Verbier was none other than Dutoit. Engstroem would have been shocked again.

At present, there are two frontline music directors who regard the workplace as their private casting couch without being accused of anything untoward. They may be more careful in future but the compulsion will not abate because the cause is embedded deep in the maestro psyche.

One podium giant of pre-Viagra times told me he decided to retire from conducting the day his virility wilted. Without a sex drive, he could not face an orchestra. The relation of baton and penis is more powerful than many maestros are prepared to admit. For this to change, we need to see more women on the podium. Once the gender balance shifts, sex should be less of an issue.

Norman Lebrecht is author of The Maestro Myth: Great Conductors in Pursuit of Power.


publicado às 05:47

Não se pode ler muito sobre este assunto

por beatriz j a, em 12.02.16



The Sexual Misery of the Arab World

Women are a recurrent theme in daily discourse, because the stakes they personify — for manliness, honor, family values — are great. In some countries, they are allowed access to the public sphere only if they renounce their bodies: To let them go uncovered would be to uncover the desire that the Islamist, the conservative and the idle youth feel and want to deny. Women are seen as a source of destabilization — short skirts trigger earthquakes, some say — and are respected only when defined by a property relationship, as the wife of X or the daughter of Y.


Religious authorities have issued grotesque fatwas: Making love naked is prohibited; women may not touch bananas; a man can be alone with a female colleague only if she is his milk-mother, and she has nursed him.

Sex is everywhere.

Especially after death.

Orgasms are acceptable only after marriage — and subject to religious diktats that extinguish desire — or after death. Paradise and its virgins are a pet topic of preachers, who present these otherworldly delights as rewards to those who dwell in the lands of sexual misery. Dreaming about such prospects, suicide bombers surrender to a terrifying, surrealistic logic: The path to orgasm runs through death, not love.


...porque se fica mal e doente quando se pensa no sofrimento e o desperdício de talentos e de boas vontades de tantos milhões de mulheres às mãos destes tarados sexuais patológicos dos religiosos muçulmanos. Atrasados mentais no verdadeiro sentido da palavra. Nem com mil anos de terapia estes anormais melhoravam. Só pensam em sexo e são burros e sádicos e têm prazer em serem ignorantes e cruéis. A quantidade de psicólogos e psiquiatras que ganham a vida à custa das religiões... E isto não tem volta atrás se de fora estas mulheres não forem ajudadas a escapar a este suplício e escravatura. Acho um escândalo fazerem-se negócios com estas sociedades. 

A cena das religiões com o sexo e a culpa e só pensam em sexo e em controlarem a vida sexual das mulheres. Entra-se em depressão se nos pomos a imaginar o que é viver naqueles países. Aqui já é o que é, imagine-se lá. As miudinhas desde pequenas a terem que ouvir que são o demónio e que a culpa de tudo o que é mau é delas... cobardes. As religiões são exércitos de cobardes que não se vêem. Que revolta e que impotência de não podermos fazer nada...



publicado às 20:37

BES: entrevista chocante

por beatriz j a, em 06.09.14




Godinho de Matos, ex-administrador não executivo do BES, recebia 2.400 euros líquidos por reunião. Numa entrevista ao i, admite que nunca falou naquele órgão, "um acessório de toilete de senhora".

“Um pró-forma”, “um verbo de encher”, “um detalhe, um acessório de toilete de senhora”. Foi assim que o vice-presidente da Ordem dos Advogados e ex-membro da administração do BES definiu o conselho de administração não executivo do BES. Em entrevista ao Jornal i, Nuno Godinho de Matos falou sem papas na língua do órgão que integrou a troco de 2.400 euros líquidos por reunião e no qual “entrou sempre mudo e saiu calado”.


o episódio que o conduziu aquele lugar. Corria o ano de 1995 e o julgamento das faturas falsas da Engil, uma sociedade de construção civil. “O advogado da Engil era o dr. Proença de Carvalho [com quem trabalhou até final do ano passado] e eu trabalhava ao seu lado, por indicação sua, para dois administradores. (...) “havia quem defendesse a vantagem de incluir no conselho de administração alguém ligado à resistência ao antigo regime, de esquerda, e que não fosse profissional da atividade política”


A entrevista aqui


O mais chocante da entrevista é o modo como o senhor se mostra indignado com o BES por ter enganadao tanta gente e com o supervisor por pretender nada saber, pondo-se a si mesmo de fora do esquema, como se não tivesse sido conivente com todos esses actos com os quais foi sempre solidário a partir do momento em que aceita um cargo sujo para ganhar dinheiro e fica de boca calada enquanto vê o que se passa.

Essas são as pessoas que mais me chocam nestas coisas: as que pretendem ser gente de bem enquanto compactuam e reforçam, activa ou passivamente, tudo aquilo que dizem criticar.



publicado às 12:48

no cabeçalho, pintura de Paul Béliveau. mail

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