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Word on the Street

Nicole Jeffords 3 months ago

From what I understand, the maestro had several accusers, all of whom had previously worked at the opera but moved on to other jobs. As I said in my last post, nothing terrible — like rape, threats, exposure — had happened. One woman claimed the maestro had squeezed her so hard in a goodbye embrace that her breasts were mashed against his chest as he drew her against him (this was in public). Another spoke of uninvited shoulder rubs and fingers that had lingered too close to the breast area. A third claimed the maestro had touched her buttocks as he was passing her. I didn’t like the sound of a touch on the buttocks, but was that an affectionate tap or a disgusting grope? Hard to say without having witnessed it and who knows what was going on in the woman’s mind just then when he touched her.

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I’m not trying to condone the maestro’s behavior here or to cast doubt on the women who accused him. All I’m trying to say is that there are gray areas in the world of sexual misconduct: when is a hug inappropriate as opposed to overly friendly and affectionate? When is a touch, for instance a tap on the ass, a sexual come-on as opposed to a misguided sign of warmth and friendliness? I don’t think the alleged behaviors on the part of the maestro are good, but are they fireable offenses? Is it fair to ruin a man’s life because he jokingly suggested to the females in the company that they all wear garters for the evening’s performance? I don’t think so. I think there’s a point when #MeToo becomes #MeTooMuch and hugs and squeezes and questionable remarks can be used as an excuse to ban someone from a dance or get rid of an annoying colleague.

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Aida, Austin Opera

Perhaps because I’m a writer and like to shape everything into a story I immediately wondered what was going on in the mind of the new, young director who had taken it upon herself to fire the maestro, summarily, without review, investigation or even giving specifics. Word on the street was that she had wanted to oust the maestro for a while, and here was her opportunity. She was ambitious, with a bit of the killer instinct. He was from the past, a bit of an impediment. She grabbed the opportunity while she could and removed him from the scene, effectively dividing the opera into two camps. Who knows whether the company will survive.

 

Feature photo: https://www.thedailybeast.com/women-in-texas-politics-started-their-own-shtty-men-list-a-year-ago