Musicians slam Austrian festival over sex abuse claims

July 25, 2018 - 9:14 am

BERLIN (AP) — Five female musicians accuse organizers of an Austrian classical music festival of not acting on sexual abuse complaints they made for years against its artistic director, according to an open letter published Wednesday.

The artists alleged that Austrian conductor Gustav Kuhn subjected them to unwanted kisses, groping, bullying and public humiliation during their time at the Tyrolean Festival Erl between 1998 and 2017.

"Repeatedly the borders of personal dignity and respect were ignored and exceeded," the five musicians said.

"We are outraged that despite the well-known facts necessary consequences have not been drawn so far," they said.

In a statement, a lawyer for the festival, Michael Krueger, called the open letter "simply irresponsible." He said Kuhn would defend himself legally against the allegations.

The five musicians — Belarusian violinist Aliona Dargel, German soprano Bettine Kampp, Albanian violinist Ninela Lamaj, German mezzo-soprano Julia Oesch and Swiss soprano Mona Somm — also criticized authorities for failing to act on complaints.

The Austria Press Agency quoted a spokesman for Innsbruck prosecutors, Florian Oberhofer, saying the allegations are being investigated.

At the start of this year's festival, its president Hans Peter Haselsteiner had criticized a local blogger for publishing allegations about Kuhn, saying the conductor "still doesn't hide what he likes. And wine, women and song are things we can all understand."

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