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French culture ministry joins opera sex assault case

 

Agence France-Presse

Paris, France  /  Wed, September 9, 2020  /  03:08 pm
French culture ministry joins opera sex assault case

A picture taken on April 20, 2017 in Paris shows the facade of the Opera Comique National Theatre. (AFP/Bertrand Guay)

France's culture ministry said Tuesday it had contacted prosecutors about allegations by a soprano that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted during opera rehearsals in Paris and three other French cities.

On August 17, soprano Chloe Briot accused a baritone of repeated sexual aggression, in a letter to La Lettre du Musicien, a classical music journal.

Briot has also filed a lawsuit against the singer with the prosecutor's office in Besancon, eastern France, which has jurisdiction over his home address.

They concern incidents that took place in performances in Paris, Rennes, Nantes and Lille, said Etienne Manteaux, the prosecutor in Besancon.

The baritone in question played alongside Briot in the contemporary opera L'inondation directed by Joel Pommerat. He has in turn filed a complaint for malicious falsehood, his lawyers told AFP.

Briot alleges that between October 2019 and February 2020, the baritone repeatedly groped her during performances at the Opera-Comique in Paris and in the other three cities.

Read also: Turmoil over succession at troubled Paris Opera

Break 'law of silence'

In her interview with La Lettre du Musicien in which she detailed the alleged assaults, she said she wanted to break the "law of silence" in the opera world.

While acknowledging that they were called to portray scenes of sexual intercourse during the performance, she said it had gone beyond what the director had suggested.

"During rehearsals and filming, I couldn't tell my colleague that I didn't like the way he touched me," she adds.

When she did complain to the director and heads of the opera houses, said Briot, the singer's behavior did not change until Olivier Mantei, head of the Opera Comique, dropped him from future performances.

The culture ministry statement said that in addition to sending a report to the national prosecutor, it intended "to demonstrate its determination to examine sexist and sexual violence in the musical field".

The affair is just the latest in a series of allegations of rape or sexual assault against high-profile figures in France.

There was outrage among many activists in February when Roman Polanski, accused by several women of rape, won best director at the French Oscars for An Officer and a Spy.

And many observers criticized the appointment in July of Gerald Darmanin as interior minister at a time when he is under still investigation for rape. Although lower courts have dismissed the case against him, the appeal court has called for a new investigation.

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