Michigan Opera Theatre conductor resigns after reports of sexual harassment

Posted at 8:40 AM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 08:40:10-04

Stephen Lord, the principal conductor of the Michigan Opera Theatre, has resigned amid a report that he threatened and sexually harassed opera singers, conductors and pianists.

In a statement, the Michigan Opera Theatre said that allegations of his past behavior do not align with the company's values.

“Stephen has had a long and successful relationship with Michigan Opera Theatre, and we appreciate his artistic leadership, especially in his last three years as Principal Conductor,” MOT President and CEO Wayne S. Brown said in a statement.

The announcement came after a report in the Twin Cities Art Reader on Tuesday that detailed Lord's behavior, where they interviewed more than two dozen people who made harassment claims, while also collecting hundreds of emails and other electronic messages by Lord and others.

According to the report, Lord said many things over the years to opera singers, conductors and pianists across the country.

"If you sleep with me, you would have so many jobs," one statement said, according to the Art Reader.

"I could make or break your career," another said.

"I only you'd slept with me," the report adds Lord said.

Lord's biography on the Barrett Artists website lists him as one of the 25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera.

In one instance, the Arts Reader quotes a singer who said she friended the entire cast of her show after the first rehearsal, which included Lord.

"Stephen just messaged me out of the blue. I remember it was kind of inappropriate and I deleted it immediately," the report said. "That was followed by 'I hope I didn't offend you.' I didn't engage, but the messages kept coming. And they got worse and more sexually explicit."

Before coming to Detroit in 2017, Lord had been working as the music director at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

They released this statement to the Twin Cities Arts Reader:

"We are shocked to learn of the serious allegations made against Stephen Lord in an online publication on June 18th. There is no place for harassment of any kind at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and we have strict policies in place for dealing with such matters.

We have not received any complaints or reports of harassment against this company member at our organization, but we take any allegation of possible misconduct extremely seriously. Given the serious nature of these allegations, we will be conducting a full and thorough independent investigation into this matter.

Effective June 18th, Mr. Lord tendered his resignation, which has been accepted by Opera Theatre."