Following an online report of sexual harassment allegations against Stephen Lord, Opera Theatre of St. Louis music director emeritus, he has resigned from his positions here and at Michigan Opera Theatre.
The Twin Cities Arts Reader, based in Minneapolis, says it investigated allegations in the U.S. opera industry for a year and talked to more than two dozen people who asserted harassment by Lord.
Since retiring as OTSL music director in 2017, Lord has been artistic director of its young artist programs, helping to select the singers for the Gerdine Young Artist Program and the Richard Gaddes Festival Artist Program.
He lobbied for years for the creation of a showcase for young artists. In 2015, that was born as the Center Stage concert, with Lord conducting, which has become an annual tradition.
The 2019 edition of Center Stage will take place Tuesday. OTSL says resident conductor and head of music Roberto Kalb will take over all conducting duties.
Anh Le, OTSL’s acting director of marketing and public relations, confirmed Wednesday that Lord had resigned. The company’s statement on the allegations and Lord’s departure will be its only comment, she said.
The statement, signed by general director Andrew Jorgensen, says:
“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.”
An attempt to reach Lord was not immediately successful.
During its investigation into Lord, the Twin Cities Arts Reader obtained copies of emails and other electronic messages sent via social media. Although all those interviewed remained anonymous, the stories they told showed a similar pattern of behavior over the past decade.
One of the messages ascribed to Lord: “If you sleep with me, you would have so many jobs.”
A singer who had worked with Lord in St. Louis told the Arts Reader, “I learned to fear Maestro Lord. And to dread his messages.”
And a musician who the publication said encountered Lord as a young vocal coach in training recalled: “I was warned to be careful around Lord — even before I met him. I was told to expect overtures, and to be careful how I acted. Redirect or ignore, but don’t report him — that’s career suicide.”
Eight musicians spoke with the Arts Reader about harassment by Lord at OTSL; none had been willing to make an official complaint.
Lord was affiliated with OTSL for four decades, starting as the head of its music staff in 1980 and moving up the ladder to music director in 1991.
In addition to his work in St. Louis, Lord was principal conductor at Michigan Opera Theater. He is former music director of Boston Lyric Opera and was artistic director of opera studies at the New England Conservatory. Lord also has conducted at the English National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera and other prestigious companies.