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Musicians criticise Austrian festival after sex abuse claims

A conductor has faced accusations that he subjected five women to sexual abuse.

Five female musicians have accused organisers 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.

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.

The musicians said: “Repeatedly the borders of personal dignity and respect were ignored and exceeded.

“We are outraged that despite the well-known facts necessary consequences have not been drawn so far.”

In a statement, a lawyer for the festival, Michael Krueger, called the open letter “simply irresponsible”.

He said Mr 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 criticised authorities for failing to act on complaints.

A spokesman for Innsbruck prosecutors, Florian Oberhofer, said the allegations are being investigated, according to the Austrian Press Agency.

At the start of this year’s festival, its president Hans Peter Haselsteiner had criticised a local blogger for publishing allegations about Mr 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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