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Opera mood marred by sexual harassment case

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18:01 CET+01:00
Tensions are running high at the Royal Swedish Opera as ballet director Marc Ribaud is issued with an official warning after sexually harassing a female member of staff.

The woman, whose name has not been revealed, turned to the Swedish theatre union after receiving emails with sexual content from Ribaud in the autumn.

But opera chief Anders Franzén is claiming that the matter has been blown out of proportion by the media.

Responding to a report that appeared in Dagens Nyheter (DN) on Monday morning, Franzén told The Local there had only been one email, sent by Ribaud after a party in the spring.

”Sexual harassment is a question of definition. There was a party in the spring where Marc was dancing with one of our staff members and sent her a drunken email later when he got home that night. That is all.

"There were no emails during the autumn as DN reports. There are no hard feelings between him and this woman. They are friends and she feels incredibly sad about all this media attention,” he said.

However, in the autumn the theatre union received a complaint from the woman, who is not a dancer but works at the opera.

Union health and safety representative Magnus Kyhle, who works at the Royal Opera, looked into the matter: ”There wasn't just one e-mail. There were several after that party. This is a process that went on for months.”

Kyhle said the atmosphere at the opera remained tense:

”People need to have confidence in their bosses. There should be no tolerance whatsoever when it comes to things like this and it is vital to be able to trust the people you are working for.”

The ballet director's lewd emails have resulted in an official warning, which gives the opera the legal right to sack him with immediate effect should there be a repeat performance.

”But this will only happen if that is what the head of the opera wants,” Magnus Kyhle added.

Marc Ribaud took up a freelance position at the Royal Opera in 2006 after working as artistic director at the Ballet de l’Opéra du Nice for nine years. Franzén's decision to give Ribaud the top ballet job two years ago was called into question at the time by staff at the opera, as the Frenchman had recently been accused of sexual harassment.

”It was a similar situation to this,” Franzén confirmed. ”It was after a Christmas party two years ago and he had been dancing with some women, but none of those women experienced it as sexual harassment,” he said, and stressed that the Royal Opera does take sexual harassment very seriously.

”It is extremely important to feel safe and comfortable in a workplace like this. You need to be extremely careful as a man and see this from the eyes of a woman.”

When asked whether it was acceptable to flirt with co-workers, Franzén replied:

”No, even if there are moments you may want to, you never should. Marc is French, and it’s a different culture, but he now knows it is not acceptable."

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