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Paper: National opera director has history of harassing women colleagues

Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) director Aivar Mäe.
Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) director Aivar Mäe. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Director of the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) Aivar Mäe denies allegations appearing on the website of investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress that he has harassed women colleagues at the organization, based in the Estonia Theater in central Tallinn, over a long-term period.

Eesti Ekspress says (link in Estonian) it has spoken to around a dozen current and former women employees at the National Opera, who said Mäe had both made inappropriate or humiliating comments to women colleagues and touched them inappropriately, over a period starting around 2013, through to this year.

Mäe, 60, has been Estonian National Opera director since 2009; prior to that he worked at state concert-organizing body Eesti Kontsert.

The article contains detailed descriptions from several women, all of whom remained anonymous, who say they were harassed either verbally, which could include jokes intended to put them down publicly, or physically.

Some of those interviewed by the paper also claimed that some women took advantage of the situation in order to obtain favorable treatment.

Commenting on the claims, Mäe called them malicious and untrue, saying he recognized one incident, which he said had been taken out of context.

"Is it really harassment if I summon someone to the office and then ask when the last time they had had sex was? Hello! Estonia theater director?", Mäe told the paper.

The women Eesti Ekspress spoke to said they did not feel that approaching the Estonia Theater's board would have been appropriate, since the latter included friends of Mäe's, adding that they did not think that going to the Ministry of Culture would be effective either.

Approaching the media anonymously was the only solution, they felt, particularly given Mäe's influence on the Estonian cultural landscape.

The national ballet also falls under the same organizational structure headed by Mäe.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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