National Opera Director will remain in role despite allegations

Board of Estonia Theater.
Board of Estonia Theater. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

After an emergency meeting on Friday, the board of Estonia Theater decided to continue discussing the allegations made against Aivar Mäe, director of the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper), next week. Mäe, will remain in his position, and go on vacation next week.

Arne Mikk, chairman of the board of Estonian National Opera, said at the press conference the board does not tolerate the behavior which was published in an article by investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress (link in Estonian).

On Monday, Ekspress wrote it has spoken with 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 initially denied the allegations but eventually apologized on Wednesday: "I sincerely apologize to the people who have been negatively affected by this and who I have inadvertently hurt."

Mikk said: "The truth can only be found in court, the board can not and will not try to solve the question of guilt."

Board member Helle-Moonika Helme added the director's guilt has not been confirmed in any way and the board has no power to convict someone.

Director of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and board member Ivari Ilja said there will be another meeting next week where the allegations are further discussed.

Ilja added: "Documents and rules have to be created. Documents will certainly not live peoples' lives for them but they are important. Eveything regarding equal treatment and abuse, how cases are handled, what are the opportunities to make appeals, what are the next moves of someone in these situations."

He added employees can trust the board and come to them with their problems.

Arne Mikk added Mäe will head off to his planned vacation next week and will meet with lawyers to discuss his next move.

Mikk said: "This new generation does not approve of his humor and he has realized that his behavior and attitude has to, and will, change."

Mikk explained that it is a tradition that before a premiere, the actors are sometimes nudged on their bottom to go on stage, but no slapping is tolerated. He added that these allegations will certainly leave their mark on the theater's further activities.

Mikk added: "Everyone will walk the halls with gloomy faces, nobody will be hugged or kissed because otherwise there's always a chance to say, oh did you see what he did. And that will create a different environment in the theater because there will not be as much joy."

On Friday, the police called for women who experienced harassment to step forward so an investigation can begin.

Jelena Mirošnitšenko, Police and Border Guard (PPA) North Prefecture official, said women sometimes fear going to the police in cases such as this because they think their names will go public but said the police will not disclose anyone's information.

She said: "We want to help the women who talked about workplace harassment in the article. We ask everyone who was part of the episodes mentioned in the article, or witnesses, to go to the police as soon as possible."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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