National Opera director's contract suspended over harassment allegations

National Opera (Rahvusooper) Director Aivar Mäe.
National Opera (Rahvusooper) Director Aivar Mäe. Source: Meeli Küttim ja Martin Dremljuga

The Council of National Opera Estonia (Rahvusooper Estonia) agreed to suspend general director Aivar Mäe's employment contract for two months on Thursday during a four-hour meeting. The chairman of the theater's council also resigned at the meeting.

The National Opera told ERR the suspension would come into effect from Friday, July 3. The council's decision to suspend the contract was judged and concluded by an employment law expert. 

During the council meeting, it was decided to update the theaters' code of conduct. In the future, it will allow rule changes to be made in an easy and clear way and suggest how problems can be solved safely.

The council also considered it necessary to provide training for all theatre staff in order to promptly notice and resolve problematic situations as modern management and various working environment laws are changing.

On June 22, Eesti Ekspress published an article which claimed Mäe had humiliated and harassed female colleagues for years. Initially, Mäe denied the allegations and called them malicious, but later he made a public apology.

The Estonia council, which met extraordinarily last Friday, decided to keep Mäe in his position for the time being. The council then announced that a trustee had been called in to assist.

Mäe has promised to consult a lawyer and take his next steps accordingly.

On Monday, the police initiated proceedings under the section on sexual harassment to determine the course of events and episodes in connection with allegations.

Current and former employees can turn to the council with their concerns or experiences until August 14 and are guaranteed anonymity.

Arne Mikk Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Council chairman of Estonia Theater resigns

Chairman of the Council of the Estonia Theater Arne Mikk submitted his resignation from his position at the meeting on Thursday.

Mikk said in a press release he had worked in various positions at the theater for decades and has observed 10 directors during that period, and Mäe has been the most active.

"The alleged accusations against his person sharply affect the reputation of the entire National Opera. It is good that instead of the press, the problems are being dealt with by the police, who provide answers to the questions that have arisen," Mikk said.

He said the Estonia Theater as a national landmark was born from the joint creation of many different generations and only time will give a final assessment of the activities of the people involved.   

"For 68 years, the Estonia House has been a safe home for me in addition to my workplace. I look forward to the truth, and justice, being revealed in this time of truth, but personally I no longer want to take part in the process that has been launched. Please exclude me from the Estonian National Opera Council," he said.

Rector of the Estonian Academy of Theater and Music Ivari Ilja was unanimously elected the new Chairman of the Council.


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Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein

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