Ivari Ilja, the new chairman of the council of the Estonia National Opera, said that director Aivar Mäe's merits in Estonian culture are extraordinary, but they do not reduce the weight of the accusations made against him by Estonia Theater employees.
In an interview with "Ringvaade" on Thursday evening, Ilja said he had not heard the accusations of harassment against Mäe before, which some employees have claimed. He said the council's aim now is to find out what has happened.
He acknowledged that Mäe's contribution to Estonian culture has been great, but this does not mean that the accusations against him can be ignored.
"Of course, Aivar's merits are extraordinary in our culture, but undoubtedly this is not a case where merits could somehow reduce or affect the weight of their respective accusations. But above all, we must finally clarify these accusations," Ilja said.
He said in order to make its final decision, the Estonia Council needs more information in addition to what has previously been published in the media, and therefore an agreement was also concluded with an employment law expert. "We get a summary or analysis from him that he has learned. This information is necessary in order to move faster," Ilja noted.
"It is a measure which fills the gaps that have been in the theater so far, that there has not been an opportunity to be aware of certain problems, to complain about them, to talk about them. Everyone who has something in their soul can open up to him," Ilja added.
He acknowledged the scandal has divided workers. "[There are] Some who support the director. Then, as we know from the media, there are very serious allegations against the director. Our theatrical and musical public has also expressed support for Director Mäe. So, in fact, we all need clarity, to make adequate decisions in this environment," said Ilja.
Last week Eesti Ekspress published a story in which several former employees said they had been harassed by Mäe. The accusations spanned more than a decade. At first, Mäe denied the allegations but then issued a public apology.
Yesterday, the Estonia Council suspended Mäe's employment contract for two weeks. Chairman Arne Mikk also submitted his resignation to the board and was replaced by Ivari Ilja, rector of the Estonian Academy of Theater and Music.
Editor: Helen Wright