PRAGUE (Oct. 3)
Charges that the leader of Prague’s philharmonic choir leader pursued a vendetta against a tenor with Jewish roots who objected to singing in a Mass are rocking the city’s musical world. According to minutes from an audio recording of a choir meeting held earlier this year, Danek complained in front of other choir members that Michal Forst “addresses individual Jewish villages and conductors during concerts. He acts sociopathic.”
At another point during the gathering, according to the minutes, Danek expressed concern about possible legal repercussions should Forst assert he was being punished for refusing to sing a Mass.
“One of my lawyers has warned me that the laws will favor crazy minorities against majorities,” Danek said. “We should be aware of this.”
In August, the recently formed Czech Anti-Defamation Association sent a petition to Culture Minister Pavel Dostal requesting that he look into Danek’s statements, which the group said created “an unfriendly atmosphere towards the employee of the Jewish religion.”
The petition was released to the media last month and signed by Karol Sidon, chief rabbi of the Czech Republic.
Forst further alleges that fellow choir member Zdenek Kazdy assaulted him in August, kicking him in the back and saying, “You Jewish swine, you bastard, we are going to get you out of here.”
The Anti-Defamation Association complained that the attack went unpunished by Danek.
For his part, Kazdy has denied the incident.
A spokeswoman for the Culture Ministry, Katerina Besserova, said Dostal told the association in August that if it believes a criminal act was committed by any member of the choir it should contact the police, as the ministry does not have authority to investigate the charges.
The conflict between Danek and Forst began in June, when Forst complained about the choir having to perform at a Catholic Mass during a festival in the Czech town of Litomysl.
Forst said several choir members with Jewish roots were uncomfortable singing in a Mass, “but they were scared to speak up. I was the only one who dared to say so in public.”
Danek claims Forst approached the festival’s organizer with his complaint, although accounts conflict as to whether or not this is true.
Danek said Forst hurt the choir’s reputation by acting as the choir’s representative without authorization. Danek sought to issue some kind of disciplinary warning against Forst at a meeting of the Arts Council — comprised of choir members charged with looking into labor disputes — where he told Forst that in the future he should submit in writing to the entire choir any work restrictions his faith might require.
After the meeting, which Forst characterized as an “inquisition,” he said several choir members refused to speak to him. “One of them said to me, ‘Jews: if there is a fee you appear, if there isn’t, you don’t.’ “
Following the alleged attack, Danek took Forst off a list of choir members to be included at a show in Salzburg, Austria, an act Forst said he was never informed of. He complained that he tried to board the bus for Salzburg but that Danek and other choir members physically prevented him from doing so.
Meanwhile, Danek has scheduled meetings with Rabbi Sidon and a representative of the Prague Jewish community to prove that his actions have nothing to do with Forst’s religion.
He dismissed the charges of anti-Semitism as absurd, saying, “I feel close to the Jewish culture.”