Critic Andreas Laska “Relentlessly” Harasses Dozens of Young Women Singers for Unpublished "Article"
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
By Zach Finkelstein and MC Curran
CONTENT WARNING: The content of this report contains themes of harassment and cyber-stalking.
Over the past year, Andreas Laska, an established classical music critic for Das Opernglas and ResMusica, reached out to dozens of young women through their professional singing Facebook pages requesting video interviews for an article. Nearly every singer fits a specific profile: English-speaking, young or young-looking women in their 20s and 30s, in the early-to-mid-stages of their career, and white.
Laska identified himself as a German journalist looking for German-speaking singers to interview for an article on “singers during the Coronavirus.” For women that agreed to an interview request, he asked to be their personal friend on Facebook. He offered private help practicing German or French in conversations leading up to the video interview. These included Facebook voice messages with questions like “who speaks German better, you or your sister?” In some cases, he would ask women to teach him voice lessons. He might ask for personal details, like their age or address, and make comments on their looks. Always, he would compliment their German. These messages would stretch for days, weeks, and in a few cases, for years.
Some women felt “uncomfortable” by this escalation of contact and stopped responding before the official interview; in response, Andreas pressed for an explanation: he would say, “why are you afraid to speak German with me?” or “I’m just doing my job.” He would sometimes get aggressive, telling one woman she couldn’t go to work until she “conjugated her sentence correctly.” In cases where women refused the interview, he would ask to talk to her friends.
Some women gave clear signals they did not want further contact, but Laska pursued them over weeks and months in voice and text messages: “It makes me somehow sad we don’t talk anymore. I liked our conversations.” In some cases, Andreas Laska stopped contacting the women; in others, the contact increased so frequently the women blocked him on all social media.
Middleclass Artist and Muse Media Services, in interviews and private messages with the women affected, collected overwhelming evidence -voice messages, testimonials, screenshots of private messages, and emails with the affected parties- to show a pattern of harassment of young, mostly American women. The pattern dates back years. Out of the 73 women who stated Laska approached them, Middleclass Artist interviewed nineteen of them. In the following eight case studies, we will share testimonials from the harassed women, and the responses from ResMusica, Das Opernglas, and Mr. Laska himself.
(Note: full names are used for the women who chose to go on the record. Pseudonym first names are used for women who requested to remain anonymous.)
Our first story begins with Jane, ten days after her high school graduation.
1) Jane: “I felt trapped for years”
Jane met Andreas Laska on a June 2018 vacation in Germany on a train to Düsseldorf. She bumped into Laska and said, “So sorry.” He responded, “I don’t speak English.” Jane knew a little German at the time, and as a keen young opera student, she took the opportunity to practice her German with him. They chatted on the train. He told her he was an opera critic. She told him she had just turned 18.
From the beginning, Jane thought, “he’s very overly friendly for someone I don’t know.”
After meeting Laska on the train, he showed Jane a “cool place” down the street she could get lunch with her mom. An hour later, Jane had a friend request from Laska on Facebook. She talked about it with friends on the trip, and they considered it “super weird,” but she thought, “Maybe he just wants to keep in touch because he’s an opera critic.”
From that point on, Laska frequently contacted her multiple times a day through messages, and Facetime calls. If Jane didn’t respond, Laska would say, “where are you?” or “why no time?” If Jane said she was working on school or busy, he would say, “oh, do you have time now?”
The repeated, constant contact continued through the Spring of 2020 when he reached out several times about an "article on young American singers." Jane felt finally, her “upsetting” communication with him had led to something positive- a possible break for her in the European opera scene. Laska required a German interview, so Jane took the time to prepare the interview, answering the questions first in English and then translating them into German. She sent her responses to him via messages, and he responded, “Oh, I just want to talk to you.” He had sent her questions in advance, but he didn’t ask those questions on the phone- their discussion wasn’t about the proposed article. At this point, Jane said, “I’m sorry, this isn’t a good time.”
Jane stopped communicating with Laska a few months later, but she received constant calls and messages from Laska for two and a half years. She would hang up the phone on Laska, but he would call her back immediately multiple times from a blocked number. He wrote things like, “Do you want to practice German with me?” “Can we have a phone call?” “Can we Facetime?”. Laska would send clusters of messages: “Where are you?” “What are you doing?” “Where are you?” and then check her Facebook profile and post comments on her photos. She never provided Laska her cell phone number, and Jane still isn’t sure how he found it. Laska also repeatedly asked her for her address.
Between when they met and when she turned 20, the type of contact and comments from Laska changed. His public behavior would be innocuous, but if she shared a Facebook Story, where users cannot view comments, he would mention Jane’s looks. In a November 2020 Story, she posted a selfie in her mask at work. Andreas responded how she looked “sexy” in her mask:
Around that time, a good friend of Jane’s had a similar experience. Jane remembers talking to her friend and saying, “this is completely inappropriate. This man has a wife and a child. And regardless, it’s inappropriate that anyone who isn’t my partner or who I choose to involve myself with is speaking to me over social media that way. Especially a critic.”
Laska kept reaching out to Jane in this way until she blocked him on all her social media in late January 2021. She needed him “out of her inbox.”
Jane had felt she needed to keep in contact with Laska because of his status as an opera critic in Germany:
“I was made to feel that I can’t block someone, or say something or stand up for myself because it might damage my career. What if I went out to Germany, which I would love to do to perform, and he’s in the audience? And so I let it go on for so long.”
“I felt trapped for years.”
In her interview with Laska, she told him about her acceptance into a summer training festival in Germany. Although the festival was canceled due to COVID-19, for months, she felt “terrified” he would come find her at the program.
Jane frequently checked for the article in 2020. When it didn’t come out, she felt it was because of her: maybe she didn’t do a good enough interview, or wasn’t an interesting enough artist, or hadn’t communicated well enough or often enough with him: “I thought it was my fault because maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to him.”
Jane blames herself for opening the door to Laska:
“I felt so much responsibility because I did meet him and all this started happening after that year, with the American women, so for me, I have felt and feel so much responsibility. “What if I had never accepted that friend request?” I wonder all the time.”
2) Christina Casey: “This guy is really clever and careful how he speaks. But he’s relentless.”
Andreas Laska first reached out to Kansas City-based mezzo Christina Casey on October 30, 2020, through her professional singer webpage: “Good day. Do you speak German? I am a German journalist.”
Christina didn’t respond right away- she Googled him first. After seeing Laska’s published articles on ResMusica and Opernglas, and that he was Facebook friends with a famous opera singer as well as a mutual friend, she responded: “Yea, I speak a bit of German.” He made it clear he didn’t speak English and was “looking for an interview partner for an article about young singers during the Coronavirus crisis.” Laska explained he was looking for different singers from different countries and that he had not spoken to anyone yet in the United States.
(Editor’s note: Middleclass Artist can confirm he had already spoken to several American women.)
In this first chain of texts, all on the same day, Christina didn’t respond right away, so he would say, “Frau Casey, are you there?”
Christina suggested they use a German colleague as a translator to help her. Laska replied, “well, it’s not a long interview. Why don’t we practice first?” When she asked again for her friend to come along, he said, “But why your German is great...Why do all Americans have so much fear for speaking German?” She didn’t respond fast enough, so he said again, “Frau Casey…” She said, “pardon me, I’m at work.” He pressed again for scheduling a “practice,” and she agreed to one later in the week.
Two days later, on November 1, he reached out again to confirm their “practice.” She said yes, but she had asked her friend Berthold, a native German speaker, to join them. He responded, “But why? We’re not going to speak English, right?” She explained Berthold would be there to help her translate. Andreas responded, “I find it harder with a translator. Why are you afraid to speak German with me?”
The voice messages started as “practice”- he sent her 21 voice messages on November 2, and the questions continued until November 10. “Why did you learn German in school? Why not Spanish?” he asked. She responded, “my sister studied German, and I wanted to be like her, so I studied German, too.” Andreas asked her, “who speaks it better, your sister or you?” She did not answer quickly enough, so he responded, “Why haven’t you answered me yet?” At this point, Christina felt “nervous” but continued with the conversation: “if it gets me an interview, whatever, and he used to work for reputable places. In my mind, I justified it as he wants to ask these elementary questions to see if I can answer them.”
On November 10, Laska friend-requested her private Facebook profile and asked if they could communicate there instead of her professional page. She said, “that’s fine.”
The same day, Andreas interviewed Christina. It lasted about 10 minutes. He complimented her on her German. Christina said, “he spent a decent amount of time just staring into the screen and smiling.” Christina heard his wife in the background say, “what are you doing?” and Andreas quickly ended the interview, saying, “I’ve got to go.” Christina remembers at that moment, wondering to herself, “why doesn’t she know what he’s doing?”
He messaged Christina again on November 10: “That was a great interview. Can we keep in touch? Would you like to continue to practice your German? I think it would help with your fear since you want to be singing in Germany.” During this time, he mentioned he wrote for ResMusica. Christina reluctantly agreed.
Andreas continued to message Christina, even though she stopped responding to his DMs. Finally, on December 11, she said, “I’m busy.” He replied, “well, contact me when you’re not busy.” Despite her brush-off, he messaged her ten more times: three voice messages on December 11, four voice messages on Dec 13, 18, 21, 2020, and January 4, 2021, and three texts on January 8, 14, and 27, 2021.
Below are transcriptions and translations of those messages:
(VOICE): I was worried when you didn't respond
(VOICE): Perhaps you can write a message to me when you have time
(VOICE): and want to practice German
(VOICE) What is Vox Nova?
(VOICE) Hello Christina it's been a long time since I've heard from you. How
are you? What are you doing?
(VOICE) Hello, are you working during the holidays?
(VOICE) A good New Year to you. I hope you are good and that we will speak again.
Hello again. Have you never more time?
It makes me somehow sad that we don't talk anymore. I liked our conversations.
Have I hurt you?
Christina never responded to these messages and finally blocked him on January 27, 2021.
The whole process made Christina feel, in a word, “uncomfortable”:
“Knowing that he was married, him knowing that I’m married and continuing to message me multiple times a day...My husband asking, “Is it that German dude again? He’s talking more to you in a day than I am.” The fact that it’s all women and a lot of women, I was just like, OK, this is gross.”
Christina also referenced the extreme vulnerability of young artists in opera, particularly women, to people in positions of power:
“To young singers, you take every chance you can get. You take the audition; you take every gig, you say yes. You don’t say no. And then combine that with being a woman...young singers, we do romanticize singing in Germany. I felt like if I can get an article written in Opernglas or Resmusica, maybe someone will notice it, and maybe it will be an opportunity.”
When asked what she would say to Andreas if he reached out again, Christina said,
“You’re sick. You need help. Go get help. Also, does your wife know that you’ve reached out to upwards of 50+, we don’t even know how many girls in America?”
3) Joanna: “Have I hurt you?”
Laska reached out to Joanna, a 27-year old American soprano, through her professional Facebook page on November 2, 2020. He opened with, “I’m a German journalist. I speak German. Can you understand me?”
Laska asked Joanna to give him voice lessons because “Americans have the best technique.” Joanna thought that was “a little weird” but said, “fine, we can talk about it.” Laska asked to send Joanna a voice message to see if she could “understand his speech in German.” Laska then friended her on Facebook and started sending her voice messages. Joanna responded to one saying that her German was not good enough to teach voice and asked to switch to French, sending a message back in French. Laska said he couldn’t understand it and kept messaging her “daily” in German.
(Note: Laska studied in France and has contributed music criticism for ResMusica, a French music publication, since 2004. Here is an example, ‘Jonas Kaufmann: Quand Otello revient au lied,’ from November 8, 2020.)
The voice messages continued, with offers to help Joanna improve her German. If Joanna didn’t respond fast enough, he would follow-up again. Laska also made personal comments about her appearance on social media posts. On one post of an audition outfit, he asked where she got her shirt: he was “curious.” Joanna thought, “why are you curious about my shirt?” In another example, on one Facebook post, she posted a new headshot and a poem she wrote, and he commented, “Beautiful dress, beautiful woman:).”
The messages escalated on Joanna’s three-week audition trip to Paris. Laska found out Joanna was there and left her a series of voice messages, asking for her to give him her address in Paris:
Joanna thought, “that’s none of your damned business.”
In the new year, Laska still messaging her every few days, including a voice message on January 4 and a video call “out of the blue” on January 8. He continued to send her text and voice messages until January 27, 2021. She stopped responding on January 6, 2021.
His last text to her was, “Have I hurt you?”
4) Stacey: “Harassed” and “uncomfortable”, “I should have trusted my gut”
Stacey is a 22-year old Master’s student at a leading American conservatory. Andreas Laska reached out to her in the summer of 2020, right after graduation.
Laska messaged Stacey’s professional singer Facebook page in German on June 30, 2020, and since Stacey “responds to all her messages,” they had a brief discussion in German. Laska kept asking to interview her for an article, but, as Stacey told us, “my gut was telling me something was wrong.” She couldn’t find any “red flags” on his page, so she engaged.
The questions got more and more personal for her, and she started to feel uncomfortable. Stacey told Laska on July 2 that he was making her uncomfortable, and she didn’t want to do the interview. He responded, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m just doing my job.”
Stacey says Laska continued to “harass her” with questions, repeatedly asking if he’d done anything wrong or if she could introduce him to her friends and if she was “afraid” to speak because of the language. His questions felt “creepy and upsetting,” and again, she felt “uncomfortable.”
On July 7, 2020, Stacey reached out to warn her friends, to find out he had already contacted one of them, who had to block him after “he called her 14 times on WhatsApp”.
5) Alexandra Nowakowski: “It seemed normal at first”
Andreas Laska reached out to coloratura soprano Alexandra Nowakowski on December 7, 2020, through her public, professional Facebook page. For Alexandra, “it seemed pretty normal at first. He was asking me to interview in German, because he didn’t speak English about how young singers are handling the pandemic.”
Alexandra thought, “maybe this will be a good chance to practice my German,” so she agreed to the interview. He followed up, “can I friend you on your personal page?” and she agreed to that, too.
Then things got “really weird.” He kept messaging Alexandra “incessantly” and leaving her voice messages on Facebook: according to her, at least 15 in December. The constant contact went on for two weeks. Alexandra thought, “if it was a real interview, these questions should have been one email.” Eventually, they agreed to an interview on December 20.
For Alexandra, the repeated voice messages were a red flag: “why is a stranger I have never met leaving me voice messages over Facebook?” “And why is he trying to get to know me? Isn’t that part of the interview?”
After thinking it over, she felt a “bad vibe” and canceled a day before the interview.
On the 20th, Andreas said, “where are you? I’m here for your interview.” According to Alexandra, he didn’t acknowledge the cancelation, saying, “where are you? This is so rude.” After that, Alexandra “was done” with him: “I’m not playing this game.” She ignored his messages, and he eventually stopped reaching out to her in the new year.
Alexandra wondered in our interview about the entire premise: “Are these real articles he’s writing about people, the people that got to the interview? Was it real, or was it fake?”
6) Mary Claire (MC) Curran: “Don’t waste my time”
Mary Claire Curran, a mid-career soprano with a dual career as a creative consultant/publicist, heard from Andreas Laska on August 14, 2020. She ignored him at first. It took two more messages from Laska on August 17, 2020, for her to respond.
Laska said he was a music journalist and Mary Claire, wary of strangers on the internet, “did her best to vet him.” She asked him how he found her and who he worked for. Laska provided a link to his writing on Das Opernglas’ website, and Mary Claire confirmed it in an internet search.
“I am looking for interview partners for a dossier,” he said. Mary Claire interpreted this as asking for a quote for his article. “I cannot speak English.” For Mary Claire, this comment was the first red flag: “How odd is it that a German native doesn’t know a little English?”
At first, Laska complimented her writing. But as they talked, Mary Claire could tell, “he liked putting me down and correcting my German, even though I said I only knew a little German.” Laska messaged her, “at rapid-fire - he was incessant.” She could barely keep up using Google Translate. While they talked, Mary Claire asked her cousin, a translator in Vienna, to provide a translated quote. When Mary Claire sent it to Laska, he said, “Thanks anyways.” She followed up to see if Laska needed anything else, “All good?” He responded, “why do you ask?” For Mary Claire, “his lack of professionalism and lack of clear intentions” infuriated her.
To help Laska, Mary Claire also messaged a world-renowned American soprano to ask if she would want to provide a quote, as Mary Claire had previously worked on her PR team. When the singer confirmed yes, Mary Claire told Andreas. “I thought I was so nice,” she thought, “serving this famous singer on a silver platter.” When Andreas responded, “but I was thinking of a singer more at the beginning of the career,” Mary Claire’s “bullshit-o-meter went up.” “I knew this guy was a fraud,” she told Middleclass Artist, “and also, way to offend me, asshole.”
Their correspondence continued on one day only, August 17, 2020, and then she blocked him. He found her public artist page, but she changed the visibility settings after this interaction so it wouldn’t happen again.
The next day, Mary Claire made a post in a private Facebook forum for female-identifying and non-binary opera singers, asking if Andreas Laska had contacted anyone for a story. Several women responded that he had reached out to them in 2020 with the same approach: “I’m a journalist,” “I don’t speak English,” “Do you speak German,” “I’m writing a story on young singers during the Coronavirus.” The offer of lessons and the escalating, constant personal contact.
Mary Claire brought her findings to Opera America in an email on September 17, 2020, explaining the situation: that a journalist was “relentlessly” pursuing young singers under a dubious claim of an unpublished story, and that the singers felt the conduct was “bizarre” and “inappropriate”. She asked Opera America to investigate.
Opera America responded on September 24, 2020: “This is definitely alarming, so thank you for bringing it to my attention.”
A representative of Opera America posted the following message on September 30, 2020, in their Facebook forum, Women’s Opera Network (WON):
“It has been brought to our attention that there is a journalist working for Das Opernglas that is engaging in inappropriate behavior by targeting a specific demographic represented in this group (women who are independent American artists). This journalist is contacting individuals on the premise of needing a quote for an article, then engaging in perpetual contact that borders on the line of harassment. The involved women (who will remain anonymous) have become uncomfortable with this contact to the point of blocking the journalist. At this point, no article has been published, raising suspicions as to his intentions.”
In a reply to Mary Claire, Opera America pointed out their post on WON; in terms of an investigation, they said, there isn’t much Opera America can do officially: “Das Opernglas is out of our jurisdiction,” and Opera Europa “has a different membership structure than us.”
Mary Claire felt defeated and exhausted with Opera America’s response: “They left the issue for me to resolve on my own.”
“I’m disappointed that the WON post did not specifically name Andreas Laska, and I was surprised that they turned off the comments to prevent any dialogue - I think that would have helped pinpoint future occurrences. I’m also disappointed that Opera America did not offer me a helpful solution. Although I am a member of OA, and I very much appreciate so much of OA’s work, this interaction made it abundantly clear to me that Opera America is only interested in serving North American opera companies and not opera singers - regardless if a singer is a member or not.”
7) Jen: “You look so young”
On October 19, 2020, Andreas Laska reached out to Jen, an established mid-career American soprano, through her Facebook professional page. Laska identified himself as a journalist and asked if Jen spoke German. Jen replied, “yes, a little”. Laska asked where she learned her German, and she answered, “online classes, and several years ago I studied abroad in Vienna”.
He complimented her “perfect” written German and asked about her age: “but you can’t be that old that you studied so long ago.” She responded, “it was, I was in university.” He asked again about her age: “but was that a long time ago? You look so young.”
Jen immediately identified this as a red flag. “If this was a professional inquiry,” she thought, “you wouldn’t be trying to pry to find out how old I was.”
She asked Laska, “why would you like to know?” and he replied, “well, I’m doing interviews and I’d like to see if we’d be a good fit”.
Jen suggested he reach out to her manager and publicist to schedule something, but Laska deflected, asking to speak with Jen in German first, trying to set up a conversation. She pushed back, saying it needed to go through her manager.
“It was clear,” Jen said in our interview, “he was trying to call me right then and creepily set up a video chat. And I think I did a pretty good job of suppressing it by saying, no, talk to my manager.”
Laska sent her one more follow-up, which she ignored, and that was the last Jen heard from Laska.
The same day, she was forwarded Opera America’s post in the Women’s Opera Network forum, the one that warned of a “journalist engaging in inappropriate behavior”.
Jen immediately reached out to Opera America to report it in an email with the subject, ‘Andreas Laska’:
“He [Laska] contacted me this morning. He was pushy about speaking to me in person for an interview and was trying to pry information about my age. I knew almost immediately that he most likely wasn’t professionally interested. Let me know if you’d like more information- it definitely struck me as inappropriate.”
On October 20, 2020, a representative from Opera America responded, saying, “thank you so much for letting me know and I’m so sorry to hear that it happened to you. We’re monitoring the situation and exploring options for action. I will keep you in mind if we need any more information!”
After learning about the other young women pursued by Laska, Jen feels lucky “she was able to brush him off” and her “radar picked up on it so quickly”: “it’s probably no surprise I’ve encountered other men like this throughout my youth and my career. Shitty, shitty men.”
Jen’s not so sure she would have read the situation the same as a younger, less experienced singer: “If I had been 20, I would have easily not had the confidence to risk offending him or put up a distance because I would not have known how to navigate that.”
“I would have been trying to people-please and worried about offending the wrong person, and I could easily have gotten into an awkward situation. He pretends he’s professional and comes across friendly, especially with the language barrier, it makes it harder for people to pick up on the creep factor.”
8) Jessica: “It felt like I had an imaginary friend”
In May 2019, Jessica, a mid-career soprano in Europe, received every singer's dream call: a last-minute, jump-in debut for a leading role at Opera Köln. She started as a rehearsal cover for a sick Fest singer and ended up singing two performances with a terrific review in ResMusica.
Andreas Laska wrote that review.
Laska contacted Jessica on Facebook on May 2, 2019, requesting an interview. He told Jessica he didn't speak English, so Jessica agreed to correspond with him in French. Laska pushed to talk to her on the phone, calling it "more charming." Jessica asked if she could speak in English or receive the French questions in writing, and he insisted on French. She responded to a few more questions about her upcoming debut that night, and Laska said, "I hope we can see each other tonight." At this point, Jessica felt "uncomfortable" and she didn't answer the question.
Jessica saw him at the theater. Opera Köln requires artists to walk through the lobby after intermission, and he was waiting at the stage door. He didn't speak to her but behaved "oddly," looking at her with a "very weird smile," and Jessica remembers thinking something was off.
Laska messaged her later that night, saying, "you're amazing!". She responded, "Glad you liked it!" and Laska replied, "as well as being a music critic, I'm always interested in discovering young talent, and I discovered a very big one."
After the show, he started messaging her "frequently and persistently" in what she considered a "very aggressive" way. He asked if she actually spoke French or was using Google Translate, and then suggested that she take French lessons from him. He continued to probe with personal questions as well, including details she did not mention to him in their conversation: "I hope you're having a good day with your boyfriend. He is a formidable tenor." He repeatedly asked her if she was staying in Cologne and for how long. She tried to remove herself from communication; Jessica appreciated the review and didn't want to offend him, but Laska "creeped her out."
Andreas continued to message her "almost daily" through the rest of 2019 and 2020. One day he told her that her sung French in a "Fille du Regiment" Youtube video was perfect. Another day he complimented her German diction as Papagena. She would ignore his messages, but they'd keep coming. She would "get nervous about offending him" and respond "politely and dismissively": "Oui!" "Bonne journée!". Whatever she did, though, the messages kept coming.
In April 2020, he reached out twice by email to her professional address to ask her if she would give him voice lessons, once on April 20 and again on April 24, 2020:
Yes, I'm interested. I sing in a choir, and I would like very much to improve my technique.
What are your rates?
She refused Laska's friend requests, but he sent her DMs through her public Instagram on almost every Story since 2019. He left a voice memo on November 26, 2020, wishing her a "Happy Thanksgiving" and a DM on December 24, 2020, wishing her a "Happy Holidays." At this point, she hadn't responded in months to his DMs, voice messages, or emails. In our interview, Jessica showed Middleclass Artist seven DMs from Andreas Laska between November 2020 and February 2021, more than a year and a half after her Köln debut.
For Jessica, "Laska had become such a constant in my life, and my husband's life it became a sort of a dark, inside joke." Learning of the other women who Laska pursued and the pending investigation, Jessica said, "it was as if you had this weird, imaginary friend, and suddenly everyone knows this person's name and says, yea, that imaginary friend does that to me, too."
Jessica feels sorry for Laska more than anything and considers his behavior towards her "unacceptable." "It's not something women should be so conditioned to accept or expect, that 'no' means 'yes' somehow."
Laska changed the way Jessica interacts with people online. She's become more guarded about her personal information, removing geotags from her posts: "I truly hadn't realized how much he affected and permeated my life and my use of social media and my outlook on it until I began reviewing the past two years."
Jessica saw Laska's actions not only as a "pathological" personal failure but as a betrayal of the arts in general:
"The arts and storytelling are so necessary for our communal mental health, to connect us all and help us find common ground. If you are taking on the role of critic, you have a very important job. You are meant to be someone who educates about the art form; someone who uses a critical eye to shape a response to what’s been presented to expand its reach and influence by encouraging the artists to do better or celebrating what’s done well. To use that as a tool to gain inappropriate access to people’s lives is malpractice."
The Response: ResMusica, Das Opernglas, and Laska
Over the past few weeks, several singers harassed by Laska reached out to both ResMusica and Das Opernglas with their stories, compiling detailed notes of Andreas Laska’s behavior.
Several of the women also reached out to ResMusica on January 31 with evidence showing Laska pursued them. On February 2, the Secrétaire Général of ResMusica, Jean-Christophe Le Toquin, told them in an email that ResMusica “reached out to Mr. Andreas Laska and informed him about the type of allegations that had been reported to us, without disclosing any name. He admitted the facts we reported to him, recognised he pushed too far several times and apologised.”
Middleclass Artist reached out to the Secrétaire Général of ResMusica, Jean-Christophe Le Toquin on February 3, 2021 who confirmed with Middleclass Artist that day the following information:
ResMusica “never requested Andreas Laska to work on interviews on any topic, and he had not informed us he was working on singers in the Coronavirus epidemic”; and
ResMusica’s “investigation” focused primarily on whether Laska used ResMusica credentials to obtain interviews. Based on this qualification, the evidence provided by two of the three women “was not representative of the scale of the matter”.
Jean-Christophe Le Toquin followed up again on February 4, stating that “in agreement between the management team of ResMusica and Andreas Laska, our collaboration has been suspended. Andreas Laska has been removed from our list of contributors, and he will not write for us until further notice.” ResMusica provided the following message from Andrea Laska to be shared with the “persons he contacted”:
“Over the past months, I have contacted a large number of young female singers on social media to get them involved in two different article projects. In many cases, I asked for video interviews. However, in the end, I didn't complete these projects for various reasons. As some of these professional contacts seemed very pleasant to me, I continued them privately chatting and talking regularly with these women over quite a long time. With that, I crossed a line. Unfortunately, I only really realized this much too late. However, I would like to emphasize that I did not want to harass any of these women. I only appreciated the supposedly friendly contacts - especially now in the low-contact Corona time. At some point, the requests were like joining a Facebook group, which immediately brought me many new connections. And I liked that.
I want to apologize very much for crossing the border. I feel deeply sorry for the fact that women felt harassed by me. As I said - that was never my intention.”
Middleclass Artist asked for a clarification- did Laska write the English statement himself?
Toquin at ResMusica confirmed that Laska wrote it in English, but, “at Laska’s request” the Secrétaire Général of ResMusica personally edited and proofread it.
The editor of Das Opernglas confirmed on February 8, 2021, that Laska “offered voluntarily to step down, to which we agreed that this would have been our wish, too”. They also confirmed that Laska sent an apology “as it is”, and that Das Opernglas did not write, edit, or translate any of his English statement.
Our final case Jessica, after reading Laska’s statement, said, “I feel sorry for Andreas Laska if he truly doesn’t realize that his actions were inappropriate. I hope he finds the help he needs. I think good journalists and critics are worth their weight in gold, and holding those who use their position inappropriately accountable is important.”
Christina Casey, the mezzo in our second case study, felt disappointed by ResMusica’s response and “disturbed” by Laska’s apology:
“The response sent by ResMusica including the actions they are taking and a statement from Andreas Laska leave much to be desired. The fact that ResMusica is only "suspending collaboration until further notice" leaves cause for concern. He has used the name of ResMusica (and Opernglas) to contact upwards of 70 women (that we know of), and it stands to reason it will not be safe for him to write for them in any capacity in the future.
However, the most disturbing part of the email is the response from Laska himself. He claims in his response that the contacts he has made have only been the result of the last "few months" and that he "appreciated the contacts - especially now in the low-contact Corona time." However, there is evidence that this sort of behavior dates back at least to 2019, if not earlier.
Another disturbing aspect of the response is the fact that it is written in perfect English, which completely debunks one of the overarching themes in his contact to English speaking women that he "does not speak English." So, his message is full of lies, and the overall takeaway as someone who endured his harassment personally, is that he is only sorry now that people have outed him. He certainly did not seem sorry to inundate the inbox of a married woman with relentless messages of his desire to "keep talking."
A Final Question
Of all the women Middleclass Artist interviewed, one left us with more questions than answers.
Andreas Laska contacted Emma through her wedding website on WeddingWire.com. He said he was a German journalist writing an article about “German in the World”. He asked to speak German with her, she agreed and they communicated for months. Once she told him she no longer wanted to stay in contact, his messages became more aggressive. He kept track of her movements online, her schedule, and would write things like, “I know you are online right now.”
Laska’s most recent message to her was through LinkedIn on January 4, 2021.
He first reached out to her almost four years ago, on January 23, 2017.
Emma’s not an opera singer. She’s not even a professional musician.
She’s a 29-year old social worker.
How far back does this go?
ResMusica's Secrétaire Général Jean-Christophe Le Toquin reached out to Middleclass Artist on February 10, 2021, informing us that, after reviewing our investigation, they have cut all ties with Andreas Laska:
"Based on your article's specific and substantial information, we confirm that we have ceased all collaboration with Andreas Laska.
It appears that our former contributor took advantage of his collaboration with our magazine to get in touch with young female singers for personal benefits. These acts are unacceptable."
If you have been the victim of harassment, there are support resources available:
In Germany, there is a support office for harassment in film, media or theater - opera performers are free to get in touch when they encounter inappropriate behavior and/or sexual harassment. They can help to avoid others being harassed and they can help to take legal action:
Time's Up Now based in Washington, DC may be able to connect you with an attorney, and the #NotMe App provides a "safe, supportive space for you to speak up and seek resolution, regardless of your position of power."
Mary Claire (MC) Curran is the Founder & CEO of Muse Media Services, LLC. a consultancy and PR/marketing firm focused on sustainability practices, advocacy, and creative problem solving with expertise in the classical music industry. She is also an award-winning singer and crossover soprano.