Famed singer accused of sexual harassment
Domingo’s behavior has long been an open secret, accusers and others say
For decades Plácido Domingo, one of the most celebrated and powerful men in opera, has tried to pressure women into sexual relationships by dangling jobs and then sometimes punishing the women professionally when they refused his advances, numerous accusers told The Associated Press.
Regarded as one of the greatest opera singers of all time, Domingo also is a prolific conductor and the director of the Los Angeles Opera. The multiple Grammy winner is an immensely respected figure in his rarefied world, described by colleagues as a man of prodigious charm and energy who works tirelessly to promote his art form.
At 78, Domingo still attracts sellout crowds around the globe and continues adding to the 150 roles he has sung in 4,000plus performances, more than any opera singer in history.
But his accusers and others in the industry say there is a troubling side to Domingo — one they say has long been an open secret in the opera world.
Eight singers and a dancer have told the AP they were sexually harassed by the longmarried, Spanishborn superstar in encounters that
took place over three decades beginning in the late 1980s, at venues that include opera companies where he held top managerial positions.
One accuser said Domingo stuck his hand down her skirt and three others said he forced wet kisses on their lips — in a dressing room, a hotel room and at a lunch meeting.
“A business lunch is not strange,” said one of the singers. “Somebody trying to hold your hand during a business lunch is strange — or putting their hand on your knee is a little strange. He was always touching you in some way, and always kissing you.”
In addition to the nine accusers, half a dozen other women told the AP that suggestive overtures by Domingo made them uncomfortable, including one singer who said he repeatedly asked her out on dates after hiring her to sing a series of concerts with him in the 1990s.
The AP also spoke to almost three dozen other singers, dancers, orchestra musicians, members of backstage staff, voice teachers and an administrator who said that they witnessed inappropriate sexually tinged behavior by Domingo and that he pursued younger women with impunity.
Domingo did not respond to detailed questions from the AP about specific incidents, but he issued a statement saying: “The allegations from these unnamed individuals dating back as many as thirty years are deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate.
“Still, it is painful to hear that I may have upset anyone or made them feel uncomfortable — no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions. I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone.
“However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are — and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past. I am blessed and privileged to have had a more than 50year career in opera and will hold myself to the highest standards.”
On Tuesday, the LA Opera, where Domingo has served as general director since 2003, said it would hire outside counsel to investigate the allegations against the star. And the Philadelphia Orchestra rescinded an invitation for him to appear at its opening night concert next month.
Domingo’s next concert is scheduled for Aug. 31 at the Salzburg Festival, which said Tuesday that he would appear as planned.
New York’s Metropolitan Opera said it would await the results of the L.A. company’s investigation before making any “final decisions” about Domingo’s future at the Met, where he is scheduled to appear next month.
Seven of Domingo’s nine accusers told the AP they feel their careers were adversely impacted after rejecting his advances, with some saying roles he promised never materialized and several noting that while they went on to work with other companies, they were never hired to work with him again.
Only one of the nine women would allow her name to be used — Patricia Wulf, a mezzosoprano who sang with Domingo at the Washington Opera. The others requested anonymity, saying they either still work in the business and feared reprisals or worried they might be publicly humiliated and even harassed.
The accusers’ stories lay out strikingly similar patterns of behavior that include Domingo persistently contacting them — often calling them repeatedly at home late at night — expressing interest in their careers and urging them to meet him privately for a drink or a meal, or at his apartment or hotel room, under the guise of offering professional advice.
None of the women could offer documentation, such as phone messages, but the AP spoke to many colleagues and friends who they confided in. In addition, the AP independently verified that the women worked where they said they did and that Domingo overlapped with them at those locations.
The AP has withheld certain details in cases where it could lead to identification of the accuser.
Two of the women said they briefly gave in to Domingo’s advances, feeling they couldn’t risk jeopardizing their careers by saying no to the most powerful man in their profession.
One said she had sex with him twice, including at the Biltmore hotel in Los Angeles. When Domingo left for a performance, the woman said, he put $10 on the dresser, saying, “I don’t want you to feel like a prostitute, but I also don’t want you to have to pay to park.”
Many of the accusers said they were warned repeatedly by colleagues to never be alone with Domingo, even in an elevator. If they did join him for a meal, they said they were told to avoid alcohol and meet at a public place — for lunch, not dinner.
Many of those who spoke did so reluctantly, fearing retribution but also not wanting to inflict collateral damage on the industry itself.
But ultimately, those who talked to the AP said they felt emboldened by the #Metoo movement and decided the most effective way to attack the entrenched sexual misconduct in their industry was to call out the behavior of opera’s most prominent figure.
Numerous women told the AP they were sexually harassed by Plácido Domingo.
When Patricia Wulf got hired to do solo roles at the Washington Opera, where Plácido Domingo was artistic director and later general director, it seemed like the experience of a lifetime, she said, but it quickly became a nightmare.
Wulf holds a 1998 photo of herself with Domingo and her 4yearold daughter. She hopes she can help other women “be strong enough to say no” to men in positions of power.