Women ac­cuse opera leg­end Domingo of sex­ual ha­rass­ment

The Detroit News - - FRONT PAGE - BY JO­CE­LYN GECKER As­so­ci­ated Press

For decades, Placido 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


At 78, Domingo still at­tracts sell­out crowds around the globe and con­tin­ues adding to the 150 roles he has sung in 4,000-plus 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 that they were sex­u­ally ha­rassed by the long­mar­ried, Span­ish-born su­per­star in en­coun­ters that took place over three decades be­gin­ning in the late 1980s, at venues that in­cluded 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, a half-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 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 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 50-year 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 Domingo 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 LA com­pany’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore 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 that 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 mezzo-so­prano 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.

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.

The women mak­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions were mostly young and start­ing their careers at the time.


Markus Schreiber / AP

Eight singers and a dancer al­lege sex­ual ha­rass­ment by opera star Placido Domingo, seen per­form­ing in Berlin, Ger­many in 2009.

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