Eight singers and a dancer have come forward to accuse opera star Plácido Domingo of sexual harassment spanning over three decades. As detailed in an Associated Press report by Jocelyn Gecker, some of the described incidents took place at companies where the tenor held managerial positions. Some of the women claim that Domingo used his power to pressure them into sexual acts, promising work and then punishing them professionally if they rejected his advances. Only one woman, mezzo-soprano Patricia Wulf, allowed her name to be used, with the other accusers requesting anonymity for fear of the potential professional and personal consequences.
In addition to the nine accusers, a further six women told the AP that Domingo had made them uncomfortable by making suggestive overtures. The AP also spoke to nearly three dozen singers, dancers, musicians, backstage staff, voice teachers and an administrator who said they saw Domingo exhibit inappropriate sexually tinged behaviour, claiming he “pursued younger women with impunity.”
Domingo did not respond to any of the AP’s questions about specific incidents, issuing a statement instead.
“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 recognise 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.”
The Los Angeles Opera, where Domingo has been General Director since 2003, has said in a statement that it will launch an investigation into the accusations using outside counsel.
“We believe all employees and artists should be treated respectfully and feel safe and secure within their work environment,” the statement reads. “LA Opera has robust human resources policies and procedures in place. In accordance with those policies, LA Opera will engage outside counsel to investigate the concerning allegations about Plácido Domingo. Plácido Domingo has been a dynamic creative force in the life of LA Opera and the artistic culture of Los Angeles for more than three decades. Nevertheless, we are committed to doing everything we can to foster a professional and collaborative environment where all our employees and artists feel equally comfortable, valued and respected.”
The Philadelphia Orchestra has meanwhile cancelled Domingo’s engagement in its season opening concert in September and is currently looking for a replacement artist. In announcing the cancellation, the orchestra issued a statement saying: “We are committed to providing a safe, supportive, respectful, and appropriate environment for the orchestra and staff, for collaborating artists and composers, and for our audiences and communities.”
The San Francisco Opera is likewise cancelling an October concert with the singer, meant to mark his 50th anniversary with the company. The company said in a statement that although no inappropriate behaviour was said to have occurred in San Francisco, it was nevertheless “committed to its strong anti-sexual harassment policy and requires all company members to adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct.”
Domingo’s next concert, scheduled for August 31 at the Salzburg Festival, will go ahead as planned. Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler said organisers were united in their decision, adding in a statement: “I have known Plácido Domingo for more than 25 years. In addition to his artistic competence, I was impressed from the very beginning by his appreciative treatment of all festival employees.”
“I would find it factually wrong and morally irresponsible to make irreversible judgement at this point,” she said.
The Metropolitan Opera has meanwhile said it will await the results of LA Opera’s investigation “before making any final decisions about Mr Domingo’s future at the Met.” He is scheduled to appear there next month in a production of Macbeth and in November for performances of Madama Butterfly.
The Met, which fired former Music Director James Levine in 2018 amid accusations of sexual misconduct – and which last week settled a lawsuit Levine had filed against the company for breach of contract and defamation – added in its statement that as a guest artist, Domingo has never had the power to influence casting decisions there.