Plácido Domingo, Opera Star, Accused of Sexual Harassment

1 week ago

Plácido Domingo, among the biggest and most powerful stars in opera, was accused of decades of sexual harassment in an article published Tuesday by The Associated Press. The article reported the allegations of multiple women who said Mr. Domingo pressured them into sexual relationships with the offer of jobs and sometimes punished them professionally if they refused his advances.

The news agency said that eight singers and a dancer had given accounts of being harassed by Mr. Domingo in a series of encounters beginning in the late 1980s. Seven of them said that they felt their careers were harmed after they rebuffed him.

Mr. Domingo, 78, said in a statement that “the allegations from these unnamed individuals dating back as many as 30 years are deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate,” but added that “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.”

He added that “the rules and standards by which we are — and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past” and pledged to hold himself “to the highest standards.”

Mr. Domingo occupies a unique position in the opera world. After shooting to fame as a star tenor — and then reaching a far broader global audience as one of the Three Tenors, alongside Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras — he also became a conductor; founded the prestigious young artist competition Operalia; and began adding managerial positions, becoming the general director of Washington National Opera and then the Los Angeles Opera, a position he still holds. He also continues to have a prolific singing career in baritone roles.

These varied activities have made him one of the most influential figures in opera.

The women who spoke to The A.P., all but one of whom were quoted anonymously, said that Mr. Domingo had used his power to pursue them sexually — calling them repeatedly and making dates, often under the guise of offering professional advice. One accuser told the news agency that Mr. Domingo had stuck his hand down her skirt, and three others said that he had forced wet kisses on their lips, in a dressing room, a hotel room and at a lunch meeting.

One young, married singer told the news agency that Mr. Domingo had repeatedly propositioned her at the Los Angeles Opera in 1998, when the company announced that he would become its artistic director, eventually taking her to his apartment for what she described as “heavy petting” and “groping.”

“I was totally intimidated and felt like saying no to him would be saying no to God,” she was quoted as saying. “How do you say no to God?”

She told the news agency she eventually told him to stop calling her, adding that she was never hired again after Mr. Domingo got power over casting.

In his statement, which was initially made to The A.P. and later sent to The New York Times, Mr. Domingo said that he believed all his encounters were consensual.

“I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual,” said Mr. Domingo, who has been married for more than 50 years. “People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone.”

At the Salzburg Festival in Austria, where Mr. Domingo is scheduled to sing in concert performances of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” this month, Helga Rabl-Stadler, the festival’s president, said that he would perform as planned.

“I have known Plácido Domingo for more than 25 years,’’ Ms. Rabl-Stadler said in a statement. “In addition to his artistic competence, I was impressed from the very beginning by his appreciative treatment of all festival employees. He knows every name, from the concierge to the secretary; he never fails to thank anyone performing even the smallest service for him. Had the accusations against him been voiced inside the Festspielhaus in Salzburg, I am sure I would have heard of it.”

Officials at the Los Angeles Opera and the Metropolitan Opera — he is scheduled to perform with both companies this season — did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment, nor did officials at Washington National Opera.

Alex Marshall contributed reporting from London.

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