This story has been updated.
In the wake of explosive allegations of sexual harassment against opera singer Plácido Domingo, the Los Angeles Opera, where he has served as general director since 2003, has launched an independent investigation, the San Francisco Opera has canceled a concert featuring the celebrated tenor, and the Philadelphia Orchestra has pulled his invitation to headline its season-opening gala.
The Associated Press on Tuesday detailed accusations from nine women who said Domingo, 78, a famous figure in the opera world, had sexually harassed them starting as far back as the 1980s.
Domingo is well known in the field for his generosity and commitment to the art form. But the article painted a picture of a man who has used his power as a way to win sexual favors and who has withheld jobs when his advances are rejected.
Domingo could not be reached for comment. In a statement, the tenor told the AP the allegations are “deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate.”
“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,” according to the statement. “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.”
Domingo was a top administrator at the Washington National Opera for 14 years, where his desire to raise the company’s profile led to overspending that he was unable to cover with fundraising, and that ultimately led to the company’s merger with the Kennedy Center in 2011, the year Domingo left.
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter and WNO General Director Timothy O’Leary said in a joint statement that Domingo had no longer had any affiliation with the company since his 2011 departure.
“We take allegations of this nature very seriously,” they said. “The specific accusations reported today predate WNO’s affiliation with the Kennedy Center in 2011 — and Mr. Domingo has not been engaged by WNO since the fall of 2011. Our goal always is to ensure that all of our artists and employees can work and thrive in an environment of safety, trust, support, creativity, and mutual respect.”
Domingo has been especially active in the careers of young artists, and the WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program still bears his name.
Cynthia Weinman, a mezzo-soprano who participated in the training program from 2008-2010, told The Washington Post that Domingo’s behavior set the tone for others. Weinman said Domingo and another young artist had a sexual relationship that everyone in the company, and Domingo’s wife, knew about. “All of us knew it was going on,” she said.
Weinman recounted a trip to China for a production of “Rigoletto.” Most of the singers flew coach, she said, while the singer Domingo was allegedly involved with had flown first-class a few days earlier. “We all pretended nothing was happening,” she said. “I think it created a culture of it being accepted in that company.”
Weinman questioned why the young artist program remains connected to the tenor. “I don’t understand why it’s still named that,” she said. “I don’t think it makes sense, especially after today.”
Domingo’s Operalia competition, founded in 1993, also seeks to identify and place young talent in the field.
“Participating or even winning a prize in this competition is only the beginning of every singer’s relationship with Plácido Domingo’s Operalia,” the website says. It continues, “Plácido Domingo himself, a singer, a conductor and the General Director of the Los Angeles Opera, takes a committed interest in the career development of the competitors. Some singers, perhaps not yet ready for the big stages, may be chosen to join one of several Young Artists programs currently established in Washington and Los Angeles in the United States and Valencia in Spain.”
Patricia Wulf, a mezzo-soprano who sang at the Washington National Opera, was the only one of the nine accusers — eight singers and a dancer — who would allow her name to be used in the AP story. Domingo is still active as a singer, conductor and administrator — he is general director with the Los Angeles Opera.
One singer who spoke to the AP said Domingo’s pursuit of her was relentless, even after she rebuffed him and reminded him that she was married. “It’s a shame your husband doesn’t understand about your career,” he reportedly told her. That singer, now 49 and retired, said that once Domingo took over control of casting decisions at the LA Opera, he never hired her again.
Other women told the AP that Domingo had made overtures to them, and almost three dozen people in the field confirmed that “they witnessed inappropriate sexually tinged behavior by Domingo and that he pursued younger women with impunity.”
Seven of the nine accusers said they believed their careers had been negatively affected by their refusal of Domingo’s advances.
The Los Angeles Opera said Tuesday that it would hire outside counsel to investigate the “concerning allegations” in the AP story.
“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,” the company said in a statement. “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 Metropolitan Opera also issued a statement, saying it would await the results of the LA Opera investigation before making a decision about Domingo’s future with the company, where he is slated to sing the title role of Verdi’s “Macbeth,” a baritone part, three times in September and October.
“We take accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of power with extreme seriousness,” the statement said. “It should be noted that during his career at the Met as a guest artist, Mr. Domingo has never been in a position to influence casting decisions for anyone other than himself.”
The Salzburg Festival in Austria, however, said Tuesday that Domingo would appear as scheduled in performances of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” — in which he takes another baritone role — on Aug. 25 and 31.
“I have known Plácido Domingo for more than 25 years,” the festival’s president, Helga 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. . . . Had the accusations against him been voiced inside the Festspielhaus in Salzburg, I am sure I would have heard of it. . . . Artistic Director Markus Hinterhäuser, Executive Director Lukas Crepaz and I all agree that Plácido Domingo should perform as planned.”