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Celebrated tenor Plácido Domingo has been accused of sexual harassment
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Ashutosh Khandekar

Plácido Domingo accused of sexual harassment

11:38, 14th August 2019

Plácido Domingo has been accused of sexually harassing a number of women over the course of three decades.

Eight singers and a dancer said they were sexually harassed by the famous Spanish tenor in a series of incidents from the late 1980s onwards, according to the Associated Press news agency. Six other women said Domingo made them feel uncomfortable with sexual propositions.

The incidents are reported to have taken place at venues including opera companies where Domingo held managerial positions. One woman accused Domingo of putting his hand down her skirt and three women said he forcefully kissed them in a dressing room, hotel room and at a lunch meeting. Several of the women reported that Domingo repeatedly called them late at night, urging them to meet him privately at his apartment or hotel room, under the guise of offering career advice.

Domingo, who has been married to his second wife, the soprano Marta Ornelas, since 1962, said: ‘The allegations from these unnamed individuals dating back as many as 30 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.’

Seven of the accusers claimed their careers were adversely affected as a result of rejecting Domingo’s advances. Only one woman, mezzo-soprano Patricia Wulf, has allowed her name to be used in the AP investigation. The others chose to remain anonymous because they still work in the industry and feared reprisals.

 

Opera Now’s Editor Ashutosh Khandekar writes:

Domingo: are we too quick to come to conclusions?

Plácido Domingo, the greatest opera singer of his generation, is the latest high-profile man accused of sexual harassment. The surprise for many is that such allegations have taken such a long time to emerge in the era of #MeToo. Domingo’s backstage indiscretions have long been a subject of gossip in the opera world. He is naturally flirtatious, highly charismatic and has an undeniably seductive charm that leaves him prone, in the current climate, to accusations of misconduct.

Plácido Domingo as Nabucco at London’s Royal Opera House (Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore)

Whether Domingo has used his position as one of the most powerful men in opera to coerce women into sexually compromising behaviour is something that surely needs to be proved before he faces any consequences. In effect, however, he has been pronounced guilty before the allegations have been put to the test. So far, the Philadelphia Orchestra has withdrawn its invitation for Domingo to perform at its opening night concert on 18 September. San Francisco Opera has also cancelled its concert on 6 October at which Domingo was due to perform. Other cancellations will undoubtedly follow.

Only one accuser, Patricia Wulf, a 61-year-old real estate agent who has retired as a professional opera singer, has agreed to be named – and her case is all the more cogent for it. The substance of her allegations is that Domingo initiated a relentless campaign of sexually suggestive coercion, and that her rejection of such a powerful figure’s advances ultimately may have affected her career.

The worlds of opera and dance are especially problematic when it comes to negotiating sexual boundaries. The stage is an extremely intimate environment – for most operas to be effective, there has to be highly physical, even visceral interaction between performers. As a result, opera companies have been working hard to set particularly high standards of trust and consensus among their performing ensembles, both on and off stage.

In old-fashioned hierarchies, a man such as Domingo had disproportionate power to influence careers, and therefore the potential for exploitation was high. The checks and balances that exist in today’s workplace should mean that the vulnerable are much better protected. If Domingo has a case to answer before his accusers, then let them come forward and name themselves and tell their stories openly, with the confidence that they will have the support and respect of their profession in their quest for justice.

The current situation seems grossly unfair: that a great artist who has worked tirelessly on behalf his profession over more than half a century of dedication and service, is vilified, deprived of his livelihood, dignity and reputation, and forced to defend himself on the basis of anonymous and sometimes vague allegations alone.

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