Opera star Placido Domingo as general director of the Los Angeles Opera on Wednesday and withdrew from all future performances, following multiple allegations from women who say the tenor sexually harassed them there and at opera companies around the country over a period of decades.
Domingo’s departure from LA Opera raises questions about his future career in the United States, where he has been removed or has stepped down from all scheduled appearances since the allegations were first reported.
In two reports, AP spoke to more than 20 women who accused Domingo of sexual harassment or other inappropriate conduct. Many said Domingo tried to pressure them into sexual relationships and sometimes punished them professionally if they rejected him. All said they feared reporting him because of his power to make or break their careers, and that his behaviour was an open secret in the opera world.
The accusers’ stories laid out strikingly similar patterns of behavior that included Domingo persistently contacting them – often calling them repeatedly at home, late at night – expressing interest in their careers and urging them to meet him privately at his apartment or a hotel room, or for a meal, under the guise of offering professional advice. Several women said they took extreme measures to avoid Domingo, hiding from him in dressing rooms, not answering their phones or asking male colleagues to walk them to their cars so they wouldn’t be alone.
In a statement released yesterday, Domingo said that his ability to continue at LA Opera was “compromised” by the accusations against him. “I hold Los Angeles Opera very dearly to my heart and count my work to create and build it as among my most important legacies,” said Domingo, 78, who helped found the company in the 1980s and is credited with raising its international profile.
“However, recent accusations that have been made against me in the press have created an atmosphere in which my ability to serve this company that I so love has been compromised,” he said, adding that he would continue to work to clear his name but decided “it is in the best interests of LA Opera for me to resign as general director and withdraw from my future scheduled performances at this time".
Domingo had been scheduled to headline six performances of Roberto Devereux in February and March.
The resignation comes a week after the Metropolitan Opera's bombshell announcement that Domingo would not be taking the stage in the season premiere of Macbeth and possibly ever again. Three other companies – the Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Opera and Dallas Opera – had already removed Domingo from upcoming performances.
Domingo has denied any wrongdoing. He has called the claims “in many ways, simply incorrect", but has not elaborated or addressed any of the accusations directly.
For years, Domingo has been the opera world's most bankable star, with the celebrity power to fill seats in an era of dwindling ticket sales. Over time, he also widened his portfolio, becoming a prolific conductor and powerful administrator as the general director of two major American companies, first at Washington Opera and later at LA Opera, where he served as an artistic consultant from 1984 to 2000, artistic director from 2000 to 2003 and, finally, general director from 2003 until now. His current contract ran through the 2021-22 season.
For at least the rest of the year, Domingo's career will be centred in Europe, where the accusations of harassment have not hurt him professionally. He was greeted with ovations at concerts in August in Austria, shortly after the accusations emerged.
None of Domingo's upcoming performances in Europe have been cancelled; he has a busy fall lineup of operas and concerts in Switzerland, Russia, Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland.