Accusations against Plácido Domingo divide the opera world

A report last week revealed that nine women were accusing Domingo of sexual harassment.

In this Aug. 26, 2014, file photo, Placido Domingo speaks at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
In this Aug. 26, 2014, file photo, Placido Domingo speaks at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. –AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File

For half a century, Plácido Domingo has been one of opera’s most beloved figures: a heartthrob tenor, a leader of opera companies and an ambassador for the art form who, at 78, continues to be a box-office draw in an era of diminished star power.

So when a report last week revealed that nine women were accusing Domingo of sexual harassment, it became the latest high-profile example of the complexities of the #MeToo era — and it divided the classical music world.

Some of the fault lines were geographic. Two American institutions, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera, swiftly canceled their upcoming concerts with him, citing their need to provide safe environments. But none of Domingo’s many upcoming performances in Europe were canceled, as presenters there decided on a wait-and-see approach.

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Singers were divided, too. More than two dozen rallied to Domingo’s defense. One of opera’s biggest divas, Anna Netrebko, wrote on Instagram that she was looking forward to sharing the stage of New York’s Metropolitan Opera next month “with fantastic Placido Domingo!”

But some others took to social media to urge that the accusations should be taken seriously.

The allegations, which were reported by The Associated Press, were made by eight singers and a dancer, all but one of whom spoke anonymously, who said that he had used his immense power in the opera world to try to pressure them into sexual relationships. Some described repeated, harassing phone calls; several said that they believed their careers had been harmed when they rebuffed him.

In a statement, Domingo called the allegations “as presented, inaccurate,” but called it “painful to hear that I may have upset anyone or made them feel uncomfortable — no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions.”

Now his fate will hinge on several factors. Most critical will be the outcome of an investigation by the Los Angeles Opera; several of the accusations against him concern encounters in Los Angeles.

The Met and several leading European companies said they would await the results of that inquiry before taking any actions of their own.