The Philadelphia Orchestra has pulled its invitation to tenor Plácido Domingo to headline its season-opening gala Sept. 18 in the wake of an Associated Press article in which nine women said he had sexually harassed them starting as far back as the 1980s.
“We are committed to providing a safe, supportive, respectful and appropriate environment for the Orchestra and staff, for collaborating artists and composers, and for our audiences and communities,” the orchestra said in a statement Tuesday.
Domingo, 78, the leading living tenor and a famous figure in the opera world, was a top administrator at the Washington National Opera for 14 years and is well known for his generosity and commitment to the art form. But he also has a reputation for womanizing.
The AP article paints 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.
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.”
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 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 the singer’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 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.
Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter and WNO General Director Timothy O’Leary said in a joint statement that the organizations have zero-tolerance policies regarding sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse of any kind.
“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.
Domingo’s behavior set the tone for others, Cynthia Weinman, a mezzo-soprano who participated in the training program from 2008-2010, told The Washington Post. 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.”
Domingo is also among the most beloved of classical stars – handsome, charming and popular. One of the original Three Tenors, the talent behind the best-selling classical album of all time, and a multiple Grammy winner, Domingo has remained active on major international stages, increasingly taking on baritone roles as the higher notes have gotten tricky with time.
Domingo is slated to sing the title role of Verdi’s “Macbeth,” a baritone part, for three performances at the Metropolitan Opera in September and October. The Met has not yet responded to queries about whether he will still perform.
The Salzburg Festival in Austria, however, said Tuesday that Domingo would appear as scheduled in performances of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” 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.”