Placido Domingo, one of the most successful and prolific opera singers of all time, has been accused by numerous women of sexual harassment, according to a new investigation by the Associated Press. The testimonies given by eight singers and a dancer, corroborated by dozens of colleagues, friends, and associates from within and without the opera world, provide an account of a man who over the course of three decades repeatedly used his position to pressure women into sexual relationships, often with the promise of jobs or preferential treatment, and who would subsequently punish them professionally, with multiple women affirming that after refusing his advances they were never hired to work with his company again.
In a series of interviews that repeatedly suggest similar tactics employed by the legendary performer, the women tells stories of initial unwanted physical contact in the workplace. (As one of the singers says, “A business lunch is not strange. Somebody trying to hold your hand during a business lunch is strange—or putting their hand on your knee is a little strange. He was always touching you in some way, and always kissing you.”) From there, Domingo would allegedly often follow up with multiple calls to the women at home, often late at night, insisting they meet up with him at a hotel or his apartment, often suggesting it would be about career advice. However, as detailed in the stories of most of the women, these encounters with the singer would lead to his attempting to kiss or fondle them, sometimes more. A mezzo-soprano (not one of the accusers) who once worked at the LA Opera, where Domingo is director, told the AP, “There is an oral tradition of warning women against Placido Domingo.”
Only one of the women, retired singer Patricia Wulf, felt safe enough to go on the record, the other women saying they feared public harassment or reprisal from within their industry. Two of the women acknowledged eventually giving in to his advances, saying they feared their entire careers were in jeopardy if they refused them. In addition to the nine accusers, a half-dozen other women provided testimony about suggestive behavior from Domingo that made them uncomfortable, as well as nearly three dozen other singers, dancers, musicians, backstage staff, and more who stated they had witnessed inappropriate sexual behavior by Domingo, often on more than one occasion, and that the long-married singer was well-known for pursuing young women in the industry “with impunity.”
Detailed accounts of each of the womens’ testimonies are provided in the AP investigation. Domingo did not respond to specific questions form the AP about any of the allegations in question, but he did release a public statement:
“The allegations from these unnamed individuals dating back as many as thirty 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. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone. 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.”