For many years, Placido Domingo, some of the celebrated and highly effective males in opera, has tried to strain girls into sexual relationships by dangling jobs after which generally punishing the ladies professionally once they refused his advances, quite a few accusers informed The Related Press.
Considered one of many biggest opera singers of all time, Domingo is also a prolific conductor and the director of the Los Angeles Opera. The a number of Grammy winner is an immensely revered determine in his rarefied world, described by colleagues as a person of prodigious attraction and vitality who works tirelessly to advertise his artwork kind.
At 78, Domingo nonetheless attracts sellout crowds across the globe and continues including to the 150 roles he has sung in 4,000-plus performances, greater than any opera singer in historical past.
However his accusers and others within the business say there’s a troubling aspect to Domingo — one they are saying has lengthy been an open secret within the opera world.
Eight singers and a dancer have informed the AP that they had been sexually harassed by the long-married, Spanish-born celebrity in encounters that occurred over three many years starting within the late 1980s, at venues that included opera firms the place he held prime managerial positions.
One accuser mentioned Domingo caught his hand down her skirt and three others mentioned he compelled moist kisses on their lips — in a dressing room, a resort room and at a lunch assembly.
“A business lunch is not strange,” mentioned one of many singers. “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.”
Along with the 9 accusers, a half-dozen different girls informed the AP that suggestive overtures by Domingo made them uncomfortable, together with one singer who mentioned he repeatedly requested her out on dates after hiring her to sing a collection of concert events with him within the 1990s.
The AP additionally spoke to virtually three dozen different singers, dancers, orchestra musicians, members of backstage workers, voice lecturers and an administrator who mentioned they witnessed inappropriate sexually tinged habits by Domingo and that he pursued youthful girls with impunity.
Domingo didn’t reply to detailed questions from the AP about particular incidents, however issued a press release saying: “The allegations from these unnamed people courting again as many as thirty years are deeply troubling, and as introduced, inaccurate.
“Nonetheless, it’s painful to listen to that I might have upset anybody or made them really feel uncomfortable — irrespective of how way back and regardless of my finest intentions. I believed that each one of my interactions and relationships had been at all times welcomed and consensual. Individuals who know me or who’ve labored with me know that I am not somebody who would deliberately hurt, offend, or embarrass anybody.
“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.”
Seven of the 9 accusers informed the AP they really feel their careers had been adversely impacted after rejecting Domingo’s advances, with some saying that roles he promised by no means materialized and several other noting that whereas they went on to work with different firms, they had been by no means employed to work with him once more.
Solely one of many 9 girls would enable her title for use — Patricia Wulf, a mezzo-soprano who sang with Domingo on the Washington Opera. The others requested anonymity, saying they both nonetheless work within the enterprise and feared reprisals or nervous they could be publicly humiliated and even harassed.
The accusers’ tales lay out strikingly related patterns of habits that included Domingo persistently contacting them — typically calling them repeatedly at house late at evening — expressing curiosity of their careers and urging them to fulfill him privately for a drink or a meal, or at his condo or resort room, below the guise of providing skilled recommendation.
Not one of the girls may supply documentation, resembling telephone messages, however the AP spoke to many colleagues and associates who they confided in. As well as, the AP independently verified that the ladies labored the place they mentioned they did and that Domingo overlapped with them at these places.
The AP has withheld sure particulars in instances the place it may result in identification of the accuser.
Two of the ladies mentioned they briefly gave in to Domingo’s advances, feeling they couldn’t danger jeopardizing their careers by saying no to probably the most highly effective man of their occupation.
One in all them mentioned she had intercourse with him twice, together with on the Biltmore resort in Los Angeles. When Domingo left for a efficiency, the girl mentioned, he put $10 on the dresser, saying, “I don’t want you to feel like a prostitute, but I also don’t want you to have to pay to park.”
Most of the accusers mentioned they had been warned repeatedly by colleagues to by no means be alone with Domingo, even in an elevator. In the event that they did be a part of him for a meal, they mentioned they had been informed to keep away from alcohol and meet at a public place — for lunch, not dinner.
The ladies making the accusations had been principally younger and beginning their careers on the time.
A number of mentioned they took excessive measures to keep away from Domingo, together with not utilizing the women’ room close to his workplace, asking different singers or backstage workers to stay with them whereas at work, and never answering their telephones at house.
The dancer known as her avoidance approach “the bob and weave, the giggle and get out,” and one soprano labeled it “walking the tightrope.”
Domingo’s affect within the opera world is so nice that Wulf was the one particular person among the many dozens who talked to the AP who spoke on the file. And plenty of of those that spoke did so reluctantly, fearing retribution but in addition not desirous to inflict collateral injury on the business itself.
However in the end, those that talked to the AP mentioned they felt emboldened by the #MeToo motion and determined the best option to assault the entrenched sexual misconduct of their business was to name out the habits of opera’s most outstanding determine.
“There is an oral tradition of warning women against Placido Domingo,” mentioned a mezzo-soprano who labored on the LA Opera however is just not among the many accusers. She echoed recommendation that a number of girls mentioned that they had obtained: “Avoid interaction with him at all costs. And definitely don’t be alone with him.”
“Am I going to be the target or not?”
One other mezzo-soprano who is without doubt one of the accusers was 23 and singing within the LA Opera refrain when she first met Domingo in 1988.
Throughout a rehearsal of “Tales of Hoffman,” she was chosen to kiss Domingo in an orgy scene. She mentioned she remembers wiping his saliva off her face from a sloppy, moist kiss after which he whispered in her ear, “I wish we weren’t on stage.”
After that incident, she mentioned, Domingo began calling her at house incessantly, though she had not given him her quantity. He informed her she was a proficient singer with a promising future and he wished to assist her.
“I hadn’t started my career yet. I was completely flattered. And floored. And excited,” she mentioned. “Then it got creepier.”
“He would say things like, ‘Come to my apartment. Let’s sing through some arias. I’ll give you coaching. I’d like to hear what you can do for casting.’”
Over the course of the following three years, she mentioned, he was uncomfortably affectionate, slipping a hand round her waist once they crossed backstage or giving her a kiss on the cheek a bit too near the mouth. He knew the important thing codes for the dressing rooms and would enter uninvited, she mentioned, which she mentioned she assumed was to catch her undressed.
Domingo was a creative guide at LA Opera within the 1980s when his stardom went mainstream. Newsweek journal dubbed him “The King of The Opera” in a 1982 cowl story and he appeared on common tv reveals like “Sesame Street,” the place a personality, Placido Flamingo, was named for him. His collaboration within the “Three Tenors,” with the late Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras, produced the best-selling classical recording of all time.
Relatively than offend Domingo and danger dropping future assignments, the mezzo-soprano mentioned she strenuously tried to keep away from being alone with him, whereas additionally striving to not insult him. However he didn’t take the trace, she mentioned, and resumed his unwelcome pursuit each time he returned to Los Angeles.
One evening, she mentioned, she agreed to fulfill Domingo about 11 p.m. “and then I had a full-blown panic attack. I freaked out, and I just kept not answering the phone. He just filled up the machine, calling me until 3:30 in the morning.”
She mentioned she didn’t report his habits as a result of “that just wasn’t done” and likewise feared any misstep may kill her profession.
Singers and directors would “smile and shrug,” she mentioned. “Everybody would see me running around to avoid him and laugh it off. That’s how everybody dealt with Placido.”
One backstage workers member mentioned many felt Domingo was pursuing the mezzo-soprano “in some way that she was not wanting. We were all aware of that.” And a male singer and good friend informed the AP that he remembered the singer searching for his recommendation about the best way to navigate the scenario.
The mezzo-soprano mentioned she would mentally put together herself for the star’s returns to Los Angeles. “I used to steel myself when he was in town, thinking, ‘Am I going to be the target or not? What will I say to him when he asks me again? How am I going to get out of it?’”
In 1991, she mentioned, “I finally gave in and slept with him. I ran out of excuses. It was like, ‘OK, I guess this is what I have to do.’”
She mentioned she had intercourse with Domingo on two events, on the Biltmore and at his Los Angeles condo.
She mentioned the celebrity talked about his “superstition that he had to be with a woman before a show” to assist him chill out and calm his nerves.
“I will sing better — and it will all be because of you,” she mentioned he informed her earlier than he deposited $10 on the resort dresser for the parking price.
She reduce off bodily contact after the second encounter, a transfer she is satisfied derailed her profession at LA Opera.
“I don’t have a smoking gun,” she mentioned, however “for somebody who was calling me and trying to see me every year, every time he was in town, to just never contact me again and never hire me again is pretty convenient.”
“How do you say no to God?”
The LA Opera introduced in 1998 that Domingo would turn into its creative director, after working for years as a guide for the corporate.
A younger singer who met Domingo at a rehearsal that 12 months mentioned he instantly started calling her at house.
“He would say, ‘I’m going to talk to you as the future artistic director of the company’” and talk about attainable roles for her, she mentioned. “Then he would lower his voice and say, ‘Now I’m going to talk to you as Placido,’” she mentioned, and ask her to fulfill him — for a drink in Santa Monica, to see a film, to come back to his condo so he may prepare dinner her breakfast.
Throughout one in every of his frequent uninvited visits to her dressing room, he admired her costume, leaning ahead to kiss her cheeks and inserting one hand on the aspect of her breast, she mentioned.
From the start, the singer — who was 27 and simply beginning her profession — mentioned she felt panicked and trapped.
“I was totally intimidated and felt like saying no to him would be saying no to God. How do you say no to God?” she mentioned.
Because the calls wore on, she stopped selecting up the telephone. In particular person, she gave excuses, she mentioned: She was busy, she was drained, she had an audition, she was married. She quoted Domingo as replying on one event: “It’s a shame your husband doesn’t understand about your career.”
After one efficiency, the singer mentioned she went house and answered the telephone, her coronary heart sinking when she heard Domingo’s voice.
He informed her he had champagne and requested if he may come choose her up so they may have fun the efficiency. In that second, she mentioned, she had “a feeling of impending doom” that “I wasn’t going to have an opera career if I didn’t give in.” So, she mentioned, she reluctantly agreed.
“He picked me up in his BMW and I got in the car with him. He was very excited. He was touching my knee. I went in my mind into acting so I could live with myself,” she mentioned. She mentioned they drove to his condo close to the opera’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the place champagne was ready.
“We were sitting on the couch and at some point, he started kissing me,” she mentioned. She mentioned he then led her to a bed room the place he took her garments off, then undressed himself. They engaged in “heavy petting” and “groping,” she mentioned.
Domingo continued to pursue her within the days and weeks after, she mentioned, calling her repeatedly. “I felt like prey. I felt like I was being hunted by him,” she mentioned.
In the end, she informed him the calls wanted to cease and reminded him that she was married.
“I was not prepared for how much it would mess with my confidence, and my feeling shame about it and wondering who knew and if they thought that’s why I got an opportunity or a role,” she mentioned. “I started to doubt my own talent and skills.”
The singer’s husband confirmed to the AP that she had informed him on the time Domingo was persistently calling and that “eventually it was quite clear he was propositioning her.” When she confessed to what had occurred with Domingo, the husband mentioned her description of the star’s habits persuaded him “that the only way to get out of it was to either give in — or give him a hard no and give up all concerns of your career.”
A good friend and colleague of the singer informed the AP that she remembered the singer saying Domingo was inundating her with calls and ignoring requests to cease. The singer’s weight dropped dramatically and he or she developed issues along with her nerves, the colleague mentioned.
“It was like watching someone be psychologically killed,” the colleague mentioned. “She got smaller and smaller as a person.”
The singer mentioned that when Domingo took over management of casting choices on the LA Opera, he by no means employed her once more.
Now 49 and retired, she mentioned she is haunted by fears that submitting to Domingo had mitigated any wrongdoing on his half.
“I still struggle with the sense that I let myself down, pushing through and doing my job when I should have raised holy hell,” she mentioned.
“Do you have to go home tonight?”
Patricia Wulf, one other mezzo-soprano who labored with Domingo, mentioned he would confront her evening after evening with the identical whispered query.
“Every time I would walk off stage, he would be in the wings waiting for me,” she mentioned. “He would come right up to me, as close as could be, put his face right in my face, lower his voice and say, ‘Patricia, do you have to go home tonight?’”
At first, she mentioned, she nervously laughed off Domingo’s remarks, despite the fact that she thought-about them offensive. However when he continued, she made her place clear.
“I would say, ‘Yes! I have to go home tonight.’ And I would walk away.”
It was 1998 and Wulf’s profession was taking off on the Washington Opera, the place Domingo served as creative director from 1996-2003 and basic director from 2003-2011.
Then 40, she had been employed to do two solo roles that 12 months, first in a manufacturing of “The Magic Flute” and later in “Fedora,” which starred Domingo and the nice Italian soprano Mirella Freni. The chance to work with such well-known singers was a profession excessive level, she mentioned, however the expertise rapidly grew to become a nightmare.
In an interview at her house in Virginia, Wulf, now 61, held again tears as she associated how, after investing years coaching her voice, she lastly arrived on the large stage, solely to seek out herself dealing with a predicament she didn’t know the best way to deal with.
“You need to perceive that when a person that highly effective — he’s virtually like God in my enterprise — when he would come up that shut and say that, the very first thing that goes by your thoughts is ‘What?!’
“But,” she added, “you also think as soon as you walk away and get away, you think, ‘Did I just ruin my career?’ And that went on through that entire production.”
Wulf mentioned Domingo’s pursuit seemingly had no bounds.
“It got to a point that I would come off stage and try to slither behind a pillar, and he would still find a way to get to me,” she mentioned.
She mentioned Domingo would typically knock on her dressing room door uninvited and that she feared leaving the room if he was within the hallway.
“I’d open the door and peek and see if he was there. And if he was there, I would just wait,” she mentioned.
She mentioned when she introduced her husband, Richard Lew, to the “Magic Flute” opening evening occasion, Domingo “came right up to me, took my hand, shook my hand, kissed both cheeks and he whispered in my ear, ‘I would like to meet my rival.’”
Lew informed the AP that he would ask his spouse after every efficiency, “Did it happen again? Did he say the same thing?” He added that “at a certain point, we didn’t have to ask. You could just tell by how upset she was.”
Wulf recalled the compassion of a male colleague who supplied to face up for her if she wished to report him. “They’re not going to fire him — they’ll fire me,” she remembered telling him.
Contacted by the AP, the previous colleague recalled Wulf’s discomfort and mentioned he would accompany her to her automotive at work as a result of she feared going alone.
Wulf mentioned that Domingo didn’t bodily contact her however that there was no mistaking his intentions.
“Absolutely and most certainly, that was sexual harassment,” she mentioned. “When a man steps that close to you and with a wry smile asks if I have to go home — repeatedly — I can come up with no other conclusion than him wanting to bed me. Especially given his reputation for that.”
“It affected the way I dealt with men for the rest of my operatic career and the rest of my life,” she added.
Wulf mentioned she is talking out as a result of the silence about what she known as the “well-known secret” of Domingo’s habits has stretched on too lengthy. “I’m stepping forward because I hope that it can help other women come forward, or be strong enough to say no,” she mentioned.
“I was frozen in terror.”
One other singer who labored in Los Angeles within the mid-2000s informed the AP that she already knew of Domingo’s fame when he took an excessive curiosity in her profession. She made positive she at all times had an excuse for leaving proper after work.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t scared. I thought I could handle it,” she mentioned, noting that he was persistent however not bodily aggressive.
However one evening after rehearsal, he caught her off-guard, she mentioned, asking her for a journey house.
“The whole premise was ridiculous: Why would Placido Domingo not have a ride home?” she mentioned. “But what was I going to do?”
Midway by the quick drive, she mentioned, he put his hand on her leg and, as she reached his constructing, directed her towards a aspect entrance and informed her to drag over.
“He leaned in and tried to kiss me,” then requested her upstairs, she mentioned. She added that she declined, saying she had different plans.
A number of weeks later, she mentioned, Domingo approached her on an evening that he knew she was scheduled to remain late.
He informed her, “I’ve been trying to get you to work on this aria with me for weeks. I really want to hear you sing this role. Can you come to my apartment and we’ll run through this aria?”
His tone was totally different, she recalled. He sounded impatient.
“It sounds crazy to say, but it felt like he had invested so much time in this pursuit that he was annoyed with me,” she mentioned. “I felt like I have dragged this out and avoided him for six weeks and he is Placido and he is my boss and he is offering to work with me on this role.”
She went to his condo, the place he poured two glasses of wine, she mentioned.
“He sat down at the grand piano and we really did sing this aria, and we worked on it,” she mentioned. “And he gave me coaching and was very complimentary.”
However then, she mentioned, “When it was over, he stood up and slid his hand down my skirt, and that was when I had to get out of there.”
She mentioned he adopted her into the hallway, begged her to remain, then gestured downward and informed her he had “two hours left,” which she believed was a reference to a sexual efficiency drug.
Again at her automotive, she sat in shock “for a long time until I felt like I could drive,” she mentioned.
“I went home and was terrified to go back to work,” she mentioned. “I was frozen in terror for that whole contract.”
Since then, she has sung at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera and elsewhere, however has by no means once more been employed to sing on the Los Angeles home or with Domingo.
“I’ve been hard on myself for a while,” the singer mentioned. “Having a coaching session with somebody who offers you coaching is not consenting to sex.”
“Does he understand the risk he’s putting me in?”
A dancer who labored with the celebrity in a number of cities started recounting her experiences with him by stating, “My story is exceptionally common.”
She mentioned a flirtatious Domingo known as her late at evening on-and-off for a couple of decade within the 1990s, leaving brazen messages that she would take heed to in shock along with her husband.
Domingo would ask her to fulfill him, together with in his resort room, however she mentioned she would solely go to lunch with him, at all times framed as a enterprise meal. Nonetheless, she mentioned, his arms would wander to her knee or he would maintain her hand or kiss her cheek in ways in which made her uncomfortable.
She mentioned she would surprise to her husband: ”‘Does he understand the risk he’s placing me in, that he may wreck my marriage, wreck my profession? Does he perceive what he’s doing right here?’ However he didn’t care.”
“When you’re working for the most powerful man in the opera, you try to play ball,” she mentioned, including that she was cautious to by no means insult him and tried to attraction to his ego.
One afternoon once they had been working collectively on the Washington Opera, she mentioned Domingo requested her to fulfill for lunch at his resort restaurant to debate work. After the meal, he steered they stroll to rehearsal however mentioned he wanted to first cease at his room.
“He took me up to his room, ostensibly to pick up his stuff, and he invites me in,” she mentioned. “And he starts hugging me and kissing me.”
She pushed him away, she mentioned, and insisted she needed to get to rehearsal.
“When I clearly was not going to have sex with him, he just walked me to the elevator and went back to his room,” she mentioned. “The elevator doors opened, and I dropped. I just fell to the floor in the elevator and was sweating profusely.”
A former opera administrator mentioned he was conscious for years that Domingo was “constantly chasing” the dancer. And a conductor who’s associates with the dancer mentioned he recalled after she “said no to Domingo, she had the rug pulled out for several years.”
An opera worker who labored intently with Domingo mentioned she discovered him gentlemanly and respectful, however confirmed that the dancer had complained of being harassed by the celebrity for years. She mentioned the dancer informed her what occurred in Domingo’s resort room, including that her impression was that “even though he was persistent, he did take no for an answer.”
After the resort incident, the dancer mentioned she didn’t work with Domingo for a number of years.
“There were years when I was a wreck about it and scared that I’d never be hired again,” the dancer mentioned. Ultimately, she mentioned, she was “let back into his good graces.”
Maybe for that motive, she mentioned she feels conflicted about the best way to categorize Domingo’s habits.
“What he did is wrong,” the dancer mentioned. “He used his power, he stalked women, he put women in positions of vulnerability. People have dropped out of the business and been just erased because of submitting or not submitting to him.”
“He kept calling and leaving messages. I got frightened.”
Domingo’s pursuits prolonged past the live performance corridor, in keeping with one singer who mentioned she encountered him in Italy throughout a backpacking journey.
In her 20s on the time, the singer was a grasp’s scholar at The Juilliard College in 1992, spending the summer season touring in Europe along with her sister.
Whereas in Rome, they stayed at a price range resort off the Campo de Fiori, the place she sang within the bathe one morning with the window open. The doorman from a close-by luxurious resort yelled as much as ask who was singing, she mentioned, telling her that Domingo was a visitor in his resort and had heard her.
“He said you have a beautiful voice and he wants to meet you,” she mentioned the doorman informed her.
Domingo — who was in Rome that summer season performing “Tosca” for a reside broadcast all over the world — despatched a message asking her to fulfill him about 10 p.m. at one other resort.
She remembered strolling into the resort foyer and telling a clerk that she was assembly Placido Domingo. She was led as much as the roof, the place a personal desk was arrange and Domingo emerged wearing an elaborate costume-like gown and a billowy white shirt, with a gorgeous, younger brunette on his arm.
“The whole thing felt like something out of a movie,” she mentioned.
She mentioned she informed him she was a scholar at Juilliard and he insisted she come see him that fall on the Metropolitan Opera, situated a block from her college on Manhattan’s Higher West Aspect, so she may sing for him.
“He said he thought he could help me with my career,” she mentioned.
Again in New York, she went to one in every of Domingo’s performances, then went backstage, the place he remembered her and requested for her telephone quantity, she mentioned.
“At that point, I was enamored with the whole situation and excited to meet this really famous person with an amazing voice,” she mentioned. “Then I started getting phone calls.”
“He would talk in this childlike voice that was flirty,” she recalled. “He wanted to come to my apartment — and that was weird.”
“In Italy and at the Met, the hook was, ‘I want to hear you sing. I can connect you with people.’ Once he started calling, it was just, ‘I want to see you. I want to meet you,’” she mentioned.
She mentioned she consulted a good friend within the opera enterprise who warned her to steer clear of him.
“He was tenacious. He did not stop calling and calling and calling. The first couple times, I put him off. Then it got ridiculous. He kept calling and leaving messages. I got frightened.”
“His aggressiveness was too much to think he didn’t have an ulterior motive,” she mentioned.
At one level, she requested a male classmate to reply her telephone. Domingo by no means known as once more, she mentioned.
“It was the death of the hero.”
One other soprano mentioned she felt she had reached the top of her profession when the chance arose to work with Domingo on the Met in 2002. Domingo was her idol. His wealthy, spellbinding, soulful voice had impressed her to turn into an opera singer. Then in her 40s, her profession objective had lengthy been to work with him.
She remembers feeling elated when he praised her singing, taking her face in his arms after one efficiency and telling her, “You have moved me. Your performance moved me.” He was creative director at each the Washington and LA operas and informed her, “I’m going to find work for you. . I do many concerts. And I ask my favorite singers to join me.”
One night at intermission, she mentioned, Domingo knocked on her dressing room door and so they chatted concerning the efficiency earlier than he moved to kiss her goodbye.
“I gave him my cheek and instead he turned my face and kissed my lips,” the soprano mentioned. “Suddenly there are wet lips on mine. It was a wet, slimy kiss.” As he pulled again, she mentioned, he requested: ‘Do you understand?’”
“Yes,” the soprano answered.
“Do you really understand?” she mentioned Domingo requested once more, caressing her cheek.
″‘Yes, I absolutely understand.’” she mentioned she answered.
“That’s all I said. But for me, it was the death of the hero. That was the death of my dream,” she mentioned. Going ahead, she mentioned she gave him solely her cheek to kiss and not seemed him within the eye.
“He got the clear idea that I was not going to be cooperating. And he never pursued me again,” she mentioned. Regardless of earlier declarations of future employment, she mentioned she was by no means once more requested to work with Domingo.
Domingo’s celeb and fame are well-deserved, she mentioned, and the opera world has benefited from his great expertise as a singer and performer.
“He’s got a soul when he sings, and that soul is there in the midst of this abuse of power,” she mentioned.
Echoing a number of different accusers, she mentioned she felt conflicted about damaging the legendary singer’s fame however wished him to know his habits was incorrect.
“It’s not that I want him to be punished. I want him to be made aware. I want him to have the opportunity to know exactly the kind of damage — emotional, psychological, professional and otherwise — that he’s responsible for,” she mentioned.
Contact Related Press author Jocelyn Gecker through Twitter: https://twitter.com/jgecker
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