In the world of classical music, Placido Domingo is a rare breakout star whose fame bubbles over into mainstream celebrity: The director of the Los Angeles Opera, Domingo, 78, still performs to sold-out audiences; Sesame Street has parodied him with a muppet bird, Placido Flamingo; as part of “The Three Tenors,” he’s responsible for the best-selling classical album in history.
Now, nine women—eight singers and a dancer—who worked directly with the musician are accusing him of sexual harassment, according to the Associated Press. The accusations span decades, during which Domingo allegedly targeted young women in his industry—over whom he wielded tremendous power—and used his position to pressure his colleagues into affection, and in two instances, sex. The women say he contacted them repeatedly, often late at night, and that he would frequently wait in by their dressing rooms or in the stage wings to intercept them. “He was always touching you in some way, and always kissing you,” one of the singers told the AP.
Only one of the accusers, Patricia Wulf, a mezzo-soprano who worked with Domingo at the Washington Opera, agreed to use her name publicly—the rest were granted anonymity, fearing retribution. Numerous women allege that once they turned down Domingo, their careers cooled: Castings that were promised failed to materialize; they were not offered repeat roles in his company. “I was totally intimidated and felt like saying no to him would be saying no to God,” said one woman, who alleges that Domingo repeated and forcefully groped her, both in her dressing room and during a ride home. “How do you say no to God?”
One woman, a mezzo-soprano, says in 1991 she had sex with Domingo after a period of repeated badgering. “I finally gave in and slept with him,” she told the AP. “I ran out of excuses. It was like, ‘OK, I guess this is what I have to do.’” According to the woman, Domingo said that sex was necessary before a show, and left $10 for the parking fee on the dresser before he left.
Domingo explicitly denies the women’s stories. “The allegations from these unnamed individuals dating back as many as thirty years are deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate,” he told the AP:
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.
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