Since MeToo has evolved into a broader cultural movement, in which mostly women have felt ever-so-slightly more able to speak up about their experiences sexual harassment and assault, some men have expressed feeling troubled that now, things just aren’t the way they used to be—that bad behavior and exertions of power they expected to be tolerated now aren’t so much. (That, of course, is the point.)
This sentiment is echoed in a recent statement by global opera star Plácido Domingo, who in August was accused of sexual harassment by 20 women he worked with. In an interview with Spanish publication El Confidencial (via The Guardian)—Domingo’s first since the allegations were publicized—he denied the accusations and said that he was simply being “gallant,” lamenting that “gallant gestures are viewed differently nowadays.” He denied the accusations that he wielded career advancement over young women in exchange for sex, as two women have alleged, or that he retaliated against women who turned down his advances.
Domingo further implied that his accusers were simply not well versed in the culture of Spain, telling interviewer Rubén Amón that “Los españoles somos cálidos, afectuosos y cariñosos”—“Spanish people are warm, loving, and affectionate.” He also said he believes he has already been “judged, sentenced, and convicted” by the public, and lamented that “La credibilidad que se concede a las acusaciones es automática”—that the accusers were given automatic credibility.
It is true, as Domingo notes in his interview, that he has not been charged with a crime. But the nine women accusing him of harassment and misconduct told the AP in August that their careers were negatively impacted based on their rejection of Domingo, who for decades has wielded vast amount of power in the opera world—not to mention the psychological ramifications his accusers say they still deal with. One woman said that in the mid-2000s Domingo first tried to kiss her and then later put his hand down her skirt at his apartment during what was ostensibly a work practice. In August, she told the AP:
“I went home and was terrified to go back to work,” she said. “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, but has never again been hired to sing at the Los Angeles house or with Domingo.
“I’ve been hard on myself for a while,” the singer said. “Having a coaching session with somebody who offers you coaching is not consenting to sex.”
Domingo has felt some effects of the accusations: In September, he withdrew from his performances at the Metropolitan Opera in the U.S. and stepped down from the Los Angeles Opera, where he was general director; in November, he backed out of pre-events for the Tokyo Olympics. But in Europe, Domingo is still thriving. Though he answered several questions in El Confidencial about the allegations against him, about half of the interview was about his legacy on the stage, his predilection for Verdi, and forthcoming performance in Nabucco at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Spain.