In the summer of 1969, a young singer made his debut at the Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheater in Verona, Italy known for housing elaborate opera productions. Though the singer, a 28-year-old Spanish tenor named Placido Domingo, had been growing in stature—he’d sung lead roles with the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago—the performance provided a convenient capstone, a moment to pinpoint the launch of what seemed certain to be a standout talent.
Since then, things have changed for Domingo. He’s gone on to a prolific and lucrative career, likely beyond what anyone might have imagined during that Verona debut; he’s perhaps the most recognized name in opera, and one of the most celebrated classical musicians of all time. But in early August a number of women of women who’d worked with Domingo came forward to accuse the singer of sexual harassment, a pattern of behavior that allegedly spans multiple decades and institutions. This week, 11 additional women shared similar stories of abuse. The accusations range in specifics, but the women allege that Domingo groped and fondled them—one woman says that he grabbed her bare breast while she was changing—repeatedly asked them out on dates, even after their discomfort was made clear, and that, he used his power as an influential performer and director of the Los Angeles Opera to pressure them into sex, and systematically freeze the careers of women who did not comply.
All of which makes the 50-year anniversary of Domingo’s infamous debut—uh, kind of awkward! Classical music boasts few mainstream breakout stars, Domingo is one of perhaps a handful, so a slate of performances have already been scheduled to celebrate a half-century of his dominance. The Dallas Opera announced that it is cancelling a 2020 gala featuring Domingo; the Tokyo Olympic committee is still uncertain whether he’ll perform at the 2020 games.
But continuing as planned is Placido Domingo Gala, a film marking the singer’s 1969 debut airing on Saturday, September 7 at 500 theaters across the country. While 500 theaters is perhaps a small showing for, say, Avengers 18, for the classical music world it’s a massive event. The trailer depicts a Domingo love fest, describing the singer’s “unforgettable voice,” over a montage of video clips of performances throughout, Domingo’s beard shifting from black to gray. Not mentioned, of course, is accumulation of harassment allegations, though presumably the filmmakers have had a month to work out a statement.
Fathom Events, the event company putting on the has not responded to a request for comment. I’ll update the post if they do.