Spanish opera star Placido Domingo quits Met amid sexual harassment claims

Placido Domingo, the legendary opera singer facing myriad sexual harassment accusations, is withdrawing from all future performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera, both he and the institution announced Tuesday.

Spanish opera star Placido Domingo quits Met amid sexual harassment claims
Photo: AFP

The 11th-hour decision comes just one night before the 78-year-old Spaniard dubbed the “King of Opera” was scheduled to perform the title role in the Met's sold-out first production of “Macbeth.”   

“Placido Domingo has agreed to withdraw from all future performances at the Met, effective immediately,” the opera said in a statement obtained by AFP, saying that the bankable star agreed “that he needed to step down.”

Domingo — who has been a conductor and director of some of the world's most prestigious opera houses, and debuted at the Met at age 27 — said in a separate statement that he had in fact “asked to withdraw.”

“I strongly dispute recent allegations made about me, and I am concerned about a climate in which people are condemned without due process,” the singer currently accused of harassment by 20 women said.

But “upon reflection, I believe that my appearance in this production of Macbeth would distract from the hard work of my colleagues both on stage and behind the scenes,” he said.

“As a result, I have asked to withdraw and I thank the leadership of the Met for graciously granting my request,” he continued, saying he considered his final dress rehearsal his “last performance on the Met stage.”

'Ladies man' 

In August eight singers and a dancer told the Associated Press about incidents going back to the 1980s, including one in which a woman said Domingo put his hand down her skirt while three others said he forcibly kissed them.

A subsequent report by the US news agency cited 11 more women, including one who said he reached down her robe to grab her bare breast.   

The reports painted a portrait of a man who acted with impunity, shielded by his power as one of opera's foremost stars, as a whisper network formed warning women of his alleged reputation.

Some classical music companies were quick to err on the side of caution, notably the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera, which immediately canceled his upcoming performances.

The Dallas Opera then canceled a March 2020 gala concert featuring Domingo.    

The Los Angeles Opera — where has served as general director since 2003 — hired outside counsel to investigate allegations a probe still ongoing.    

The Met previously had said it would wait for those results, and Domingo's split with the Manhattan house comes after reports of internal strife over Domingo's continued association there.

The American Guild of Musical Artists has also launched an independent investigation into accusations against Domingo, “given the uncertainty surrounding the investigations of our signatory companies,” its national executive director Len Egert announced earlier this month.   

Many fans and fellow performers leapt to Domingo's defense when the accusations broke, with many calling him an innocent “ladies man” who women adored.

An NPR report said the Met Opera's general manager, Peter Gelb, had held a closed door meeting over the weekend to tell employees he had not suspended Domingo because the AP accounts lacked “corroboration.”

According to the report many employees at the Met had confided anger and fear over Domingo's continued work there, with one person even calling in sick to avoid work with the artist.

The growing #MeToo scandal comes not long after the Met ended its decades long relationship with James Levine, the house's former music director who was fired in 2018 after nine men publicly accused him of sexual abuse.

Domingo now has a string of European dates on the calendar, including Zurich on October 13th and Moscow October 17th.

European houses have thus far taken more of a wait-and-see stance, and he's received standing ovations at shows in Salzburg and Hungary that took place weeks after the accusations dropped.

Domingo's next performances stateside are set to begin February 22nd at the Los Angeles Opera, which did not respond to a request for comment on the star's break with the Met.

By AFP's Maggy Donaldson 

READ MORE: Spanish opera community jumps to Placido Domingo's defence 

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A Masked Ball: Madrid opera forced to cancel show after protest over social distancing

Spain's main opera house, the Teatro Real in Madrid, defended itself Monday after it had to cancel a performance when a small group of spectators loudly protested against being seated too close to each other amid a spike in Covid-19 infections.

A Masked Ball: Madrid opera forced to cancel show after protest over social distancing
View of the Teatro Real in Madrid. Photo: Claudia Schillinger/ Flickr

The performance of Giuseppe Verdi's “A Masked Ball” on Sunday night was called off after a “minority” of spectators repeatedly jeered and clapped despite being offered the chance to be relocated or get a refund for the value of their tickets, the theatre said in a statement.

Videos shared on social media by several spectators who were at the performance showed full rows in the upper sections where seats are cheaper, while in the pricier floor section many empty seats could be seen.

Clapping and calls of “suspension!” could be heard even after the actors tried to begin their performance.

The Teatro Real had “respected the health norms” put in place by the regional government of Madrid to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and “even reinforced them”, the chairman of the body which manages the theatre, Gregorio Marañon, told a news conference on Monday.

Attendance at the performance had been reduced to just 51.5 percent of the total, well below the  limit of 75 percent set by the regional government, he added.

The regional government does not require there to be an empty seat between spectators, but it does require there to be a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) between people, or if this is not possible, that they wear face masks, which is mandatory at the theatre, Marañon said.

The Teatro Real, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2018, is studying “what measures we can take for those spectators who… clearly felt in an uncomfortable situation,” he added.

The incident comes as the regional government of Madrid has imposed a partial lockdown in several densely-populated, low income areas mainly in the south of the Spanish capital where virus infections are surging, sparking a debate about inequality and triggering protests in these neighbourhoods over the weekend before the new measures took effect on Monday.