Spain cancels Placido Domingo show over sexual harassment scandal

Spain's culture ministry on Wednesday cancelled opera star Placido Domingo's participation in an upcoming Madrid show, a day after he accepted "full responsibility" in a sexual harassment scandal.

Spain cancels Placido Domingo show over sexual harassment scandal
Photo: AFP

The culture ministry's National Institute for Scenic Art and Music (INAEM) said it had called off Domingo's participation in two performances of “Luisa Fernanda”, a Spanish “zarzuela” or operetta, at Madrid's prestigious Zarzuela Theatre slated for May 14 and 15 “in solidarity with the affected women”.   

It is the first time that a performance by the 79-year-old has been called off in his native Spain since he was accused by 20 women last year of forcibly kissing, grabbing or fondling them, in incidents dating back to at least the 1980s.

So far, Domingo's career has been less affected by the scandal in Europe than in the United States.   

The accusations first began to surface in August and two months later, he stepped down as general director of the Los Angeles Opera, and withdrew from all future performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera, effectively ending his US career.   

Several of the women said Domingo tried to pressure them into sexual relationships by dangling jobs, and then sometimes punished them professionally when they refused his advances — but in his statement, he said that had “never” been his intention.   

The singer — who has been a director and conductor at some of the world's most prestigious opera houses — on Tuesday apologised for “the hurt” caused to his accusers.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he said in a statement.   

“I have taken time over the last several months to reflect on the allegations that various colleagues of mine have made against me,” added Domingo, who was one of the most recognised tenors of the 20th century but has since transformed himself into a baritone.   

Domingo had previously denied the allegations, referring to them variously as “inaccurate” and saying all his interactions and relationships were “always welcomed and consensual”.

The culture ministry body said the performances of “Luisa Fernanda”, composed in 1932 and set against the revolutionary struggles in Madrid in the 1900s, would go ahead without Domingo.

READ ALSO: Placido Domingo: Opera star 'truly sorry' over sex harassment

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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.