The Night that Should Have Been Plácido Domingo’s

Café Momus – Photo by Cory Weaver

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

I get so angry when I read reviews that insinuate that Los Angeles Opera will do just fine without its general director, Plácido Domingo, as if he has already gone. The press is deciding his exit.

That is what happened to some degree regarding LA Opera’s opening night performance of “La Bohème” in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Sept. 14 and the festivities afterwards on the newly renovated Music Center Plaza. Either critics acted like Domingo was gone and that LA Opera would survive, or some didn’t talk about him at all or included comments somewhere in between.

Domingo hasn’t left, and if he does, the company will struggle because Plácido Domingo has been the driving force behind LA Opera for years. He is responsible for its rise in ranking. He is responsible for much of the casting and fundraising. He is even responsible for recruiting the company’s musical director and conductor, James Conlon. One has to ask, if Domingo leaves, will Conlon stay? And if he does, for how long?

The review of “La Bohème” in the LA Times, published the day after the opening of LA Opera’s season on Sept. 15, raves about the production directed by Barrie Kosky, and toward the end, the critic writes that oh, by the way, Kosky wasn’t even in Los Angeles to direct. He was in Germany but had his associate direct instead.

The LA Times critic raves about the singers, then says that one of them shouldn’t have rolled her “Rs” in a modern production, apparently not realizing that rolling her “Rs” might help her bring her voice forward. After all, this still is opera, and the singers “do” learn technique. Opera is not only about the production.

The critic then added that many of the singers were cast as a result of either being or having been in the company’s young artist program, or that they were winners of Domingo’s Operalia competition. Mark Swed wrote that they had admirable voices and seemed to like them, especially the potential of the soprano; but then he compared them to the singers in the production in Germany and wrote that their acting wasn’t quite up to snuff.

Anyhow, I was not going to write a review of the actual performance because I wasn’t there. I just read the first review published by the LA Times, to learn if Domingo was in attendance. He wasn’t. He should have been. He deserves a standing ovation.

LA Opera will probably take out the complimentary parts of the Times review as sound bites for the purpose of advertising. But clearly, the LA Times appears to be trying to sway LA Opera to take action, and then the Times critic adds that the company will survive and move forward.

The press seems to be leading the discussion. Nothing has been proven in a court of law. And so far, the women accusers who are not anonymous don’t appear to have much to say. The press has published the accusations of the two accusers who spoke on the record. What exactly were the other accusers’ accusations? So far, there has been nothing published but air. The only one who might have a case would be Domingo if his attorneys could prove intent in a defamation libel lawsuit against the Associated Press and other press organizations for damages.

I get angry when I think that Los Angeles Opera is investigating sexual harassment allegations of its own general director, Domingo. What an affront to him. It is like the company is doing it all for appearances, to show that it is being politically correct.

The LA Times has written in the lines and in between the lines that the company is independent and can stand on its own.

But the truth remains that all of LA Opera’s successes are directly related to Domingo’s presence as general director. He is even the source behind the fundraising. The company has always been dependent on Domingo.

He may not have been at the opening on Saturday night (Sept. 14) at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, where the focus was on the production of “La Bohème” and the ball afterwards on the newly re-constructed Music Center Plaza. But he was there in spirit, and every person at the ball probably bought a ticket due to Domingo being a part of LA Opera.

I wasn’t there but could see from a post by one of my Facebook friends that the ball was patterned visually after the production. Lots of color and avant-garde costumes and props.

Although Giacomo Puccini composed “La Bohème” to take place in approximately the 1830s, Kosky, whose associate carried out his directions, moved the date up slightly and added color, with almost grotesque wigs and makeup, especially noticeable in the Café Momus scene. Just enough spectacle to give the opera some modernization without going over the top.

LA Opera has written that this production is the first new production of “La Bohème” by LA Opera since 1993. I have read that it is an LA Opera production. I have read that it is a co-production, and now I see that it is a production by Kosky for the Komische Oper Berlin which has been transported to Los Angeles Opera.

Kosky is the artistic director “intendant” of the Komische Oper Berlin. There are only three major companies in Berlin: the Deutsch Oper Berlin, the Berlin State Opera and the Komische Oper, which is the smallest and the most experimental in nature, sometimes known for Eurotrash.

Eurotrash opera or Regietheater is director’s theater, when the production is more important than even the music. When characters become spiders, like the Queen of the Night in Kosky’s “Magic Flute,” I have to draw the line. I like modernization if the composer’s intent is honored. Most of the whimsical changes may work for “Flute,” to be revived later in the LA Opera run. I did attend and review that one, but frankly, I like seeing the opera I know, not a new one, and I like to put emphasis on the singers and their voices, not focus on a spider singing one of the most known arias in opera. I think I would like this “Bohème,” though. It doesn’t go as far as “Flute.” It is still Puccini’s opera. But it has a decidedly dark, grotesque tone to it which I find creatively fascinating.

But I am not writing a review here of the operas being performed by LA Opera this season, but rather of the opening night proceedings. I am only trying to show how the press can manipulate words.

Kosky is an upcoming director in Europe, who is quoted as having said that he likes to come to Los Angeles. I would have thought that Domingo had something to do with Kosky’s involvement with LA Opera, but the LA Times says that Christopher Koelsch has been the moving force. More about that later.

LA Opera has never been an independent company like most others in the United States, where general directors come and go. LA Opera was a struggling company, and when Domingo took it under his wing, the company began to blossom.

Yes, I am sure it could survive without him with a strong replacement. But survive or thrive — That is the question.

I wish Domingo had been at the after-party and ball of LA Opera’s season opener of “La Bohème.” I was hoping he would fly in to surprise everyone and would venture to say that everyone would have stood up and given him a standing ovation.

The LA Times can write that LA Opera is a strong company that would survive on its own merits if Domingo left. That is a possibility, but the fact remains that the company has been dependent on its leader Domingo, and owes him much gratitude. Not a slap on the face. Whether or not he did what he is accused of doing, he deserves much applause. I repeat from previous writings: You “can” separate the man from his art, and in Domingo’s case, he is a good man as well as a brilliant artist.

Domingo could have even made a video of himself speaking to those present at the ball, and the company could have projected it on a large screen. Once again, I presume that applause and a standing ovation would have ensued. But I am only speculating. LA Opera and its board of directors might not have wanted to speculate. I am only writing that Domingo deserves that standing ovation.

So it is all very nice that the new production of “Bohème” is creative and unique. But Domingo has been involved in every aspect of the creative process as it applies to LA Opera. And even though the company says that Domingo is not involved in the operations of the company pending the results of the investigation — the company cannot just suddenly delete him when productions are contracted years in advance.

I hope that what the public sees is all part of a strategy to make LA Opera appear independent.

Domingo is owed much gratitude by everyone working at LA Opera — everyone behind the scenes, including the board of directors. I cannot believe that they would throw him away with the dirty dishwater, not after all he has done to nurture the company and put it on the map. Domingo was always the primary speaker representing the company at the press conferences I attended.

Members of the board are not talking. I want to hear from Chairman Marc Stern, Carol Henry and others who have forged long friendships with Domingo.

So although no one knows what the future will bring — I think it is premature to talk about the company as if it were totally independent. I have never been one to stress loyalty. But “loyalty” is what LA Opera owes Plácido Domingo.

Years ago I wrote an article stating that Domingo was far too busy as a singer and conductor to run the day-to-day operations of LA Opera and should make way for a general director who could, and stay on only as an artistic advisor. He started off with the company as an artistic advisor. But as Domingo graduated to general director, he slowly decided to have a day-to-day person carry out those duties.

Years ago Edgar Baitzel had that job. He was respected and admired, but after he died, no one was there to take his place. Stephen Rountree took over the slack for awhile. Finally Domingo was general director and Christopher Koelsch moved up from his positions to become chief executive and president. I would stipulate that Domingo had quite a bit to do with Koelsch’s promotions.

So now certain newspapers are quoting Koelsch and have virtually removed Domingo from their memory banks. Not so. Everything is a fabrication almost to the degree of having become a figment of the imagination. The reality is quite different from what the press is portraying.

The press has almost forced LA Opera to do what it is doing to be able to move forward as an independent company.

Domingo recruited James Conlon to be the company’s music director. He has not commented, probably because he wants to keep silent and is loyal to Domingo.

Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham is an advisor, most probably due to Domingo. Renée Fleming will be the star of the upcoming production of “Light in the Piazza.” How did that happen? Fleming is one of the few opera stars who has graced the LA Opera stage numerous times: as Violetta, Blanche, and in recital.

Koelsch has even sat on the jury and was a judge of Domingo’s Operalia competition. There are bonding ties that are evident and cannot or should not be severed.

I am sure that Koelsch had a lot to do with everything. But so did Domingo. The press is trying to separate the two. That is an impossibility. The separation here between church and state could even be a strategy by LA Opera to show its independent strength. But I read on the LA Opera website that Domingo, Conlon and Koelsch are a team on the artistic front.

Again, Domingo is suddenly not taking part in the operations of LA Opera pending the results of the investigation, according to numerous articles. The company’s schedule is worked on for at least two years in advance or more. I would speculate that Domingo had to approve everything and put his mark on the line before anything moved forward regarding this season.

I just read another review by Maria Nockin for “Broadway World.” Quite different than the one in the Times. Nockin focuses on the opera, “La Boheme,” and its music, singers, crew and production equally. No Domingo problems. She did what LA Opera wanted — she focused on the opera. Nockin wrote about the pathos in the opera, which the LA Times critic tried to minimize. Her review balances all of the aspects she saw on stage, which were positive to her. Whether or not I would agree, she showed that she has knowledge of the music, aria-by-aria, and showed her credibility.

Another review in “Classical Voice” is not so kind, but still puts the focus on the opera at hand and how its darkness relates to what the composer envisioned.

With “La Boheme,” there is plenty of darkness for the two lovers as Mimi dies. The romance and then tragic ending is what Puccini envisioned. LA Opera is correct in saying that it is okay for the audience to cry in the dark. So if the LA Times critic says that it is not okay to cry but rather, to act, some of the pathos may have dwindled. And if there are nude prostitutes in the Café Momus scene, Kosby may have carried the production too far. You can go pretty far with a production before it becomes Eurotrash. I don’t personally believe that LA Opera should become another Komische Oper Berlin with all its experimentation. But I know that the LA Opera staff and board want to reach out to the diverse cultures in Los Angeles and give Angelenos an array of flavors to taste.

I am not making excuses for not having been at the opening, to write a proper review. I wish I could have gone but couldn’t for good reason. My goal here is to shed light on the horrible move by the press, to “denigrate” Plácido Domingo’s career, as stated by Domingo’s spokesperson.

From what I can see thus far, now that I have read a fourth review focusing on “La Bohème” in “Opera Warhorses,” some press organizations are not dwelling on the Domingo issue. But then it is like he died or never existed.

I was critical of the LA Times critique, but at least Mark Swed didn’t delete LA Opera’s general director completely, and neither did Jim Farber who wrote still another review for “San Francisco Classical Voice,” which included all of the necessary components to show that Farber is in the know.

Domingo has helped countless singers expand their careers. Right now at the Metropolitan Opera, Angel Blue is opening the season with “Porgy and Bess.” Blue was part of the LA Opera young artist program, and Domingo has nurtured her career and sung with her all over the world in concert, to ready her for this wonderful moment. “That” is the tearjerker for me.

At least Domingo is moving forward. He has been engaged to sing in Moscow.

Let’s hope that behind the scenes, Domingo is being given the accolades he deserves from members of LA Opera and other companies, the board of directors, present and previous supporters, and opera singers. I wish he had been at the ball to receive the standing ovation he so well-deserves.

Posted by: operatheaterink | September 12, 2019

Commentary-Opinion, Domingo Legalities, Sept. 12, 2019

There’s Nothing New in the News.
Why Now? And On What Grounds?

Domingo and the Law

 

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

The stunning part about the Plácido Domingo scandal is that it all started with one story written by a reporter at the Associated Press. Almost all of the accusers have been anonymous, and even the accusers that spoke on the record had very little to say except that Domingo flirted with them.

The other media organizations have latched on to the story. The latest accuser was having makeup applied with Domingo when she says he slipped his hand under her robe and touched her breast, and that was years ago. That was one notch above flirting. I would have just grabbed his hand and flirted back at him with, “No, no, no.” Or maybe she should have slapped him. End of story.

As a result, two companies and an orchestra have canceled Domingo’s engagements. Based on what? I ask.

AP surely was after a story, but there is nothing new here.

Books have been written in the past about Domingo’s roving eye as I wrote in a previous commentary: “Molto Agitato” for one, written by Johanna Fiedler; and another written by Monica Lewinsky’s mother Marcia Lewis, on the private lives of The Three Tenors. The first is more accurate and valid than the second, but still, there is really nothing new in the news. So why go after Domingo now?

The sad part for me is that Domingo has methodically been planning for his retirement from singing for years. He started conducting, then as the general director of Washington National Opera and now Los Angeles Opera, became an administrator. The board of directors of LA Opera has been dependent on his leadership. Now the board must assert its independence, which is not fair to Domingo. And now Domingo must re-evaluate his future and what he wants to accomplish. This whole turn of events is very sad to me. And it all seems to have come from out-of-the-blue.

I would assume that lawyers must be involved for a company to cancel a contract. Not one reporter has gone to Domingo’s attorney, to my knowledge, for comments. That is because there are no grounds for anything that is happening. The press is running on air.

Number One: The press is clearly after a good story, and AP apparently thinks it has one. But the problem is that so far, there are no grounds for this big story that could ruin the career of one of the greatest tenors of this generation. That could end up being a story in itself, as well as a defamation lawsuit. But I don’t know much about the law. It might be difficult to prove intent.

LA Opera may have gone to an attorney to lead an investigation, but none of the reporters have gone to Domingo’s attorney, probably because the attorney probably would not talk to the press, probably because there is nothing there. But I am only guessing. What do I know?

Second: I have no idea why any company would cancel Domingo’s engagements based on stories in the newspapers that have no legal grounds. To my knowledge, he might have flirted. Is that abuse?

If Domingo had been involved in a lawsuit, then maybe a company would have grounds. But so far there is nothing in the legal arena to my knowledge.

Plus the second element has to do with contract law. What did the contracts that were broken look like? Was there a clause in them that enabled them to be broken — a loophole? The great reporters in the press did not interview the companies with respect to the law. Was Domingo just being nice by not taking legal action against the companies regarding contract law? So much is still unknown. And the press doesn’t even show that its members have much journalism expertise if they have left out these important legal aspects to their story.

Or maybe the reporters aren’t so dumb after all. They simply know that there is nothing there. Are they trying to “denigrate” Domingo, as his spokesperson Nancy Seltzer has said, based on hot air? Maybe.

Also, Domingo has a contract to head LA Opera through the 2021-2022 season. That is another contract. Again are their clauses or loopholes in the contract that either Domingo or LA Opera can utilize? Could LA Opera force Domingo to resign as general director? Could LA Opera fire him? Or could he retire if he desires?

So to me, the latest aspects include the books that show that there is no new real news in the news. The generalities are the same.

And nothing legal has occurred which would render Domingo guilty of anything more than flirting, so his attorneys have not been questioned by the media. And he has been extremely nice by not pursuing anything legal himself regarding contract law.

There may or may not be anything there since so much is unknown. Only the future will tell.

So the press has no or few grounds for their attack on the tenor who is currently the greatest tenor alive. If anything, he may have legal grounds to sue due to the breaking of his contracts.

The press has not reported that it has gone to his attorney for comment and to learn the facts. The press is basing its stories on hot air.

I am sure that Domingo has gone to his attorney and is laying low, waiting for further developments.

All I know is there is no basis for what the press is trying to do to Domingo at this present time.

Bad and unethical reporting has led to a story that all the media organizations have latched on to.

In the end, if this vein of reporting keeps moving forward, Domingo will be exonerated and the media organizations and companies who have canceled his engagements will have egg on their faces and will have to either apologize or could face legal actions against them as a result.

Only time will tell. But as the spokesperson for Domingo said, this whole press spectacle is the result of “unethical” journalism meant to “denigrate” Domingo.

Yes, we do live in a free press society, but the press better be careful, specifically AP. This irresponsible reporting could turn around to bite them.

Posted by: operatheaterink | September 10, 2019

Opinion and Commentary: The Domingo Media Frenzy, Sept. 10, 2019

The Media is Taking the Domingo Allegations Too Far

Plácido Domingo & Nino Machaidze
(Photo: Craig Mathew)

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

How do you separate the man from his art?

That has been a question directed at composer Richard Wagner for decades, but now it applies to Plácido Domingo as well.

Years ago, Los Angeles Opera was about to perform the “Ring” by Richard Wagner. If a company can mount such a production, it has arrived.

Yet Richard Wagner was a controversial figure because he wrote essays that were racist and anti-Semitic, and he incorporated characters into his operas and words into his librettos that followed that trend.

So when LA Opera wanted to have a “festival” to celebrate its production of his music, which I thought was a separate entity, I thought okay. But when the festival brochure described events that would celebrate the man, I decided the festival needed to be more multi-dimensional, to enhance Wagner’s celebrity as a composer and detract from his views as a man.

The festival moved forward as planned, although Wagner was examined and analyzed with all his warts included, a different approach that worked.

Enter Plácido Domingo: another genius musician who has nurtured the careers of many, yet apparently has a weakness for women that has tinged his image.

“Heartbroken” is how one anonymous person who has been touched by Domingo feels. That is the only word he wrote on a new post on his Facebook page, and it has generated numerous supportive comments from Facebook friends. Frankly, it almost brought tears to my eyes because it says so much.

Domingo is loved by those in the opera world: not all of them, naturally, but many. He is respected as well for his stamina and ability to keep singing at the age of 78, conduct, and serve as the general director of the Los Angeles Opera.

If a young person in the young artist program has the talent, Domingo works tirelessly to help that singer thrive. If a young artist has the talent but must give up singing for some reason, he acts as a counselor and helps that singer find another place in the opera world. He is a genuinely good person, but his lust for women may have finally become his downfall when he should be receiving accolades.

Nothing has been proven, and he is being tried by the press, specifically the Associated Press. But AP has enough power to act as a springboard for other stories, including a front-page article in the LA Times.

There has been no legal action placed against Domingo thus far. The Associated Press published a story in August based on the accusations of nine women who say that they were sexually harassed by him.

Now AP has published another story because there are more.

At the onset, all of the allegations were from anonymous women except for one by Patricia Wulf, who claims that Domingo had corralled her and asked her if she had to go home that night. She refused his advances, he did not touch her, and she walked away a little bit ruffled. That was at the Washington National Opera where Domingo was general director, and the incident happened years ago. He left the company as an administrator in 2011.

The AP story on Sept. 5 states that more women have made accusations. Angela Turner Wilson said on the record that Domingo reached down her robe and grabbed her breast before a performance almost 19 years ago at the same company.

San Francisco Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra have canceled upcoming engagements with Domingo. Dallas Opera has canceled its gala in honor of Domingo who made his US début there more than 50 years ago.

Women of the #MeToo movement in America have banded together with the hopes of attaining justice due to harassment abuses, even if the harassment took place many years ago. So Domingo has had a thriving career for more than 50 years, yet that career is now in jeopardy due to what happened years earlier.

In Europe, Domingo received standing ovations at the Salzburg Festival recently, where people seem more willing to separate the man from his opera career, and focus on the latter. His appearance in Tokyo at the Olympics is still undecided.

A scheduled documentary film was shown at approximately 300 theaters in the United States on Sept. 7, distributed by Fathom Events. I could not reach anyone at Fathom Events but did reach the managers of two local theaters. Both told me that the showings went off without a hitch and without their knowledge of any presence of the press. The managers I spoke to were in theaters in downtown Los Angeles and Universal City. The focus, a gala from Verona, was produced and scheduled before the accusations surfaced. The Hollywood Reporter reported that the turnout and proceeds were poor.

Every news outlet seems to have run with the AP story. LA Opera refuses to comment except to say that it wants to keep its employees and singers safe, and Domingo issued a statement that says the accusations are “inaccurate,” that he thought his relationships were “consensual,” and that the social climate was different many years ago. LA Opera is using outside counsel to investigate the situation.

Domingo is in New York before performing at the Metropolitan Opera with soprano Anna Netrebko, who has come to his defense. LA Opera has not taken actions. The opening of the upcoming season is on Sept. 14 with “La Bohème.” Domingo has no role in the opera.

In addition, Nancy Seltzer has recently been quoted as a spokesperson for Domingo. Seltzer heads a private public relations firm for many opera singers and is not the general spokesperson for LA Opera. She has said that the ongoing campaign by AP “to denigrate Plácido Domingo” is “inaccurate” and “unethical,” and the claims are “riddled with inconsistencies.”

And the new general director of Seattle Opera, Christina Scheppelmann, is singled out on “Slipped Disc” as having told another news organization that Domingo had no role in casting when at Washington National Opera. Scheppelmann was working at WNO at the time as his deputy and knew. Her comment is important since the accusers have said that they did not speak out earlier because they feared for their careers.

The chain reaction from the media to the opera companies is phenomenal when the majority of information is supposedly unknown due to the anonymous accusers, and the accusers who are not anonymous are citing unprofessional accusations that are still not legal offences, although I am not an attorney and do not know much about the law. I am sure that Domingo must have an attorney in the wings.

So, I ask: Where were these women at the time of the accusations and for years afterwards?

They remained silent.

The union for musical artists is pursuing an investigation to determine how sexual harassment could have prevailed for so long without the union’s knowledge. Executive director Len Egert has said that the investigation will “examine the systemic failures within the industry.” Naturally AP wrote a story on Sept. 8 on that news as well.

So — Wagner was and is celebrated no matter what he said or did many years ago, possibly because he is no longer alive. His music lives on.

Yet, one company after the other in the United States is canceling Domingo’s engagements when there is still so much unknown information. He is a legendary tenor. Most of the accusers have stated that the harassment occurred years ago when times were different.

With Domingo, it appears that due to the times, his music and art are not being separated from his persona. The events show that times are indeed different and that differences also exist due to locale: the United States vs. Europe.

I maintain that it is wrong to attempt to ruin the career of an opera legend years after such events occurred, whether or not they occurred and whether or not the accusations are accurate. Nothing has been proven in a court of law, and you “can” separate the man from his art.

People mature and change. Just as the accusers suddenly feel the need to divulge their stories and cleanse now — maybe the accused also has changed. Nothing is simple in today’s world.

Boys may have been boys years ago, but can no longer boast about their advances to their peers in the framework of today’s society. Look at Donald Trump. He boasted to Billy Bush about his conquests, and he was elected president of the United States while Bush lost his job for not reacting appropriately.

Still, I would never dream of delving back into my past and seeking out those who may not have shown respect to me. I would never dream of ruining careers based on the immaturity of both parties many years prior.

It has long been known that film directors and producers have a casting couch mentality for young female actors. Men have acted out through the centuries, but that doesn’t mean that they lost their careers and livelihoods.

I am glad that men no longer can do what they did in the past, but that doesn’t mean that we should go out of our way to ruin their lives, especially when the happenings occurred in years past and when their lives are edging toward retirement.

No, you cannot go back home again, but that is exactly what the accusers are attempting to do now.

I have just now discovered as I come to the end of this commentary that there really is nothing new here. Some of Domingo’s behavior has been described in the book, “Molto Agitato.” And then there is Marcia Lewis’s book on the private lives of the Three Tenors. The specifics may be different, but the generalities are not. So why make such a media frenzy out of this now? Just because it is fashionable and the times are different? Is this just a good story so that AP and the rest of the press decided to run with it and ruin lives?

Domingo should be praised for his tireless efforts to help young singers forge careers. He should be praised for his continuing ability to sing after the age of 78, conduct and administer LA Opera.

Whenever he retires as general director of LA Opera, he should leave of his own accord and with the board’s good will. The board has always held him in high esteem, and it would be tragic if the members were to turn against him now that he is 78 and his wife, Marta, is 84.

He will go down in history as a great tenor just as Wagner was a great composer. Can’t we celebrate both of them for their genius?

I ask the companies around the world, especially those in the United States, to show some compassion.

It is time to stop the finger-pointing and leave the man and his family at peace. It is time to help Domingo celebrate his enduring career, not harass him. He deserves far better than that.

Posted by: operatheaterink | August 27, 2019

Opinion and Commentary: LA Opera & Domingo in Salzburg, Aug. 27, 2019

The Marriage of LA Opera and Domingo:
Is It Headed for Divorce?
Response to LA Times Review and Commentary
 

Placido Domingo at the Salzburg Festival – Photo: SF/Marco Borrelli

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

I am incensed by the commentary I just read by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times about Plácido Domingo at the Salzburg Festival after sexual harassment accusations have surfaced against him. But although I am incensed, I do see the point.

The whole situation is about the marriage of Domingo to LA Opera and a possible divorce.

Is LA Opera just a pretty face that has undergone makeovers galore that has reached its pinnacle of success due to its almighty leader? Or is it a substantial company that will remain part of the Los Angeles landscape no matter who is at its helm? Or both?

While reading the LA Times commentary and review by Swed, I kept thinking, “So who’s side is he on? The MeToo movement harassed singers who want their due and maybe a bit of revenge? Or the opera world insiders who want to show a great tenor their appreciation for all his hard work and all he has done to further the art of opera?

I kept wondering if he’s on the side of Europe, some of whose citizens are willing to overlook Domingo’s unproven indiscretions, or on the side of the United States, some of whose citizens want to lampoon anything or anyone who insinuates abuse.

Then I realized that this commentary is not really about any of that or about what the author wrote, but is about what the editors want to communicate via the main newspaper in Los Angeles about Los Angeles and LA Opera’s role as part of the Los Angeles landscape.

While reading the commentary, I thought at first that it wasn’t focused.

“So why is he writing this? So why is he writing that?” I wondered.

He wrote some complimentary comments about Domingo and the singers at the onset, but his observations, although not truly offensive, did show that Domingo may not be at the top of his game right now, and conductor James Conlon may not be on the top of the heap either. He made it look once again like what is on the top of the heap in Los Angeles may not be rated the same in Europe.

So what’s the point? I thought.

Then Swed wrote about various in-vogue opera designers and production directors who have designed and directed prior LA Opera productions, and/or are set to direct productions in the future, including Achim Freyer, who designed and directed the LA Opera “Ring,” and Barrie Kosky, who designed Mozart’s “Flute” and is directing LA Opera’s opening in September of “La Bohème.”

By the conclusion of the commentary, I was beginning to understand all the components that led up to it, even though it would have been nice to have understood along the way instead of getting angry and feeling that the piece was a cop out and never focused on the issues at hand.

“Whatever housecleaning may wind up being necessary at LA Opera, we must not let Domingo be an all-consuming burn-the-house-down distraction,” Swed wrote as the concluding paragraph in his LA Times commentary. “Instead, we need to set sights on the way forward.

“A week in Salzburg is all it takes to witness just the kind of greatness, night after night, that is within our reach, whether or not Domingo remains in the picture.”

A Cop Out

So was the commentary a cop out that did not focus on the accusations made by the women who say they were sexually harassed by Domingo, or on Domingo’s comments on the change in attitudes throughout the years, and his belief that responses to his actions have always been “consensual”?

Was it an easy way out to evade addressing the scandal?

Or was it a way to show that this is Los Angeles, the home of the LA Times and the home of LA Opera? And no matter what happens in the future, Los Angeles Opera will thrive, even with another general director?

I have a combination of thoughts. First, I think it is far too early to focus on the fact that LA Opera will survive even with a new general director. It is disrespectful to Mr. Domingo, who has worked tirelessly on the company’s behalf. He is due much appreciation for his role as LA Opera’s leader and should not be tried by the press.

I too have observations, and these may only be observations and may not even be reality. But I believe that LA Opera revolved around Domingo until this scandal erupted. The employees and board of directors were gracious and grateful to have him as general director. The company was not a traditional company trying to stand on its own, independent of its general director. It thrived knowing that its general director was there.

Domingo has elevated the status and rank of the company as artistic director and then general director. Years ago, major singers did not sing in Los Angeles except on tour. People went to San Francisco Opera to hear opera. The top company in the United States has always been the Metropolitan Opera. Then ranking behind the Met has been Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera and other companies in Dallas and Houston. However, not one of them except the Met has ever come close to La Scala in Milan, the Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna, and other companies in Germany, Spain, Austria, Italy, France, Hungary, and the Royal Opera at Covent Garden. Only now has LA Opera moved up in ranking so that it has become a major company in the United States, and that is due to the presence and hard work of Domingo, who sings, conducts, and is an administrator of the company.

LA Opera is only now attempting to show its independence and be politically correct with an investigation of the allegations. It is almost like the board is trying to put up a front, trying to make LA Opera a real company now, separate the company from its general director. But, frankly, I believe that even the investigation is uncalled for since no matter what conclusions result, the board owes a great deal to Domingo. He has brought top-ranking singers to Los Angeles and has cast LA Opera productions with young singers who have placed in his Operalia competition or are or were singers in the company’s young artist program. No matter what the investigation proves, he deserves the company’s veneration.

At first I thought Domingo should remain general director until his contract ends with the 2021-2022 season. Then I thought Domingo’s future should be determined behind closed doors between Domingo and the board of directors — without press interference.

But if the LA Times feels the need to separate LA Opera from Domingo and communicate that LA Opera will survive and be great with another administrator at the helm, I must repeat that maybe it is time for Mr. Domingo to leave the company as general director and sing and conduct where he is appreciated.

The whole hullabaloo scandal originated with one article in the Associated Press that created a media frenzy. Women who believe they have been sexually harassed were interviewed for the story, but many of the allegations happened years ago.

Now this commentary turned review adds more fire to the pot, which could sway the outcome. I continue to say that the press should keep its nose out of this.

The companies in Europe have not canceled Domingo’s performances like San Francisco Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra have. Even though Domingo may have had plans to remain in Los Angeles to lead LA Opera after his retirement from singing, maybe it is time for him to sing and retire to the country of his choice where he can find less criticism and live in peace as the opera legend that he is.

In conclusion, I understand the point-of-view of the commentary in the LA Times, whose main interest is in the city of Los Angeles and the arts organizations within its boundaries.

I understand the need for the LA Opera board to show the company’s independence as a company, to be able to thrive under different leadership in the future.

But I believe the view that LA Opera will prevail with another general director, even a good one, is a premature assumption made far too soon. Mark Swed didn’t need to go all the way to Salzburg to write that.

Posted by: operatheaterink | August 20, 2019

Opinion and Commentary: Plácido Domingo Accusations, Aug. 20, 2019

My Point of View: Leave Mr. Domingo Alone!

Placido Domingo – Credit: Kaori Suzuki.

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink
Different earlier version in Beverly Hills Courier

So far mostly news stories exist on the accusations made by nine women who say that Plácido Domingo sexually harassed them, not opinion pieces, and eight of the women remain anonymous at the time of this posting. Only one gave her name and described his advances, and apparently, he didn’t touch her because she refused.

I have distinct views on the matter. I don’t care if the investigations underway prove him innocent, guilty or somewhere in between — I believe he is getting a bad wrap. After all, this brouhaha originated via one article by the Associated Press.

I telephoned Marilyn Ziering last week. She has contributed millions of dollars to Los Angeles Opera, the company Domingo heads, and she declined to comment as the company is investigating the situation with outside counsel. Ziering is a vice chairman on the board of directors.

Frankly, I think the matter should be solved quietly without more press interference. Domingo’s contract as director of LA Opera continues through the 2021-2022 season. He should remain in his current position and then he and the board of directors should determine his path — not the press, and not the accusers.

Why did the accusers suddenly come out of the woodwork when supposedly Domingo’s advances occurred from 1988 until a number of years ago? Did reporters dig through to find out who they were, seek them out, and then interview them?

The AP story has already caused two companies to take Domingo off their schedules. He has not pleaded innocent or denied the charges, but has said the information is inaccurate and that any relationship he has undertaken has been, to his knowledge, consensual.

The board wants LA Opera employees to feel respected and safe, but also owes much to its general director, Domingo. Although I only met him a few times, I must defend him to a certain degree since I am 72 and know the difference between men’s behavior towards women years ago and now, which he alluded to in his response to the allegations. It would be sad in my mind for Domingo’s career to end on a tragic note when he has given so much to the opera world.

When I was in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, men often flirted with women, and their behavior was often disrespectful, even if both sexes were single and dating. But women were accustomed to men’s advances, and frankly, if men had not flirted with me, I would have wondered what was wrong with me. I have to admit that women during that era didn’t know how to act at the end of dates when single men were so aggressive. I don’t think that women talked about such circumstances to other women. They just navigated the waters silently, so the men were not hampered or reprimanded for their actions. In fact, if men did not pursue women as almost prey, they could not have boasted to other men about their conquests. And during that era, men did boast to other men to show their virility. That is why Donald Trump thought he could boast to Billy Bush during the last presidential campaign and still win. Think “Don Giovanni.”

The question is: Should women have taken such sexual harassment? No, of course not. I am so relieved to know that they no longer must. Men should never have gotten away with such behavior, but the fact remains that they did. Naturally, men who were married and exhibited this behavior added another dimension to their indiscretions.

And if men like Jeffrey Epstein actually entered into the domain of sex trafficking — that was a different matter deserving subsequent legal action.

So the levels of indiscretions vary.

But for a woman (Patricia Wulf) to come out and admit that a powerful man (Domingo) made advances toward her many years ago without barely touching her — well, maybe this woman simply wants a minute of fame.

It has been determined in a documentary on Luciano Pavarotti that he too had indiscretions and married his assistant, beginning the relationship while he was still married. Pavarotti was one of the Three Tenors along with Domingo.

So many people in every facet of life have done what Domingo is accused of doing. Domingo was and is a great opera singer who is now considered a legend. He has extended his passion for opera to nurture young singers. He has developed his Operalia competition, conducts, and is the general director of LA Opera. I have been to various press conferences where Domingo has introduced the upcoming seasons of the company. He is always very cultured and gracious as he interacts with those present. I have also seen him at the Broad Stage when singers from the LA Opera young artist program were presented in the small theater before the larger theater had its opening. Domingo goes one step beyond other singers in helping young people attain their dreams. He shows them what dedication is all about so that they can follow his lead.

Domingo is a force of nature, still singing when almost 80, conducting, and taking on casting and other administrative roles as general director of LA  Opera. And he doesn’t stop after winners are announced for his competition. He nurtures the winners, sings with them around the world, helps them with their careers, acting as their counselors.

He may not be singing much as a tenor anymore, but he is singing as a baritone to prolong his career. His legendary status is increasing. Yet one woman seeking one minute of fame is coming forth with accusations, and apparently, he never laid a hand on her. The picture in circulation with him by her side holding her son shows they were friends. He flirted. She said no. Is that a major offense, or even news?

I personally would like others to come forth without anonymity where the evidence suggests a more verbose physical contact. Who are the nine women mentioned anonymously in the Associated Press article that spearheaded this conversation? Without attributions, I remain in limbo.

So should a powerful singer such as Domingo make advances at all? No, of course not — not years ago or now. But he did, apparently, or might have. However, now he is not only a singer and administrator, but also a grandfather who has weathered colon cancer. Now when he is elderly is not the time to clear the slate and sink the ship.

It is time for the women who were victimized by real sexual advances to come forward out of anonymity. And if they succumbed to advances, then they are to blame just as much as the perpetrator, if, in fact, their actions were consensual as Domingo has stated he thought his relationships were.

Yes, we did live with a “boys will be boys” mentality 30 years ago. We have a president who was elected to office having described similar behaviors. Past presidents have done the same.

A former member of the board of directors who still speaks at events for the company wrote me that board members should not and would not speak to the press about the incidents at this time.

“It is in the investigation phase,” she wrote me on Aug. 17.

“Domingo has an incredible career. My personal and observed relationships with him have always been positive,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, many successful, powerful men (and women) have something negative in their pasts, or certainly claims against them, real or not. This is especially as judged by today’s standards versus past social norms.”

So my friend, who had no idea I would include her comments in this article since I had no idea she would address the issue, also acknowledges that the past was indeed different than the present with the “MeToo movement” in force.

Most of the accusations happened years ago. People change and mature. Wulf sang at the Washington Opera where Domingo was the general director until 2011. I question the motives of the accusers if they are living in the past and may have unfulfilled dreams. And I assume that the reporter who wrote the original AP story had to seek them out.

I am in no way saying that what may have happened is right or that it is okay to cheat on your wife. That is between a husband and wife. I would personally not stand for it, but know many wives who do. I simply do not believe that Domingo’s career should end on this tragic note. He should not be removed from the schedules of opera companies until his voice warrants retirement.  Although he has already been removed from performing at certain companies in America, European companies and many opera singers are standing by him or waiting to hear more. His position as general director might be in jeopardy due to unprofessional behavior if proven, but he has been the catalyst to LA Opera’s upward successes. Again, I believe his contract should be honored, and he should create his own timeline for the future.

I don’t even know the definition of sexual harassment anymore: a smile, a touch, or the act. I don’t think the accusers do either.

In conclusion, Domingo may be owed apologies or reprimands depending on the findings. He may want to apologize himself. But he has worked hard and most certainly has learned the boundaries in his profession at this juncture, and I believe he will adhere to them.

The whole media circus resulted from one article by AP that spurred other outlets to respond. I think that from now on, everything discussed should be behind closed doors. Even the results of the investigation by LA Opera should be kept quiet.

Domingo is known for saying “If I rest, I rust,” and has printed the quote on his website.

I don’t believe he is ready to rust.

I believe Domingo should sing, conduct and be an administrator for as long as he desires. He is the master of his ship.

Plácido Domingo is a legend, and his candle should not be blown out due to something that has nothing to do with his status as an opera singer.

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