Posted by: operatheaterink | September 20, 2019

Commentary: NPR on Domingo at the Met, Sept. 20, 2019

Plácido Domingo: Courageous

 

 

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

I woke up again to another story by NPR on Plácido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Frankly, everyone is writing how much courage it has taken for the accusers to come forth. In the NPR story, the accusations are simply from staff members who “feel awkward” being around Domingo as he rehearses for his upcoming engagement of “Macbeth” with star Anna Netrebko, who has called him “fantastic.” Is this truly a story? Has the world gone mad?

Now he is being hampered because these people feel awkward being around him. Frankly, Domingo is the one with the courage to get up every morning and go to rehearsal. Domingo is the courageous one. These staffers are again anonymous. The story says that his advances started 40 years ago and have slowed down, probably come to a halt. Yes, the only courageous one is Domingo. The man is almost 80 years old. His wife is 84. Far too late to come down on him now, and all because they feel awkward.

And they say that the negative work environment is in part due to memories of the James Levine scandal. Well, that was quite different. Levine’s offenses were by underage boys and there were legal proceedings that went with the accusations, and Domingo and Levine are totally different people as well. Plus, Levine, who was the Met’s music director for many years, was at the Met every day when he was healthy. Domingo sings there when engaged. So why should anonymous staffers at the Met feel threatened by Domingo being in the house? Totally different situations with totally different accusers and involving totally different men.

It is the press that has gone mad as well. These complainers are going to the press, not to attorneys, because there is nothing there. Why have they waited all these years to go to the management? And even now, they could have gone to the management before rehearsals started and solved the problems internally. Instead, it seems the press is seeking out the complainers, and the complainers are going to the press.

They are being called courageous, when the only courageous person among them is Plácido Domingo.

They say there has been an awkward power dynamic going on between employees and the powerful ones like Domingo, Levine and Peter Gelb, the general manager. Well, I have news for them. There is a power dynamic between managers and employees in every work place in this country and in the land.

Plus it is now convenient and in vogue to be anonymous based on fearing retribution. These staffers may have feared that Domingo is liked at the Met and that if they went to upper management, nothing would be done and they could lose their jobs for trying, since Domingo is more important to the board at the Met than they are, so they went to the press instead. After all, Domingo sells tickets and he is loved by his supporters, so maybe the complainers thought they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if they complained.

That said: I think that fearing that the art form of opera would be in jeopardy if they went on the record is pushing it. Excuses. Excuses.

I have no idea how to resolve this. It appears that the opera companies read the newspapers and then cancel Domingo’s engagements in the United States. Frankly, I look down on those companies for acting so quickly with insignificant information. I think that in this case, it is the staffers at the Met who are causing the problem if they actually went to NPR to complain. And if NPR came to them and they played along by answering questions, then it is their fault, too, for not handling the problems internally.

The only solution to this problem is probably for everyone to stay quiet. I look like I am changing my mind here. It is one thing to respond to stories that are outwardly damaging one’s career, like the Mark Swed commentary in the LA Times. It is another thing when anonymous people go to a newspaper to try a case in the press because they feel awkward and cannot go anywhere else since there is nothing there and they fear that nothing would come of their complaints if they went to the powers that be at their company.

The press doesn’t look too good either because the press is turning the complaints into stories that could be resolved internally and not in a newspaper, or on a radio or television show. The news is being fabricated.

The complainers feel awkward? Well, how do they think Domingo must feel about now: awkward.

I think that members of the press should stop the offensive reporting, and I think that all of these accusers and complainers should stop talking to the press.

The latest complaints could have been handled internally.

All of this is making the complainers, accusers and news organizations lack credibility. This round of complainers should realize that it is “they” who are making people feel awkward at the Met. Their gripes may or may not have been known. Yet after this story, they are.

Domingo is the only one truly suffering from the whole frenzy. The anonymous accusers and complaining staffers are the ones creating the difficult work environment, not Domingo. If anything, the only courageous one in the bunch is Domingo himself.

Posted by: operatheaterink | September 19, 2019

Commentary: In Response to LA Times on Domingo & Plan B, Sept. 19, 2019

The Most Obnoxious Slanted News to Date
The LA Times is Attempting to Oust Domingo with Plan B

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

I was going to sit back for awhile and see what develops regarding the story on the Plácido Domingo sexual harassment accusations. But I cannot keep my mouth shut after reading one of the most obnoxious pieces I have ever read, a piece so weak in news and full of hypocrisy that I can barely breathe.

In a commentary by classical music critic Mark Swed on Plan B for both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and LA Opera in the LA Times on Sept. 18, I can only focus on the Los Angeles Opera half because that is where my expertise lies, but I could speculate that the LA Philharmonic half is just as outrageous. All I can say is that this latest commentary by the LA Times classical music critic may be worthy of a defamation libel lawsuit. But then, I am not an attorney. However now I would advise Domingo’s attorneys to step in and take action. And if not now but later, it is time for the board of directors to speak out and not be silent. Silence might have worked before, but it would be a sign of weakness now. That is just my opinion.

At the beginning of this media blitz, I wasn’t quite sure about the LA Times role in denigrating Domingo’s career. I was sure that the Associated Press had begun a developing story on harassment allegations by women who had claimed Domingo sexually harassed them years ago, and other press organizations were running with the story.

As I read articles over the last few days, I could see that the LA Times was pushing for action. A news reporter and the classical music critic have been writing reviews and stories that spell out their prognosis for LA Opera if it follows their recipe. But the Sept. 18 commentary is outwardly pointing and virtually spells out the direction LA Opera should take in the eyes of the LA Times, and the commentary has Domingo OUT no matter what the results of the investigations underway are, no matter what the board decides, and no matter what Domingo wants himself. The LA Times has become the all-knowing God here, and the paper now appears to be owned and led by Hitler. No, we don’t live in a dictatorship yet. We need another voice in Los Angeles. The LA Times will no longer do.

The LA Times has determined the outcome of the news. The LA Times editors think that if the Times actually describes Plan B, that is what will occur. If LA Opera doesn’t know what to do, the board should just read the LA Times. All the answers are there. It is like the LA Times is saying what will happen, and so it will be.

Voodoo 101 and a crystal ball: That better not be the case.

Yes, we have freedom of speech and press in this country. But when a newspaper abuses that freedom, it is time to take action.

What the Times Said

I have to begin this section by stating that the piece I read first in the LA Times on Sept. 18 was edited by afternoon. No Plan B anymore. Now the headline reads: “What does a post-Plácido Domingo future look like for LA Opera and the LA Phil?”

How can the LA Times speculate about a post-Domingo future? I think that would be a little premature. However after reading this story, if I were Domingo, I would flee from the United States and live in Europe in peace as fast as I could. I would miss him, though.

Just a few weeks ago, Domingo had completed his Operalia competition and was treated with utter respect. Then, out-of-the-blue, the Associated Press started its stories on the sexual harassment accusations. My other pieces describe the timeline in depth. Mostly anonymous women were the accusers, with two saying on the record what he did years ago: Very little.

The newspapers reported the news, and now the LA Times clearly has a vendetta out to end Domingo’s career.

It no longer matters what the results of the investigations are. It no longer matters that Domingo has worked tirelessly on behalf of LA Opera and had planned to remain as general director of the company after he retires from singing. The LA Times has put him in a position where he probably would be embarrassed to remain general director of LA Opera, and the Times apparently would be glad.

The LA Times says what it thinks in the commentary through the mouth of Mark Swed. How much of the commentary is Swed’s opinion vs. how much is the LA Times opinion is an unknown. But the editors rule, not the reporters and critics. I have first-hand experience and know this to be true since I was a reporter and have worked for a number of news organizations. Of course, I don’t know the inner workings of the LA Times, especially since the paper was sold and many of old-time reporters no longer have jobs there.

We have freedom of press in this country, so the press and media can virtually say or write anything and get away with it, unless intent can be proven to go along with damages.

That said: the commentary says that Domingo “seems to have little hope of remaining at the company” and that LA Opera has found “a controversial counsel who all but assures Domingo’s exit.”

Some of my quotes may be out of order, but they come directly from the commentaries published on Sept. 18.

It is not the place of the LA Times to dictate what will happen. It is not the newspaper’s job to devise the outcome. That is neither opinion nor commentary.

Even Mark Swed’s review of “La Bohème” is two-faced and waffles. He wrote how good the singers were in his review, then wrote that the singers were better in Germany. Now he writes that Domingo “championed young singers incapable of conveying the modern theater that the production promised.”

Domingo has been trying to help young singers. They may lack the experience of older singers, but the company in Germany had much more rehearsal time due to government subsidies, and the director was there to direct, unlike in Los Angeles, where his associate did the directing while he, the director, remained in Germany. Swed seems to think that seasoned singers could do a better job than those who have recently graduated from the young artist program or placed in Operalia. Yet he praised the singers in his “La Bohème” review, writing that one was “impressive” with a “glorious” voice, and that there wasn’t a bad voice among them. Then suddenly he got critical.

Swed wrote that Christopher Koelsch, president and chief executive of LA Opera, is the man of “imaginative ideas” whereas Domingo represents the “conventional.”

Pardon me, the beauty of opera is the conventional with a little imagination mixed in — with new opera on the bill for variety. Domingo has always championed new opera as well as conventional, singing in or promoting new operas including “Il Postino,” “The Fly,” “Grendel,” “Dulce Rosa” and others. He has been at the helm of the company when producing gorgeous broad-minded productions like “Tannhäuser,” conducted by James Conlon.

Swed likes modern theater, not traditional opera in the old sense of the word. So he is pushing for more Regietheater in Los Angeles. He clearly wants a new general director to produce more avant-garde productions. But the truth remains that LA Opera had gone over-budget when it produced the “Ring” and went to the LA County Board of Supervisors for a loan. Since then, the company has been very budget-conscious and has learned to produce what the public wants to see, which includes some of the old standard operas with conventional productions. Repetition of productions is also cost-saving. Yet, variety is the spice of life, so Domingo has sparingly introduced new opera to the company’s palette. Young singers cost less, too, and they keep opera youthful.

I wonder what Koelsch would say now. Does he stay loyal to LA Opera and Domingo or push for himself since the LA Times seems to be promoting him? It is a difficult position to be in for sure. He should stick by the company in my mind. Period. Let the Times surmise the hypothetical with its unethical news.

Swed also wrote that Koelsch and the other LA Phil hopeful are “trailblazers” who have already “proved themselves to be indispensable in making their companies what they are today.”

He speculated that they will become the new heads and are “the obvious candidates.”

He wrote that they are capable of taking the company to the next level and that they are “visionary stars” for the next generation.

Swed wrote all of this to show that Koelsch is wonderful and Domingo is archaic. If Koelsch is doing such a wonderful job, then it must directly be related to Domingo who was probably involved in Koelsch’s hiring and/or promotions since Edgar Baitzel died. Koelsch may have been a good hire, but no one is indispensable in this life. The Times has its nerve to be the judge of anything or to tell any organization who it should hire. If I were the head of the board of LA Opera and needed to find a general director, I would conduct a search to find the most credible person, and Koelsch would no doubt be part of that search — part of the competition. But the LA Times cannot dictate what it wants and exert influence due to irresponsible journalism. The LA Times is totally unethical.

The Times has also written — quite obviously, just to write something — that the Metropolitan Opera is not taking action pending the results of the LA Opera investigation. Domingo is set to sing “Macbeth” with Anna Netrebko on Sept. 25, and the results will most probably not be available by then. I assume that Domingo will sing since Netrebko has come to his defense. Yet, the Times is still trying to put a fly in the ointment, which isn’t even worthy of a mention. Domingo is rehearsing in New York. We will see if he sings. I hope so.

The union for opera artists is holding a separate investigation. Swed has written that the investigation is being carried out because the union does not have faith in LA Opera’s investigation.

There is no indication of that rationale. I just went on the union’s website, and I could not find anything about that assumption. It appears that the union simply wants to investigate sexual harassment because its board wants to learn how such behaviors could have existed for years in general without its knowledge. As a union, those on the board want to keep all female opera singers safe.

And finally: “LA Opera’s next option has to be to rebrand for a newer generation,” the commentary says.

The commentary has been edited and may be edited again for all I know, to ensure there are no grounds for a lawsuit, I presume.

“With leadership in flux, it’s time to look at group No. 2s stars of a new generation.” That was a sub-headline on the commentary I read first. Frankly, I fail to see anything wrong with Group 1.

Domingo is scheduled to sing in “Roberto Devereux” at LA Opera in February and March. That is a long way off. Much can happen until then.

I personally think that the LA Times has no credibility as a news organization. I cry for the Domingos and for anyone who has had to undergo the wrath exhibited in the this commentary.

 

Christopher Koelsch

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.

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