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.