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