Posted by: operatheaterink | October 3, 2019

Commentary: Plácido Domingo Leaves LA Opera, Oct. 3, 2019

TEARS!

Placido Domingo in LA Opera’s
“El Gato Montes: The Wildcat”
(Photo: Cory Weaver)

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

Almost immediately after my “Love Letter to LA Opera” was posted, Plácido Domingo resigned as general director of the Los Angeles Opera. He also will not be performing in “Roberto Devereux” in February.

He did the only thing he could have done. He wrote a beautiful statement to the New York Times virtually thanking LA Opera and wishing the company well. He will concentrate his efforts in Europe. I am very sad, but he did the right thing.

President and Chief Executive Christopher Koelsch will stay to handle the operations of LA Opera.

The investigation will remain in force, which in my mind was a slap in the face to Domingo in the first place. But the fact that it is continuing enrages me even more. It remains a front so that LA Opera can show the world that it is doing the right thing with a politically correct approach. The company could have let others do the investigation, like the union. It is a slap in the face to Domingo who has led the company for years. It is a slap in the face to the general director they supposedly revered.

Domingo was removed from his duties as general director soon after the Associated Press came out with the first story of accusations pending the results of the investigation. Another slap in the face. He was involved in the scheduling and casting of this season and subsequent seasons since calendars are scheduled years in advance. This was another front by LA Opera to show that the company was being proactive.

After other companies in the United States wrongfully canceled his engagements, he was forced to leave the Metropolitan Opera last week. The Met handled the situation all wrong. Please read my prior commentary on Peter Gelb, who held a meeting of chorus singers and orchestra members who complained they felt “awkward” performing with Domingo on the stage. Domingo was pushed out and according to a statement by the Met, “agreed” to leave.

He is right to never again perform in Los Angeles and probably anywhere in the United States. It was like he was attacked by a bunch of ravishing dogs. The women accusers were not the only vultures. The press was. The first woman barely accused him of anything, and AP went in for the kill. Then the second woman accused him and AP went in for the kill again. All the news organizations ran with the story. And, voilà, Domingo’s career was in flames after more than 50 years of being Plácido Domingo.

He had worked so hard to raise the status of LA Opera. He had planned to remain general director of the company after he retired from singing. What a jolt when all his hard work just seemed to go up in smoke unexpectedly after AP ran with the mostly anonymous accusers’ story.

Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times had Domingo gone in his commentary almost two weeks ago. He even had the new general director chosen. How dare the press act as a human resources department and create the news.

And the photos on the LA Opera website of “Roberto Devereux” show that they were from a production at San Francisco Opera. Yes, the LA Opera brochure says it is a company premiere, but it is not an LA Opera production. In tiny letters at the bottom of the page in the brochure, it says it is a Canadian Opera Company production originally owned by the Dallas Opera. Stephen Lawless staged the production in San Francisco and is set to direct the one in Los Angeles. Both San Francisco Opera and Dallas Opera canceled Domingo’s engagements almost the day the AP story broke.

Yes, Domingo did the right thing. I would want to spit venom on the LA Opera stage rather than perform in that production on that stage.

But Domingo took the high road with his statement. I don’t have to. What has happened to Domingo is a travesty and a horrible comment on the press and our society.

Now that Domingo has done what the Times wanted, Swed wrote a front-page story that reads like an obituary. It is all very nice and lists Domingo’s roles throughout the years, and points out his landmark positions in Los Angeles history. It was so clear early on that the LA Times was leading Domingo to the watering trough, but with this article, which is a look back at his career with a few lackluster compliments mixed in, I think that the Times has probably covered itself from encountering any potential illegalities.

I do not know if Domingo has grounds for a defamation libel lawsuit against various press organizations and the state senator who called for his removal from the Met without cause. He would have to prove damages based on intent. I wish he would have grounds, but that is between him and his attorneys.

He was accused with anonymous accusations. The press ran with the juicy story that fit conveniently into the goals of the #MeToo movement with anonymous attributions. And LA Opera has no qualms about continuing with its agenda. Bravo to Domingo for getting out in such a timely fashion.

And if LA Opera thinks it will rise to the occasion, its board members are wrong. Oh, yes, the LA Times will say that LA Opera will thrive, but it won’t. Mark my words. The company will never get another named artist like Plácido Domingo to act as its general director. Even if an artist with a name were considering the position, that artist would look disloyal to Domingo and would most likely never apply.

I spoke to a former member of the board of directors, wanting to know why he left the board. I didn’t get much of a response, but I did hear the sentence: “Everyone knows that Christopher Koelsch has been running LA Opera for years.” Or maybe it was: “Everyone knows that Christopher Koelsch runs LA Opera.”

Yes, well, the contributors are giving the money to LA Opera because of Domingo, not Koelsch. And this particular ex-board member told me that he got tired of spending the money it took to remain on the board due to the amount of productions being performed.

Briefly, to recap LA Opera’s history: LA Opera was run by Edgar Baitzel. He died and there was no one to run the company on a day-to-day basis. Stephen Rountree gave up some of his tasks with the Music Center to become the interim person to run the company.

Plácido Domingo had been the artistic director and then became the general director.

But LA Opera has not been like other companies. Other companies usually do not have a general director who is a major artist whose name helps the company succeed. So when a general director normally leaves a company, if the next general director has a good record of management, that general director can enhance that companies stature.

But in the case of LA Opera, there is NO ONE who can do for the company what Plácido Domingo has done for it.

I wrote a story years ago that Domingo should become artistic consultant and that another person should run the day-to-day operations of the company since Domingo was out singing and conducting for much of the year. LA Opera kept Domingo as general director and Christopher Koelsch eventually moved up the ranks to be that day-to-day person with the title of president and chief executive. The problem was solved.

But there have been other problems along the way.

The “Ring” with “Ring Festival LA” was a drain on the company’s budget.

People like Eli Broad and others were giving millions of dollars to make the production of the “Ring” possible. As I wrote previously, once a company has produced the “Ring,” it has arrived. The festival was a means to enhance tourism in Los Angeles and was billed as the largest festival Los Angeles has ever had. I thought the festival was a separate entity to the “Ring” production, but the production became part of the festival somewhere along the way.

I discovered that the festival was basically a Richard Wagner festival, since it basically honored the composer of the “Ring,” who was a known anti-Semite and racist.

I thought that the opera people didn’t know about the politicians’ intolerance of anti-Semitism and racism in Los Angeles, and that the politicians didn’t know about Wagner and his views. I wanted to help, but I got a swift kick in the pants.

I first went to a major political consulting firm in Los Angeles for help. The firm’s head was interested but learned that another PR firm had been contracted.

I wanted to see the biggest arts festival in Los Angeles that the city had ever had. I wanted to see banners up and down La Cienega Boulevard which, at the time, had numerous art galleries. I wanted all the little theaters to also be involved with their shows and I wanted the theater companies to decorate their theaters with banners that read: “Ring Festival LA.” I wanted all the arts to come together to create this massive festival that would have brought in tourists.

But somewhere along the way, I was branded as being out-of-touch.

Retired LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was sensitive to my concerns since LA County finances the Music Center. But he limited what I had in my mind as an arts festival and only presented a motion to include other composers with Wagner as part of the festivities.

Well, the press heard that and went to town on the supervisor who meant well and was headed in the right direction, but just didn’t quite hit enough of the right notes. Had that motion passed, the supervisor would have no doubt expanded the original version to include more of the arts, but it didn’t pass.

Just about the only fair press I received was when David Suissa of the Jewish Journal interviewed me. He lived up the street and came over to my house for an interview. He didn’t take notes like other reporters do but appeared extremely relaxed as he lounged on my sofa. I wondered what kind of an article would result, but the article was very fair. Suissa wrote that any major arts festival should be about more than one person. I guess he didn’t need a notepad for that.

Then LA Opera didn’t have the money to finance the production, went over-budget, and went to the LA County Board of Supervisors for a loan.

The company paid back the loan and has been adhering to a tight budget ever since.

LA Opera did alter the festival, however, by revealing Wagner’s warts in all the lectures. That worked. But in my estimation, Los Angeles could have utilized the kind of festival I was envisioning. I would still like to see such an arts festival in Los Angeles in the summer months, which would bring tourism to the city.

Why did I write all this here, when the focus is the Domingo resignation, you might ask?

I wrote it because LA Opera is now in hot water. It was on a tight budget before Domingo announced his exit, but now the funding will spiral way down into the orchestra pit.

LA Opera has moved up the ranks as a company in the United States. But for Mark Swed at the LA Times to say that the company will be just fine with Koelsch at the helm borders on ludicrous.

The company was so small years ago when I was a teacher at a Highland Park elementary school, that one of my co-teachers told me that her husband was traveling to San Francisco Opera to hear opera. That woman is now one of the ladies who volunteers in the booth at the Opera League table in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Again, LA Opera is unlike any other company in the United States. It had Plácido Domingo as its general director. Koelsch may run the company on a daily basis, but it was Domingo who brought in the funding. It was Domingo who brought in the stars. And it was Domingo who brought in the named artists to act as advisors, consultants, and even coaches.

Domingo recruited James Conlon to be the company’s music director and conductor. Conlon has worked tirelessly in that capacity. Not only has he conducted the orchestra with more enthusiasm than a firecracker spreading its light over the ceiling of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but he has been committed to explaining to audiences the critical factors inherent in each production by means of talks before the performances.

How long will James Conlon stay on? He is getting up in age and conducting all over the world. If he leaves, and he will, that will be another big blow to LA Opera. So what will be left?

There should have never been an investigation by LA Opera. After the Associated Press story broke, LA Opera should have immediately said Domingo is the general director of LA Opera. He will sing in “Roberto Devereux” in February, and that should have been that.

He was not accused of a federal crime. And one woman wrote online that Latins are more touchy than other cultures anyhow. Plus the groundless accusations supposedly happened years ago.

The #MeToo movement has been carried too far.

If LA Opera wanted to save itself, the board could have quickly started defending Domingo, no questions asked. But, alas, that never happened.

More singers should have defended him like Renée Fleming who will be performing later this month in “The Light in the Piazza.” What about Susan Graham, who is a consultant with the young artist program? Why didn’t she defend Domingo? What about James Conlon? I know he must be sick about the turn of events and does defend his recruiter. But why didn’t he speak out?

Frankly, by staying at LA Opera, Conlon is not sending the right message of loyalty to the man that originally recruited him. He must leave in my mind whenever his contract ends, or sooner. And then LA Opera will be the LA Opera it once was, without much support.

I can see it now. Domingo will leave. Someone will become the company’s general director like with other companies. And James Conlon will leave as well.

And what about Marc Stern and Carol Henry — two leaders of the board of directors? What words can they offer to appease the situation? Maybe they will leave, too.

So then Los Angeles will have the type of opera company it had before.

Nobody will care about the company and instead of it keeping its ranking and moving upward, it will quickly start declining. After all, where will the money come from to finance the productions? I doubt that Christopher Koelsch could keep the company afloat as general director or president and chief executive even if he worked 24 hours a day. The only way the company could be saved from spiraling downward would be if a great artist signed on, which is very unlikely now since that would send the wrong message.

LA Opera owes so much gratitude to Plácido Domingo. So what has the company done to show its appreciation? It has alienated him in the name of being politically correct so that he felt the need to resign.

LA Opera can never recoup what it had with Domingo as general director. He is irreplaceable.

Domingo did nothing so terrible as to warrant this outcry in the United States. He is a great, great artist. He is the world’s greatest living tenor. He didn’t deserve any of this. Los Angeles was lucky to have him at the helm of its opera company.

Good luck, LA Opera. You are going to need it.

Posted by: operatheaterink | October 2, 2019

Commentary: A Love Letter to LA Opera, Oct. 1, 2019

A Love Letter to LA Opera
Will He Stay? Or Won’t He Stay? That Is the Question.
Please do the right thing, LA Opera. Your life depends on it.

Arturo Chacon-Cruz, Ana Maria Martinez, Placido Domingo
in LA Opera’s “El Gato Montes: The Wildcat”
(Photo: Cory Weaver)

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

I don’t know how the Los Angeles Opera should approach the ending to the Plácido Domingo scandal in the United States, but I hope the company leaders do it correctly and are not pressured by anyone, including the press, politicians, and even the results of their own investigation by an attorney.

So far, the company is batting zero with me because I believe that the investigation was uncalled for and is a slap in the face to the great artist, Plácido Domingo, who is in the company’s general director.

The investigation must have been a front so that LA Opera could show the world that it is doing the right thing with a politically correct approach. The company could have let others do the investigation, like the union. It is a slap in the face to Domingo who has led the company for years. It is a slap in the face to the general director they have revered.

After what has happened at the Metropolitan Opera, with Domingo’s exit from that company, and after other companies canceled his engagements, he has decided most likely to perform out of the United States, which has wronged him on many levels.

But he is still scheduled to sing “Roberto Devereux” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with LA Opera the end of February. I would say that whether or not he sings has a great deal to do with whether or not he remains the general director of LA Opera.

Many scenarios could be in the works. He could remain general director and sing in February. He could retire as general director and still sing in February. He could retire as general director and not sing in February. But the main aspect for LA Opera to consider is “how” he leaves when and if he leaves.

Right now, the investigation is underway. And Domingo has been removed from his duties as general director even though he was involved in the scheduling and casting for this season and for upcoming seasons as well, since opera contracts are signed sometimes years in advance. So that action by LA Opera was another front to show the world that the company is proactive.

Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times has Domingo gone. He even has the new general director chosen — with the current president and chief executive officer of the company becoming its general director.

LA Opera needs to think hard, very hard about the company’s history and future.

I spoke to a former member of the board of directors, wanting to know why he left the board. I didn’t get much of a response, but I did hear the sentence: “Everyone knows that Christopher Koelsch has been running LA Opera for years.” Or maybe it was: “Everyone knows that Christopher Koelsch runs LA Opera.”

Yes, well, I go way back, too. And I believe that I have outlined LA Opera’s history in other commentaries.

Briefly, LA Opera was run by Edgar Baitzel. He died and there was no one to run the company on a day-to-day basis. Stephen Rountree gave up some of his tasks with the Music Center to become the interim person to run the company.

Plácido Domingo had been the artistic director and then became the general director.

But LA Opera is not like other companies. Other companies usually do not have a general director who is a major artist whose name helps the company succeed. So when a general director normally leaves a company, if the next general director has a good record of management, that general director can enhance that companies stature.

But in the case of LA Opera, there is NO ONE who can do for the company what Plácido Domingo has done for it.

I wrote a story years ago that Domingo should become artistic consultant and that another person should run the day-to-day operations of the company since Domingo is out singing and conducting for much of the year. LA Opera kept Domingo as general director and Christopher Koelsch eventually moved up the ranks to be that day-to-day person with the title of president and chief executive. Problem solved. And I hear he is doing an excellent job.

But there have been other problems along the way.

The “Ring” with “Ring Festival LA” was a drain to the company’s budget.

People like Eli Broad and others were giving millions of dollars to make the production of the “Ring” possible. As I wrote previously, once a company has produced the “Ring,” it has arrived. The festival was a means to enhance tourism in Los Angeles and was billed as the largest festival Los Angeles has ever had. I thought the festival was a separate entity to the “Ring” production, but the production became part of the festival somewhere along the way.

I discovered that the festival was basically a Richard Wagner festival, since it basically honored the composer of the “Ring,” who was a known anti-Semite and racist.

I thought that the opera people didn’t know about the politicians’ intolerance of anti-Semitism and racism in Los Angeles, and that the politicians didn’t know about Wagner and his views. I wanted to help, but I got a swift kick in the pants.

I first went to a major political consulting firm in Los Angeles for help. The firm’s head was interested but learned that another PR firm had been contracted.

I wanted to see the biggest arts festival in Los Angeles that the city had ever had. I wanted to see banners up and down La Cienega Boulevard which, at the time, had numerous art galleries. I wanted all the little theaters to also be involved with their shows and I wanted the theater companies to decorate their theaters with banners that read: “Ring Festival LA.” I wanted all the arts to come together to create this massive festival that would have brought in tourists.

But somewhere along the way, I was branded as being out-of-touch.

Retired LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was sensitive to my concerns since LA County finances the Music Center. But he limited what I had in my mind as an arts festival and only presented a motion to include other composers with Wagner as part of the festivities.

Well, the press heard that and went to town on the supervisor who meant well and was headed in the right direction, but just didn’t quite hit enough of the right notes.

Just about the only fair press I got was when David Suissa of the Jewish Journal interviewed me. He lived up the street and came over to my house for an interview. He didn’t take notes like other reporters do but appeared extremely relaxed as he lounged on my sofa. I wondered what kind of an article would result, but the article was very fair. Suissa wrote that any major arts festival should be about more than one person. I guess he didn’t need a notepad for that.

Then LA Opera didn’t have the money to finance the production and went to the LA County Board of Supervisors for a loan.

The company paid back the loan and has been adhering to a tight budget ever since.

LA Opera did alter the festival, however, by revealing Wagner’s warts in all the lectures. That worked. But in my estimation, Los Angeles could have utilized the kind of festival I was envisioning. I would still like to see such an arts festival in Los Angeles in the summer months, which would bring tourism to the city.

Why did I write all this regarding the Domingo scandal, you ask?

I wrote it because I do not know what the LA Opera board is contemplating right now. So far, the Met has made major mistakes with how the company handled its situation.

I just do not want LA Opera to do the same. I ask LA Opera to be very careful as the options are weighed.

The company has already slapped Domingo in the face with its investigation.

It would be nice if the results would turn out positive for Domingo. But if I were him, that would still anger me since LA Opera didn’t need to doubt him. And if some of the results turn out to be negative, then both Domingo and the company end up unhappy so that no one wins.

LA Opera has moved up the ranks as a company in the United States. But for Mark Swed at the LA Times to say that the company will be just fine with Koelsch at the helm borders on ludicrous.

The company was so small years ago when I was a teacher at a Highland Park school, that one of my co-teachers always told me that her husband was going to San Francisco Opera to hear opera. That woman is now one of the ladies who volunteers in the booth at the Opera League table in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Again, LA Opera is unlike any other company in the United States. It has Plácido Domingo as its general director. Koelsch may run the company on a daily basis, but it is Domingo who can bring in the funding. It is Domingo who can bring in the stars. And it is Domingo who can bring in the named artists to act as advisors, consultants, and even coaches.

Domingo recruited James Conlon to be the company’s music director and conductor. Conlon has worked tirelessly in that capacity. Not only has he conducted the orchestra with more enthusiasm than a firecracker spreading its light over the ceiling of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but he has been committed to explaining to audiences the critical factors inherent in each production by means of talks before the performances.

So I don’t know what the answer is or what LA Opera should do or what Domingo “will” do after what has happened throughout the United States. I doubt he will remain as a fixture with the company. But it is Plácido Domingo who has been at the forefront of LA Opera for years.

NO ONE can replace Plácido Domingo. No one. And now we are supposed to wait more months to hear the outcome of the investigation.

There should have never been an investigation. After the Associated Press story broke, LA Opera should have immediately said Domingo is the general director of LA Opera. He will sing in “Roberto Devereux” in February, and that should have been that.

He was not accused of a federal crime. Even if he likes women, so what? As he said, times were different years ago. And one woman wrote online that Latins are more touchy anyhow than other cultures. So what?

The #MeToo movement has gone too far.

The board of directors is not talking. Well some of the members ought to come out and defend Domingo.

At this point, if I were him, I would retire and move to Europe where he is treated with respect.

But if LA Opera wants to save itself, the board should quickly start defending Domingo, no questions asked.

More singers should start defending him. What about Renée Fleming who will be performing later this month? What about Susan Graham, who is a consultant with the young artist program? What about James Conlon?

I can see it now. Domingo will leave. Someone will become the company’s general director like with other companies. And later, James Conlon will leave as well. He is not so young anymore either.

So then Los Angeles will have the type of opera company it had before.

Nobody will care about the company and instead of it keeping its ranking and moving upward, it will start declining. After all, where will the money come from to finance the productions? I doubt that Christopher Koelsch could keep the company afloat as general director or president and chief executive even if he works 24 hours a day.

LA Opera owes so much gratitude to Plácido Domingo that it isn’t even funny. So what has the company done to show its appreciation? It has alienated him in the name of being politically correct.

LA Opera’s board better think very hard as it takes its next steps. If the company declines and fails, it will be because of the company’s inflexibility and adherence to trying to appease groups like the press and politicians.

It is time for LA Opera to assess what it has now, and what could happen if Plácido Domingo is no longer part of the company. In my mind, LA Opera can never recoup what it has with Domingo as general director. He is irreplaceable. I would like to see Domingo remain in his current capacity, but would understand if he chose not to. Second would be for him to remain as possibly an artistic director instead. But he should remain attached to LA Opera in some capacity, and the decision should be his.

Domingo did nothing so terrible as to warrant this outcry in the United States. He is a great, great artist. He is the world’s greatest living tenor. He didn’t deserve any of this. Los Angeles is lucky to have him at the helm of its opera company.

I beseech the board members and leaders of LA Opera to think hard before doing the wrong thing.

Posted by: operatheaterink | September 30, 2019

Commentary: Should Peter Gelb be Fired? Sept 30, 2019

Maybe He Just Needs Management Training

Peter Gelb at the Peabody Awards

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb clearly did not handle the removal of Plácido Domingo from the cast of “Macbeth” very well. In fact, he handled it so poorly that now, maybe it is Gelb who should go.

Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman wrote on Twitter: “Plácido Domingo should be removed from the show — and if he isn’t, the director of the Met should be removed too.”

So Gelb pushed Domingo out, and now I think that it is time to figure out what to do about Gelb.

I do not believe that politicians should dictate to opera company managers how they should run their companies. Does the senator know anything about opera? Does the senator know anything about Plácido Domingo? I somehow doubt it. It is more likely that he wants to appeal to his #MeToo constituents so that they will vote for him during his next re-election campaign.

And Gelb fell into his trap.

I thought that Gelb was doing a fair job until he ousted Domingo. Gelb had said that Domingo would go onstage as planned for the opening of “Macbeth,” since Gelb said he lacked information and was waiting for the Los Angeles Opera investigation to conclude. The accusations from the accusers were mostly anonymous and Domingo should have been allowed due process under the law, although nothing he was accused of was illegal. The information was not corroborated, Gelb said.

I thought Gelb was going in the right direction. But then after the “Macbeth” dress rehearsal, he met with some of the women in the chorus and orchestra who had complained that they felt awkward with Domingo on the stage while performing. After that meeting, Gelb caved in. Apparently the women felt a power struggle between them and the higher-ups. They felt that they deserved to be considered equally with Domingo even though he has sung as a star at the Met for more than 40 years and has a history they could not even come close to achieving. But Gelb caved in.

Domingo was very kind and announced that he would be leaving the production and subsequent productions at the Met. And Gelb wrote that Domingo had “agreed” to resign.

Now that is loyalty for you. Frankly, the Metropolitan Opera owes a lot more to Domingo than to Gelb. Gelb’s history at the Met is many years less than Domingo’s. The chorus and orchestra members should have been thrilled to sing with such an admired and esteemed artist in the cast of “Macbeth.” Supposedly Domingo has been acting the way the accusers accused beginning 30 years ago or more, and now he has slowed down to a stop. So do you mean to tell me that “now” they feel awkward and that this is something new? I don’t think so.

This was not like the situation with James Levine. Levine was part of the Met’s leadership. He was the music director and he had been accused of offenses that did involve the law.

So Gelb did not use his brain when it came to handling the situation at the Met last week.

Frankly, it is his job to handle such situations admirably. Maybe Gelb should not be “out.” But he certainly needs some management training for a situation handled poorly that will affect Domingo and his family for the rest of their lives.

Yes, it started with the press. Then it continued with a senator to Gelb.

But now, finally, Domingo is getting support from some of his peers: Anna Netrebko, Olga Borodina, and Maria Guleghina. Plus a woman in the chorus announced that she did not attend the Saturday meeting and had no idea who the chorus singers were that were complaining. She had nothing but admirable remarks to say about singing with Domingo.

In addition, Gelb’s wife conducted a production a few years ago at the Los Angeles Opera, the company that Domingo heads. I wonder how that happened. I am not saying that Gelb’s wife was not qualified. I am saying that Domingo goes out of his way to help artists further their careers.

Peter Gelb owes Domingo a major apology. I don’t expect that Domingo will change his mind and will ever sing at the Met again. But Gelb should go down on his knees and apologize to Domingo, and then a big gala should be held, not with Domingo singing, but in honor of Domingo for all the years he has sung at the Met.

Posted by: operatheaterink | September 25, 2019

Commentary: Domingo Steps Back, Sept. 25, 2019

Shock Waves Hit the Internet
It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

Next stop: Opernhaus Zurich
“Nabucco”

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

Upon hearing the devastating news that Plácido Domingo stepped down from ever performing at the Metropolitan Opera again, and will no longer be singing “Macbeth” with Anna Netrebko at the Met but will be replaced by Zeljko Lucic for his scheduled three performances — I sat on the chair in front of my computer in shock.

Since I have been writing on the subject, I have received overwhelming support for my commentaries by hundreds of Domingo fans because they feel they are in a minority, are not being covered by the press, and need a voice in print. Sadly, some of them have written me phrases like, “It’s over,” and “The mob has won.”

I was trying to find a way out for Domingo when I first heard the news and talked for the first time to a number of these Domingo supporters. I do not want to really call them fans because I think of fans as being naive young people outside of the situation. But that is not the case with those who have started and maintain a group Facebook page in support of Domingo. They are not young naive fans. They are mostly women, with some men included, who are older and intelligent. They live all over the world and support Domingo for his artistry. One woman that I talked to had even been at the Salzburg Festival when Domingo received a standing ovation before he even had uttered a note this summer. The woman told me that he had tears in his eyes. I was extremely moved.

The women are trying to think of solutions. The only way that Domingo could still be redeemed, they think, is if no one shows up for the opening of “Macbeth.” But that scenario is very unlikely. I will be writing on the evening in another commentary.

According to the New York Times and NPR, Domingo issued a statement which was very gracious. He stated that he was thankful for having been able to sing at the Met for so many years, but didn’t want to detract from those in the production.

NPR wrote that Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, also issued a statement which read that Domingo “agreed” to step down. The word “agreed” implies that Domingo was forced out. The Times stated that state Sen. Brad Hoylman called for Domingo to be removed from the performances, and if he wasn’t, Hoylman called for the removal of Peter Gelb. The Met had no choice.

But can the senator do that? I doubt that even if a senator calls for the removal of someone from a job, the company does not have to oblige him. I believe the call to oust Domingo by the senator was totally a political maneuver so that he would secure votes during the next election from members of the #MeToo movement.

I am far too upset by the cause of events to write. If my readers want the details of the Domingo scandal, I hope they will read my previous commentaries.

My heart goes out to the Domingos. The press and a senator have pushed Domingo out. The companies have tried to be sensitive to the #MeToo movement and in so doing, the companies have pushed the greatest living tenor out of their theaters. I find their acts reprehensible.

Domingo has been tried by the press, not a court of law. The accusers were anonymous except for two who described no acts that were illegal. And if any women agreed to Domingo’s accused advances, their actions were consensual.

The Los Angeles Times commentary by Mark Swed clearly showed that the LA Times wanted Domingo to resign as general director from Los Angeles Opera. The Times already had his successor picked out. So now the Times will most probably get its wish.

I believe that Domingo has wrongfully been tried by the press when the press didn’t really even have a story.

The Associated Press started the scandal, and the Los Angeles Times followed suit. A senator tried to influence an opera company by exerting pressure. It worked, but after I slept, I woke up with a start. It was because Domingo may not sing in America very much anymore after this scandal, and he may not be the general director of LA Opera for too much longer. But I believe the decisions must be his decisions to make, and I believe this incident is far from over.

Domingo spoke of “due process” in his statement. I believe he has been speaking to his attorneys, therefore. So although he may not be singing in “Macbeth,” I believe that lawsuits will result because Mr. Domingo did not have due process under the law and was canceled by the Met as well as other companies in the United States. So far nothing has been tried in a court of law, and nothing that Domingo is accused of doing was illegal and worthy of a lawsuit against him, but since I am not an attorney, I do not really know. However I do think that Domingo has grounds for a defamation libel lawsuit, with Domingo as the plaintiff, against possibly AP, the LA Times, the state Senator, and the companies that canceled him without proper evidence. Domingo used the words “due process” in his statement for a reason. He could file a lawsuit and the people and organizations that have plotted his professional demise could still be punished if damages are proven with intent. I pray that Domingo will continue the fight to restore his good name while singing in Europe where he is accepted and appreciated. As Americans, we do have the right to due process, and Domingo was pressured and continues to be pressured, without due process, which has forced him to resign from companies including the Met.

Going Back Before the Final Blow

On Monday, Sept. 23, it seems that the press focus should have been on the opening of the Metropolitan Opera season with Plácido Domingo protégèe Angel Blue in the leading role as Bess in “Porgy and Bess.” The focus was on the Plácido Domingo allegations instead.

Angel Blue was a student at the LA County High School for the Arts. I met her at UCLA when she was studying with the great baritone, Vladimir Chernov, while securing a graduate degree at UCLA where he is a professor. Then she moved to the young artist program at the Los Angeles Opera, and has continued under the direction of Domingo, singing all over the world in concert with him, to reach the wonderful moment for her as Bess in “Porgy and Bess” at the Met.

That was yet another generous act that Domingo has accomplished. He nurtures young singers to success.

Nothing will take away my undying respect for the man who has devoted his whole life to further the art of opera.

The Old News

Before Domingo’s resignation, the union held a seminar in Los Angeles to address what to do if singers or chorus members are harassed or have been harassed and are employees of an opera company.

And Peter Gelb held a session with chorus and orchestra members of the Met on Sept. 21, to explain his rationale for not taking actions regarding the Domingo scandal at the time. Much of what I have been surmising is similar. He did not have sufficient evidence to act on, and there was no corroborating evidence, he said. He said earlier that he was waiting for the results of LA Opera’s investigation.

Plus the makeup artist who was applying makeup on Angela Turner Wilson and Domingo in the same dressing room when Wilson said he groped her — the makeup artist has denied what Wilson said happened. He originally said that he could not remember the incident, but on Sept. 23, his denial was printed online.

I repeat that all of this stemmed from one story which began in the Associated Press and continued with another story which acted as a springboard to still other news organizations that then included the AP story in their coverage .

The #MeToo movement might have started the flood of accusations that now are plaguing the opera world about Plácido Domingo. But it is not the accusations that are the worst part. The worst part is that members of the press and media have pushed Domingo out, as Domingo said in his statement, without due process. The press ran stories without attributions. Domingo has been pushed out by the press. This is not the end of the story, but possibly just the beginning. I see a lawsuit in Domingo’s future. He will not be a victim, but the Plaintiff.

However the state senator was the last straw. What right does a senator have to dictate to a company who they should hire or fire. When politicians get involved to prove their worth to their constituents, to assure their next election, I find that very sad. But what can I do about it?

Flooding calls to the editors of newspapers might help. Writing other officeholders might help as well.

But the press is responsible for ruining this family’s lives, with the help of a state senator who added pressure without the power to do much of anything except to go to the press for reinforcement.

What’s In a Name

I am the daughter of a father who was an opera singer in Vienna and Prague in the late 1930s. He was forced to give up singing after fleeing from Prague at the time of the Holocaust, and then he lost his voice in Cuba where he and my mother were stranded in an internment camp. Once out of Triscornia, they lived in Havana until they could attain visas to come to the United States. The trauma weighed heavily on my father, and he was forced to learn a new profession to support my mother and me.

I was raised like a normal American child because that is what my immigrant parents wanted. They spoke German at home, but they didn’t want me to learn the language because they didn’t want me to develop an accent. My father gave me voice lessons, and my mother carted me off for acting, dancing, swimming and tennis lessons after school. I was a spoiled American non-brat.

My parents did not talk much about their past to me, but after my mother died, I felt the need to write a book about their love story. That is when I went delving. My father taped the story of his life for me. I would sit and listen with him to his favorite operas and Lieder for hours.

But this story is not about him. That is the point. No one asked him about his life at the Neues Wiener Konservatorium when he was a student there. No one asked him about his life at the Volksoper in Vienna when he sang there. No one asked him about his life at the German Theater in Prague or at the Stadttheater in Aussig when he sang there under the baton of Kurt Herbert Adler, or when he sang Lieder for the Gauleiter who didn’t know that he was Jewish when the Nazis were infiltrating the border.

All everyone was concerned about was how my father sounded. And when he could no longer produce that sound in Havana, he felt that his life had ended. Once in the United States, he went to the best doctors in New York, Knoxville, and at Mayo Clinic. My father loved my mother and was faithful to her, but nobody asked or cared. It was all about restoring the sound of his voice.

When I go to hear opera, I always focus on the voices. I went and still go to opera based on the cast I will hear. That is what is so wonderful about opera. You can hear an opera hundreds of times, and each time the opera is different because the singers are different as well as the production.

Nowadays, the productions are important. But to me, opera will always be about the voice.

Where I am leading with this story is that people go to hear certain opera singers. They go to hear Plácido Domingo. I don’t want to go to a performance only to learn that the cover will be singing the role. I buy tickets based on who the opera singer is that is singing that role. So if I had bought a ticket to hear “Macbeth” with Domingo and Anna Netrebko, I would be very upset if he wasn’t singing. I don’t care about his private life in that context. I just want to hear Plácido Domingo sing. No one else will do.

I feel the same way about Luciano Pavarotti and Jussi Björling. If I could hear Björling now, I would run like lightening to the theater and probably cry when he walked on the stage. He wasn’t perfect. He had an alcohol problem outlined in the biography written by his wife. But I don’t care. Opera has always been about the voice to me. Opera singers are human beings, too.

When Los Angeles Opera had Ferruccio Furlanetto on the bill of “Don Carlo,” I went two times to hear him sing. I could have gone a third time. Plus I love the opera.

I went early on as a child to hear Renata Tebaldi at the Shrine Auditorium sing “Madama Butterfly.” My father took me to hear her when I was about 8. I went to hear Renata Tebaldi and no one else.

Domingo sang Pinkerton on a video I own. He did such a convincing job with the acting that I didn’t want to go to that opera for years. I just hated his character.

Again, I may be straying from the subject. But what I am trying to say is that people are buying tickets to hear Plácido Domingo and no one else. So if a company cancels him due to anonymous unproven accusations, I have no use for that kind of company, not even the Met.

The Three Tenors came about by a wonderful promoter who knew how to get them over the threshold into the living rooms of the normal person.

There are many tenors, bass-baritones, baritones and basses with gorgeous voices, but so far, that type of phenomenon has never occurred since. So those who love opera know who the current voices are and who they want to hear, but the rest of the world continues to be intimidated by the art form that they know so little about.

Domingo is probably the only person left who can draw in a cross-over crowd en masse. He also can still bring in the opera-goer who has loved him for years. He is going down in history as a legend in opera whether the #MeToo people like it or not.

The #MeToo movement seems to be in the way. Now suddenly the press runs with every story due to its impact, even if the story is totally opposite of what the reporters know as ethical journalism. They develop stories with anonymous accusations that occurred years ago when the times were different. Yes: Fake News.

Various companies canceled Domingo’s engagements, and now he is not singing at the Met. Even though the chorus members have not been affected by his accused advances, they contributed to the witch’s brew when carrying on that they felt awkward around him, and the press called that a story.

I am so appalled that I can barely think about anything else. Here is a man who is loved within the opera business. He is cultured and refined, and he presents himself as being noble and kind.

If he is different in other circumstances when he is not performing, I don’t care. I cannot attest to whether or not he has gotten a bit carried away with women in the past or not. Some believe him to be innocent. Others do not. I personally don’t care one way or the other because his advances were minimal in nature, although it was nice to learn that the makeup artist denied Wilson’s story, since he was there as a witness.

I go to opera to hear Domingo because he is a brilliant tenor, the only one left of his generation who is bigger than life. I grew up hearing his sound and hearing his name. The first time I heard him live, which was late in the game, was at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I was excited to simply be in the same room with him. Later when I began writing reviews, I went to opera performances so that I could write the reviews. But I still focus on the voice and the singer who is singing — young, new or old. But my general trend is still to go to an opera based on the singers in the cast.

Talk about replacing the general director of Los Angeles Opera? I am afraid after this, the LA Times will get its wish, but the revenues will fall drastically in Los Angeles. People donate big money to opera companies based on name ID.

Europe seems to be more open and flexible than the United States. The public in various cities in Europe has been raised knowing that culture is important. The people value theater, dance, classical music and opera. When I go to Vienna and ask the concierge of my hotel where to go, he tells me to go to the Wiener Staatsoper. In Los Angeles, the concierge tells me to go to Disneyland.

No one really cares about whether or not Domingo smiled at a woman, or even asked her if she had to go home that night. He is Plácido Domingo, and after he leaves the scene, there will be no one else to fill his shoes.

Yes, opera singers do reach high depths sometimes in the modern era today. Soprano Anna Netrebko has managed to climb to the top of the ladder.

So now people had the opportunity to hear both stars on the same bill at the Met, but the chorus members felt awkward.

I am sorry. There is something wrong with this picture. I was wrong in a former piece I wrote that everyone is dispensable in life. Plácido Domingo is not. He is irreplaceable. There will never be another Caruso, Gigli or Björling. There will never be another Pavarotti, and there will never be another Plácido Domingo.

So I advise the press and companies who have canceled his performances, including the Met, to stop harassing him. I advise those who know nothing about opera who have latched on to the #MeToo movement, to stop harassing him.

I fear that the only thing left for Domingo and Marta to do is to retire to Europe where he can sing with acceptance. His next scheduled performance is at the Opernhaus Zürich in “Nabucco.” Hopefully, he will sing in the United States to a smaller degree, so that we can still be graced with his presence.

So, go hear him while you still can. Go hear him and feel honored that you are in the same room with him. And give him a standing ovation for his loyalty to you in the audience.

Posted by: operatheaterink | September 23, 2019

Commentary: Sing Domingo Sing, Sept. 23, 2019

Sing Domingo Sing! Go to the Met and Sing!

Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

Now that the press is running with the NPR story, another article has come out on Opera Wire about the poor women in the chorus who feel awkward with Plácido Domingo onstage at the Metropolitan Opera before his opening of “Macbeth” with Anna Netrebko on Wednesday (Sept. 25). The women are expressing how they feel during rehearsals, and they don’t want to share the stage with Domingo for the performance. They say they have never been approached by him, and it all started 40 years ago but has tapered off from slow to almost or maybe stop. Yet it is now that they are making waves because they can, and the press has hooked on to them since they are a story.

How obnoxious.

Just because men can no longer get away with sexual harassment while women stayed silent years ago, women think they can get back at the men now and get their revenge. There should be a statute of limitations on this type of thing because it is reverse harassment.

And it isn’t news. For the women complaining now, nothing happened to them. They said Domingo’s womanizing was an open secret. Well, it has all stopped now and almost all of the accusers and complainers are anonymous.

The press ought to be ashamed of itself for running with the story. Members of the press and media must really be hard up for a story if they don’t use real attributions.

Domingo is not Harvey Weinstein or Epstein or Bill Cosby or even James Levine. He is a man who just wants to sing for as long as he can and then continue to contribute to the opera world as a conductor and administrator. He has children and grandchildren. His wife is directing opera as well. It appears that the press doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as those reporting get their story. However, the LA Times commentary by Mark Swed is different. The commentary shows direct intent to oust Domingo. The LA Times is starting to show a distinct trend of thought with each article, and I hope that Domingo’s attorneys are noting the trend because it leads toward intent to damage a career.

And we in the public are just reading the stories with anonymous accusations and a couple that are on the record which are very insignificant advances if they happened as described at all.

The women had the opportunity to reject Domingo’s supposed advances. If they didn’t, that is their fault, not Domingo’s. Even if they were afraid of retribution, it was their decision to either walk away or not walk away. The real secret is who the women are and what they are saying to the press that happened. The press is running stories full of secrets.

I therefore think that the press is flying with a bunch of nothing. Almost everything being written on this topic is unethical news. The attributions are anonymous. The press just needs a story. And the press is damaging the lives of families in the process, in this case, Domingo’s family, which includes his children and grandchildren.

This may be one of the biggest challenges of Plácido Domingo’s career. He is known for being a hard worker who believes that if you don’t work, you rust. He has been singing, conducting, being an administrator, and conducting his Operalia competition, literally.

But now he is set to open “Macbeth” at the Met. He has always been liked at the Met, but now the female chorus members and some in the orchestra have changed all of that. It is incomprehensible to me that women in the pit could be saying they feel awkward with Domingo on the stage. They are down, and he is a level up. Unbelievable.

I am writing this commentary to tell Domingo to sing like he has never sung before.

It might be easier just to have the cover do the covering, but I believe that Domingo is a strong man with a strong constitution and will sing on Sept. 25 and hopefully for the rest of his run.

In my estimation, now is the time for Domingo to sing, to show that he will not be intimidated by the chorus members at the Met who never had problems singing with him before: last season or the seasons before. Maybe the audience should give Domingo a standing ovation when he comes out and boo the chorus. Strike that last part. I am just perturbed. When on stage, the chorus members will perform as directed.

A cover should be in the wings in case there is a demonstration. But Domingo should not be canceled under any circumstances. He is a true musician who has done nothing to warrant this revenge from women who have gone on with their lives and probably never even thought about any of this until the #MeToo movement started.

So Mr. Domingo! Stay in your dressing room, and then go out on the stage and let the audience know that you are the singer we know you to be.

Older Posts »

Categories