Domingo’s choices: Resign, retire, or lie low for a year

Domingo’s choices: Resign, retire, or lie low for a year


norman lebrecht

August 14, 2019

Put yourselves in the shoes of the former tenor’s image team today.

He has been accused by nine women, only one of them named, of offering career advancement in exchange for sex. There was no physical threat to their security and he knew when to take No for an answer.

On the scale of major #Metoo offences, this is medium-grade. Still unproven. And denounced by Domingo as inaccurate.

So far, two organisations – Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera – have cancelled his involvement in their galas.

LA Opera, where he is general manager, has called in lawyers to test the allegations. The Met, where he is due to sing Verdi’s Macbeth next month, says it will abide by LA Opera’s conclusions.

The Salzburg Festival’s president Halga Rabl-Stadler says nothing has been proven against him and she expects him to sing in Verdi’s Luisa Miller in two weeks’ time.

That’s where things stand.

So what will Domingo do?

The easy option would be to resign his job at LA Opera – he is 78, after all – and thereby eliminate being in any position where he could influence the casting of future operas. That’s the emergency cord if things get suddenly worse.

More radical would be to announce his retirement from singing, conducting and directing. That’s the least likely.

The advisors will tell him to follow the playbook of Charles Dutoit or Daniele Gatti. Get lawyered up to stop further damage. Go East, old man, to perform in Japan and China until the furore dies down. Come back in a year’s time with a new set of plans – a new orchestra, maybe – and live out his time as if #Metoo never happened.

Opera’s casting-couch culture will not be affected.

UPDATE: Voices are raised in Domingo’s defence


  • Ortambert says:

    The choices are clear as you state them. However, rational alternatives and a balanced discussion appear anathema to some folks. Each organization needs to make its own decision concerning Placido Domingo remembering that, in many cases, they need him more than he needs them.

    What do the accusers expect in terms of an equitable resolution of their complaints (mostly anonymous)? Can we condemn Mr. Domingo for misogyny and alleged inappropriate behavior while honoring his important artistic contributions? The jury still out on that verdict…

    • Mike Schachter says:

      It is certainly difficult to see what these women hope to gain. There are no criminal charges to pursue, they could perhaps bring civil cases, perhaps they just want to damage his reputation. In a related field it is interesting that civil and criminal charges against Kevin Spacey have been dropped. The Miss America non-pageant next month will focus exclusively on the social impact the contestants hope to make. Among these headless chickens you can understand why many millions still prefer Trump.

      • sycorax says:

        What hope the women to gain? Perhaps not feeling like victims anymore? Showing that the times where women had to accept becoming abused by “mighty” men are finally over?
        It’s not about destroying Mr Ds “reputation” (is there something left to destroy, I wonder?). It’s about at lest destroying a “culture” where such things were possible, where men felt as if they could harass women without ever made responsible for it!
        And now try to imagine it would be your wife, your daughter, another woman dear to you who’d have to fight with such a case. Would you wonder about what she’s got to “gain”, too?

        • Patricia says:

          BRAVA. Seems men don’t understand how it feels to be sexually harrased, and even more, lots of them feel identificated with the Don Giovanni type. Women suffering is still a second class suffering. 🙁

          • John Rook says:


          • Gustavo says:

            Du tolles Weib!
            Hast du kein Wort für mich?
            Ist dies der Dank,
            daß dem Todesschlafe
            noch einmal ich dich entweckt’?

            Dienen…Dienen! –

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            You overlook the inconvenient fact that this has worked for men over the centuries because of the sheer numbers of willing females. Get out a bit more, if you please. It takes TWO to Tango.

          • William says:

            I know what it is to be harrassed by a woman and have it ignored by the company I worked for. But I did survive.

      • Ray S says:

        There has to be a price for such behavior, i.e. end of one’s career, so men will fear that consequence just as those women who gave in.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          Yes, that’s what we all want; more fear, threats, witch hunts, recriminations and reprisals. Welcome to the world of the modern Left. Busy eating its own tail.

        • Mick the Knife says:

          Thats equitable: stand too close (by an American’s standard), ask if a woman has to go home, take no for an answer…lose your career. While we are at it, how about capital punishment for shoplifting?


      • Jack says:

        Oh please! Anything to work that racist, lying, bigoted, xenophobe into the conversation! These women’s allegations have nothing to do with that ass Trump & what he has turned this country into. Go do an Epstein please!

    • Bruce says:

      Ortambert — from the AP article (quoting one of the unnamed women):

      “Echoing several other accusers, she said she felt conflicted about damaging the legendary singer’s reputation but wanted him to know his behavior was wrong.

      “’It’s not that I want him to be punished. I want him to be made aware. I want him to have the opportunity to know exactly the kind of damage — emotional, psychological, professional and otherwise — that he’s responsible for,’ she said.”


      I suspect that many abusers go through life dismissing the possibility that their actions cause actual problems for other people. If someone is upset, it’s because she is a prude, or has no sense of humor, or can’t take a compliment, or something that makes it her fault instead of his.

      I can imagine someone responding to this woman’s remark with “well then why not just write him a letter letting him know how his actions made you feel?” That question, if anyone was thinking of asking it, is answered somewhat in the previous paragraph: too easy for him to dismiss it as the complaints of an overreacting individual. An article like this, which shows (a) he had this effect on many women and (b) everybody in the business knew what he’d been up to for the last 30 years, might — might — make him take a serious look at his past behavior.

  • sam says:

    It’s truly the Twilight of the Gods.

    EVEN without the sexual harassment charges, IF Domingo were still in some decent form to sing and to conduct, MAYBE there would be some artistic dilemma as to whether he should end his career, but c’mon, what are the leaders in the opera world waiting for, public opinion to totally collapse on Domingo and him in flames?

    • MWnyc says:

      The leading figures in the opera world are waiting for dumping Domingo to cost them less than keeping Domingo costs them.

      (Note that the costs in question aren’t only monetary.)

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      If the victims were voters they’d be ‘deplorables’. Now they’re sainted sufferers and innocent ingenues. Puhleeeeze! I’ve got a piece of advice. Next time; “No thanks”, then remove yourself from the scene. If you want to pay the price for your ‘career’ don’t complain about the deal you’ve done to get it. (But you won’t get to be a victim if you take the initiative – that’s the problem!)

  • sam says:

    Domingo is providing an abject lesson on what happens when an artist hangs on way past his expiration date, not having retired gracefully covered in universal accolades 15 years ago.

    Because shit always comes out.

  • Mike says:

    It’s interesting, as far as I’m aware, that no men in the arts world have accused any women of saying any lewd things to them in the past. If it’s breaking the law, yes these women need to come out and be very specific about what they are talking about. I don’t agree with this lets ruin the reputation of someone in social media because it has become fashionable to do so.

    • Patricia says:

      “no men in the arts world have accused any women of saying any lewd things to them in the past.”

      Have you ever heard about Patriarchy? How many female bosses have had their male secretaries sit on their lap? You statement is like asking how many times Bill Gates went to strike against his employees….:-))))))))))))))

    • V.Lind says:

      Read Sycorax above. This has SFA to do with “fashionable.” In this matter sexual abuse to varying degrees by men with more power — women have finally got the vote.

      • FS60103 says:

        There are plenty of powerful women in classical music and I’m aware of at least two instances of them sexually harassing male employees (both young or of low economic status) and many, many more instances of psychological abuse or bullying of male employees by high-status women in classical music. Power corrupts: this is the fundamental issue that needs to be addressed, whatever form it takes. It’s not intrinsically gendered.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Oh, but it’s so easy to do. And revenge is a dish best served cold.

      Remember Carlos Kleiber and his ‘little angels”. That image doesn’t provide evidence of refusal.

    • Doofus1714 says:

      That is enlightened.

  • Clóvis Marques says:

    You see how mature people – meaning European – react: as yet unproven allegations. So, of course, let’s get to work. And Dutoit and Gatti may have badly misbehaved, like Domingo and so many others, but are not working only in the Far East. They just don’t get to work in the extremely correct USA, where MeeToo is not a healthy and necessary social pendulum movement, but a new media-inflated religion

    • Anon says:

      You call Europeans mature. The view from the US is that Europeans are false and hypocritical, willing to overlook major moral transgressions for the sake of appearance. Image, not honesty, seems to be the priority for Europeans in our view from across the pond.

      Yes the US press is bringing this on. They are doing the research which is bringing these guys down. But that’s the point – the research is done. These aren’t just random allegations. Why do you think 8 of them appeared at once? This AP journalist reporting did the research and brought it all forward once the allegations had been proven reasonably. It doesn’t sound inflated to me, just well researched.

      US arts organizations, unlike those in Europe, are PRIVATELY FUNDED. They can hire or fire whoever they please and call the shots as they see fit. They answer to a board of directors not the govt. as in Europe. They are perfectly within their right to terminate Domingo for whatever reason their board agrees on. If the US arts organizations don’t want to engage certain artists, that’s their perogative. Just as in Europe and Asia it’s the perogative of arts organizations to overlook allegations and to employ certain artists.

      You believe that Europeans are more mature. In the US we believe that we have more integrity. It’s all good. There’s room for all of us and there will always be a place for great artists like Dutoit, Gatti and Domingo to perform somewhere in the world, thankfully.

      • Mike Schachter says:

        So the argument is that these are appalling men who behaved disgracefully and we couldn’t possibly hire them. but it would be a shame if people in Shanghai or Seoul did not. As a former UK prime minister liked to say, you know it makes sense

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        “Major moral transgressions”. Puritanism LIVES. The moral panic by the Left is hysterical. And delicious.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Perhaps these days it’s not a good idea to speak of American integrity. As a card-carrying American myself, I have to admit that we’ve kind of lost our way, not to mention our ability to feel superior to anyone.

        • Anon says:

          I don’t think it’s wise for Europeans to be lording it over the US by claiming to be more “mature”. That’s what I was riling against. Am the only one who objects to that barb by Clovis?

        • guest says:

          Which card? By the way, speak for yourself. *You* have lost your way. I havn’t. I’ve never felt superior unless I was.

  • Sam McElroy says:

    Maybe I can finally go to the opera again, since I have had to boycott every production in which he appears as a baritone – everywhere!! – for years now. My hallowed recollections of his Otello with Kleiber have all but faded behind his relentless shredding of the baritone repertoire. I sincerely hope this forces him to retire and to give real baritones their moment in the sun.

    • V.Lind says:

      Not like you to be off-topic on an important issue. This is hardly about Domingo’s voice, or his artistic choices for himself, let alone your opera pleasure.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Given the protection, deep pockets, patriarchy, machismo, baffling adoration, and unchecked egomania surrounding the man, I predict his choices will be, in this order:

    Lie, Lie and Lie.

    And not just for a year.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Costco is hiring

    • Caravaggio says:

      Just don’t get too close to the greeter by the main entrance.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      All your postings are so full of hatred and contempt for this man. It goes beyond dislike for his substandard singing of baritone roles, it is frankly toxic, Makes one wonder if there is a story there.

  • Lynne says:

    Or, he could give a true and heart-felt apology, get some therapy, do what’s in his power to make up for damage caused and just generally act like a decent human being.

    • sycorax says:

      Before that happens my pig will learn to fly! I’m sure he still doesn’t get what he should have done “wrong”.

  • Frances Coyle says:

    Hi carefully worded statement so volumes. He is clearly going down the ” I’ve been a bad boy but I didn’t know it was bad honest, and it was ok back then”.
    It was never ok.

  • Stephen Owen says:

    First of all, Mr. Lebrecht irresponsibly misrepresents the content of the AP article. Domingo clearly did NOT take “No” for an answer in many cases. Classic stalker behavior. Second, sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment are major, genuine issues all over the world. It it not just “political correctness”. Thank God that there is a strong movement now against these evils.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      We did not misrepresent the article. There is not one instance where he is reported to have forced himself on another person.

      • Patricia says:

        No need, Mr Lebrecht. Just making sure you would never, ever sing again profesionally. Power has more subtiles ways than physical violence….

        • norman lebrecht says:

          He does not have that power. No-one does. For all the cliquiness, there is a plurality of views and there are plenty who would hire a singer in spite of – because of – her disrecommendation by Domingo, Gelb or anyone else.

          • Stephen Owen says:

            Mr. Lebrecht, taking “No” for an answer it not just refraining from violence. I can hardly believe that we read the same article. How do you understand the phrasing “inundating her with calls and ignoring requests to stop”? THAT is not taking “No” for an answer. Please reread this very important article with an open mind and a little empathy for these artists.

          • sam says:

            “He does not have that power. No-one does.”

            No one?

            Not even your favorite bête-noire Gergiev, whose various musical domains you’ve accused of being his fiefdoms?

            It’s amazing the exaggerated language that Domingo’s supporters must resort to in order to minimize his power. Like Gelb’s similar assertion that Domingo was “never in a position to influence casting”.

            All of a sudden, after 30 years at the height of operadom from LA to Bayreuth, from NY to Salzburg, we now learn that Domingo was just another poor little tenor who could barely get a role even for himself.

            Laughable, absolutely laughable.

          • Yes Addison says:

            Norman, there may be someone who would hire a singer despite the disrecommendation of Domingo, in the ’80s or more recently. But there would be FEWER someones, and a woman who had him working against her would be at a steep disadvantage vis-a-vis a woman who had him working on her behalf or a woman whose career he was staying out of altogether. And it’s a difficult, competitive, who-you-know business in which to get established as it is.

            There’s no spinning this as anything except terrible for Domingo’s image, although I don’t expect his European career to take as much of a hit. He’ll always have Valencia, as it were.

          • George says:

            On the contrary!! I know at least two, three singers who were recommended by Mr Domingo but not hired because the artistic administrators of other opera houses thought they had had an affair with him and that was the reason they were recommended (which they did not).

          • A person with thoughts on this says:

            Domingo only has/had casting power at the LA Opera and the Washington National Opera, and in specific productions he was appearing in in other houses. To say that he prevented a singer from ever singing again professionally seems like an over reach. A company that engages Domingo once every couple of seasons or never at all is not going to blackball a singer forever because Domingo says so. A company that puts on multiple productions a season may not put a singer in a production that Domingo is appearing in, but that wouldn’t prevent them from putting her in one of their many other productions.

            To be blunt, if a singer could not find work outside LA or DC, the problem wasn’t completely Domingo’s fault.

            I do sympathize with these women. I truly do. I am a woman who has had my fair share of harassment. It’s awful. Being pursued relentlessly at your place of business (or anywhere, really) is scary, debilitating, exhausting, and humiliating, and should not be tolerated in this day and age. Domingo needs to be held accountable for his actions in some way or other. But I think everyone might consider taking a breather for a second before spinning even more.

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Actually…Domingo could damage someone’s career. Just let it be known someone was “troublesome” or “difficult” or “unreliable” can damage their career when they are starting.

      • Carole says:

        Coercion and veiled insinuations of “consequences” are a form of force. Not all sexual aggression consists of physically “forcing” oneself on another.

        Why is this so hard to understand?

      • Bruce says:

        Well… he did take no for an answer sometimes, and has never been accused of pursuing things to the point of rape. So there is that. But sometimes he took that “no” to be the answer of the question behind the propositions: Do you ever want to sing with this company again? (Or, depending on where they were in their career: Do you want to have a career?)

    • Patricia says:

      Thank you Stephen. Chapeau to your words!

  • Jess Tor says:

    Latinlover as behavioral genre: a celebrated character in the arts antithetical to the hero, but renowned for his infamy. What’s not to love?

  • Curtis says:

    One of the problems of the Me Too movement is that accusation is often equated with conviction. I think the LA Opera, or better some impartial body, should quickly hear all the charges and quickly investigate. (Even if this has been scuttlebut for years.) Then each interested organization should decide what action it wants to take. Some charges sound like bad and entitled behavior. Others frank sexual harrassment or worse assault. Yes times have changed, hence all the Monday morning quarterbacking about JFK resurfaces. Those charges were pretty awful. The Press was complicit then. And yes it takes a certain amount of courage to come forward and charge someone very powerful with unwanted advances. Can we not now establish a code of conduct going forward now and a process to deal with accusations and violators, even the rich and powerful and talented? And should this not be a top priority? With a well-defined code and a solid process to handle charges in place, maybe these scandals would not drag on for years.

    • david hilton says:

      And will your draft code of conduct advise performers, “Never ask a colleague of the opposite (or same) sex, ‘Are you going home tonight?’ And especially do not ask them this question while standing very close to them and whispering. Repeating this question on more than one occasion will constitute aggravated grounds for dismissal.”

      This, after all, is the most egregious thing that Ms Wulf accuses Domingo of.

      • Curtis says:

        The code will need careful crafting and multiple inputs. No doubt it will be tweaked over time. If the infractions are minor (as cited above) then the remedy should be similar. Societies need laws to function. Organizations need rules.

  • Monsoon says:

    A few things:

    1) To everyone saying, “what about due process,” “these are just allegations,” etc., Domingo has pretty much already admitted that it’s all true.

    In one of his statements he denies, denies, denies, and then says, “However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are — and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past.”

    So there you have it. Innocent people don’t qualify their denials by saying, “but it was a different time.” And that’s the same excuse other harrowers, like Harvey Weinstein, have tried.

    2) Norman’s comment that “there was no physical threat to their security and he knew when to take No for an answer” misses the forest for the trees. He’s the boss and a mega-star singer. He has all of the power. Even if he takes “no” for an answer, subordinates feel an incredible amount of pressure — they rightfully fear that rejecting him could result in retaliatory action. No matter how cordial the interaction may seem to him, the subordinate is going to walk on egg shells forever because they don’t know if he’s secretly enraged or not. The bottom line is that when you’re the boss, you don’t hit on your employees or people who have power over.

  • Carlos says:

    “he knew when to take No for an answer”?!?!?!

    It appears he forcefully din’t rape anyone, true, but that does not mean he knew how to take No for an answer.

    There are multiple, consistent allegations that he systematically harassed women over long periods of time. That is the opposite of knowing when to take No for an answer.

  • Jason S. says:

    I disagree that the various opera companies need Domingo more than he needs them. At the Met, he no longer sells tickets the way he once did when he was singing tenor roles. His box office draw is nothing at this point.
    If the tickets for the upcoming Macbeth at the Met are selling, it is because of Anna Netrebko, not Domingo.
    Let’s see how long before Peter Gelb and the Met board will take action and get rid of Domingo once and for all the way the did James Levine……

  • Misho says:

    Poor Madame Domingo. He is married isn’ t?
    And also father to some children?

  • eleonore says:

    all your terrible speculations.
    where is the noman lebrecht from 30 years ago? serious and professional.?
    is it for you not possible just to wait until we have hard evidence?

  • Yogibreeze says:

    On your back…

  • Philip Thornton says:

    You say Domingo has no reputation to save wait a minute these are allegations on a yru prejudging his reputation

  • Fed up says:

    Why is it we are always being asked to put ourselves in the shoes of powerful white men?

    • guest says:

      I’m actually wondering why I have to put myself in the shoes of gay, poor, or dark skinned people, which is all the rage in the US now.

  • BillOxford says:

    From the above summary, accusations appear to have been made by nine women but only one has revealed her name publically. I presume (hope!) the authorities have the other names, for the sake of fairness and ultimate justice for both the assusers and for PD.

  • Jenn says:

    If he is cleared. There is another option….Sue! Since there is not a shred of evidence to show that what he is accused of ever happened he could and should sue both Ms. Wurth and the author of the article. People like Ms Wurth and the author of the article make it difficult for the true victims of sexual harassment to be taken seriously. No harm came to Ms. Wurth’s career after she rebuked his advances. What does she have to gain? Do you seriously have to ask? Her 15 minutes of fame! A few talk show appearances and her 15 minutes are enough to try to tarnish the 60 year reputation of a successful star. No one handed him his career. He worked hard for it. This rush to judgement is terrible. I truly hope he sues her and the newspaper if he is cleared. It might lend needed balance to the Me Too movement which has turned into a witch hunt. True victims of harassment are having a rough time of it due to this American Witch Hunt.