Music world splits down the middle over Placido Domingo

Music world splits down the middle over Placido Domingo


norman lebrecht

August 15, 2019

In the 48 hours since the Associated Press published sexual allegations by eight anonymous women against Placido Domingo, the music world has split in two halves.

In the US, institutions have hurriedly dissociated themselves from Domingo and cancelled his bookings, with the exception of the LA Opera which is conducting an independent investigation, and the Met which says it will follow LA’s findings. Everywhere else, Domingo is held to be guilty as alleged and no voice has been raised in his support.

The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) declared overnight: ‘Today, AGMA became aware of serious allegations of sexual harassment made by multiple women against Plácido Domingo.  We have contacted our employers to demand investigations into these allegations.  Additionally, we have reached out to our members in opera companies that may have been affected to offer guidance and support.  We will continue to closely monitor this situation, making the safety of our members our first priority.’

In Europe, on the other hand, there has been no condemnation of Domingo’s alleged conduct. On the contrary, the Salzburg Festival president Helga Rabl-Stader declared instant solidarity, praising Domingo’s ‘appreciative treatment of all festival employees’ and confirming his appearance in Verdi’s Luisa Miller later this month.

Zurich Opera, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie and several other institutions have stood by him. La Scala and Covent Garden say they are monitoring the outcome of the LA investigation. The music world has never been more divided on geographic lines.

What is significant beyond the split, is that no major music personality has uttered a single word, either in condemnation or in solidarity of the beleaguered Domingo. Apart from three Spanish sopranos, there has not been a peep.

Not from Netrebko, or Gergiev, or Kaufmann, or Barenboim, or any of his supposed best friends.

Which is strange. And timid. And rather typical.

UPDATE: A star speaks up for Domingo

You can read this post in Spanish translation here.


  • Novagerio says:

    Opera World, it took you only 40 years…

  • Alexander says:

    that is norm, all big things don’t like fuss
    disclaimer – just my opinion, of course 😉

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I am sure there will be support from the likes of Barenboim & Mehta perhaps. Otherwise who cares about the hypocritical USA (look at their president & lack of control over gun violence). What matters is Europe & the rest of the civilised world.

    • Yes Addison says:

      I have to imagine there are a lot of Europeans who think well of PD when considering his entire career, and may be neutral on his personal issues, but won’t relish twice as many opportunities to hear him if his American calendar gets cleared. I doubt either his baritone singing or his conducting is going to improve as he moves into his eighties.

    • TubaMinimum says:

      That’s some classic “whataboutism” right there.

    • David says:

      Barenboim will be supportive because each dog knows its own.

      And don’t be so smug about Europe, with its rise in far right nationalism, Le Pen, Forza Nuova, Polish right wing extremism and homophobia, Brexit, etc. You’re not different in any way.

    • George says:

      You’re conflating two unrelated things. The opera world in the U.S. by and large hates Trump and all that he stands for. American conservatories meanwhile train a majority of the world’s leading singers.

      Europe appears to be stuck in the Dark Ages on this one.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Gergiev is a bit busy at present organising his Mother’s funeral which incidentally you have not reported yet.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      We have not been able to confirm it.

      • Alexander says:

        Norman, her funeral was to be on the 14th of August at midday in Vladikavkaz, her motherland …. I am not BBC, so just what I’ve heard …. if you are interested in try to ask the Guardian or BBC ….

    • Alexander says:

      Dear Elizabeth, I only heard his mother had raised him and his brothers alone ( his father died in his early age) and it was she who insisted young Mr.Gergiev attended music school – just came across that info on the Internet …

    • Gustavo says:

      Gergiev is hopefully back and busy with Boccanegra in Salzburg.

  • urania says:

    There is a huge number of artists who can been seen in FB and Twitter with messages #supportplacidodomingo or #standby – all talk about the sweet angelic person. I do believe they mean it but these things are not lived openly in each situation of life. See only Epstein case. I only can say that I do know a lot, having been around for decades, it is not for nothing that I always had a second job to secure my life 🙂 ! To be able to perform or be in the game many compromises had to be done. As always in each field of life but in art things are more profound. And beginners suffer the most.

  • ketzel says:

    Anna Pirozzi posted on her Facebook that she supports him. She’s scheduled to sing with him in Macbeth at the Met.

  • sam says:

    “Not from Netrebko, or Gergiev, or Kaufmann, or Barenboim, or any of his supposed best friends.”

    or Mehta or Levine or Villazon…

    Maybe that’s because they know him better than the rest of us…. Hmmmm?

    • YS says:

      Netrebko said about metoo, this is “bullshit”
      Very nice to call her colleagues involved liars in a decent way

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    “The music world has never been more divided on geographic lines.”

    Hmm. Didn’t Europe give black artists major roles when the US didn’t? I once read that Marilyn Horne was told that marrying a black conductor would kill her career in the US but Europe wouldn’t care.

  • sam says:


    You left out the most important person, his wife of 50 years, has not immediately come out publicly in support of her husband.

    (Even Melania eventually came around to defend Donald. Hillary, of course, did for Bill.)

    Stand by your man, that’s what wives do!

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t put Marta in that position. It’s cruel. His behaviour is not hers to justify, excuse or condemn. She has battles of her own to fight.

      • anonymous says:

        She is emotionally abusive in her own right to young female singers that are cast in her productions. Downright hateful and spiteful.

    • Robert Groen says:

      Obviously, Señora Domingo has never heard of Tammy Wynette. Also, she may not be a publicity seeking ego.

  • Aonymous says:

    There some very strong support for him from Russian state brodcaster, Russia Today…

  • Opera Fan says:

    I love when institutions become “suddenly aware” of alleged behavior that has been an open secret for years, if not decades – just as similar institutions did with James Levine and William Preucil.

    • Alexander says:

      love is all our world is based on … in all its manifestations 😉 so you should be a happie person 😉

      • STFU says:

        Who the fuck are you anyway Alexander? With your constant childish and your constant “disclaimer” that it’s always “just my opinion, of course…” What else would it be? Why would we care?

        • The View from America says:

          Trolls just wanna troll. It’s their calling in life.

        • Alexander says:

          ….your words say for you more than my cynical kidding ( not every time though) … as for trolls – they post what they don’t think unlike me .For about 3 years here I’ve learned alot from the commentors (and not only lofty paragons of writing. alas).
          PS noone force you to care, if you don’t want to care – don’t care and be well – as I ( thanks to y’all) do now.

    • Caranome says:

      It’s standard corporate CYA so they can’t be charged with complicity or aid/abetting. “Gee, we had no idea! Let’s do an “independent” investigation with lawyers we paid for!” And we all know lawyers answer to whoever pays them. I am shocked, shocked, that the Met lawyers absolved its Board from any previous knowledge of Levine’s behavior for the past 30 years, not one of them knew! Move along, nothing to see here.

  • Anon says:

    Yes, the music world is divided. No other artist has received the support that Domingo is getting after being accused. If press reports are correct, Europe and the US are dramatically polarized on this issue.

    This case could conceivably break the credibility of the MeToo movement. The burden of proof is not actually with the accusers here, but with the AP journalist who wrote the story and brought the claims public. Her name is Jocelyn Gecker.

    Jocelyn Gecker apparently decided to make this situation public and did the research to support her article. Our question should not be who are the women accusing Domingo and are they credible but who is Jocelyn Gecker, why did she do this, and is SHE credible?

    • Writer says:

      You can be sure that the decision to release the story did not rest with the reporter. This would have been an editorial decision at a rather high level within AP, given that the subject of the story is so well known. Reporters don’t make those sorts of decisions; often they are assigned to cover stories, or might bring a story idea to an editor to inquire about looking into it. And you can also be sure that a news organization like AP would have done a great deal of fact checking and corroboration before releasing this. An organization like AP does not release information on a whim.

      • Anon says:

        Yes, but what qualifies Jocelyn Gecker to be entrusted with this story? Why did AP allow her to cover it? Googling her I see no previous connection to the world of opera or even to the arts. That’s a big red flag.

        Anne Midgette, who broke the previous Me Too story in classical music for the WaPost, is an established music critic and author who had worked in the world she was writing about for years.

        Jocelyn Gecker appears to be an outsider. There is no nuance or understanding of the international opera world whatsoever in her report. She took names, interviewed what appear to be US victims only and wrote it up. She (or AP) never considered how this story might be seen outside of the US. Big mistake.

        Now we see the backlash. Europe and the US are polarized. The MeToo campaign is under fire and may never survive. That will be on Jocelyn Gecker’s back.

        Jocelyn Gecker and AP, if they ordered this story, should be brought center stage right about now. Why did Ms. Gecker write this story? What is her connection to the opera world? If AP ordered it, why did they have a reporter with absolutely no experience in classical music or opera do it?

        • V.Lind says:

          What nonsense. This story is about abuse of power and sexual malfeasance. That it is set in the world of opera is totally incidental. The reporters who investigated abuse in the Catholic church were not all Catholics, or churchgoers.

          Reporters investigate facts, allegations, rumours — but the key word in stories of this sort is that they INVESTIGATE. And the AP not only has layers of senior editors, it has lawyers. If ever a story was lawyered up, this is it.

          You accuse Ms. Gecker of daring to write about this without being an opera insider (how do you know how much she does or does not know about opera? NOT that it is relevant). But you presume to make all sorts of implications about reporting, a profession about which YOU clearly know nothing.

          Grow up.

          • Anon says:

            What a pompous, vindictive reply.

            We all know it’s well researched and lawyered up, Captain Obvious. It’s the AP.

            My question – and it’s a QUESTION, not a presumption of knowledge of journalism or an accusation – is why would a reporter with no apparent previous interest in the opera world, or even investigation into abuses of power in any profession suddenly out of the blue decide to bring down a famous opera singer for sexual misconduct?

            To me as a layperson both to journalism and to opera it looks very suspicious.

          • V.Lind says:

            The reporter is not bringing anyone down. Not the purpose of reporting. Any bring down is caused by the subject’s actions, or the motivations of the accuser. The reporter is merely a conduit.

          • Anon says:

            I’m sure that Jocelyn Gecker understood perfectly well what the result would be if she brought this story forward.

  • John Borstlap says:

    This division is nicely reflecting the division of the heart of the problem: what is the relationship between art and the people serving it? How to deal with the person on one hand, and his art on the other? If someone produces good art but behaves badly in the non-artistic territory, how to judge the one and the other? As a continuum or as two fundamentally different contexts?

    • MWnyc says:

      Where does Sally stand on those questions?

      • John Borstlap says:

        She is furious about Domingo’s misbehavior, he was one of her heros after the Three Tenors abberation. And since all this has come out, she has a suspicious look about her whenever I ask her to do this or that, so I have to behave very carefully these days.

    • TubaMinimum says:

      The question of judging the art versus the artist is always an interesting one. However, it’s worth remembering in a case like this (if the allegations are confirmed), that the good art and the bad non-artistic behavior are not inseparable.

      The assertion is that his ability to create good art and the position of power that has afforded him has enabled him to abuse that power dynamic and then have it swept under the rug. I can enjoy the music of Wagner while in a separate context condemning his personal beliefs or actions, and I view those as separate, uncomplicated acts. But if you are a music organization or presenter, engaging an artist who would abuse the platform and power you give them in non-artistic ways is a bit more fraught… particularly if they haven’t yet shown that they have corrected the bad behavior.

    • Robert Groen says:

      I give up, John. What’s the answer?

      • John Borstlap says:

        How should we react if a thoroughly evil, sadistic, degenerated mind of one of the most immoral, diabolical criminals correctly explains the Pythagorean theorem? That he is not as demented, as immoral as we thought? That the Pythagorean theorem must somehow be evil as well to be capable of being explained by a criminal? One of the odds of the human psyche is that it is so manifold, so rich in diversity, that things can be exist in different compartments, sometimes interconnected, sometimes entirely disconnected from each other. Therefore it is important to make distinctions between the thing being said and the person saying it. Logic, meaning, descriptions of reality, customs, art, music – they are all ‘things in themselves’, which have to be evaluated for themselves. Hitler was a vegetarian, but that does not mean that vegetarianism is evil or fascist. Also he did not drink alcohol and loved dogs, but these things do exist in themselves. So it is with art: highly-gifted musicians may produce noble utterances of the human spirit and not quite understanding the ethical implications they contain. The result is an inner split which, eventually, does damage to the artist’s own personality. PD is a clear example of that condition.

        • Brettemeier says:

          “How should we react if a thoroughly evil, sadistic, degenerated mind of one of the most immoral, diabolical criminals correctly explains the Pythagorean theorem?”

          I’d go with: “Aren’t you a little mathematician! Now finish your homework, clean your room, dinner is at 6.”?

  • This is Opera says:

    It is normal. When someone’s reputation is in crisis, the businesses he/she used to associate with will claim distance. I heard someone said that the US was more hypocritical than the EU, well, I beg to differ, it is quite the opposite in many scenarios.

    • david hilton says:

      And on the alleged US/Europe split, no one seems to have pointed out the most important difference: the only place where Domingo is in charge of an opera company — two of them — is in the USA. If he were the head of Covent Garden or Paris, you would observe an entirely different landscape.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        There is no US/Europe split. Neither Covent Garden nor La Scala can fire him unless Domingo can be shown to have done something reprehensible: they are waiting for the LA Opera to come out with their report. The other two European venues are going ahead since the report won’t come out in time.

        The interesting thing is whether he will be hired in the future.

  • Alessandra Petrina says:

    Mr Lebrecht, I am not quite sure I see this “geographical split” in your desription: from what you say, American opera houses as well as European ones are monitoring the investigation, which is, I imagine, the only correct thing to do at this stage. If the accusations are still accusations, and if the allegations are still allegations, there is nothing and no-one to condemn yet. In the US as well as in most of Europe, people are presumed innocent unless and until they are proved guilty. Or at least so it should be.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      It is not “innocent until proven guilty” because it is not a criminal trial. If it goes to court, it will be a civil case: the European venues haven’t fired Domingo because he hasn’t clearly breached his contract with them. (Even if he has abused his position, to fire him ROH/La Scala will have to show his actions affected someone they hired and the action took place while working for them).

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    Actually, if you step back, the pro-Domingo forces are firing back with a bazooka against a slingshot. Those that actually matter, the opera houses, are lined up to clear him after LA, his home institution does so.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      No, that isn’t true. If they signed the contract with him then he can’t really be fired. The key test is whether he is given another contract.

  • sycorax says:

    PD’s “womanizing” (to put it “nicely”) was an open secret for years. So the people now “defending” him are almost all dancing around the subject. They say he was always a gentleman and they can’t imagine that his encounters with women weren’t always consensual and if you read between the lines it’s mostly: “Oh, well, he played the field. These women are just making a fuss, being too touchy!”
    I think it’s rather disgusting how the women are treated and I think it’s time that people get: No man – may he be a star tenor or a president! – has the right to harass a woman. If a woman says “no” he has to accept that as a “no” and stop to bother her.

    • david hilton says:

      You say that “If a woman says “no” he has to accept that as a “no” and stop to bother her” . . True. As did Mr Domingo. According to the AP story he accepted “no” as an answer is every case, except for the two cases where the women who spoke to the reporter admit that they said “yes”. I do not believe that the AP story contains any allegation that he ever failed to accept “no” as an answer as you claim. That’s why this case of unfortunate, boorish, and deeply offensive behaviour still doesn’t rise to the level — in the view of many people — of something that should form the basis for destroying a man’s life and career. As the Spanish journalist in El Pais requested: a bit of “proportion” please.

  • Nightowl says:

    Unite in support for Flacido Domingo!

  • Django says:

    That’s because we in the opera world know that he is a perve, has always been a perve. If anyone defends him it’s just another perve defending the ways of the perve. If a woman defends him then she is used to being used.

  • Anon says:

    I have to put this out there as unpopular as it may be.

    It’s starting to look like this was a deliberate attempt from a party or parties in the US to bring Placido Domingo down. It’s very suspicious that no accusations against Domingo have come from anywhere but the US.

    Maybe LA Opera wanted to get rid of him, maybe people are tired of his never-ending career or his power or his dubious transition from tenor to baritone. Whatever. A lot of people are fed up with him and someone with connections at AP found a way to have at him.

    It would explain why this completely random AP correspondent, Jocelyn Gecker with no connection whatsoever to the classical music world, would suddenly come forward with a carefully researched article condemning Domingo. Is it a coincidence that Gecker is based in SF? Probably not. Didn’t SFOpera have a big 50th anniversary celebration for Domingo in the works which was canceled almost immediately after this article was published?

    It doesn’t make sense any other way. The view about Domingo from the US is completely contradictory to reports about him in Europe. This has all the earmarks of a very deliberate take down of Placido Domingo.

    And PS – Didn’t the Scientology stories about Domingo also break on AP? Someone there seriously has it out for him.

    • Stuart says:

      It’s not unpopular, just dumb. Grassy knoll dumb.

    • Rachel says:

      If you do a little google, you would find this article just came out in last month, yesterday I shared the link in the Met HD Facebook group just to see what people would say, they instantly kicked me out the group. Again, consensual or not! That’s a big difference! Even the AP article mentioned he dose take a no for answer in the later part of the article, but most people only read the title and the first paragraph. The AP article essentially is a he say she say story. And btw, I’m a woman in my 30s, save your breathe accusing me be a creep old man.

    • sycorax says:

      You don’t have an idea how a press agency works! I was a journalist and I’ve worked for the German branch of AP. Even if there were someone who’d dislike him – except of the upper boss it’s highly unlikely that someone at the AP can decide about an article for the international run on his own. There are always the jurists and the people in documentation checking it and making sure that the facts are true and the entire story holds even if AP would have to defend it in front of a judge.
      I mean in the case of AP we don’t talk about a magazine or a more or less important newspaper, but about one of the biggest press agencies in the world – and one which is (as all press agencies) highly dependent on his reputation!

    • David says:

      It’s a US journalist, in a country where thankfully women are finding the courage to finally speak up about decades of harassment. As to someone wanting to “bring him down”, well….do serial harassers, gropers, misogynists not deserve comeuppance?

      • Anon says:

        Yes, but a journalist who had some understanding of the international nature of Domingo’s career and the opera world in general would have rightfully included sources from elsewhere than the US, wouldn’t they? That might have averted this split. Right now it looks like the US against the rest of the world. MeToo may go down in flames because of this. You can see the non US people mocking the movement already here because of it.

        Yes the bad guys do deserve comeuppance, but with so many to choose from, why this one, why at this particular time, just ahead of his 50th anniversary with an opera company with which he has a long connection?

        Please don’t attack me, I’m just expressing my view.

  • anonymoose says:

    The female opera world is currently very scared. I was warned about PD. My friends and colleagues were also warned. But no one in the industry will talk as long as the big houses stand by him. Also, it is not just him. We are afraid men like him in important positions are going to take note of who remained silent and who spoke. And there are many. I am not ready to jeopardise my career. I have no other income.

  • willem renison says:

    It is crab that Mr Domingo now being accused – they just want to disgraced him after all these years!
    What a shame!