Why no US writer speaks out for Domingo…

… and no Spanish writer condemns him.

The world has gone binary: you are either anti-Domingo or pro.

Writers in the land of the free live in fear of mob waves of mass opinion. Those in older societies are terrified to confront establishments. The case of Placido Domingo, named as a sex-pest by eight unnamed women, highlights the current conundrum.

Major US newspapers have published a Domingo takedown by the Associated Press without challenging its premises, or following up with a balanced analysis. The Met is being called upon to end his career. The company’s position – to wait for a legal report from LA Opera before making any decision – is tenuous and interesting. No writer in any US medium has highlighted its dilemma. Knowledgeable writers find themselves unwilling to go against the condemnatory grain.

In Spain, where Domingo is a national hero, an opposite view has been imposed: Domingo can do no wrong. Across Europe, his position is unharmed. The Berlin State Opera, headed by his friend Daniel Barenboim, has just confirmed his participation in the coming season. The Arena di Verona is celebrating his jubilee in its stadium. La Scala, Covent Garden and others are singing his praises.

So where is the informed and balanced view?

Let’s face some facts. Domingo is no hero. He has been pestering women for years. He has been vain, greedy and tiresome since his tenor voice faded. He keeps demanding baritone roles, while also conducting and directing operas for which he has no exceptional talent. In doing so he denies opportunities to others and clogs the channels of career development. He held on far too long at Washington National Opera and still clings to power at LA Opera. He has promoted members of his family. He mingles with corrupt sports officials and political dictators.

He’s 78. Hanging on does not improve his image for posterity. It’s time for him to go with grace.

That said, Domingo remains a major box-office asset, one of the few universally recognisable operatic names. He is congenial to colleagues and frequently kind. Many young artists have benefitted from his time and his advice. He has a considerable social conscience and spreads his wealth to good causes, while also splashing it on private jets and commensurate luxuries.

There are many sides to Placido Domingo and many human aspects to his present situation. They are not being exposed or discussed with the reason and the information that we have a right to expect from a free press.

 

UPDATE: A singular exception is this LA Times article by Mark Swed, striving to present an argument that is both informed and balanced.

 

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  • It is remarkable he is still singing major roles at the age of 78. What I always admired in Karajan was he dropped singers when they passed their use by date. The other conductors seem to possess too much royalty when it comes to old favourites.

    • the maestro (Karajan) knew when singers where passed their sell by date,of course Domingo appeared on his last operatic recording.and was there the day Karajan died

    • It is the industry steering cast decisions for commercial reasons (selling factor).

      Just look at some of the cocktail Wagner casts.

      Domingo as Tannhäuser or Siegmund still feels awkward.

    • I see the relationship between Karajan and singers is more nuanced.

      Outside a small inner circle (e.g. Jose van Dam), he generally worked with them over five year periods. Fischer-Dieskau is a case in point; he mentions it in an autobiography.

      Karajan also sometimes fell out with singers when they refused to sing roles he asked of them. Reportedly some singers who didn’t have the courage to turn down roles that Karajan asked of them but where unsuitable for their voice, paid a price; Katia Ricciarelli is believed to fall in that category.

      On the other hand, there is a remarkable video clip where 79-year-old Karajan gives fatherly advice to a young Summi Jo, warning her against damaging her voice by singing the Queen of the Night prematurely.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuJIrBNN6zc

      Cynics may dismiss that as acting in front of the camera. Or maybe Karajan had his good and bad moments; maybe he evolved. Don’t we all?

      • “….singers who didn’t have the courage…”. Mmm; very interesting!! Directly linked to the subject of this report.

    • Karajan probably felt he was the star, and sold the tickets. So didn’t need to care about the reputation of the singer.

  • Innocent until proven guilty.

    If I were a multi millionaire , I too would “splash out on private jets and commensurate luxuries.”

    • That is only the standard for criminal punishment by the state. Individuals can be found civilly liable for actions they’ve been acquitted of criminally. I didn’t need Bill Cosby to be convicted to know he was a sexual predator.

          • I was in sarcasm mode there bud. I believe many accusations are false. I always point out the double standard too. When someone popular with the feminist crowd gets accused it’s deemed some kind of right wing conspiracy, but when someone not in favor with feminists is accused he is guilty without even a hearing. But lately that has even been violated. Feminist ally Al Franken got the boot over what looked like bogus allegations.

          • What about the earlier Republican President from the 1950s? Or there was Harding. Whoops. In this retrospective we have skipped way past GHW Bush. And his sprog, George W.

      • Yes, but the case still has to be tried in a Civil Court of Law.
        You cannot just come out and say, think or feel something without evidence. You cannot remain anonymous and you cannot refer to hearsay (open secrets, common knowledge).
        And whether it be in a civil or criminal court the judicial procedure has to be set in motion for the allegations to be vetted.

        – – –

        With all due respect,
        Mr Lebrecht,
        Grace is long passed for anyone herein. Now it’s all down to stamina.

      • An opera house doesn’t have to find anyone innocent or guilty of anything; they can hire whomsoever they like. If they believe Domingo isn’t very pleasant to women (the only thing he has been accused of) then they can decide not to hire him.

        Aside: the current contracts, however, will have to be honoured. I suspect many of the European houses plan to quietly drop him.

  • There are those of us who, non-binary in thinking, come right down the middle and deem any accused person as innocent until proven guilty. What we may think in what should private has nothing to do with it, and “He has been pestering women for years” is one person’s private view.

        • Post-modernism, Paul, the ‘epistemology’ of which reaches its reductio in Trump, helped along by tabloid media (and mayhap some blogs), some perhaps jealous of the circulation of the National Enquirer, etc. But to which we must add journals such as the New York Times since it seemed of a sudden to have had a collective nervous breakdown, resulting in a new form of Yellow Journalism, not because of inflammatory headlines and such, but because it’s become afraid to lay out the facts as they are known, and all of them.

          • Not sure it requires a fancy explanation in terms of Post-modernism. It’s just sloppy thought to call a commonly-held view common *knowledge*.

          • Well, Paul, as you now answer your own question, one wonders why you asked it. You may think it “just sloppy thought”, but do you not see some danger in being unable to distinguish among view, knowledge, truth, belief, and so on, especially when in these times rather a lot of very dodgy characters depend upon that inability? In short, it’s not as simple as it seems.

    • I’m so fed up with this “innocent until proven guilty”. Every time one of the Domingo defenders use it, it judges the victims. If he’s to be seen as “innocent”, they are to be seen as liars or what?

      It’s so disgusting! No insider really denies that he was a pest and bothering women all the time; even he himself doesn’t dare to say “I never did”, but his defenders behave as if it would have been his right to bother and to harass women.

      How did the famous painter Max Liebermann say? “Ich kann gar nicht so viel fressen wie ich kotzen möchte”.

      • Yes, some of them are liars, or exaggerators – as is anyone who places Domingo’s cheesy advances, for which he always apparently took no for an answer, on the same level as genuine sexual predation.

        I also am sick of all these disingenuous women who encourage men with aggressively promiscuous reputations and then publically demand their destruction when the inevitable happens. A few morals on the women’s part would have saved them both.

        Methinks somebody really wants Domingo’s job at LA Opera.

      • “I’m so fed up with this “innocent until proven guilty”.”

        I want you locked up on my say-so for what you did to me last Tuesday.

        “Every time one of the Domingo defenders use it, it judges the victims.”

        How do you know they really were victims? Try using less prejudicial language, e.g. “complainant”.

        • Why are you so thick. Domingo has not been accused of a criminal offense, so he is not before a criminal court (the only place where ‘innocent until proven guilty’ applies).

          Domingo has been accused of ‘not being a decent chap’. It really isn’t even an accusation before a civil court. But in such cases we listen to Domingo, to his accusers, and then make a decision as to which we believe. Hence it is “balance of probabilities” (or, if you prefer, ‘preponderance of evidence’).

          Not being a decent chap isn’t something that is punished by the state. It is up to each of us what penalty should follow. Personally, I have no plan to invite Domingo to hang out with my daughter.

      • The lynch mob lives!! No, this isn’t Wyoming but modern America. It’s appalling beyond belief. And probably the very same people who would say, “are you now or have you ever been…. a serial sexual predator”?

        “Pestering women” is now a hanging offense in the brave new world of the modern Left. God help us all.

        • Why do you attribute this to ‘the Left’? It is perfectly possible to be left-wing and yet regard the MeToo ethos with deep suspicion.

      • No, they are not necessarily “to be seen as liars”. That is not how “presumption of innocence” works. It actually applies to both sides: just as the accused is presumed not guilty of the crime until proven otherwise, the accuser is similarly presumed not guilty of perjury until proven otherwise. Besides, it is well known that the same events can be seen very differently by different people including (perhaps especially so) by the participants.

        • “the accuser is similarly presumed not guilty of perjury until proven otherwise”

          Though in British courts now they get anonymity, whereas the accused doesn’t. This is said to be to allow others to come forward and say, “Yes, and he did it to me, too.” Of course, it doesn’t allow people to come forward and say, “But she did it to me, too–had consensual sex and then cried assault.”

          • In other words, to the delight of “sycorax”, accusers get preferential treatment compared to the accused.

  • The salient paragraphs:

    “Let’s face some facts. Domingo is no hero. He has been pestering women for years. He has been vain, greedy and tiresome since his tenor voice faded. He keeps demanding baritone roles, while also conducting and directing operas for which he has no exceptional talent. In doing so he denies opportunities to others and clogs the channels of career development. He held on far too long at Washington National Opera and still clings to power at LA Opera. He has promoted members of his family. He mingles with corrupt sports officials and political dictators.

    He’s 78. Hanging on does not improve his image for posterity. It’s time for him to go with grace.”

    Except that now we know he has disgraced himself and his image. He blew it. But it started long before the sexual harassment and abuse of power accusations, when he misguidedly forced his way, and was misguidedly enabled and encouraged, into Verdi baritone territory. His fellow Spaniards, if for nothing but out of nationalism, chauvinism and machismo, may kneel in his presence as they consider him their living Santo Domingo, who walks on water and air, too. They can keep him.

    • Even more salient, in terms of explaining the widespread and unquestioning defense: “That said, Domingo remains a major box-office asset, one of the few universally recognisable operatic names.” There are a few other things about him being a nice guy, but the main reason is that he’s money.

  • This is more interesting than most analyses. Another possible additional factor in the support from musicians in Europe is that Domingo was hardly unique in this kind of behavior. Maybe some of the implicit or explicit support is from musicians who would quite like the whole MeToo thing to go away lest they find themselves in its glare. If they help Domingo win this battle for public opinion, it takes the pressure off them as well and makes further investigations like AP’s less likely.

    • I think this is a perceptive comment.
      There is also a national/cultural dimension. I was living in Europe when the Monica Lewinsky affair went public. (I’m American.) I recall hearing people say that it was to be expected that a powerful man would use his power to attain sexual gratification, and once I heard voiced the idea that there was something not quite right with a man who did not. There is a higher tolerance for such behavior in certain corners of the world. The national #MeToo discussion that has taken place in the US has no parallel in some countries, where such behavior is considered annoying but normal.
      I’ll bet money that some media outlet somewhere is interpreting the AP’s report as proof of American prudishness.

      • Which is precisely what it is. But its mainly a proxy to go after powerful and successful people and to put YOURSELF in their place.

      • Um, quite a few SD readers are interpreting the AP’s report as proof of American prudishness, judging from the comments…

      • Good point. Look at France: President Macron’s last two predecessors were switching wives or girlfriends while in office. The Lowinsky affair broke two years after the death of Francois Mitteran, who famously, had a secret love child from a long term affair that ran parallel to his long term marriage.
        There are many other examples.

      • There is a higher tolerance for certain behaviours in Middle Eastern countries than the western palate usually wants to stomach. Cultures have various norms. I hold no brief for the United States, but I find the notion that some of its women complaining about chronic sexual harassment is “prudish” to be absurd.

        • People, especially feminists, are refining the definition of consent. Monica Lewinsky is now calling that affair an abuse of power. See CNN:
          “Lewinsky sees ‘problematic’ issue of consent in Clinton affair” where she says “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege.”

          https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/26/politics/monica-lewinsky-me-too/index.html

          Consent is now supposed to be free of coercion. How is that possible when a man has money, fame or power? It looks like we’re going down the road to a place where all sex between a man and a woman is rape. Some feminists have been saying that for decades.

          • And yet Clinton finished his term as POTUS after he lied to congress and clearly abused his positin. And now he is making millions giving lectures all over the world. Placido Domingo’s transgressions pale by comparison.Great artist is being humiliated, 50 year career is disregarded. Met channel has not played a single performance of his since this scandal broke.
            His musical legacy deleted, the way Levine’s was.
            Something is very wrong with this picture.

        • There is no defense of ‘consent’ to a “boss-employee thing”. It is still sexual harrassment, whether consensual or non-consensual. The law wisely recognises that employees cannot be said to be able freely to give — or withhold — consent to the person on whom their continued employment depends.

    • I don’t quite agree. Most of the supporters are (young) women. Many musicians who don’t want to find themselves in its glare are all keeping their mouths shut – not to raise any attention to themselves.

  • Domingo made his Metropolitan Opera Debut in 1968, age 27 and has performed there since then – celebrated every night by colleagues, staff and fans?
    And now, 51 years later, age 78, having him perform is considered a danger to a safe environment?
    You’ve got to be kidding!

    • Unfortunately the mouth-foaming mob is NOT kidding. In 10 years hopefully people will look back on this and learn not to fall into this type of hysteria again. But somehow I doubt it. History keeps repeating itself.

    • You are right! They earned a lot of money and now he was humiliated for something that “maybe” happend sometimes in the past century! Hypocrisy!

    • I noted in that piece he said “Part of Domingo’s defense has been what you might call the Joe Biden defense, that the culture has changed over Domingo’s 65-year career. It has, but that doesn’t excuse improper behavior. ”

      So why has it worked for Biden and not anyone else? We have video proof of Biden’s transgressions too, so he can’t deny it.

      • One can argue about the use of the word “vile” in this context, but I hope we can all agree that antisemitism of any intensity is a negative quality in a person’s character. In this case, Tchaikovsky was probably no more antisemitic than most of Russian society in 19th century. It certainly does not make him equal to Wagner who was far more virulent in his hatred of Jews.

        • 19th? All over and done with, then, is it?

          I hoped we could all agree that sexual harassent of any intensity [was] a negative quality in a person’s character…apparently not.

          • Not even close to “over and done with” – I never suggested that. But my hope for the future, however distant, still remains.

  • Usually a private jet is paid by the promoter. Domingo is a star and travels with staff. Time is crucial and flexibility as well. You really think he lines up for 45 minutes at the security line in Heathrow unless going on a transatlantic flight? Now pop-singer would ever be “accused” of taking a private jet. To use this as an argument is just ridiculous.

  • Vain, greedy, tiresome?
    or
    Hard-working, passionate, dedicated?

    Don’t underestimate the emotional factor. Most of us may not love their work and would be happy to retire. PD loves it.

  • No US writer speaks up, because there is no freedom of speech anymore there. Voicing a considered and balanced opinion on those accused by the #metoo Inquisition, endangers the personal existence.

    • When you say “there” you are obviously speaking as an outsider who frankly is talking through his hat. When you use the word “inquisition”, you lose all claim to caring to voice “a considered and balanced opinion”. And as far as having your personal existence endangered, you’ve really gone off the deep end.

  • Well, one reason may be that the accusers are all located in the US (if I recall correctly). I doubt anyone with the most basic common sense would “stand up” for Domingo when the alleged victims are just hundreds of miles from where they live, or have even performed at a venue they have been to.

  • You are conflating several issues at hand.

    One issue called into question is Domingo’s behavior towards women based on 8 anonymous and therefore unsubstantiated claims and one named accuser who admits that her career was never affected by turning him down and has since used his name and fame to augment her own reputation.

    The other issue which is entirely unrelated has to do with his unwillingness to retire either as singer, as conductor, as administrator, et al.

    To “take him down” for the one with the express purpose or design to effect the other is dishonest and unfair.

    Yes, Mr. Domingo, along with countless men both successful and less so, have been guilty of womanizing, of coming on too strongly to women regardless of their professional association to those men, and have blurred the lines of professional and personal relationships. This is something that was culturally acceptable for thousands of years of human history and is finally be called into question in this particular moment in time of the human experience, and rightly so.

    Mr. Domingo, however, has not been accused of rape, he has not been accused of any specific molestation, and therefore, it would seem, has not been accused of any crime. His behavior has been brought into focus and is under discussion, but to use the discussion or the allegations which are not yet deemed criminal (because chances are, they aren’t) as a call to end a respected artist’s career–regardless of the additional discussion that can be and often is had concerning his choice to continue that career–is irresponsible and dangerous.

    The US has lost all sense of context and measure in the recent past and now has adopted a position that all victims’ allegations must be taken as fact and all to whom those allegations are made must therefore be guilty. This is not how justice works and this is not a sustainable position for any society to continue to function.

    The fact that no outlet or person in the US is speaking in favor of Domingo likely has more to do with the fear of being ostracized on home turf against the rabid furor of dissent that has swelled up along with the allegations. The fear of ever speaking up against the illogical and dangerous virtue-signaling of the popular tide shows just how disable discussion and reason are currently in the US, particularly in the arts (ie. Blackface vs Darkened Stage Make Up, which are two very distinct and different practices that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, again an example of ignoring context and lack of responsible reasoning).

    That there are people who are willing to step forward in praise of Domingo should demonstrate that perhaps this particular case of #MeToo is not like the others.

    • I take issue with this part of your post:

      “Yes, Mr. Domingo, along with countless men both successful and less so, have been guilty of womanizing, of coming on too strongly to women regardless of their professional association to those men, and have blurred the lines of professional and personal relationships. This is something that was culturally acceptable for thousands of years of human history and is finally be called into question in this particular moment in time of the human experience, and rightly so.”

      He is guilty of womanizing like it’s some kind of crime. Should fornication be a crime again? It actually still is a crime in many states.

      Blurring the lines of professional and personal relationships is an incredibly complex issue. I don’t think it’s a simple issue of right or wrong. Should co-workers not be allowed to be friends outside of work? That has to be bad for society in the long run. Many are saying there is a loneliness epidemic in society. Americans are getting married and having children later in life and there are now more single people in the U.S. than at any time in the past 140 years. I’ve read that one third of relationships used to start at work. Without that possibility the loneliness epidemic will continue to worsen.

      • Who are these “many” telling of the “loneliness epidemic”? First I’ve heard of it. Wait, there was Eleanor Rigby—but that was another country.

  • Is it greedy of him to keep taking roles if he still draws people? I don’t think so. When people stop showing up to hear him sing then it’s time to retire.

    • The definition of sexual harassment has broadened to an absurd level. Just touching someone on the shoulder is considered sexual harassment now. If that’s true I’ve been sexually harassed by women at work 4 times this year.

          • In many jurisdictions it simply couldn’t be. Lightly touching (by which I mean not hitting) someone on the shoulder, arm, hand, elbow, shoulder blade…is covered by ‘Trespass of the Person’. Rarely invoked, as one may understand, and then because of attendant factors rather the touch alone.

        • You have completely missed the premise at the heart of this. As usual.

          We’ve got your ideology. Why not try buttoning it till you actually have an observation of merit — on whatever side you choose (azziff you ever see that there are two sides to many if not most cases) — which means one supported by evidence.

      • Karl: Touching someone when they don’t want to be touched is, technically, “assault”. Although a court would be very unlikely to convict you for tapping someone gently on the shoulder (there would have to be more to the situation). It would not constitute “sexual harassment” although if you were convicted of assault for tapping someone on the shoulder, then any sexual aspect to the shoulder tapping could be an aggravating factor when considering the sentence.

        That’s the law.

  • I’ll bet that none of you imperious morality police went to Mexico City to dig survivors out of the earthquake rubble with your bare hands like Placido Domingo did!

    • Bravo. Actually, most of the time these morality police are dictatorial, intellectually lazy and morally obtuse. They’re not the ‘hands on’ type.

    • As Jesus told the crowd attacking the adulteress “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” A lady in back of the crowd hurled a rock squarely at the adulteress, knocking her to the ground. Jesus scanned the crowd, found the rock-hurling woman, and exclaimed “Oh, mother!!!”

  • Why no US writer speaks out for Domingo?

    That’s an easy one – they’re afraid of the angry mob. Back in the 50s people were scared of the red menace. Now it’s rape culture. And the press helped both times because getting the mob riled up makes more people want to read their bile. Have you noticed how many fake rape stories have been all over the media in the past few years? Duke Lacrosse, the Rolling Stone campus rape, Kevin Spacey, Brett Kavanaugh, Mattress Girl.

    • Yes, I’m even afraid to leave my apartment, since there’s always an “angry mob” outside with their “fake rape stories”. Oh Karl, have you noticed how many true rape stories have been ignored over the years? Of course you haven’t.

      • And I suppose you have noticed all the genuine fake rape stories, such as those concocked by the 51 women who are currently serving sentences in UK prisons — and similar numbers in other countries — having been convicted of ‘perverting the course of justice’ through the bringing of demonstrably false claims of rape. Of course you haven’t. The attempt by reckless and malicious women to ruin the life of an innocent man occurs rarely, thank goodness. But it happens.

      • Ian Buruma, the editor of The New York Review of Books was fired for letting Jian Ghomeshi tell his side of the story about how he was falsely charged with rape. I failed to mention that case in my previous post. No one is even allowed to deny that rape culture exists or they could lose their jobs. Matt Damon had some critical remarks about #metoo, but after backlash that would have cost him acting jobs he decided to keep quiet.

    • The reason behind it is that all these men and their so-called abuse are really a proxy for Donald Trump. My 10 year old grandson could tell you that. Cue: outrage!!

      • I’m sure your grandson has learned to parrot back to you your own reactionary opinions, poor kid. “Grandma, did you notice how none of these hysterical moralists ever help pulling the rubble off earthquake victims?”

      • Sue — does this include those who criticise Clinton? They are really expressing their dislike of Trump by proxy. Well, who would have thunk it: luckily we have you (and you 10 year old nephew) to point it out to us.

  • Why do you take for granted that he has been pestering women for years? It seems that many women in fact disagree with that. In fact, even the principal accuser has acknowledged that he never touched her and that her rejection did not have negative professional consequences. You wonder why no US writer has stood up in his defence. My answer is that the US is under the dictatorship of the “politically correct”. And your statement that he is guilty and should retire from all roles sounds like an opportunistic choice, so “now that this “affair” has been raised, let´s take the opportunity to push Domingo out of the scene”. I will not enter the debate of whether Domingo should retire or not from the scene on artistic grounds. But using this very “blurry” accusation to help him to the way out is simply miserable.

  • I don‘t buy this kind of “land of freedom vs old world” separation. It‘s not that we European, especially British are afraid of old establishment. No. We simply don‘t apply the standard of politicians to artists, and if he can secure ticket sale so be it.

    • Boy, for a two–sentence post, that’s about as mixed-up as I have read in a while. (Though I took a break after Sue’s last).

      • Before accusing another person of writing a “mixed-up” comment, it may be a good idea to learn how to count sentences correctly.

  • Placido is the greatest opera singer of our times, generous to the public and courteous and kind to colleagues. He was also one of the most charming. He didn’t need to impose himself on women. They were continually falling at his feet.

  • Si ese mundo es binario lo será entre puritanos hipócritas y católicos hedonistas. Los puritanos jamás podrán entender a un Don Giovanni o a un Casanova. Se podrá ser torpe e insistente pero no un delincuente como pretenden estos inquisidores. Y por cierto. El señor Domingo no es un héroe en España porque aquí nos fijamos más en la ideología que en la bragueta. Un saludo.

  • This isn’t a war against men, it’s a war against RICH men. Poor, obscure men have nothing to worry about. If it weren’t, why is there so much emphasis on Domingo’s money, private jet, and other luxuries? It seems to me like a lot of people are envious of Domingo’s success, and think that bringing him down is going to raise them up, either financially or morally.

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