Domingo’s mixed legacy to Los Angeles

Domingo’s mixed legacy to Los Angeles


norman lebrecht

October 03, 2019

LA Times music critic Mark Swed has written a neatly balanced review of the life and works of Placido Domingo in the City of Angels.

Mark is full of admiration for the singer’s dedication to establishing an opera house in the city, efforts that go back to 1985, if not earlier. And he gives due credit to the scale of Domingo’s commitment, as performer, administrator, figurehead and fundraiser.

But he does not stint on the debit side either, mentioning Domingo ‘commissioning some pretty awful operas’, employing his wife as an opera director and using LA Opera ‘as a place to work on conducting’.

It’s a mixed record, and a well-judged piece.

Read it here.



  • Has-been says:

    I might be nice to remember the late Peter Hemmings as the General Director who brought Domingo to LA. Peter Hemmings was the first General Manager of Scottish Opera and a true visionary.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I remember him well. But I was never sure if Peter brought PD to LA, or vice-versa. They were such a team.

      • Marc says:

        Hemmings was brought onboard to start a company in 1984 and left in 2000, heading back to England (he died of cancer in 2002). Domingo starred in LA Opera’s first production, Otello, in ’86. He had served as artistic adviser since ’84, and finally took the reins in 2003.

      • Nick2 says:

        I mentioned Peter in an earlier thread on PD’s decision to retire from the Opera. He was, in my view, the ideal General Director to start up and develop the company, much as he had done along with Alexander Gibson in Scotland.

        Domingo was not brought to LA by Peter. Nor was Peter engaged by LA Opera on the recommendation of Domingo. After he left as Managing Director of the LSO Peter joined London’s Theatre Projects company. It was in that capacity that TP asked him to fly to LA to undertake a study on the establishment of a major company in that city. The Board were so impressed they virtually engaged him on the spot!

        Before then Domingo had already been engaged as an artistic consultant, but I sincerely doubt if he played much role in engaging Hemmings. He would surely have realised that Peter’s relationship with Richard Bonynge after his move from Scotland to Sydney in 1977 was far from cordial and did not last more than two years. On the other hand, he would no doubt have been impressed with Peter’s expertise in management.

        In most respects, Peter was unquestionably the prime mover in developing the company. Its repertoire included not only standard works but also many less well-known works new to LA. He gave debuts to many major singers and directors, as well as developing relationships with artists like David Hockney who designed several of the LA productions. Domingo may have signed off on the planning but most of it was Peter’s.

        The relationship between Domingo and Hemmings was not always easy. In several discussions with him, I know he was annoyed at having to fly all over the place just to meet with PD to discuss issues of repertoire and casting. On one instance he was summoned to Milan where PD was singing at La Scala. He then had to wait for 4 hours before PD actually arrived for the scheduled meeting.

        I believe Hemmings was never happier than at Scottish Opera. His relationships with Bonynge and then Anthony Camden, the LSO Chairman, were always strained, frequently even more so. At least Domingo was only infrequently in LA!

      • Nick2 says:

        May I be permitted one aside. Like many successful administrators, Peter Hemmings was ambitious. His heart was also very much in Britain. I know he had hoped to be considered as Sir John Tooley’s successor at the ROH. Had he been appointed, I doubt if the Garden would have ended up in the mess it did largely as a result of Jeremy Isaacs being wholly unsuited to the job. When he retired from LA, he was delighted to be offered at seat on the ROH Board. Who knows? Had it not been for his terminal illness, he might have been offered the post after Michael Kaiser departed. He certainly died much too young.

  • SMH says:

    I’m completely astounded anyone would care what Mark Swed has to say about anything. He has no credibility as a critic and basically functions as a PR spokesperson for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

    • M2N2K says:

      Your astonishment is misplaced. Being a cheerleader for a local orchestra does not necessarily disqualifies a person from having a valid opinion “about anything” else.

  • sam says:

    I like how SD always shows photos of PD with people worse than him, Putin (at least PD didn’t order assassinations!), or Woody Allen (at least PD didn’t marry his own daughter!)…

    (Anyway, Woody is quintessentially NY, not LA…)

    I doubt Swed would’ve written a piece about PD that would’ve mentioned him employing his wife if it weren’t for the more troubling sexual harassment claims that sort of makes the nepotism minor by comparison.

    • Alan says:

      Woody Allen married his own daughter?


      I presume you’re just looking for cheap laughs.

      Much and all as I have defended PD’s right to confront his accusers if he is actually guilty of what he is accused of then there is no comparison between him and Allen, against whom there is just a single, very much disputed allegation

      • Yes Addison says:

        To add to what Alan says: Woody Allen has worked in films and occasionally theater for about 55 years now, and worked constantly. Even in a climate in which speaking ill of him is encouraged more than ever before, I’m not aware of one actress or female crew member (let alone 20) claiming he behaved improperly on a set, touched her, aggressively pursued her, attempted to trade opportunities for sex, stopped working with her when she turned him down, etc. Even actresses who have lined up with the Mia/Dylan/Ronan side of the family feud and said they’ll never work with him again have admitted he was nothing but professional and a good director in their time with him.

      • Robert Groen says:

        I take this deliberately selected picture of Domingo and Woody Allen as a bit of subliminal slander.

      • Karl says:

        Allen violated the 1/2 + 7 rule. That’s considered rape in this day and age.

    • Orchestral Musician says:

      Woody Allen is not married to his “own daughter”. He married Mia Farrow and Andre Previn’s daughter.

    • M2N2K says:

      Your insinuation is incorrect: Woody Allen did not marry “his own daughter” either.

      • V.Lind says:

        Perhaps not. But during his long, long relationship with Mia Farrow, she was his de facto, if not legal, stepdaughter. That and the age difference made their relationship — with her mother still in the picture — a betrayal of every decent norm.

        That said, they have been married 22 years. Seems to have worked, despite a very nasty start.

        • Orchestral Musician says:

          The “stepdaughter” rumor is incorrect.
          Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were never married, and never lived together, and Allen never had a parental role with respect to Soon-Yi Previn.

          • V.Lind says:

            I used the term “de facto” to mean “in effect.” Allen and Farrow were a couple and had a child together. With her many children, they formed a family.

            His son said, “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression.”

        • M2N2K says:

          Not a single one of us gets to define what “every decent norm” is – including that pertaining to “age difference”. But we do know at least one thing for sure: WA’s wife (of well over twenty years now) was never his daughter nor was she his stepdaughter or his adopted daughter, or any other kind of “his” daughter. The only person who was responsible for making that start “nasty” was MF.

  • Antonio says:

    Excellent choice of photograph.

  • Swed’s rationalizing is not surprising. I remember him serving as an apologist for the Vienna Philharmonic when it was still excluding women. See:

    In a patriarchal world, you see, the abuse of women must be balanced with ameliorating considerations.