Did the Met really need to fire Grigolo?

Did the Met really need to fire Grigolo?


norman lebrecht

December 05, 2019

The Italian tenor was found culpable today of an alleged offence against a chorus singer while on tour with the Covent Garden company in Japan three months ago.

The ROH conducted an investigation and took disciplinary measures against him.

As soon as the first charge was made public, Peter Gelb suspended Grigolo from the Met. Now he has fired him.


Whatever Grigolo did took place with another company on a different continent. No other opera house has taken any measures against him. Why was it necessary for the Met to be holier than how and declare that his shadow will not darken its doorstep again?

Cruel and unnatural punishment? You could say that.



  • Mark says:

    What’s his great “crime” – touching somebody’s fake belly ? I suppose singers will soon be fired for looking at another singer the wrong way, too …
    Or maybe Mr. Gelb will institute mandatory daily confessions, Red Guard-style ?
    Grigolo was probably the closest thing to a star tenor the Met had – otherwise it’s just the aging Alagna …

    • Lynne says:

      He was apparently told not to do it, did it anyway. That’s when it becomes, not necessarily a crime, but definitely a problem for an employer.

      • Bruce says:

        ^ and it’s important to note that something does not have to be a criminal act in order to qualify as harassment.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Sticking with tenors who can plausibly sing some or all of the same roles, I don’t think Grigolo was a more prominent Met tenor than Beczala, Calleja, Fabiano, or Polenzani.

      Grigolo has a valuable voice for some things and can be an exciting performer, but opera houses have to adjust to singers suddenly being off limits for all kinds of reasons. Rolando Villazón was a big part of the Met’s plans 10-12 years ago, and they suddenly had to start doing without him for other reasons, not related to any bad behavior.

      Fortunately, every year, new singers are coming into the business.

    • anon says:

      Let’s say you are wearing a heavy winter coat, over a suit, over a sweater, over a shirt, over an undershirt, and a man comes up to you and starts stroking your coat, you can’t actually feel his touch, but you tell him to stop stroking your coat, because you know what, you actually feel very uncomfortable having a man stroking your coat, yet he persists anyway.

      What do you do?

      You think have no right to tell him to stop stroking your coat? You think he can keep stroking your coat with no consequences? You’ll let him keep stroking your coat?

      Common sense, dude, common sense.

      • Bobo says:

        Ähm… I‘d give him a very loud and ugly shout in his face, put three fingers in his belly ant tell him to piss of. Wouldn‘t run to the boss and see him fired…

        • MWnyc says:

          Would you do that on stage with a theatre full of people watching?

        • Bash says:

          Perhaps the woman didn’t go running to the boss. Very little detail has been given but the incident seems to have happened on stage with others getting involved. The boss must have been aware of it, saw it himself, or made aware of it by more than one person. And it might have just been the last straw for the company with Grigolo after other incidents. It is hard to know.

          The Met can hire who they like and maybe they just didn’t want any more trouble. Apparently they are holding anti-harassment sessions. To turn around and hire someone who has just been fired for questionable behavior looks a little like hypocrisy and disregard for the safety and respect of the employees that they say are their concern.

      • Mark says:

        I deal with this
        on my own, don’t make a federal case out of a trifle and don’t demand he lose his job, for one.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Good for you Mark. However, the employer has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. The law states it is the employer who must act if an employee is being harassed. Not all employees are as comfortable in dealing with poor behaviour as you are and the law makes it clear the employee isn’t the one who has to do something about poor behaviour.

      • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

        Well, if you object to a guy stroking a coat you are wearing, you could take it off, I suppose.

      • Qi'ra says:

        And he’s publicly recognised and apologised for this, but the question is, is a single incident, in the adrenalised public context of a curtain call, to a dancer (whom you’d think would be accustomed to being physical “contact” on stage) make him worthy of being sacked? If he was a member of any other profession, would this bizarre incident, which escalated quickly due to hysterical attention seeking, have resulted in anything worse than a written warning?

        • Yes Addison says:

          The performance was over. That the woman was standing on a stage was irrelevant. Are you actually suggesting that because dancers engage in physical contact in their choreographed and rehearsed professional work, they shouldn’t object to any kind of physical contact, even if uninvited, unwelcome, and removed from the context of dancing? That’s vile even for a Slipped Disc comments section.

    • AJ says:

      ur on drugs

  • Peter says:

    I would also say it goes the other way around – “cruel and unnatural” regarding London keeping Placido Domingo in their cast of Don Carlo, but being so firm against Grigolo…

  • David b says:

    It was the right move.

    To do otherwise would allow offenders to run rampant knowing that any punishment would be limited to a single company.

    “Oh I can harass here at [Random Company]. If I get caught and they ban me, no big deal! I can still sing everywhere else!”

    The Met’s action serves to protect those who might be victimized worldwide. If the Met can fire a singer of Grigolo’s stature, that signals to lesser performers, “Harass some super at a small regional company and your dreams of singing at the Met may vanish forever.”

    This is a powerful message and the Met should be applauded for it.

    As a way of stopping some stars abusing the massive power imbalance they have, this is a great step. A young and/or performer may not have the means to fight back against abuse. The Met absolutely does.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      To even use a term “victim” in reference to this incident is ludicrous. He patted a fake belly, did not touch anyone anywhere.
      It just shows how absurd the whole business has become.
      Nobody is safe, big brother is watching and acting

      • David b says:

        ROH Choristers probably average over ten years experience and hundreds of performances. They’ve seen all kinds of diva/divo antics. They are well aware of the stress of performing live and the irregular behavior this may cause. They have pretty much seen it all. The usual response to somebody being out of line is to role one’s eyes and moan backstage. Most performers don’t want any additional hassle or aggravation. They want to do their job and go home.

        For the ROH performers to take the action they did, Grigolo was not just slightly over the line of appropriate behavior. He was so far over it that choristers felt compelled to act. To think that choristers would react over somebody merely patting a fake belly is what’s absurd here. This is not their first performance. They are not snowflakes. They know how live theater works and how professionals act.

        The ROH statement itself says “ROH has concluded that his inappropriate behavior at the curtain call and afterwards fell below the standards”

        Note the “afterwards”. There was a lot more than a belly rub going on.

        If ROH choristers got upset, something Grigolo did was egregiously wrong. The ROH and Met aren’t going to fire one of their biggest stars over something marginal.

        Good for the ROH and the Met to hold a star accountable, backing up their employees, and contributing to a safer working environment.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      David b: The usual response is to let the current contracts continue but to stop re-hiring that person. All opera houses basically work out what they get from the star and what behaviour they get from that person, and make a calculation about how much aggravation they are prepared to accept.

  • Chad Marcel says:

    I started a petition on Change.org. We need him at the Met!


  • Pedro says:

    Um the near future, opera will be performed without male voices, conductors and producers.

    • Edgar says:


    • Calvin says:

      I assure you that large corporations are far stricter than arts organizations on this subject, yet the percentage of men who have lost their jobs is infinitesimal. Suggesting that harassing behavior, even after warnings, is somehow inevitable among male opera singers is either a sweeping indictment or, more likely, playing Chicken Little.

    • sycorax says:

      Do you think men could keep their hands to themselves?
      Even I think better of them! Most men I know – and among them are a few singers – would never touch a woman who doesn’t want to be touched by them. And they even are able to refrain from sexist blabbering!

      Women in their work environment don’t want more as to be treated with the respect they deserve. They don’t want to be groped, they don’t want to be harassed, they simply don’t want to feel like available sexual objects for men they don’t want to come close. Is that so difficult to get?

  • sam says:

    “Whatever Grigolo did took place with another company on a different continent.”

    The what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas philosophy of employment.

    The Vatican practices that philosophy.

    The Catholic Church transfers its (oh, unfairly maligned) priests from one parish to another, from one country to another, for “whatever took place in another” diocese on a different continent.

    Cruel and Unnatural indeed.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Do you equate patting a fake belly in front of an audience with molesting and raping little boys and sexually abusing nuns?
      Otherwise, your comparison is meaningless

  • Frank says:

    Here we go again. Slipped Disc taking the side of the accused male harasser. Anything to rile up the commentariat.

  • V. Lind says:

    The Met really must be skint. It seems to depend all the time on the reports of other opera organisations to make its disciplinary and hiring decisions.

    Of course it got burnt (and probably very expensively) by its one foray into investigation, with Levine.

  • John says:

    Gelb is gun shy because of Levine and Domingo. The Met does not need protests outside of Lincoln Center because of Grigolo. They’re losing money in droves so why give the public another excuse to not attend performances?

  • Peter says:

    Since the police have given up investigating many reported offences, it is really good that opera houses feel willing to step in, even when committed in another country.
    Does The Met have a helpline for me to make allegations ?

  • Douglas Lee says:

    I’m rather disturbed by the number of people posting on here who seem to think that the whole thing is a storm in a teacup. Have you learned nothing from the recent spate of scandals involving men in positions of power abusing women in positions of vulnerability? Like racism in football it has to stop, and the only way to stop it, as in football, is to show zero tolerance.

  • TubaMinimum says:

    It’s a pretty simple calculus. The Met relies on public good will for tickets and fundraising. They are still struggling with the public perception fallout after the James Levine saga. Whether you think the offense warranted this or not, they are allowed to not associate with anyone they think could cause them PR issues while trying to rebuild their brand.

    • Karl says:

      Have you heard the expression ‘Get woke go broke”? That’s what will happen if PC tenors who can’t sing are the only ones who get hired.

      • sycorax says:

        I know a lot of rather good tenors who can sing, but nevertheless don’t harass women. It’s possible, you know?

      • Farinelli says:

        In other words Karl thinks that male singers who don‘t touch up their female colleagues don‘t have voices. An interesting hypothesis, implying that excess testosterone and lack of awareness of acceptable behaviour are required to hit a secure high C.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Do we REALLY believe the ticket-buying public gives a rat’s ass about these issues when purchasing performances? Think again. If the Met considers it a dire PR issue, they are overthinking their strategy.

      A worse PR mess has been the tenure of Peter Gelb. Untold numbers of ticket-buyers and donors have jumped ship under his leadership. The Met’s development and marketing departments have documented evidence…which will never see the light of day.

      The Met “brand” has suffered mightily in the past decade, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Domingo and Levine. And, yet, the rubber-stamp board of the Met extended Mr. Gelb’s contract. What a world…

      • Saxon Broken says:

        I won’t buy tickets to see known harassers. Nor will I buy their CDs or DVDs. If there are enough people like me then the Met needs to do something.

        • Yes Addison says:

          I think that younger people, especially, are likely to feel the way you do, Saxon Broken. And the Met does have to focus on growing an audience, not just recapturing a lost one. Tiredofitall might hope for a return of the audience that packed the place in the 1990s, but that isn’t going to happen. Some of those people may simply have “jumped ship,” but many are dead, in nursing homes, or otherwise not able to make it regularly to performances in 2019-20.

          The audience was falling off in the last years of Joseph Volpe’s tenure. Every season’s attendance in his last five was worse than the last. By his final season, it was so bad that he announced he had to slash operating expenses (“We are currently projecting the box office to achieve 76 percent of capacity versus a budget of 80 percent, resulting in a shortfall of $4,303,000” [Met Opera Slashing Budget, Associated Press, 16 December 2005]).

  • Anna says:

    EVERY SINGLE male opera singer in EVERY SINGLE opera house should refuse to perform until this madness stops. Let the women sing to each other and perform all roles themselves. Come on men! Stand together or be annihilated by these
    hysterical women.

    • Henry Rosen says:

      Not every male (in fact no other males) act like this one. You all know nothing of what he does.

    • Yes Addison says:

      I definitely see some hysteria, but not where you’re looking.

    • Jamesy says:

      Anna, I feel no compulsion to stop singing anywhere in solidarity because I don’t sexually assault my female colleagues.

    • sycorax says:

      Perhaps we women should strike until our workplaces are safe environments in which we are treated with respect instead of being seen as available sexual objects?

      I’ve got enough self respect not to accept when men are disrespectful towards me. How it’s with you?

  • Karl says:

    Pure virtue signaling.

    • sam says:

      Pure click baiting.

      Typical of SD, take a one-sdied position and wait for its readership to go at it with each other.

      Like Pavlolvian dogs, we jump at the dogwhistle like hogs to the trough. (Am I mixing metaphors?)

  • Emil says:

    Oh yeah, he harassed women *on another continent.* That’s perfectly fine then.

    No, of course that’s not fine, and of course the MET is well within its rights and perfectly justified in saying they don’t want to be associated with him.

  • jack says:

    All of this discussion regarding the right or wrong of Gigolo’s behavior and whether the Met or anyone else should employ him or not because of it is ridiculous and immaterial. Opera houses are free to engage or disengage any performer that they wish. What will ultimately determine that decision; morality, acceptable behavior, political correctness? No. Box office receipts. So how will Grigolo”s presence or absence affect that bottom line? That is the question.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Er, not just box-office receipts. The Met is obliged to provide a safe working environment for its employees. If it doesn’t want to get sued then it will make sure that poor employee behaviour and harassment gets dealt with.

  • Salvame says:

    A recurring error I find in this thread is the blithe assumption that there is no internal history of issues with this singer at these houses. This is very likely more than a concern about bad PR. HR incidents and internal meetings about possibly inappropriate behavior are rarely shared publicly. If there is such a history at the Met, and they continue to employ this singer after that AND this very public incident and dismissal by ROH, they would be in serious jeopardy for liability for further misbehavior. The company can’t tell the next woman who gets groped or worse, “we didn’t know.” It is an employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace environment, and this applies to opera singers as well as cannery workers. So, if we speculate about motivation for this firing, amidst condemnations of the companies and the pearl clutching about the scourge of #metoo disrupting our enjoyment of opera, we should allow for the possibility of circumstances (which it would be counterproductive or prohibited for companies to share) which make the actions of the Met and ROH perfectly sensible.

  • Me! says:

    A host of reasons. Decreasing their liability risk- if he commits a similar act or is accused with some support, they can be sued as having set up a dangerous situation by employing him. Because they want to show Levine wasn’t a fluke firing, they now take inappropriate (and worse) behavior seriously and care re work environment. Hoylman/precedent, eyes watching. Metoo. They fired Domingo. Zero tolerance is easier to employ than slippery slopes.

    • Karl says:

      Dangerous? Touching a fake belly?! I guess I should fear for my life at my workplace where 3 separate women have touched me without my consent in the past year.

  • Jamesay says:

    It’s been a long time coming. He’s notorious for touching women (goosing them backstage and secretly on stage in busy chorus scenes. He’s known to have “desert disease” lol. Wandering Palms! Enough. It’s time to teach these lascivious egotistical men to keep their hands to themselves. He’s not nicknamed Gigolo for nothing.

  • Michel says:

    Domingo, Grigolo : there is a plot against the latin manhood !

    • sycorax says:

      There’s a “plot” against men who can’t keep their hands to themselves! Women aren’t willing to accept their groping anymore.

      • Novagerio says:

        Clapping a pillow under the dress simulating a pregnancy is called “groping”? Has the world gone completely mad??…

  • Richard says:

    Had the Met dealt with Levine’s predatory behavior much earlier, instead of sweeping things under the rug for years, they might not have had to resort to this holier-than-thou present posturing.

  • klavierBWV988 says:

    Met people who fired Vittorio Grigolo are the same who had dinner for years with Weinstein, you bet.