Domingo’s issue is not sex. It’s power

Domingo’s issue is not sex. It’s power


norman lebrecht

August 07, 2020

The latest statement from Placido Domingo pleading his innocence of sex assaults exists in a realm of denial, contradicting his earlier acceptance of responsibility. Domingo presently cannot accept he has done anything wrong.

How can he maintain that when so many women insist otherwise?

The answer is rooted in the deepest faultline in the opera world, a line which tells stars they are immaculate and cuts them every kind of slack.

Domingo was a prime beneficiary. He kept on getting booked as a tenor when he was long past his best, booked as a baritone when the tenor voice failed and finally got hired as a conductor – all because he is one of the few star names the paying public still recognise.

He was allowed to run two major opera companies – Los Angeles and Washington – at the same time, all the while flitting off by private jet to his vanity freelance engagements.

Nothing was said when he consorted with corrupt sports chiefs and political dictators.


When the sexual accusations against him were made public, Domingo was still welcomed in Russia, Japan and China, not to mention Salzburg, still encouraged to believe he could do no wrong.

Just like James Levine at the Met.

Just like the Putin puppets Valery Gergiev and Denis Matsuev.

Just like every other star name the opera industry feels it must protect in order to save its box-office.

Nothing was going to change the immunity enjoyed by stars until Covid came along.

But now it might.



  • Julianna Mendez-Calderon says:

    He’s a washed up, dirty old man who hasn’t sued his accusers or opera houses for slander and libel resulting in loss of income.

    Who says so??

    Every single major opera house that sacked and banned him.

    Even his own ethnic home of Spain says “no way” per Jose!

  • BP says:

    The muddled conflation of Valery Gergiev and Denis Matsuev with two alleged sex-offenders, founded on Norman’s disapproval of their politics, is close to defamatory.

    • Francis Ward says:

      Decisions as to Domingo’s guilt have been rendered by each of the opera houses that sacked him as well as his home country of Spain.

      THEY matter more than any one else and have already levied adequate judgement.

      If Placido doesn’t like it, he should do something about it using the law as opposed to his overinflated ego or shit up.

      What legal actions has he taken in any of the victim’s countries?

  • justsaying says:

    such a tired topic by now, but let’s just add:

    Unless it is categorically impossible for an accusation to be exaggerated or erroneous, and unless it simply more than our culture can handle to make distinctions among alleged offenses (certain, ambiguous; depraved, heinous, serious, inappropriate, trivial), it remains relevant that some who know Domingo, and some who know some of the accusers, are not in unanimous agreement that he deserves to be cast out of civilized society.

    Perhaps those first two conditions are met. In that case everyone whom anyone considers guilty is, ipso facto, guilty, and nothing needs further discussion once guilt has been alleged.

    In Domingo’s case, there has been further discussion, and at least two formal investigations whose conclusions are a matter of record. Those conclusions fall somewhere between “serious” and “inappropriate,” but the punishment his detractors wish for him does not seem proportionate to that.

  • Rudy says:

    He is a COWARD, nothing else. It is a tradition in the Latín countries to do that: try to “clear his name”.

  • Miriam says:

    James Levine did obvious wrongs, tried to pay for hush-up, and had the audacity to counter sue the Met for his behavior. He should have been jailed!

    Don’t lump that disgusting pervert for Domingo (a plain lecher)

  • Frankster says:

    I was for a time involved in managing an orchestra. Yes, management is in daily contact with their musicians and, yes, they do know the ugly details. “He’s going to be gone on Thursday” is usually the response. But there are those managers who ignore facts and choose to look the other way and allow the behavior to continue. There is no excuse for this and the resultant damage it causes to the organization.

  • Nick2 says:

    I can not say it was for reasons of power. All I know is that the two instances I and others witnessed were sexual in nature. I do not believe either was a power issue – but then I am referring to events which took place almost 3 decades ago.

  • mary says:

    Watching Domingo conduct is painful, and ultimately embarrassing for him. (The guy has no rhythm. How is that possible for a Latino?)

    Same with his singing when he’s in his 60s and 70s playing what are supposed to be swaggering, dashing characters. The body is gone, the face is gone, the voice is gone. So sad, so ridiculous.

    Every role he gets, every conducting gig he gets, is one less job for a worthier singer, conductor.

    But if that’s what the septuagenarian fan base of opera wants, then opera deserves the death it’s getting. Covid or no covid.

    • Bruce says:

      “But if that’s what the septuagenarian fan base of opera wants, then opera deserves the death it’s getting. Covid or no covid.”

      Well said.

  • Nick says:

    Domingo…..Levine……Gergiev….Matsuev ……these do NOT belong in the same lineup, plain and simple!
    Levine and Domingo are artists, the other two are puppets….
    Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi. That’s life.

  • Concerto says:

    I think we will probably slowly go back to normal and everything will gradually revert to what it was. The only way things will change is if Covid really flattens us a second (or third) time and we’re forced to restart from scratch. Same with the airlines, where, IMO, it would be better if they all fold and completely go under forcing us to start from scratch and rethink the whole concept.

  • A.L. says:

    Well said. Anna Netrebko should be listed too in the Putin puppets sentence. Like Domingo, her voice has been in appalling state for a while but you’d never know it from reading the press or social media.

  • Henry williams says:

    He is pictured with Seth Blatter. Also a man with a bad reputation.

  • Hugh Kerr says:

    Placido was a great singer but should have retired 10 years ago. We are due to see him in Boccanegra in Vienna in September if it happens !

    • Larry L. Lash / Wien says:

      Sehr geehrter Herr Kerr!

      Indeed, Domingo is scheduled for “Simon Boccanegra” (in September) and “Nabucco” (in January 2021) at Wiener Staatsoper.

      The usually-reliable lists these as the only future staged opera performances on Domingo’s schedule.

      If you dig deeper, you will see that he is scheduled for only the first three (of five) performances of “Nabucco,” the last of which occurs two days before his 80th birthday.

      I suspect that this will be his farewell to the stage, although I imagine that he may very well continue to appear with colleagues at gala concerts.

      Liebe Grüße aus dem 6. Bezirk.

  • Gustavo says:

    Exactly to the point!

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Europe is not the US and every performance I have seen with Domingo in it the past years have been sell-outs whether as a baritone in full length-operas or in the concert hall. Few even much younger singers have that pull and at the end of the day, receipts are what count for an expensive art form.

    Had there been proper court proceedings and compensation procedures perhaps that might have made some difference. As things stand now it’s all hearsay and mainly anonymous accusations years later.

    LA opera was virtually created by Domingo and it remains to be seen how well it will do without him.

    What mainly comes over is the enormous jealousy from many quarters against the singer. It all seems like a palace coup to me. No singer was vainer than Pavarotti or Fat Lucy yet he seemed to get away with it even though he cancelled more concerts than he sang in towards the end and really was washed up.

    • Guus Mostart says:

      LA Opera was created by the great Peter Hemmings in 1984. When he retired as General Director in 2000 Domingo took over. Domingo was however Artistic Consultant from 1984 but it was Peter who was at the helm and nobody else.

  • Melisande says:

    I am afraid that you are forbiddingly right, Mr. Lebrecht, in coming to this black/white conclusion, but may it be that there are also many shades of grey which have to be taken into consideration?
    Let’s hope that The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan).

  • Hokland says:

    Das war doch eine grausame Salbe! Nothing like an unbiased Newsreel editor.

  • Occamsrazor says:

    The guy probably didn’t genuflect enough before Zionists and now has to endure this smear campaign.

  • Gregory Mowery says:

    This is a bit misleading. During Domingo’s peak years as a tenor, many women were flinging themselves at him and while I’m not condoning his behavior one bit, the attention he received was distorted. I remember talking to a colleague about him once. She was a middle-aged woman who confided in me that she was wildly attracted to him. I couldn’t understand her lust, but how much have seen of tabloids and the rest of the media putting these stars on pedestals. It’s a complete distortion on both sides. The Met has been particularly protective. Stories about James Levine’s behavior had been circulating since the late 70s. He was protected by his representatives at Columbia Artists as well as the Met Board who all too well knew of his behavior. It was only after the Levine revelations that became public twenty or more years after the fact that the Met finally got the courage to dismiss Grigolo’s engagements there when he was found to have made inappropriate gestures to a fellow artist at Covent Garden. Tenors seem to be particularly vulnerable to distorted views as they are spoiled rotten by opera houses who can use them to sell out performances, an impossible task these days. I don’t think Covid 19 is going to settle any of these arguments.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    “all because he is one of the few star names the paying public still recognise”

    And why do you suppose that is?

    • V. Lind says:

      Because he is famous. He BECAME well-known because of his artistry, but he became an instantly recognisable name because of The Three Tenors. The 90s saw a massive spike in celebrity culture, and he was a celebrity.

      I remember the first time I saw Nureyev dance: it was long before he became ill, and before he started his interminable “farewell tour.” I actually chose to attend the Kennedy Center because he was performing a Diaghilev season, which comprised ballets I particularly liked. He was pretty good, but nowhere near as good as other dancers I was seeing regularly. But I was always glad I had seen him before he was quite past it. I could tell friends who were not as ballet-mided as I was about it, while I could not interest them in the then-far-superior Jorge Esquivel or others who were not known outside that world. (I saw Nureyev on his farewell tour years later –I was covering it for some rag or other — and of course he was only going through the motions. But it was still a sell-out. There were only a handful of dance writers in town — it was Hong Kong — but his press conference, as one of them observed to me, was a zoo — maybe 60 reporters).

      • Bruce says:

        I remember seeing a documentary about Nureyev and the “Fonteyn/Nureyev” phenomenon: they were both well past their primes but somebody thought up this idea for a celebrity tour, and it was a sensation. Like with the Three Tenors later, people who had never heard of Rudolf Nureyev or Margot Fonteyn knew all about “Fonteyn and Nureyev.”

      • Sharon says:

        From what I have read, Nureyev frequently used his celebrity to help regional dance companies who were willing to pay him a lot of money because he filled the house.

        Although anyone in the worldwide gay community during Nureyev’s lifetime knew of his reputation for extreme promiscuity there is not one report that Nureyev had ever made sex with him a condition of getting any sort of a professional favor from him, including when he was the director of the Paris ballet. He also was careful about not pursuing those he knew were minors.

        As far as his farewell tour was concerned, although Nureyev knew that he was not very good anymore, towards the end he was willing to dance in lesser known and out of the way venues because he was trying to help a friend who was trying to build up his new business as a performer’s agent. This (straight) man had worked as a bodyguard and as a masseuse for Nuryev for at least 10 years. Although Nureyev with a few exceptions did not participate in charities or causes he would go out of his way to help friends.

        I agree with Ms. Richardson and Tired that “stars behaving badly” are kept on because they get the tushies in the seats.

        Unfortunately, Norman, Covid, if anything, will encourage this trend to continue. When venues are eventually allowed to fill the house they will be so broke that they will do anything to fill their house and will jump at the chance to get any famous name, even someone who has some black marks against him, if they feel that they can get away with it.

        The most effective way to deal with sexual abuse in the arts, especially among stars, is for the audience not to buy tickets to the performances of known abusers and not to contribute to arts organizations that hire them. In other words, boycott.

        During the Black Lives Matter protests my email inbox was overloaded with statements from performing arts organizations who explained how they would increase their support and hiring of minorities and work to change the “implicit racism” in their organizations. They were terrified of the negative publicity that they believed might result from not making a statement that they were taking action and that that might lead to audience and donor boycotts.

        However as long as the stars can bring in the money arts organizations will turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of the famous and thus powerful.

      • Sharon says:

        With regard to Nureyev, although he may not have been as technically good as some others he exuded a combination of androgyny and sexuality that made him an irresistible presence to his audience

        Nureyev, for most of his life he did want to be as technically and artistically competent as possible, and could do so with a lot less rehearsal than most dancers. However, he knew that his sexual presence on stage was his claim to fame and always, or at least before his farewell tour, tried to make the most of it. This was why he made so many demands concerning his costuming, entrances etc

    • Dave says:

      Because the paying opera public are mostly elderly.

  • Grittenhouse says:

    Who are you to assume his total guilt, just because of a number of women accusing him? How prejudicial, sexist, and just plain wrong.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    To the Left everything is power. Thank heaven it is largely on the run politically the world over.

    • V. Lind says:

      Power? Surely you jest.

    • Larry D says:

      Yes, when it is replaced by fascism Sue Sonata will lead the applause. And that famous salute.

    • True North says:

      You know, dear Sue, I’ve noticed that sometimes you actually put together halfway cogent thoughts on other topics, but then comments like this one make it very difficult to take you seriously on anything else. Spout enough silly b.s., and (smart) people will soon begin to tune you out altogether. I have one perpetually aggrieved, richly self-entitled boomer just like you in my extended family, and this has now happened to them. Just a friendly warning 🙂

      • Kendrick says:

        (Smart) people who KNEW Hillary Clinton’s victory was “in the bag” already celebrating as they laughed hysterically at Trump; those (Smart) people True North???

        Sue and the rest of us who voted for the only candidate who was truly capable of executing the duties of the office for the benefit of ALL Americans is certainly (Smarter) than any of you people.

        As of yesterday, the sloppy Democrats continued their self-serving, cowardly tactics of letting the entire American public suffer using their typical vindictive, selfish ploys.

        Trump didn’t sit around like Obama and just get ‘upset’ like the man-child he is and whine.

        President Trump just signed an executive order providing more Payroll Tax, Unemployment and Student Loan assistance!!! It’s called being PROACTIVE and GETTING THINGS DONE!!!!!

        All while Biden, the rest of the former ‘candidates of color’ and lost leftists do the same thing. They cry and flail around for attention while yet again “the adult in the room” takes care of things while they merely act out.

        Sue has more going for her than the rest of your ilk; a mind, a heart and a soul!

        • True North says:

          Whatever you say. If you truly believe all of that, nobody can help you. Enjoy your fading empire while it lasts.

      • Jonathan Prigg says:

        Personally, the more I read what True North espouses, the more certitude I have in Trump’s leadership.

        Hillary and the Democrats couldn’t have managed any of the issues Trump dealt with considering their neurotic tendencies and propensities for violence. Her poorly selling book and the deplorables who supported and actually voted for her have continually provided confidence in Trump’s presidency.

        I am counting on poorly educated people like yourself to encourage us to vote Trump2020 True North!

        Have a blessed Sunday!!!

        • True North says:

          See my response to above. By the way, I’m not from the United States and I don’t care too much what silly things you do, as long as you stay on your side of the border. But some part of you must see that what is happening in America, compared to the rest of the world, is very bad. Last question: why are you still talking about Hillary? I thought she lost in 2016.

          • Dawn Rouse says:

            The Democrats fiercely stated “I’m with her” and she abandoned them on election night then they eventually dumped her and she’s STILL complaining daily; that’s why.

            Those of us who voted Trump in have resolve, loyalty and love of country. He’s getting things done and legitimately helping all legal citizens.

            It’s been obvious to us that those on the left have nothing to offer but uncertainty, negativity and violence since 2016 which is the ongoing narrative Dems purvey. They are clearly incapable of caring for their states and cities as reports of their failures permeate the headlines.

            If only they could afford to jump the border and simply live near those like you. Unfortunately they’re too poor and don’t realize your country enforces immigration laws too.

          • Mezzo Lover says:

            “why are you still talking about Hillary?”

            She’s a woman and there’s nothing else to talk about in the media unless of course you’re black.

            Her book “What Happened” is a testament to the narrow Left and their lust for outdoing each other’s misery and perceived oppression.

            That’s how the Left made themselves irrelevant.

            These people can’t even rally around the performing arts so what good are they??

          • V. Lind says:


          • Nathaniel Marrin III says:

            Hillary hasn’t amounted to anything, has she??

      • Cassandra Hume says:

        Here’s how NOT to deal with infidelity by a formerly powerful woman courtesy of CNN.

        In the end, the imaginary sense of power she and her sycophants created went POOF without her even acknowledging her base on election night. Then the sycophants (who marketed themselves as open and accepting) had a collective, violent meltdown and she never tried to lead them again…only whine for the rest of her life.

  • Jimbo says:

    ALL sexual abuse is about power that’s well understood by psychologists across the globe. The power hungry sometimes happen to choose sex as their weapon of choice.

    • V. Lind says:

      I took from NL’s piece that “it was about power” did not mean Domingo was seeking it, but the audience-pulling power he had as superstar was what made managements close a very blind eye.

  • NONAME says:

    Losers, are you ready to post your dirty comments?

    It is definitely the most interesting part of your life to post a bull shit about Domingo.

  • V. Lind says:

    Interesting notion: with no box office to protect, companies and managements have less to lose by acting to respond more to workplace problems attributed to star performers, if I interpret you correctly.

    But is it likely this sort of belated, not to say pseudo-, integrity would be continued once theatres are permitted to open for normal business again? They will have SO much to try to recoup. Surviving stars will be able to write their own contracts. They may not be at the level of Domingo or Levine in the household name sense, but will at least be well-known in music audience circles. (I know — real music fans would not cough up for Domingo — or Levine — latterly unless there was some other compelling reason to attend — other stars, a piece they had longed to hear live, etc.)

    But while the climate is not these days conducive to making classical musicians household names, there are still ways of finding the best available talent around, and people will tend to choose to go to their performances when they can. Couldn’t it start all over again?

    If companies and managements put written and serious policies in place, it may be possible to curb bad behaviour — not just sexual, but bullying, or other diva-ish attitudes that lead to toxic working environments. They will have provided channels that protect complainants.

    It would be good. But while there are deniers of any criticism of the likes of Domingo around, and if an anti-MeToo animus — which is deeply misogynistic — continues to grow, it seems unlikely.

    • Bruce says:

      Agreed. Human nature is not going to change. There will always be people who prey on the less powerful, and there will always be those who enable them to do so.

      The only way the culture will change is if another way is found that makes more money.

  • Sam says:

    If you’re going to broaden the conversation to music, power and Putin, how can you omit – glaringly – the toxic relationship between the entire music industry and the Venezuelan regime? Because Chavismo identifies with the left, and the left can do no wrong? Even as prominent Venezuelan artists of conscience screamed their concerns from the rooftops for a decade, managers kept booking the flag-wearing orchestras, and promoters lined up to cash in. And boy, did they all cash in! That decade-and-a-half of highly organized, targeted, regime-funded propaganda dwarfs anything in the history of the classical genre, let alone the Putin axis, which does not act in the name of Putin abroad, or wear the Russian flag. El Sistema prostituted itself to a multi-billion dollar lie, knowingly, yet it’s chief protagonist remains “The Dude” on this blog! It’s really quite shocking, especially for the 6 million Venezuelan exiles, the dying, the impoverished and the starving. Let alone for those who sounded the alarm, but were ridiculed. And the “El Sistema” franchise continues to spread like a brushfire, fanned by high-profile artists, even though it’s board is populated by sanctioned criminals, like Maduro Jr. and Delcy Rodriguez. What the hell? A conversation about music and power that fails to mention Dudamel and Chavez is like a me-too convention that omits the words Weinstein and Epstein!

    • Sharon says:

      Dudamel fled and Chavez is dead.
      Haven’t the “El Sistema” orchestras, been more or less disbanded because the government no longer has the money to support them?

  • Eduardo says:

    what would Gurnemanz say?????

  • Tonino says:

    What changed, Mr Lebrecht? Not long ago you were describing the AP article that started all this as a “hit piece” and clearly siding with Domingo.

    • V. Lind says:

      Maybe Domingo’s response(s)? Or lack of them? Nobody has suggested he did anything worth taking him to court for, but if he has been libelled, he has legal recourse.

      Maybe the LA report, which deniers wilfully misread and misquote, or the fact that every stage in America is closed to him? If he has been wronged, there are a gazillion lawsuits clamouring for a plaintiff.

      Evidence? I for one am impressed that NL appears to have followed his closely, and am aware that he knows an awful lot of people in an awful lot of concert halls and opera houses, and that he may have quietly investigated and then reflected on the unfolding saga and reviewed his position. It’s what grown-ups do.