Why is Covent Garden talking to Domingo?

Why is Covent Garden talking to Domingo?


norman lebrecht

March 23, 2021

The Royal Opera House told the Times this morning that it has plans for Placido Domingo:

Covent Garden has said it is in discussion with the 80-year-old singer about a future collaboration, and has said it will “take on board many of the facts and manner of the allegations”….

In an interview in Times2 today Oliver Mears, director of opera at Covent Garden, said: “Plácido has a long-standing and rich association with the opera house going back many decades and we’re currently discussing what form any future collaboration might take either next season or beyond that.”

Are they out of their minds?

Why in the thick of a pandemic and Brexit border controls would they turn to a superannuated Spanish singer, tainted by sexual misconduct allegations and an appetite for state honours and high fees?

If this is the future of the ROH, it has none. This is a really serious misjudgement by Royal Opera director Oliver Mears, probably pressured by members of his board.

Domingo is presently spending much of his time in Moscow, entertaining Putin puppets.


The Times, in its leader, writes: Democratic societies have greater moral standing than this, and their publicly subsidised arts organisations should bid farewell to this star performer.


  • V.Lind says:

    Well, good for The Times for standing up. Either the ROH has taken a position on how artists (and others employed there) treat one another or it has not.

    For God’s sake, have they no ears? The man is past his sell-by date. Of course they have a history with him — he was a sublime artists and every decent opera house in the world engaged him. But that was then and this is now and a few things have been discovered in between. But most importantly, he is no longer the artist he was. Isn’t there ANYBODY else who can fill a hall to 30% or whatever capacity they are allowed? After all, whatever their sins, a lot of the people who fork out substantial chunks of change to subscribe to the opera do know what they are listening to, and are as delighted to find a new singer on the uprise — if he is good — as they are to fork out extra for superannuated singers who bring back memories of their giddy youth.

    Hope there is lots of protest and this is STOPPED.

    • Emil says:

      The ROH was quick to fire Grigolo over similar conduct a few years ago (which, I believe, occurred on an ROH tour), and other houses immediately followed suit. And now the ROH would want to do the exact opposite? It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

      Irrespective of the financial and artistic reasons, the ethical course of action here is clear. Apply the policy as they did for Grigolo (and as the Met did with him) – cut ties and move on.

      • V.Lind says:

        Exactly — I was thinking of their action on Grigolo, which laid out their colours on this issue. Do they mean it or do they not? If they shut the proverbial blind eye to Domingo they are merely doing what WAS done for far too long, and not only with PD: treating bigger stars (or revenue sources) differently than they treat others. Fame as protection. I know: it has worked for centuries, for millennia, even. But, once again, that was then, this is now.

        • Marfisa says:

          The Grigolo situation was different from the Domingo situation. Grigolo apparently groped a female singer on stage at the curtain call, in front of the audience, and then started fought with other cast members who tried to stop him. That was why his other performances were cancelled. I don’t think Domingo ever did anything like that.

        • BruceB says:

          “We firmly stand by our zero-tolerance policy of any inappropriate behavior whatsoever from any insufficiently profitable member of the company.”

      • Karl says:

        Why should ROH cut ties with Domingo if he hasn’t done anything wrong there? ROH reported this last year:
        “In a statement on Friday, the Covent Garden opera house made clear that it had not received complaints against the singer during his time there”


        • Tom Phillips says:

          Both because he is a hideous lech and perhaps – even more importantly – an increasingly embarrassing “baritone” whose sell-by date occurred over a decade ago.

        • Emil says:

          Because they do not exist in a fishbowl, and recognize that there is a world beyond Covent Garden?

          • Karl says:

            Yes I see your reasoning- he has gotten too many down votes here on SD so he can never perform anywhere. lol.

  • Fredflintstone says:

    Oh, Norman… “Why in the thick of a pandemic and Brexit border controls would they turn to a superannuated Spanish singer, tainted by sexual misconduct allegations and an appetite for state honours and high fees?”
    – … Placido Domingo is still one of the great singers alive. He brings a high level of artistry and atracts patrons and donors.
    – … because seasons are programmed not a year in advanced, but two or three. If you had any experience with music-making you’d know.
    – … because if brexit means that EU people cannot work in the UK because of border controls, then so many UK musicians should be shipped back to the island and not allowed to work in the continent.
    – “sexual misconduct”. Sexual misconduct is Robert King, Duncan McTier, Philip Pickett, Nicolas Smith… (all of them CONVICTED!). There have been no charges against Placido Domingo.
    – High fees? As they say in HR “commensurate with experience”. If he asks for high fees and cultural institutions pay it is because they consider that what he brings is worth it.
    – Apetite for high honours? Whatever, Norman. What else do you want to to criticize? His bad taste in shoes? His watch? His hair style? At least, Norman, he will be remembered in 50 or 60 years; in that time no-one will be long forgotten and your books widely discredited.

    • Thinking aloud says:

      Well said Fredflintstone. Norman Lebrecht criticises Domingo at every opportunity.
      The simple answer to “why is Covent Garden talking to Domingo” is he fills theatres.
      After the past year of closed theatres and no income there will be plenty of theatres who no doubt would like his presence to help them to recover financially.

      • Jack says:

        “The simple answer to “why is Covent Garden talking to Domingo” is he fills theatres.”

        This is the key. Domingo is one of the few figures in opera today who guarantees a full house. Opera companies will be desperate for house fillers when [or if] the pandemic ends.

        Domingo was never charged with, let alone convicted, of any crime. As such, the ROH’s decision is a no-brainer.

        • EU person says:

          ROH has announced many great opera artists at the upcoming season. Netrebko, Youncheva, Kaufmann, Gheorghiu, Di Donato.
          Do you think they can’t fill ROH?

  • A.L. says:

    When is Enough Enough?

  • Fredflintstone says:

    I meant: At least, Norman, he will be remembered in 50 or 60 years; in that time you will be long forgotten and your books widely discredited.

  • Yes Addison says:

    Maybe that decided that “his achievements will outweigh this seedy episode.”

  • Anna Yu says:

    Finally the justice, I hope. Maestro deserves to sing everywhere he wants. Those ridiculous accusations were just a plot. They wanted to make their anti-cultural revolution. So they did it. Let Domingo sing. He deserves it by whole his life. The greatest singer! The greatest artist!

    • V.Lind says:

      I would REALLY like to see you try to twist and distort your preposterous assertion that the accusations were “just a plot…to make their [whose?] anti-cultural [which culture?] revolution.” I want to see if you can do logic from point A to point B, marshal a few facts and present a cogent argument rather than just blatantly pronounce your emotionally-driven position.

      • vibay says:

        It is easy to criticize someone of “being emotionally-driven”. Isn’t your point of view also emotional? Aren’t you and your arguments emotionally driven? First look who’s talking.

        • V.Lind says:

          First, there has been a substantial investigation of Domingo’s conduct offstage that found accusations levelled against him to be credible. Second, I find it hard to believe that hundreds of women across the US who would for one reason or another find him at the very least uncomfortable to work with too widespread to be coincidental. Third, I do not believe that dozens of concert halls and opera houses, all cash-strapped and in the business of getting people interested in attending, would cease engaging him — star draw that he clearly still is — when it is acting against their own self-interest. As is evident from the pro-Domingo arguments and his engagements in Europe, there is clearly still an audience for him, however he sings — celebrity trumps all, as we have seen in all sorts of cases, from Cosby to the last US President. Fourth, he has changed his own story according to what has been determined by external examiners. Fifth, I do not accept the spurious argument that the AP, a respected organ of journalism that checks and re-checks its facts before publishing, would have made this up .

          As I have said throughout this debate, I was and remain a great admirer of Domingo as a singer and as a proponent of young talent through operations like Operalia, his recent associations notwithstanding. I have no intention of throwing out any of his recordings that I have. My quarrel in this story was more with the ROH, which after cancelling him had no compunction about firing Grigolo, which looked like a position and one that it has now reversed.

          If Anna Yu can do as I asked and offer similarly unemotional argument, I will welcome the opportunity to look at it. I have no emotional investment here — I was as shocked and disbelieving as anyone else when this story broke, and have simply followed the story as it unfolded, from Domingo’s early justification to the investigation and its outcome and all the rest. Those who have taken the position that he didn’t do anything wrong have supported their contention by trying to trash the press, suggesting that the complainants did so for profit (how? when? the AP does not pay for stories and nobody has made any money from this). They have made a federal case out of the fact that he has never been charged in court — while nobody has made any allegation that rises to the level of criminal activity. The only person who had recourse to the courts was Domingo himself, in that he could have sued — in a notoriously litigious country — for libel and/or slander. He did not. When that failed, they have retreated into simple partisan assertion. All I am asking for is their rational, not whingey “he didn’t…he couldn’t…THEY did it to him…” arguments. I have yet to read a single one that actually makes a case for him beyond the fact that they love him.

          One understands the devotion — he was a truly great artist and in many respects a great and good man for most of his life, and miscreancy does not stop him from being a good, a humanitarian, a caring man who still has a lot to offer music, though perhaps not on stage.

          There is not one of these points that I and others have not made here before, and yet the devotees remain aggressive in the face of any contradiction. All I sought was a reasoned defence. I have yet to see one.

          • EU person says:

            How can you explain that there are no harassment accusations at other countries? Did he “harass” at US only? Why did he “harass” at US only?

          • Karl says:

            Why did he harass at the US only? Because rape hysteria is more rampant here and false accusations are also rampant.

          • EU person says:

            Have you heard about false accusation in rape or sexual harassment in the US? What is the purpose of such false accusations?

          • V.Lind says:

            Not by people all over the country. These things happen in ones. And, admire him though you might, they do happen.

          • V.Lind says:

            I think there were a few in Spain, and a few cancellations there too.

            But to answer your questions: 1) I don’t think that is true. 2) I don’t know. 3) I don’t think he did — see first par — but I don’t know.

          • EU person says:

            To: V.Lind
            I’ve never heard about accusation in Spain. Please post a link to any proof information.

            I read that Spain Minister of culture ordered to cancel Domingo’s performances at Zarzuela theater after reading newspapers with AP or / and LA opera investigation report.

            After that Domingo announced himself that he withdrew from Teatro Real (Madrid).

          • V.Lind says:

            You may be right. I did remember the cancellation — https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/domingo-spain-cancels-1.5476804 — but I may have misremembered about specific allegations sourced there. I did say “I think” as I was not entirely certain — in the face of so many other allegations and his apologies, I seem to have conflated the two separate streams of story, for which I apologise.

            But how much do you think it took for Spain to come to such a decision over someone it considers (or did) a national treasure? At least as much as it took the Met, and LA Opera, and all the other places where his presence was no longer welcomed, no patter the cost to their practical treasure.

            At leat they have taken a position. My issue on this thread is that the ROH seems to be dropping its out of naked self-interest, and I find that reprehensible. I got sidetracked by the nonsense that has been offered.

          • EU person says:

            To V.Lind
            I’m not sure if you have friends in Spain.
            My Spanish friends say their Minister of culture is highly non-professional. He makes lots of unreasonable decisions regarding other issues.

  • George says:

    I also think that Plácido Domingo – given the longstanding history and the success he’s brought the opera house including the many DVDs and recordings they sold with him – deserves a Farewell performance from his UK audience. Also I think there are a lot of people who would like to attend that and thank him for the many, many exceptional musical highlights of the past, e.g. his Hoffmann or Otello, both wonderful productions.

    • Stuart says:

      How do you do a farewell performance for a singer who won’t stop singing and retire (as he should have done decades ago given the state of his voice)?

  • ForFach'sSake! says:

    The man can’t sing anymore. His entire reincarnation as a baritone has made a mockery of opera, not to mention deprived real baritones of opportunity. It’s time to end this expensive, fraudulent farce. Just retire! And stop enabling him!

  • Zandonai says:

    Kudos to ROH for resisting the American woke leftism cancel culture.

  • Barry Nicolle says:

    Domingo is long, long past his sell by date, if he hasn’t the grace to retire he should be dropped, there are loads of excellent young tenors about now, one only has to listen on YouTube.

  • Hugh Kerr says:

    I have seen Domingo over 50 years at Covent Garden and most recently at Vienna last September. I think he should retire not because of his supposed sexual activity but because the voice not surprisingly at 80 plus isn’t what it used to be ! Hugh Kerr editor of Edinburgh Music

  • Andrew Hogbin says:

    One assumes Covent Garden is so desperate for cash these days that they are prepared to overlook one of the few star name’s “issues”. One of the great tenors he should have retired decades ago and his “conducting” is, well, not even adequate. I prefer to remember his glory days.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    If he is so past his sell-by date how come he still packs in the audiences? He does because I have seen it in recent years even to my own surprise. In any case he could be conducting where age doesn’t seem to matter.
    A lot of male jealousy on here.

    • Karl says:

      He’s a terrible conductor unfortunately. Maybe he could narrate. The only time I heard Sherrill Milnes was when he had given up singing and gone to narrating.

    • EU person says:

      Tickets for Domingo’s performances at Bolshoi in Moscow were sold out in several minutes. I mean Conducting of La Boheme, gala-concert and singing in Don Carlo.

      • Madeleine Richardson says:

        I know. All the performances I have seen within a four-year period (prior to Covid) have been packed and could have been sold out many times over.
        It’s simple: those who don’t want to hear Domingo sing don’t have to. Those who do and can afford the tickets, can do so. I refuse to let anyone tell me who I can and cannot listen to.
        He is still the best operatic actor around. It’s a free society.

  • Zandonai says:

    I have a perfect role for Domingo to sing: Turandot’s Emperor Altoum.