Plácido Domingo’s days as a performer should be over

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Plácido Domingo, the disgraced 81-year-old opera tenor outright exiled from opera circles in the United States over allegations of sexual harassment that spanned three decades, is now believed to have been linked by Argentine prosecutors to a criminal enterprise in Buenos Aires which included sex trafficking of minors.

In wiretaps obtained by prosecutors and reported Wednesday, what authorities say is the voice of the Spanish-born tenor – the very one that made him an international superstar on the world’s biggest stages – is heard in arranging a date with a woman named “Mendy”. (Elsewhere in the recordings, “Mendy” would be heard referring to the man as Plácido.) The man gives “Mendy” instructions on how they should avoid being seen together and asks him to arrive separately in his hotel room.

The operation was one of about 50 raids by authorities on the Criminal Front (aka “Buenos Aires Yoga School”) in which 19 people were arrested. As of Thursday morning, no charges had been brought against Domingo, and his representatives did not immediately respond to a Washington Post request for comment.

The news may be shocking even to those familiar with the events of 2019, when multiple harassment allegations against the singer first emerged from nine female artists. A month after the first wave of charges, 11 more women said they were stalked by the singer, who they say pressured them into having sex, suspended job opportunities as leverage, and meted out professional punishments if they rejected his overtures, which included groping and forced kissing. Dozens of witnesses corroborated the women’s claims that Domingo simply couldn’t — or more accurately, wouldn’t — keep his hands to himself.

In the aftermath, he withdrew from performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and resigned from LA Opera, where he had been general manager. His name was retired in March 2020 from the prestigious Washington National Opera Young Artists Program – now known simply as Cafritz Young Artists of Washington National Opera.

Following harassment allegations against Plácido Domingo, companies back down

As for Domingo, he made the brave decision to face his demons in public by posting an apology on Facebook that quickly turned into denial.

“My apologies were sincere and heartfelt, to any colleague I have made uncomfortable or hurt in any way, by anything I have said or done,” he typed, putting up the twist. “But I know what I didn’t do and I will deny it again. I have never behaved aggressively towards anyone and have never done anything to hinder or harm anyone’s career in any way.

“On the contrary,” he continued. “I have spent much of my half-century in the opera world supporting the industry and advancing the careers of countless singers.”

A huge number of singers who allege that Domingo’s despicable behavior derailed their careers might disagree.

After a 2020 investigation by the American Guild of Musical Artists found that Domingo had in fact acted inappropriately, he followed up with a cleaner apology: “I respect that these women finally felt they were enough. comfortable speaking up, and I want them to know that I’m so sorry for the hurt I’ve caused them,” he said in a statement.

And now we have this. What will Domingo’s excuse be this time? That “Mendy” wasn’t a singer? And more importantly, what will be the excuse of the rest of the world?

On Thursday morning, Domingo was still on the schedules at Arena Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico (live vocals); Arena Di Verona (a week-long engagement with the company still criticized for its stubborn adherence to blackface in its recent production of “Aida”, which led to soprano Angel Blue withdrawing in protest from her scheduled performance in ” La Traviata” of the company.”); the Ljubljana Festival in Slovenia; as well as concerts in Spain, Turkey, Germany, Hungary, Paraguay, Bolivia, Belgium, Croatia, United Arab Emirates and Italy.

These follow months of uninterrupted performances across Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, unhindered by the hermetically sealed antipathy the American opera world has managed to foster towards the singer. On the international stage, Domingo has largely weathered the storm of aftermath and remained an in-demand international star. But why?

I can tell you right now that’s not his voice – a naturally diminished instrument, these days more suited to channeling tense nostalgia than giving fresh expression. The fire that once lit his voice is half fueled by the flame that lives in the listener’s memory.

Still, that tense nostalgia is a precious thing. Domingo himself may be growing into a void, but his presence still fills seats, keeps doors open, and (most importantly) keeps demand.

How desperate and sad to see institutions pretend Domingo is a legend instead of a man, that his artistic legacy must be preserved at the expense of their own integrity. Again, that integrity has to come from somewhere. The opera world, too prone to protecting its own bad habits, just can’t seem to get over Domingo.

Companies that continue to support violent men send a clear signal to young artists entering the world of opera: you are on your own. They also spread a particular kind of cowardice – not just fear for the future, but a palpable fear of this. What happens when we stop treating talented men like earthly gods? What are the stakes in removing the reins of power from the hands of those most likely to abuse it? Why don’t these companies see behavior like this as a betrayal of the art they work so hard to produce?

Most changes take time in opera – diversifying casts, re-examining the canon, elevating marginalized perspectives to stage level. But the Domingo problem is easy. Stop booking it.

At the top of his website, a self-enhancing mantra remains below his name: “If I rest, I rust.”

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