Artist News

Placido Domingo says he is “truly sorry”, after leaked performer union investigation confirms sexual harassment allegations

By | Published on Wednesday 26 February 2020

Placido Domingo

Opera singer Placido Domingo has issued an apology after an investigation by the American Guild Of Musical Artists found evidence of inappropriate behaviour towards women while he was working in various powerful positions across the music industry.

However, it also emerged that the union had been negotiating a deal to keep this information confidential in return for a payment of $500,000 by the musician. The deal was scuppered after the results of the investigation were leaked yesterday.

In an email to members, obtained by the New York Times, the union’s National Executive Director Leonard Egert and its President Raymond Menard said: “Based on this flagrant breach of confidentiality Domingo’s counsel has withdrawn the agreement, which was expressly premised on AGMA’s promise to maintain confidentiality over the details of the investigatory report”.

“As a result of their actions”, they said of the whistleblower who leaked the document, “AGMA has lost $500,000 that not only would have covered the costs of the investigation, but also would have funded an extensive sexual harassment prevention training programme that is so desperately needed in our industry”.

According to the Associated Press, which first broke the news of accusations against Domingo last year, AGMA investigators spoke to 27 women who said that they had been subject to his inappropriate behaviour.

Among the allegations were unsolicited kissing and groping, and late night phone calls inviting women to his house. Two women said that they’d had sex with Domingo for fear of the consequences for their career if they didn’t, and some said that they felt like he was stalking them.

Having previously denied all accusations – as recently as December he said that his “gestures of gallantry” had been misconstrued as harassment – Domingo said in a statement yesterday: “I have taken time over the last several months to reflect on the allegations that various colleagues of mine have made against me”.

“I respect that these women finally felt comfortable enough to speak out”, he went on, “and I want them to know that I am truly sorry for the hurt that I caused them. I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I have grown from this experience”.

“I understand now that some women may have feared expressing themselves honestly because of a concern that their careers would be adversely affected if they did so”, he went on. “While that was never my intention, no one should ever be made to feel that way”.

He concluded: “I am committed to affecting positive change in the opera industry so that no one else has to have that same experience. It is my fervent wish that the result will be a safer place to work for all in the opera industry, and I hope that my example moving forward will encourage others to follow”.

Also speaking to the AP, Debra Katz – a lawyer representing two women who previously went public with accusations against Domingo – said that she was “distressed” to learn that the AGMA had been attempting to negotiate confidentiality for Domingo in return for money.

“The fact is that AGMA was trying to enter into a secret deal with Placido Domingo that was conditioned on confidentiality, and in exchange he gave a tepid apology and offered to pay some money that is a fraction of what he earns”, she said. “And what are the women getting out of this?”

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Domingo first emerged last summer, with more women coming forward following the initial report by the Associated Press.

Spanning two decades, the women involved said that they had previously felt pressure not to speak out due to Domingo’s powerful positions in the industry, including as General Director and co-founder of the Los Angeles Opera – from which he resigned in October. An investigation there is ongoing.

The AGMA announced that it was launching its own investigation a month after the first report, saying that it was not confident that the opera organisations with a direct connection to Domingo could be trusted to properly scrutinise the allegations. Though given its subsequent decision to offer to cover up its findings in return for cash, it seems slightly ironic that the AGMA felt only it was qualified to properly investigate Domingo’s past conduct.

As for what the leaked AGMA report and Domingo’s response to it means for his professional activities moving forward remains to be seen. His career in the US has been more or less halted since the original accusations were made, but he has continued to perform regularly in Europe.

Various venues, including the Royal Opera House in London, have already said that booked performances will go ahead as planned, despite the publication of the AGMA’s findings. However, the Salzburg Festival in Austria – which hosted Domingo’s first appearance after the initial allegations last year – has said that it is now reconsidering his 2020 appearance.