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Sexual harassment allegations against Placido Domingo “credible”, says LA Opera report

By | Published on Wednesday 11 March 2020

Placido Domingo

The LA Opera has published the findings of its investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Placido Domingo – the opera star who helped found and later led the company. It said it had received ten “credible” allegations, although the singer himself continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher carried out the independent investigation, which lasted for six months and involved interviews with 44 people, including Domingo himself. It said that the ten allegations it had received were “deemed … to be credible, in part because of the similarities in [the accusers’] accounts”.

“The level of discomfort reported by the women varied, ranging from some women stating they were not uncomfortable to others who described significant trauma”, it went on. “Some individuals stated that they felt discouraged to report misconduct due to Mr Domingo’s importance and stature”.

However, it added, it had “found no evidence that Mr Domingo ever engaged in a quid pro quo or retaliated against any woman by not casting or otherwise hiring her at LA Opera”. Partly this was because hiring at the company involves a team of people.

Debra Katz, an attorney representing a number of Domingo’s accusers, expressed disappointment at this part of the investigation. She told the New York Times that at least one of her clients believes she lost opportunities at the LA Opera as a direct result of rejecting Domingo’s advances.

The investigation also had some criticism for the LA Opera itself, saying that while its policies and procedures on sexual harassment were sufficient, the way in which they had been implemented were not. In particular, the law firm “found LA Opera’s communications regarding sexual harassment to be insufficiently robust and at times lacking”.

It added that the company’s “approach to addressing sexual harassment was largely reactive until 2018” and the “structure, process, and documentation relating to sexual harassment in earlier years had been too informal and at times inconsistent”.

In response, the LA Opera said that it was implementing all recommendations made by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher on improving its systems for reporting sexual harassment.

The company said: “We believe that everyone should be treated respectfully and feel secure within their work environment. We also believe everyone should feel safe and should be encouraged to report any misconduct they encounter”.

“As such”, it added, “we deeply regret the negative experiences that the people impacted have had at LA Opera and apologise to those affected. We are committed to doing everything we can to foster a professional and collaborative environment where all our employees and artists feel comfortable, valued and respected”.

It also thanked the women who had come forward to take part in the investigation, saying that “their openness, perspective and candour will effect real change”.

Domingo, who had been involved with the LA Opera since its inception in 1986, stepped down as its General Director last year in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations. He has not yet responded to the publication of the results of the company’s investigation.

Last month, it was revealed that another investigation by the American Guild Of Musical Artists had also found evidence of sexual harassment by Domingo. Although this only became public when the report was leaked by a whistleblower.

It emerged that the organisation had been attempting to negotiate a deal with Domingo to keep the report confidential in exchange for a payment of $500,000. This despite the AGMA saying last year that it was launching an investigation because it didn’t believe the opera companies Domingo was involved with could be trusted to do the job properly.

When the AGMA report was published, Domingo issued a statement saying that he was “truly sorry for the hurt” caused to the women involved and that he accepted “full responsibility” for his actions. However, later that week he issued a new statement saying: “I know what I haven’t done, and I will deny it again. I have never behaved aggressively toward anybody, nor have I ever done anything to obstruct or hurt the career of anybody”.

While the allegations have effectively brought Domingo’s career to a halt in the US, he has continued to book regular appearances across Europe. However, as these investigations have started to publish their findings a number of those performances have been cancelled too.