U.S. markets closed

Opera star Domingo apologizes as union probe confirms 'inappropriate activity'

Hazel WARD
1 / 2

Allegations against Placido Domingo first surfaced in August 2019 and in months had effectively ended his US career

Allegations against Placido Domingo first surfaced in August 2019 and in months had effectively ended his US career (AFP Photo/Attila KISBENEDEK)

Madrid (AFP) - Opera star Placido Domingo, facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, on Tuesday apologized for "the hurt" caused to his accusers, as a union probe found he engaged in a pattern of "inappropriate activity."

The 79-year-old -- a mainstay of some of the world's most prestigious opera houses -- delivered the apology as the American Guild of Musical Artists announced the wrap of an independent investigation into the storied tenor-turned-baritone, which was launched in early September over members' allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

At least 20 women have accused Domingo of forcibly kissing, grabbing or fondling them in incidents dating back to at least the 1980s. He has maintained that his relationships were consensual, and in the apology did not specifically confirm any allegations.

"I respect that these women finally felt comfortable enough to speak out, 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," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, AGMA published a statement saying its internal probe "concluded that Mr. Domingo had, in fact, engaged in inappropriate activity, ranging from flirtation to sexual advances, in and outside of the workplace."

"Many of the witnesses expressed fear of retaliation in the industry as their reason for not coming forward sooner," the opera, choral and dance union said, indicating its board had "accepted the findings of the report and will take appropriate action."

It said the full probe would remain internal -- hours before The New York Times reported inquiry finding leaks had spoiled a deal between AGMA and Domingo, which would see the union limit public statements regarding its findings.

The Times said a plan had been in the works for Domingo to pay the union $500,000 in exchange for privacy concerning the inquiry.

But a "flagrant breach of confidentiality" caused Domingo's legal team to drop the agreement, the paper said, citing an email from union leaders to its board.

The performer's spokeswoman, Nancy Seltzer, told AFP "what is truthful is we are in ongoing discussions with the union on how to move forward."

Queried by AFP regarding that report, AGMA representatives did not immediately respond.

- Punished for saying no? -

Harassment allegations against Domingo first began surfacing in August 2019. Two months later, he stepped down from the Los Angeles Opera and withdrew from further performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera, effectively ending his US career.

Many fans and fellow performers leapt to Domingo's defense, describing him as an innocent "ladies' man."

But reports drew a picture of a man who acted with impunity, shielded by his power as one of opera's foremost stars as a whisper network evolved warning women about his alleged reputation.

Several women said Domingo tried pressuring them into sexual relationships by dangling jobs, and then sometimes punished them professionally when they refused his advances.

Domingo said Tuesday that had "never" been his intention.

"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."

"While that was never my intention, no one should ever be made to feel that way," said Domingo.

- Empowering artists -

AGMA called for an industry-wide initiative to "positively change the culture."

"This will ensure that artists feel respected and empowered to address sexual harassment and related issues going forward," said AGMA director Leonard Egert.

The union vowed training programs to empower its members to speak out against harassment.

Domingo's statement came a day after former Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault.

The emergence of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein in October 2017 ignited a global reckoning over men who have abused positions of power.

In Europe, Domingo continues to receive standing ovations even as his US career came to a standstill.

Since the allegations surfaced, the Spanish megastar has performed in Austria, Hungary and Russia. He has a string of upcoming concerts in Europe, including a Hamburg performance set for March 22.