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Spanish opera star Placido Domingo apologises to women after harassment claims

James Badcock
Placido Domingo - AP

Celebrated Spanish opera singer Plácido Domingo has accepted “full responsibility” after multiple accusations of sexual harassment by women he had worked with were reportedly upheld in a non-judicial investigation.

The investigation into Mr Domingo’s behaviour was conducted by lawyers hired by the American Guild of Musical Artists after news reports last year revealed accounts by 27 women who said the singer, now aged 79, had sexually harassed them or made unwanted approaches.

The panel concluded that the accounts showed a clear pattern of sexual misconduct and abuse of power by Mr Domingo spanning at least two decades when he held senior management positions at Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera, according to those who spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity. The findings have not yet been made public.

Mr Domingo, who had previously brushed off the accusations as baseless, issued a statement to the Spanish Europa Press agency on Tuesday saying he wanted the women who had accused him to know that “I am truly sorry for the hurt that I caused them.”

“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,” his statement continued.

It is unclear whether any of the accusations against Mr Domingo could prompt a criminal investigation.

Retired opera singer Patricia Wulf was one of the women who came forward, and one of only two who have so far gone public with the allegations. "In my business, he was like God," she said in August 2019. Ms Wulf, who starred with Mr Domingo at the Washington Opera in 1998, said he pressured her every time they performed together. "He would come up to me very close to my face and very clearly say, 'Patricia, do you have to go home tonight,'" Wulf said.

Retired opera singer Patricia Wulf at home in Virginia - AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

LA Opera continues to investigate Mr Domingo’s behaviour while he was general director at the institution, a post he resigned from last year after the allegations were published. Mr Domingo has also seen performances cancelled in New York and Dallas, although he has continued to sing to full houses in Europe.

Mr Domingo’s next public appearance is due to be at Hamburg’s Staatsoper in March, and a spokesperson confirmed to the Telegraph that there were no plans to cancel the performance.

London's Royal Opera House also said that a performance of Don Carlo starring Domingo "will go ahead as scheduled".

UK women's groups have voiced their anger and disappointment at the decision, and suggested that the profits made by ROH from his performances should be donated to charity.

“It is sadly not surprising, that even when men admit to harassing women, huge institutions are happy to ignore this violence if it is beneficial to them,” said Laura Tomson, co-director of campaign group Zero Tolerance.

“If we want to see an end to violence against women, we must take it seriously and tackle the root cause of this violence, gender inequality.”

Angela Turner Wilson was the second women to go public with allegations. Ms Wilson said that when co-starring with the Spanish singer in "Le Cid" at Washington Opera during the 1999-2000 season, he had stood behind her and grabbed her breasts under her clothes.

“It hurt,” she told AP. “It was not gentle. He groped me hard.” She said he then turned and walked away, leaving her feeling humiliated.

Mr Domingo conducts the orchestra during an opera rehearsal - AP Photo/Richard Drew

Ms Wilson said that Mr Domingo also asked her for a kiss and told her how much he liked her, despite her reminding him that she was married.  

Melinda McLain, who was the production coordinator at LA Opera for its inaugural season in 1986-87 and also worked at the Houston Grand Opera with Domingo, said she never left the Spanish star alone with young female singers, even if he specifically requested it.

“We created these elaborate schemes for keeping him away from particular singers,” Ms McLain told AP. “I never would have sent any woman of any sort into his dressing room.”

Mr Domingo’s apology is a far cry from his initial response to the claims.

“After a career of 60 years, they have tried to destroy me in five minutes,” he told a Valencia radio station in December before receiving a rapturous standing ovation from the public at the city’s Palace of Arts, where he performed in a staging of Nabucco.

He also told the Spanish newspaper El País that he may have been flirtatious with women but never crossed the line.

“You’re dressed nicely, how good you are looking; these were things you could say 30 years ago, or even two years ago. You cannot say anything to a woman now.”