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LA Opera deems Domingo misconduct accusations credible

Laurent Banguet, with Maggy Donaldson in New York

Agence France-Presse

Los Angeles, United States  /  Wed, March 11, 2020  /  05:39 pm
LA Opera deems Domingo misconduct accusations credible

Spanish tenor Placido Domingo gestures as he performs during his concert at St Gellert Forum in Szeged, southern Hungary on August 28, 2019. (AFP/Attila Kisbenedek)

The Los Angeles Opera said on Tuesday its investigation into star Placido Domingo had found accusations of "inappropriate conduct" against its former director to be credible.

The Spanish icon, who won worldwide acclaim in the 1990s as one of the Three Tenors alongside Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti, is accused of forcibly kissing, grabbing and fondling women over a period of more than 30 years.

An independent law firm hired by the company to investigate said that while some of Domingo's targets stated they were "not uncomfortable", others described "significant trauma".

"Some individuals stated that they felt discouraged to report misconduct due to Mr. Domingo's importance and stature," a summary of the findings read.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP interviewed 44 people during a six month investigation -- including those behind the 10 accusations under review, the LA Opera's management and Domingo himself.

The misconduct is alleged to have occurred between 1986, when the tenor-turned-baritone was appointed artistic advisor, and August 2019 -- when he resigned as general director after the allegations became public.

The LA Opera findings said Domingo, 79, cooperated with the probe and was willingly interviewed, and continued his flat denials of unwanted contact, saying his relations with women were consensual.

"Gibson Dunn often found him to be sincere in his denials but found some of them to be less credible or lacking in awareness," the summary said.

Contacted by AFP, Domingo's publicist declined to comment at this time.

Read also: Scandal-hit Placido Domingo pulls out of London performance

'Fear of retaliation'

The law firm investigation did not find evidence that Domingo "ever engaged in a quid pro quo or retaliated against any woman by not casting or otherwise hiring her at LA Opera," according to the summary.

But that probe and a separate one from the American Guild of Musical Artists found that some people did voice fear of reprisal.

The guild last month concluded that Domingo 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."

Domingo -- once a mainstay of some of the world's most prestigious opera houses -- stepped down from the LA Opera last fall, and withdrew from performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera, effectively ending his US career.

His status has since faltered in Europe -- where until recently he was still receiving standing ovations -- as he was dropped from performances in Spain and at London's Royal Opera House.

As the AGMA findings rolled out the "King of Opera" apologized for any "hurt" he caused -- but rolled back the mea culpa after it appeared European institutions were using his apology as reason to drop him from their programming.

"I have never behaved aggressively toward anybody, nor have I ever done anything to obstruct or hurt the career of anybody," he said.

Read also: Spanish opera star Placido Domingo apologizes to women after harassment claims: Report

Necessary improvements

Gibson Dunn also said the company's sexual harassment policies and procedures are "sufficient on their face" -- and there was no reason to believe the LA Opera "ignored, failed to address, or covered up sexual harassment complaints."

At the same time, it found several flaws in the manner in which LA Opera implemented its policies regarding sexual harassment".

It also said methods to address harassment claims were "largely reactive until 2018" -- just after the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment in the workplace was triggered by allegations against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The LA Opera said Gibson Dunn provided a number of recommendations it would implement, including a more formal process for documenting complaints, a stronger human resources department, and policies to govern performances that include sexual innuendo or intimacy as well as nudity.

"On a personal level, I am troubled, and regret, that individuals engaged with the company may have felt disempowered, vulnerable or unheeded in any way," said the company's director, Christopher Koelsch, in an email sent to employees and obtained by AFP.

"We have learned through this process that there is a widespread, industry-wide hesitancy to report harassment, and it is critical to our future that we work to build trust and transparency with one another."

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