WNO needs to remove Domingo name, clear the air on his tenure

Thu Sep 26, 2019 at 2:16 pm
Plácido Domingo at the Kennedy Center Honors Awards in 2016.

Over the past year, news organizations started to publish accounts of victims of sexual harassment and abuse. Eventually titans of the classical music world were felled by such scandals: James Levine, Daniele Gatti, Charles Dutoit, David Daniels, William Preucil, Bernard Uzan. The list seems to grow each month, even as some of these men take positions with new organizations inclined to take their side.

In August one of Washington’s darkest “open secrets” finally became public, when eight singers and a dancer described the sexual harassment they faced from opera star Plácido Domingo. The only woman who allowed her name to appear in the initial article published by the Associated Press, Patricia Wulf, described the persistent harassment the tenor subjected her to when she was a young singer appearing with him at Washington National Opera in the 1990s.

Plácido Domingo was a fixture at Washington Opera for almost two decades. The first small step that WNO and the Kennedy Center should take to acknowledge these revelations may seem cosmetic but is critical: the company should immediately change the name of its young artists program. Founded by Domingo in 2002, as still noted on the Kennedy Center’s website today, it continues to bear his name as the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Program. It would be a relatively easy but significant step to excise the first half of that name.

Ideally, there is more that WNO could do. In the immediate wake of this damning news about Domingo’s past, the Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera canceled gala performances headlined by him. In the two months since the news broke, eleven more women came forward to tell their stories, including another woman who sang with Domingo at Washington National Opera during the 1999-2000 season. As Domingo faced these new accusations, the Dallas Opera canceled its gala in March 2020, at which  the tenor-turned-baritone was scheduled to sing. 

Other organizations, especially in Europe, have refused to cancel plans with the star tenor, like the Salzburg Festival, where Domingo performed on August 31. The Los Angeles Opera, where much of this sexual harassment was alleged to have occurred, has hired a former district attorney to conduct an internal investigation.

Claiming it was still waiting for the results of that investigation, the Metropolitan Opera went ahead with its plan for Domingo, now singing baritone roles, to star in three of the six performances of its production of Macbeth, which opened Tuesday. In an eleventh-hour surprise decision after Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb had previously refused to remove Domingo, the tenor himself withdrew from the production. It now appears that Domingo will not appear at the Metropolitan Opera again.

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Plácido Domingo served as WNO artistic director from 1996 to 2003 and then as general director from 2003 to 2011, during which period the company added the word “National” to its name. The Kennedy Center in its official statement on the matter distanced itself from any harassment claims, stating that the accusations against Domingo all date from before 2011, when WNO officially merged with the Kennedy Center and Domingo relinquished his position.

The fact that Domingo left WNO shortly after the merger may indeed mean that the Kennedy Center does not have any legal or professional liability for any possible misbehavior during Domingo’s DC tenure. Yet that doesn’t mean that the Kennedy Center doesn’t bear some responsibility for fully clearing the air on this matter. Until that happens, the allegations against Domingo by singers at Washington Opera will remain a stain on the company’s history, whether they occurred before the merger with the Kennedy Center or not.

Thanks to well-reported and corroborated journalism and the bravery of women who came forward to speak to reporters, we now know that Domingo had a long history of targeting younger singers. His victims were often singers at a vulnerable stage in their careers, needing every opportunity they could get to advance. If they refused his sexual advances, they risked the retribution of a man who wielded considerable power to help or harm them. Continuing to keep his name on WNO’s young artists program remains an affront to the talented young singers who receive training here.

In addition to removing his name, Washington National Opera can and should do more. The company would do well to take a page from L.A. Opera’s book and appoint an outside investigator to document any accusations against Domingo throughout the company’s history, even before the merger with the Kennedy Center. There could well be more stories waiting to be told from the decade and a half Domingo reigned over Washington Opera.

By coming to terms with Domingo’s checkered past in a public and candid manner, Washington National Opera will show that the company values the bravery of the women who came forward more than the increasingly empty denials of its former star artistic leader.


18 Responses to “WNO needs to remove Domingo name, clear the air on his tenure”

  1. Posted Sep 26, 2019 at 3:26 pm by Francesca

    Have you decided to kill him? Physically. Only then will you calm down? Scum!
    Do you think this will help the WNO to revive? Never!

  2. Posted Sep 26, 2019 at 4:03 pm by Barbara Lindholm

    How evil can the american people be? What a doublmorall, falsity and fake.
    Placido, the Greatest and the Best Singer and Musicuan ever!! Will go to the histiry.
    Placido has gived all to the opera-world and helped so msny people.
    I don’t know anyone as is Such a Generous, Kind and Humane Person!!!

    The american diublemoral is such a Terrible thing.
    Until that I have loved USA as country . From today I will never return to this Fake-world.
    The Operahouses and magazines accuse Placido without evidence only from stupid gossips.WITCH HUNT
    How low can USA be.
    I suffer with Placido and his Family.

    You had to be Grateful and Humble to Placido and then this.
    Placido is 78 yrs.

    I wish what you have sent out to Placido will come back millions of times more to you. Don’t say then anything more.

    So sad when there are even so many Fantastic people in USA but the ” grey mass” seems to be Stupid, evils, idiots, without own possibility to think and without heart.
    Destroy the life fir Placido and for the Intelligent american people with heart!!

    #StandByDomingo

  3. Posted Sep 26, 2019 at 5:32 pm by Barini Elisa

    that’s a joke….Talk with colleagues and REAL friends of him and his family and they will tell you this is all a BS …He could have had the best, famous, wonderful ‘ladies’ ….,there were many looking for him and even going to his bedroom hoping to ‘have him’. Sure he did not need to go and harass some staff around the Opera Houses…And why there are NOT ‘victims’ of the monster Domingo in Europe?…in Asia, in Australia? Shame on you for this BS !

  4. Posted Sep 26, 2019 at 7:08 pm by Sophie C.

    1. Patricia Wulf was not a young singer, she was fourty years old. Mr Domingo flirted with her, but never touched her and when she said no, she was still being hired

    2. A girlfriend of mine and I were interns with WNO. It was wonderful and an honour to work with Mr Domingo. He treated everybody with respect and kindness.

    3. Mr Domingo has done more than anybody else for young singers. It is absolutely shameful that you ask his name to be removed.

    4. The public lynching is totally over the top. Why can people not wait for the investigation results of LA Opera?

    5. What reason should Plácido Domingo have to harm young women? Whenever he entered a room, there were at least 10 standing in line. He is one of the most charismatic men of our time.

    5. I am so glad I live in Europe.

  5. Posted Sep 26, 2019 at 11:08 pm by SMH

    One would think that Placido had been convicted of rape and murder the way people are reacting. Quite frankly I think it’s a gigantic overreach at this point. Let the investigations continue and see where they lead, especially the AGMA one. Give PD the opportunity to respond to the particular situations where the alleged misdeeds took place. He should know the names of his accusers. Let’s see if management, music directors and board members where made aware of the alleged behavior and did nothing. This is a vigilante squad run amok.

  6. Posted Sep 27, 2019 at 4:46 am by Fiorenza Scholey

    I think we should boycott WNO and all those organizations that have joined this insane witch-hunt.
    The reason the European institutions have not cancelled Plàcido’s performances is because there is some semblance of sanity, reality and loyalty. Thank heavens.

  7. Posted Sep 27, 2019 at 5:48 am by Esfir Lebovich

    SHAME ON YOU ALL !!! THE WITCH HUNT IS ON!
    WHO IS NEXT???
    NO DECENCY ?
    NO LAW???

  8. Posted Sep 27, 2019 at 12:49 pm by Alan Karnovitz

    Fine. Then to be consistent, the name of the venue in which the WNO resides should be excised, as JFK probably made Placido a rank amateur in this regard. Sexual harassment is despicable and I don’t condone it EVER. However, the moral outrage for this seems very selective, and one should be cautious about erasing names from history; a practice mostly robustly conducted by the Soviet Union.

  9. Posted Sep 27, 2019 at 2:09 pm by Senio

    Perhaps it was no fun to have the easy ones. No chase. I think Domingo liked to pressure these women. He loved to make a no in to a yes even if it had to come to threatening their future at the opera company.

    He was bored by the easy catches. He wanted the thrill of the chase.

    Either way when the AGMA report is in we will know for sure. They have promised full transparancy about the results.

  10. Posted Sep 27, 2019 at 4:05 pm by Tassilo David

    The tone of your post makes you sound like the leader of a lynch mob. Let’s wait until there is legal evidence against Domingo. Apparently, if he is guilty of anything, he always stopped when his advances were rejected, and nobody’s career or employment was affected, as the one woman who has had the decency to come forward by name had admitted. You are fanning the flames of the kind of mass hysteria that was characteristic of the Salem Witch trials.

  11. Posted Sep 27, 2019 at 5:41 pm by Phillis Rockliff

    What a disgusting article. When are the American press going to stop this witch-hunt against Domingo? So far the accusations against him have not been proven, if they ever will be after 30 years. Rumour, hearsay and gossip are not facts.

    For someone to declare all association with the Domingo name at Washington opera should be removed is disgraceful.

    As a visitor to the USA I am appalled at the way the press behave like a Wild West Lynch mob.If this is how the Me Too movement behaves with the backing of the press then the world will soon be a very sad place.

    As a result of what seems to be an orchestrated conspiracy against Domingo I shall not return to USA until it stops this harassment of high profile people, especially men, just because they are men.

  12. Posted Sep 27, 2019 at 9:21 pm by PaulD

    If we remove Domingo’s name from the WNO, we should also remove the name of John F. Kennedy from the building that the WNO performs in. If Mimi Alford is to be believed, Kennedy used his powerful position to sexually exploit her when she was an intern. And, as we know, She Is To Be Believed.

  13. Posted Sep 28, 2019 at 9:29 am by Charles Fischbein

    To all those D.C. liberals who conform to K Street ethics, what if your 20- something-year old daughter just graduated from The Juilliard School and entered the WNO development program? She meets Mr. BIG and is invited to dinner with him to DISCUSS HER FUTURE ASKED BACK TO HIS HOTEL FOR A PRIVATE AUDITION.
    Once there the audition is not for her voice.

    Would all of you K Street liberals laugh it off?? I doubt it.

  14. Posted Sep 28, 2019 at 11:23 am by Nelly

    The WNO only became great because of Mr. Domingo. Not only because of the sold-out performances with him, but also because of his name, personality and efforts the yearly fundraising “Ambassy” events raised millions of dollars, so the WNO was able to bring wonderful productions with the greatest conductors and soloists to Washington.

  15. Posted Sep 30, 2019 at 3:02 pm by Dolly Guinther

    This is getting really preposterous. It smack of the old Soviet method of erasing a person’s entire past when he/she fell afoul of the prevailing fascist political winds. While you’re at it, make sure Wagner’s name never appears on a bill in Washington again: compared with his virulent anti-Semitism, Domingo’s purported pecadillos are nothing.

    The MeToo mob has gotten completely out of control. For a few unrequited passes, decades ago, none of which constitutes an actual crime in any era, and all of which is being accepted on ZERO grounds except hearsay and yellow journalism, you knee-jerk PC crusaders would not only deprive this man of his life source and the music world of his still towering talent but would erase from the history books the positive influence of one of the most generous and important teachers, philanthropists and champions the operatic art form has ever been blessed with? VERGOGNA!!!

  16. Posted Sep 30, 2019 at 5:33 pm by Victoria C.

    Now, because of a few greedy, sleazy mediocrities, who have no other means to get their name known, we are left with no possibility to see, hear the greatest. Shame on you!

  17. Posted Sep 30, 2019 at 7:20 pm by Senio

    The almost funny part of all this is that a few years ago if anyone dared to mention that Domingo had affairs with other women this is exactly the kind of response they would get from his people writing such stupid and things here. Placido could NEVER be unfaithful to Marta. Now he has admitted several affairs and now that’s suddenly okay with it. He clearly has been lying to you before about his sexual ways. I’m convinced he’s lying now as well.

    No wonder the women are anonymous because it doesn’t matter what’s true or not. You are just out to kill anyone saying something you don’t like about your hero tenor. None of you where there when he kissed women against their will. Tried to pressure them to have sex with him and I laugh at the fact that you use the same argument to claim he did nothing. YOU KNOW NOTHING you just think you do. But none of you were there watching what happened behind closed doors. NONE OF YOU!!!!

  18. Posted Oct 01, 2019 at 6:34 pm by Anne Smith

    The Lügenpresse in an unholy alliance with the grievance-mongers, MeToo, have shown themselves to be evil beyond endurance. I have nothing but contempt for the vermin crawling out of the woodwork after 20 and 30 years and whining that he didn’t touch them and they continued to be hired. Plácido Domingo has given immense pleasure to millions. What is happening to him now breaks my heart and angers me intensely. A curse on American opera.

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