U.S. opera union probe finds Plácido Domingo abused power

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An investigation into legendary singer Plácido Domingo by the U.S. union representing opera performers found more than two dozen people who said they were sexually harassed or witnessed inappropriate behavior by the superstar when he held senior management positions at Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera, according to people familiar with the findings.

The investigation, conducted by lawyers hired by the American Guild of Musical Artists, concluded that the accounts from 27 people showed a clear pattern of sexual misconduct and abuse of power by Domingo spanning at least two decades, according to those who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the findings.

In response to a request for comment from the AP, Domingo issued a statement saying: “I have taken time over the last several months to reflect on the allegations that various colleagues of mine have made against me. 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, and I have grown from this experience.”

The union's investigation was the first of two independent inquiries launched after multiple women accused Domingo of sexual harassment and abusing his power in two AP stories published last year. The second inquiry, still ongoing, was launched by LA Opera, where Domingo had been general director since 2003 before resigning in October.

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Plácido Domingo through the years
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Plácido Domingo through the years
En esta foto del 28 de agosto del 2019, el ícono de la ópera Plácido Domingo sostiene la mano de la soprano puertorriqueña Ana María Martínez al final de un concierto en Szeged, Hungría. (AP Foto/Laszlo Balogh)
ARCHIVO – En esta fotografía del 26 de agosto de 2014 Plácido Domingo en el Dorothy Chandler Pavilion en Los Angeles. Domingo se ausentará de la primera edición de los Premios Batuta a la excelencia en la música clásica que serán entregados el 5 de octubre en la Ciudad de México. Esta semana el astro español renunció también a la dirección general de la Ópera de Los Angeles tras las múltiples acusaciones de acoso sexual en su contra reportadas por The Associated Press (Foto AP/Damian Dovarganes, archivo)
Plácido Domingo posa para fotografías en la casa de ópera "Festspielhaus" después de interpretar "Luisa Miller" de Giuseppe Verdi en Salzburgo, Austria, el domingo 25 de agosto de 2019. (AP Foto/Matthias Schrader)
En esta imagen del viernes 12 de julio de 2019, Plácido Domingo habla durante una conferencia de prensa sobre su próxima obra "Giovanna d'Arco" en Madrid, España. (AP Foto/Bernat Armangue)
ARCHIVO - En esta foto de archivo del 22 de enero de 2004, Plácido Domingo canta en un recital en el Teatro Nacional de Santiago, República Dominicana. Plácido Domingo regresa a escena el domingo 25 de agosto de 2019 en el Festival de Salzburgo, en su primera actuación desde varias mujeres acusaron al cantante de acoso sexual, en denuncias publicadas por The Associated Press. (AP Foto/Miguel Gomez, File)
ARCHIVO - En esta imagen de archivo del 26 de febrero de 1985, Plácido Domingo sostiene sus dos trofeos durante la ceremonia de los Premios Grammy. (AP Foto/Archivo)
ARCHIVO - En esta imagen de archivo del 12 de diciembre de 1972, Plácido Domingo, que inauguró esa temporada en La Scala, camina por la Piazza Scala con la Ópera de fondo, en Milán. (AP Foto/Raoul Fornezza, Archivo)
ARCHIVO - En esta imagen de archivo del 27 de febrero de 1984, el cantante Plácido Domingo ríe con miembros de las Rockettes en el Radio City Music Hall de Nueva York. El cantante y las bailarinas coincidieron en el ensayo para la "Gala of Stars 1984" del Canal 13. (AP Foto/Steve Friedman, Archivo)
ARCHIVO - En esta imagen de archivo del 25 de mayo de 1989, el astro internacional de la ópera Plácido Domingo aparece ante la Royal Opera House, Covent Garden en Londres. (AP Foto/John Redman, Archivo)
En la imagen, la cantante de ópera Patricia Wulf sostiene una foto de 1998 en la que aparece con el astro de la ópera Plácido Domingo sosteniendo a la hija de cuatro años de ella tras actuar en "Fedora", en la ópera de Washington, en su casa en una zona rural del norte de Virginia, el viernes 12 de julio de 2019. (AP Foto/Jacquelyn Martin)
ARCHIVO - En esta imagen de archivo del lunes 19 de octubre de 2009, el cantante Plácido Domingo, en el centro, actúa en la obra "Simon Boccanegra" de Giuseppe Verdi en la Staatsoper de Berlín, Alemania. (AP Foto/Markus Schreiber)
Plácido Domingo durante una presentación en Roundhouse en Londres durante la grabación del Festival iTunes en una fotografía de archivo del 30 de septiembre de 2014. Domingo interpretará el personaje principal de la ópera "Gianni Schicchi" de Puccini en una producción de Woody Allen el 12 de septiembre en la noche inaugural de la temporada 2015-16 de la Ópera de Los Angeles. (Foto Joel Ryan/Invision/AP, archivo)
Opera singer Rocío Ignacio, left, performs the role of Rosina as singer Domenico Balzani, right, performs the role of Don Bartolo in a dress rehearsal of "The Barber of Seville" at the new Dubai Opera in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. The comic opera will be performed in September at the new opera house, which opens Wednesday night with a performance by tenor Plácido Domingo. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
El tenor Plácido Domingo posa para un retrato tras una conferencia de prensa en Río de Janeiro, Brasil, el jueves 3 de julio de 2014. Para Plácido Domingo, la ópera y el fútbol van de la mano. El tenor español se ha presentado en casi todas las Copas Mundiales desde 1990 y planea un concierto para el 11 de julio en Río de Janeiro, dos días antes de la final del torneo en Brasil. (Foto AP/Silvia Izquierdo)
El tenor Plácido Domingo posa para un retrato tras una conferencia de prensa en Río de Janeiro, Brasil, el jueves 3 de julio de 2014. Para Plácido Domingo, la ópera y el fútbol van de la mano. El tenor español se ha presentado en casi todas las Copas Mundiales desde 1990 y planea un concierto para el 11 de julio en Río de Janeiro, dos días antes de la final del torneo en Brasil. (Foto AP/Silvia Izquierdo)
El Grammy del tenor Plácido Domingo por su disco “100 años de mariachi” en la muestra "Placido Domingo: A Tenor's Story" en el Museo del Grammy el domingo 6 de octubre de 2013 en Los Angeles. (Foto Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
Plácido Domingo en la inauguración de la muestra "Placido Domingo: A Tenor's Story" en el Museo del Grammy el domingo 6 de octubre de 2013 en Los Angeles. (Foto Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
En esta foto del 7 de junio del 2013, Plácido Domingo durante un concierto en el Dorothy Chandler Pavilion en Los Angeles. Domingo se encuentra hospitalizado en Madrid por una embolia pulmonar ocasionada por un coágulo sanguíneo, informó su publicista el martes 9 de julio del 2013. Se espera que el tenor español se recupere por completo. (Foto por Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP, Archivo)
Conductor and tenor Plácido Domingo, left, and writer Isabel Allende speak to an audience on the opening night and at the world premiere of the opera "Dulce Rosa" co-produced by The Broad Stage and LA Opera in Santa Monica, Calif. on Friday, May 17, 2013. Domingo will be conducting the opera, based on the short story "Una Veganza" written by Allende. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)
El presidente de la Academia Latina de la Grabación, Gabriel Abaroa Jr., a la izquierda, le entrega a Plácido Domingo el Latin Grammy al mejor álbum de música clásica en la misma ceremonia en la que se honró al tenor como Persona del Año, el miércoles 10 de noviembre del 2010 en Las Vegas. (AP Foto/Chris Pizzello)
Plácido Domingo posa con Alondra de la Parra al llegar a la ceremonia de la Academia Latina de la Grabación en su honor como Persona del Año, el miércoles 10 de noviembre del 2010 en Las Vegas. (AP Foto/Julie Jacobson)
El tenor español Plácido Domingo durante el ensayo general de "Il Postino" en la Opera de Los Angeles, en esa ciudad, el martes 21 de septiembre del 2010. Domingo informó el lunes 27 de septiembre que no renovará su contrato como director general de la Opera Nacional de Washington cuando expire el próximo año. (Foto AP/Matt Sayles)
Esta foto del lunes 19 de octubre del 2009 muestra al tenor español Plácido Domingo en una función de Simon Boccanegra, de Verdi, en Berlín (AP Foto/Markus Schreiber)
ARCHIVO – En esta fotografía de archivo del 9 de mayo de 2000 Plácido Domingo, derecha, y la soprano Daniela Dessi interpretan "Andrea Chenier" de Umberto Giordano durante un ensayo de la Gala del Milenio de la Opera Metropolitana de Nueva York en el Lincoln Center. Domingo anunció el martes 24 de septiembre de 2019 que solicitó retirarse de todas sus presentaciones futuras con la Ópera Metropolitana de Nueva York tras acusaciones por acoso sexual presentadas por diversas mujeres en dos reportajes de The Associated Press. El astro de 78 años tenía previsto interpretar el papel principal de "Macbeth" de Verdi el 25 de septiembre. (Foto AP/Richard Drew, archivo)
Fotografía de archivo del 27 de septiembre de 1999 del tenor Plácido Domingo durante una ovación final tras dos óperas de un acto, Cavalleria Rusticana" y "Pagliacci”, en la Ópera Metropolitana de Nueva York. (AP Foto/Stephen Chernin, Archivo)
ARCHIVO - En esta imagen de archivo del sábado 27 de enero de 2001, Plácido Domingo dirige a la Orquesta y Coro de Washington Opera durante un ensayo del Réquiem de Verdi en el Constitution Hall de Washington. (AP Foto/Richard Drew, Archivo)
ARCHIVO - En esta imagen de archivo del domingo 9 de julio de 2006, Plácido Domingo actúa durante la final del Mundial de fútbol entre Italia y Francia en el Estadio Olímpico de Berlín. (AP Foto/Luca Bruno)
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According to the people familiar with the contents of the union's investigation, lawyers from the firm Cozen O'Connor interviewed 55 people from September until late December. In addition to the 27 who said they experienced or witnessed sexually suggestive behavior on the part of Domingo in the 1990s and 2000s, 12 others said they were aware of the star's reputation and that it was common knowledge at the two companies.

Mirroring AP's reporting last year, the investigation found that the allegations included unsolicited physical touching that ranged from kisses on the mouth to groping, late-night phone calls in which Domingo asked women to come to his residence, and inviting women to go out with him socially with such persistence that some felt they were being stalked.

Two of the women told investigators that they had sexual relations with Domingo, saying they felt compelled to submit because of his position of authority and potential to damage their careers, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

In the rest of his statement to the AP, Domingo said, “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.

“I am committed to affecting positive change in the opera industry so that no one else has to have that same experience. It is my fervent wish that the result will be a safer place to work for all in the opera industry, and I hope that my example moving forward will encourage others to follow.”

Union officials would not directly address the contents of the report, which has not been made public. But the union's national executive director, Leonard Egert, issued a statement to the AP saying, "AGMA salutes the brave people across all our industries and encourages them to continue speaking out against wrongdoing. We call upon management, and pledge to work collaboratively with them, to get at the root causes that have allowed this behavior to occur, and go unaddressed, in opera, dance, and choral cultures for far too long.”

Egert, other senior union leaders and the investigators briefed the union's Board of Governors on the findings Monday.

The people familiar with the investigation said Domingo, now 79, had reiterated his denials of wrongdoing to investigators and contended that he did not occupy a position of power over his colleagues and their careers. They said he told investigators he had engaged in flirtatious behavior but did not cross a line into inappropriate touching or behavior like asking colleagues to meet privately in his residence.

They said the investigators characterized Domingo's conduct as inappropriate workplace behavior under the norms of the 1990s or by today's #MeToo standards.

The investigators said that they found the witness accounts to be credible based on the number of people who came forward, the similarities of their stories, corroborations of their accounts, and the common theme that Domingo's behavior and reputation were such widespread knowledge that women at his companies were warned to avoid being in close contact with him.

The union announced its investigation in September, shortly after the publication of AP's stories, saying it did not trust the industry to police itself. Most of the harassment alleged in AP's stories occurred at LA Opera and at Washington opera, which has repeatedly declined to say if it would investigate the claims. LA Opera has not said when or if it will make its findings public.

In the AP stories, more than 20 women accused Domingo of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior in encounters taking place from the late 1980s to the 2000s. Dozens more said his behavior was an open secret in the industry.

A number of U.S. companies canceled Domingo appearances and he withdrew from others under pressure. But no European performances have been affected.

Domingo has been one of the opera's most beloved and successful figures, admired as an ambassador for the art form and valued for his enduring talent and ability to attract sellout crowds in an era of diminishing ticket sales.

He also was a prolific conductor and powerful administrator, which his accusers told the AP gave him the power to make or break careers and behave with impunity. In addition to heading Los Angeles Opera, he served as general director at Washington Opera from 2003-2011.

Most of Domingo's accusers were young and starting their careers at the time. Several told the AP that he dangled job prospects as he tried to pressure them into sexual relationships, sometimes punishing them professionally if they rebuffed him. Soprano Angela Turner Wilson said that after weeks of pursuing her, Domingo forcefully grabbed her bare breast under her robe in a backstage room.

The accusations in the union's report included multiple new accusers not interviewed by the AP, according to the people familiar with its contents.

Investigators said most of the people they interviewed requested anonymity in the final report, fearing professional retaliation or personal embarrassment, highlighting the problem the industry faces in trying to convince victims to come forward.

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