Opera superstar Placido Domingo is facing a second round of sexual harassment allegations, creating mounting pressure on Los Angeles Opera to take action against its general manager, it was reported Friday.
The pressure comes as opera-world support for the singing legend begins to wither, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Eleven more women have told the Associated Press that they were subjects of unwanted touching, persistent requests for private meetings, late-night phone calls and kisses by Domingo. The new allegations follow an Aug. 13 AP article in which nine women accused Domingo of sexual harassment and in some instances said their careers were damaged when they rejected his advances.
Following the newest accusations, sources close to L.A. Opera operations told The Times on Thursday that Domingo is not involved in day-to-day management while a company investigation remains underway. But with the number of alleged victims hitting 20 and a new, named accuser providing compelling corroboration for her story, L.A. Opera faced growing calls to take more aggressive steps.
Domingo’s personal spokeswoman, Nancy Seltzer, told the AP: “The ongoing campaign by the AP to denigrate Placido Domingo is not only inaccurate but unethical. These new claims are riddled with inconsistencies and, as with the first story, in many ways, simply incorrect. Due to an ongoing investigation, we will not comment on specifics, but we strongly dispute the misleading picture that the AP is attempting to paint of Mr. Domingo.”
Los Angeles Opera issued a statement that said it takes the allegations “extremely seriously.”
“We believe all our employees and artists should feel valued, supported and safe. We are, however, unable to discuss any specific claim,” the company said, declining further comment until the completion of work by its investigator, the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.
The new AP report, which cites 10 anonymous accusers, largely focused on the detailed accounts of singer Angela Turner Wilson during the 1999-2000 season of Washington Opera, where Domingo was artistic director.
Wilson told the AP that she, then 28, and Domingo were having their makeup done together when he rose from his chair, stood behind her, slipped his hands into her robe and under her bra straps, and grabbed her bare breast.
“It hurt,” she told the AP. “It was not gentle. He groped me hard.” She said Domingo then turned and walked away, leaving her stunned and humiliated.
Wilson said she was spurred to come forward after Domingo responded to the first AP article by saying he believed his actions “were always welcomed and consensual” and added: “The rules and standards by which we are and should be measured against today are very different than they were in the past.”
She rejected the idea that such behavior has ever been acceptable.
“What woman would ever want him to grab their breast? And it hurt,” she told AP. “Then I had to go onstage and act like I was in love with him.”
The Times talked with several sources connected to L.A. Opera’s past productions over the years who challenged the veracity of the first anonymous AP accounts and recalled different scenarios. By Thursday, however, as the second wave of allegations hit, some of those defenders privately expressed less confidence in Domingo*s innocence or were conspicuously quiet, The Times reported.
Meanwhile, the hashtag #Opera9 being used on Twitter changed on Thursday to #Opera20 based on the new count of alleged victims. Those using the hashtag, including women and men working in opera, said they had been silent for too long and that the problem of sexual harassment in the opera world is an open secret.
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