Placido Domingo, opera legend accused of sexual harassment
Legendary Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, who several women have accused of sexual harassment, is one of the world’s most celebrated and prolific opera singers.
The 78-year-old dubbed “the king of opera” first rose to worldwide fame as one of the Three Tenors and has shown no sign of slowing down in his glittering six-decade career, marking his both his 151th role and 4,000th performance this year.
He has also been a conductor and director of some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, and it is this position of power that numerous women have accused him of using to pressure them into sexual relationships.
Eight singers and a dancer told the Associated Press this week about incidents going back to the 1980s, including one in which a woman said Domingo put his hand down her skirt while three others said he forcibly kissed them.
The long-time married singer has denied the allegations, calling them “inaccurate”, but the LA Opera, where he has been director general since 2003, has launched an investigation and two of his upcoming performances have been cancelled.
– Musical family –
Domingo was born on January 21, 1941 in Madrid to parents who were both performers of zarzuela, the traditional Spanish operetta.
When he was eight, the family moved to Mexico where he studied music — first piano, then conducting, then finally singing.
Though he started as a baritone, his teachers advised him to move to the range of a tenor. He would descend back down to baritone in his later years but his dramatic tones always left listeners spellbound.
At the age of 16 he ran away and married a fellow student, angering his parents who were “furious but even more, sad,” according to an interview he gave to the New York Times. The couple had a son Jose but their union was short-lived.
After intense training to hit the higher notes, Domingo took his first minor role in the Mexico National Opera at the age of 18.
Two years later, Domingo made his operatic debut in a leading role as Alfredo in Verdi’s “La Traviata” in Monterrey, Mexico.
In 1962, Domingo married his current wife Marta, with whom he had two more sons, Placido and Alvaro.
His international career really took off in 1965 under conductors such as the Berlin Philharmonic’s Herbert von Karajan and Italian great Claudio Abbado. In 1972, Domingo picked up the baton himself to conduct “La Traviata” at the New York City Opera.
He would go on to distinguish himself as a conductor across the world, and later moved to the United States to serve as director of the Washington National Opera from 1996 to 2001 before moving to the LA Opera.
– ‘If I rest, I rust’ –
But singing remained his first love.
The Three Tenors — which also featured Jose Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti — soared to worldwide popularity in the 1990s, bringing opera to a new generation of fans.
The trio wowed huge audiences from the Eiffel Tower to the Egyptian pyramids, and famously entertained fans with a concert in Rome on the eve of the football World Cup in 1990.
Even into his late 70s, Domingo has pursued a hectic musical schedule.
“If I rest, I rust,” the silver-haired and bearded singer is fond of saying, even using the motto on his official website, right next to his concert listings.
A fervent fan of Real Madrid football club — he was born not far from their ground — Domingo wrote a centenary anthem for the club in 2002. He once said that “when I was born, 10 minutes from Real in Ibiza Street, my mother was singing”.
Domingo has made more than 100 albums and picked up 14 Grammy awards.
He has also been lavished with honours during his career, including the Gran Cruz de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica in Spain, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the United States, Commandant of the Legion of Honour in France and Honorary Knight of the British Empire.