LA Opera declines details on Placido Domingo investigation

Placido Domingo’s behavior was reportedly an open secret in the industry and that he pursued younger women with impunity. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2019

LA Opera declines details on Placido Domingo investigation

  • LA Opera announced it would engage outside counsel to investigate the ‘concerning allegations’
  • The American Guild of Musical Artists issued a statement calling for wider investigations across the opera world

SAN FRANCISCO: The Los Angeles Opera has declined to release any details of its promised investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against opera legend Placido Domingo, the company’s longtime general director, including whether it has already started.
The union that represents opera singers said Friday that it plans a meeting in Los Angeles next week to address its members’ concerns ahead of the LA company’s season opener Sept. 14.
Len Egert, the executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, told The Associated Press that the union has been receiving its own reports from members since an AP story earlier this week detailing accusations against the 78-year-old singing star.
Hours after the AP story was released Tuesday detailing the allegations, the LA Opera announced it would engage outside counsel to investigate the “concerning allegations.”
Three of the nine women who accused the singer of harassment and abuse of power described encounters they said took place while working with Domingo at the LA organization. The nine women and dozens of others interviewed said Domingo’s behavior was an open secret in the industry and that he pursued younger women with impunity.
On Friday, LA Opera would not disclose who would be conducting the investigation, how it would be carried out, when it would start or its expected duration.
A spokeswoman for the company said Friday LA Opera will share details when they have information and that there was currently nothing to add beyond the statement released Tuesday.
Domingo is widely credited with raising the profile of LA Opera, where he served as an artistic consultant from 1984 to 2000, artistic director from 2000 to 2003 and, finally, general director from 2003 until now. His current contract runs through the 2021-22 season.
In its initial statement, LA Opera said Domingo “has been a dynamic creative force in the life of LA Opera” but that it is committed to ensuring that its employees and artists “be treated respectfully and feel safe and secure.”
Domingo did not respond to detailed questions from the AP about specific incidents. But he issued a statement calling the allegations “deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate,” adding “I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual.”
The allegations in the AP story sparked a global discussion among opera singers on social media forums about the culture of sexual misconduct in the classical music world and the belief that opera companies have long been aware of bad behavior and tolerated it, particularly when the accused are people in positions of power.
Aside from LA Opera, the other women quoted in the story recounted incidents they said took place at other venues, including Washington Opera and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, ranging from 1988 into the mid-2000s.
Some of the women told the AP that Domingo used his power at the LA company and elsewhere to try to pressure them into sexual relationships, with several saying that he dangled jobs and then sometimes punished them professionally if they refused his advances.
The Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera announced they would cancel upcoming performances featuring the star. The Metropolitan Opera said it would await the results of LA Opera’s investigation “before making any final decisions about Mr. Domingo’s future at the Met,” where he is scheduled to appear next month.
The American Guild of Musical Artists issued a statement calling for wider investigations across the opera world.
“AGMA became aware of serious allegations of sexual harassment made by multiple women against Placido Domingo. We have contacted our employers to demand investigations into these allegations,” said the statement issued earlier this week.
Since then, “through our confidential reporting system we have been receiving reports from members,” Egert said Friday. “We are providing timely, confidential advice and guidance to these artists.” He did not elaborate.
Egert said that AGMA will be “closely monitoring the internal LA Opera investigation” and has scheduled a membership meeting in Los Angeles early next week, prior to the start of rehearsals, to address any member concerns on questions. The LA Opera 2019-2020 season starts Sept. 14 with “La Boheme.”
Asked if the union was aware of Domingo’s alleged behavior previously, he said, “AGMA did not receive complaints from its members prior to the recent news reports.”


Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

Director Sahraa Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women. (Supplied)
Updated 16 September 2019

Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

VENICE: Dubbed Afghanistan’s first female director, Sahraa Karimi grew up in Iran with her refugee parents, and later studied cinema in Slovakia.

With 30 shorts and a couple of documentaries under her belt, she travelled this year to the Venice Film Festival with her debut fiction feature, “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha.”

Studying and making movies in Europe was not her scene. “Somehow, from a storytelling perspective, I don’t belong to that part of the world,” she said, recalling her days in Slovakia. “I belong to Afghanistan.”

She returned to Kabul to shoot “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” which was produced by Katayoon Shahabi of Noori Pictures that once helped introduce Iranian directors such as Asghar Farhadi and Mohammad Rasoulof to the world.

In her film, Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women, linked only by problems with the men in their lives.

Hava’s (Arezoo Ariapoor) husband is callous to the point of being cruel, and her only comfort is talking to the baby in her womb. But when it stops kicking, she panics.

Maryam (Fereshta Afshar) is a popular television news reporter who wants to divorce her philandering husband. However, he insists on giving their marriage one more chance, and Maryam finds out she is pregnant.

Another expectant mother, 18-year-old Ayesha (Hasiba Ebrahimi), comes from a middleclass family but is left with no choice but to marry her cousin after being dumped by her cowardly boyfriend.

The three stories, while seemingly interesting, fail to engage because there is hardly any dramatic curve in them.

Possibly the only high point about the movie was Karimi’s relaying of the real-life tales she drew from women during her travels as a UNICEF representative. The experience was cathartic for many.

“Women don’t share their secret lives with their families or their communities, because they’re scared of rumors and gossip,” said Karimi. But with the female director, they felt comfortable and began to speak “about their suffering, wishes, and dreams.”

The more difficult part for Karimi was the shoot itself. The crew had to film under trying conditions with at least four bombs exploding in and around Kabul. But she labored on.

This probably prevented her from getting better technical results from an interesting concept, but the film could still have been pepped up with livelier storytelling.