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.”


Lebanese choreographer Nadim Cherfan on Mayyas, Britain’s Got Talent, and dancing for Beyoncé

Mayyas won 2019’s “Arab’s Got Talent.” (Supplied)
Updated 10 min 21 sec ago

Lebanese choreographer Nadim Cherfan on Mayyas, Britain’s Got Talent, and dancing for Beyoncé

DUBAI: Overnight success doesn’t take 24 hours; it takes years of hard work and dedication. But hard work pays off when TV mogul Simon Cowell calls your craft “genius” in front of an average television audience of 6.7 million viewers.

For Lebanese dancer Nadim Cherfan – now founder and choreographer of the dance troupe Mayyas, who have just appeared on Britain’s Got Talent (BGT): The Champions – his journey began 21 years ago at the age of nine.

“(Back then) I knew exactly what I wanted to be,” he tells Arab News. “Unfortunately, in the Middle East at that time the dancing scene was shy, and not many dance schools existed.

“I couldn’t get the proper training at a young age, though I was fully aware of my talent and spent hours daily in front of my mirror in my room figuring out body movements imitating what I watched on TV.”

Lebanese dancer Nadim Cherfan is the founder and choreographer of the dance troupe Mayyas. (Supplied)

But perseverance pays off. Relatively unknown a year ago, Cherfan, now 30, is making his mark in the industry, while also creating the opportunities for Lebanon’s next generation of dancers that he didn’t have.

Lebanon’s Got Dance Talent

Mayyas performed a spectacular dance at the second audition of Arab's Got Talent. (Supplied) 

Mayyas is an all-female group that became Lebanon’s very first champions of Arab’s Got Talent (AGT). Crowned winners in April of this year, it’s hard to believe that the act was only created around nine months ago, prior to AGT’s season six premiere in February.

“(I was 14 when) I started taking classes with professionals in Lebanon and attending workshops in the US, the UK and India,” Cherfan says. “And I fell more and more in love with dancing and I am still falling deeper daily.”

He was 20 when he began to teach others; his first class having only three girls.

Mayyas performed wearing Indian costumes during the third Arab's Got Talent. (Supplied) 

“I continued to do so, and have raised a large number of students that have grown with me. Today, 200 students are currently taking classes with me.”

From those 200, Mayyas was born.

“Mayyas was created for Arab’s Got Talent once I made the decision of (applying for) season six,” Cherfan continues. “The crew consists of 50 professional dancers.”

Mesmerising Arabia

Najwa Karam awarded the dancers fast entry to the grand finale with the ‘golden buzzer’. (Supplied)

Mayyas captured fans right away after their debut performance on AGT, one of whom was judge and Lebanese singing superstar Najwa Karam who awarded them fast entry to the grand finale with the ‘golden buzzer’.

“You can tell just how much work they put into it,” she said at the time. “I pressed the golden buzzer, because I genuinely, genuinely believe they deserve it.”

Fast forward to the finale, and they were crowned champions by the Middle Eastern voting public.

MBC Group Spokesman Mazen Hayek and Nadim Cherfan at Arab's Got Talent rehearsals. (Supplied)

While the wins were a great moment for Cherfan and the crew, he also admits feeling extremely anxious.

Calling them challenges instead of highlights, he explains: “The golden buzzer and standing ovation; the beautiful comments of the judges, and winning the title itself are challenges, because they are stress and responsibility – in those moments (all I am thinking is) ‘What’s  next? How can I do better?’

“But becoming the first Lebanese to win AGT makes me so happy and proud.”

Heading to London

Mayyas won the 2019 Arab's Got Talent. (Supplied) 

Fast forward a few months, and Mayyas bagged the opportunity to compete in BGT: The Champions, a spin-off of BGT which features notable winners, finalists and participants from across the history of BGT and other international versions of the ‘Got Talent’ franchise.

The group became the first and only act from the Middle East to participate, and the response by the judges and venue’s audience was overwhelming.

“Absolutely genius, brilliant, inventive, (I’ve) never seen a dance like this ever on one of these shows,” stated Cowell, with fellow judge David Walliams commenting: “It was absolutely magical from start to finish. I can totally see why you won AGT. It was just one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on BGT.”

Judge Amanda Holden added: “It was absolutely beautiful – the choreography was so intricate and every single move you made was so precise and so disciplined. You are a fantastic representation of AGT.”

Recalling the experience, Cherfan tells us: “I never thought I would reach this stage in my life. This was an absolute incredible experience for the team, and so satisfying and an honour for us to be the first team from an Arab country to reach this stage and compete against the best acts in the world.”

Girl Power

Mayyas troupe performed different cultural-inspired dances. (Supplied) 

The future is definitely looking bright for Mayyas, and Cherfan is determined to give them the exposure they deserve.

“I chose a female crew, because I wanted to deliver a message about women’s empowerment as we all know that until now Arab women are still called names for being dancers. I wanted to prove how elegant refined and beautiful dancing is,” he says. “And who’s better than these gorgeous ladies to do so?”

Fresh off their win at AGT, Cherfan revealed that they were to use their cash prize to launch a studio in Beirut. And in a move that demonstrates how Cherfan is keen on nurturing dance talent around the region, he also decided to split some of the prize money with fellow AGT finalists, the Moroccan father-and-daughter team Duo Acrobat.

“The plan isn’t a plan anymore – we’re actually in the process of finishing our school, Mayyas Studios!” he reveals. “These students train twice a week which is not enough if someone’s wants to pursue dancing as a career, but unfortunately in Lebanon and the Middle East, dancing is not considered as a serious career that an individual can live out of.”

The all-female group is aged 13-25. (Supplied)

Cherfan wants to change that, he says, adding that his ultimate goal would be for Mayyas to front a ‘fawazeer’, a variety show popularised by Egyptian performers Nelly and Sherihan during Ramadan in the 1990s.

“’Fawazeer’ would be the ultimate satisfaction - I hope (AGT judge and Egyptian actor) Mr (Ahmed) Helmy produces one. We would be more than honoured to be part of it.”

As for the solo ambitions of the choreographer himself, his dream goal would be to be part of the team of a certain Queen B. 

“I would love to one day choreograph for Beyoncé,” he concludes. “She’s a huge inspiration and amazing dancer, and she’s the number one entertainer in the world.”

Ms. Knowles, if you’re reading… give Nadim Cherfan a call.