Disclosure of Plácido Domingo Allegations Scuttles $500,000 Deal

As the union representing opera performers prepared to release the results of an inquiry finding that the superstar Plácido Domingo had engaged in “inappropriate activity” with women, it was quietly working to reach a financial agreement with him.

But the deal they were working on — which called for the union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, to limit its public statements about the inquiry and for Mr. Domingo to pay the union $500,000 — fell apart on Tuesday after details of the investigation were leaked overnight, according to an email from the union’s leaders.

“Based on this flagrant breach of confidentiality Domingo’s counsel has withdrawn the agreement, which was expressly premised on A.G.M.A.’s promise to maintain confidentiality over the details of the investigatory report,” said the email, which was signed by Leonard Egert, the union’s national executive director, and Raymond Menard, its president, and sent to the union’s board. It was read to The New York Times by two recipients.

The union released a statement Tuesday night calling the payment a “fine” which it described as “to our knowledge the largest to be imposed on a union member,” and not in “exchange for A.G.M.A.’s silence or to make any ‘secret deal.’”

“Regardless of the fine imposed, A.G.M.A. was never planning to publicly release the specific details of its internal investigation, as the union had assured witnesses of confidentiality,” said the statement, which the union said it was releasing to counter “misperceptions” left by reports of the deal by The Times and NPR. “Any suggestion that the union was being paid to withhold information is patently false.”

The inquiry began last year after The Associated Press reported allegations of sexual misconduct from women who had worked with Mr. Domingo. In a public statement on Tuesday, the union released the inquiry’s conclusions, saying that Mr. Domingo had “engaged in inappropriate activity, ranging from flirtation to sexual advances, in and outside of the workplace.”

“Many of the witnesses expressed fear of retaliation in the industry as their reason for not coming forward sooner,” the statement said, without providing further detail.

But The A.P. learned that the investigators had spoken with 27 women who described various behaviors including unsolicited kisses on the mouth, groping, and late-night phone calls. Two of the women told investigators they had sex with Mr. Domingo after feeling pressure to submit, The A.P. reported.

The email from Mr. Egert, who declined to comment, criticized whoever divulged the specifics of the investigation, saying that they had broken an internal agreement to keep the details confidential. Earlier, union officials had told members that some of the women who had spoken with investigators had insisted on confidentiality, fearing reprisals from the industry. (The A.P. did not publish any names of women who had not already gone public.)

“As a result of their actions, A.G.M.A. has lost $500,000 that not only would have covered the costs of the investigation,” the email said, “but also would have funded an extensive sexual harassment prevention training program that is so desperately needed in our industry.”

Nancy Seltzer, a spokeswoman for Mr. Domingo, disputed that account, and said that “what is truthful is we are in ongoing discussions with the union on how to move forward and nothing is off the table.”

Publicly, Mr. Domingo, 79, a famed tenor who held leadership positions at the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera, issued his fullest apology yet. “I have taken time over the last several months to reflect on the allegations that various colleagues of mine have made against me,” Mr. Domingo said in a statement on Tuesday. “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.”

Two of the women who went on the record to The A.P. to accuse Mr. Domingo of misconduct and harassment, Patricia Wulf and Angela Turner Wilson, said in a statement through their lawyer that they believed he should be expelled from the union.

Debra Katz, the lawyer representing them, said in an interview that she was “distressed” to learn about the union’s financial talks with Mr. Domingo.

“The fact is that A.G.M.A. was trying to enter into a secret deal with Plácido Domingo that was conditioned on confidentiality, and in exchange he gave a tepid apology and offered to pay some money that is a fraction of what he earns,” she said. “And what are the women getting out of this?”

Several American companies, including the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera, canceled Mr. Domingo’s upcoming appearances following the allegations. But European companies said they would await the outcome of investigations into his behavior before deciding whether to act.

Mr. Domingo has numerous upcoming performances planned throughout Europe, where he has been greeted with ovations since the allegations were made public, and several companies said on Tuesday that they expect his appearances to move forward as scheduled.

Next month, Mr. Domingo is scheduled to sing the title role in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” at the Hamburg State Opera. A spokesman for the company, Michael Bellgardt, said in an email on Tuesday that he expected Mr. Domingo to perform as planned “if nothing happens to call this into question.”

He is still expected to appear as Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s “La Traviata” in May at the Teatro Real in Madrid, said Graça Prata Ramos, a spokeswoman for the company. And the Royal Opera House in London said that it planned to go ahead with his appearances there this summer. “Plácido will be here in the summer performing as planned in ‘Don Carlo,’ ” Vicky Kington, a spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday.

But there was a shift at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, which was the site of Mr. Domingo’s first return to the stage after the allegations against him were made public last summer. He is scheduled to return there in August to sing in Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani.” But the festival said it would seek further information before deciding on a course of action.

“The festival’s priority was and remains to treat the singer, who has been confronted with accusations of wrongdoing, fairly — in other words, not to rush to any judgment,” it said in a statement. “The facts, however, have now changed.”

Citing Mr. Domingo’s apology, which, it noted, conceded “that his behavior might have hurt the women in question,” the festival said it would seek more information about the investigations in the United States.

Mr. Domingo said in his statement that he took responsibility for his actions.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I have grown from this experience,” he continued. “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.”

Mr. Menard, the union’s president, said in a statement that the union would “remain committed to confronting systemic problems which can cause our members to suffer unlawful discrimination and harassment at work, and to protecting the health and safety of our members.”

The Los Angeles Opera, which Mr. Domingo helped found, and led until he stepped down last year, is still conducting its own investigation.

Alex Marshall contributed reporting.

Source: Music -

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