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A Painful Case

Plácido Domingo rehearses prior to the Opera Ball in Vienna, February 3, 2016. (Reuters / Heinz-Peter Bader)

The opera world — do you follow it? — has been rocked by stories about Plácido Domingo. You can read about the matter here. Domingo is probably the biggest figure in opera. A septuagenarian Spaniard, he is a miracle of longevity (vocally speaking). He is one of the most famous and important tenors in history. For the last many years, he has been a baritone (which he started out as, actually). He also conducts. He wields a great deal of clout. And he has been accused of sexual harassment, by multiple women.

Jocelyn Gecker laid it out in an investigation for the Associated Press (which you can read here).

As others have noted, opinion is divided between the United States and Europe. Domingo has had U.S. performances canceled. Europeans have said, “What’s the big deal? The Americans are overreacting, Puritans as usual.” (I am generalizing here, as you will have gathered.)

Personally, I always assumed that Domingo was a playboy, with an endless stream of willing partners. Only when the #MeToo movement began did I hear rumors of coercive stuff. But others, evidently, have heard such things for decades. They have “known,” to speak loosely.

In recent days, many women — singers — have been saying, “He’s always been a perfect gentleman with me!” Good. And these testimonies have their significance. But isn’t it a little like saying, “Well, he never robbed my bank”?

People say that standards have changed. Everyone has to be more careful now. (Domingo has said just this, while denying the charges in general.) I agree — but, listen, it was never kosher to do what Domingo is accused of doing. The “shifting standards” argument will only get you so far.

To speak personally again, I find this case sickening and disheartening (as I do similar cases). Domingo is a delight to be around, or can be, in addition to being a great and historic singer. Will the charges — or revelations, if you like — affect my view of Domingo? I have always separated art and man. If you don’t, you go nuts, as a limited number ’scape whipping. But the charges against Domingo cast a shadow on him, at this late stage of his career. I hope they are not true, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch that they’re not, and I’m not sure what else there is to say, at least by me, here and now.

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