The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The opera world is divided over accusations of sexual harassment against superstar tenor Placido Domingo. Here is how John DeMain reacted. How do you react and what do you believe? | August 24, 2019

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By Jacob Stockinger

By now, you have probably heard about the allegations of sexual harassment recently made anonymously against the still-active superstar Spanish tenor Placido Domingo (below), 78, who holds the record for the most opening-night appearances at the Metropolitan Opera.

What you might not have heard is how divided the opera world is over those accusations, which are now being formally and independently investigated.

Much of that division falls along lines of Europe versus the United States. The former has so far not cancelled upcoming appearances while the latter was quick to. And Domingo has been defended by famed Russian soprano Anna Netrebko (below, with Domingo).

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, sexual misconduct and sexual assault continue to be perhaps the most controversial issues amid many similar or more serious criminal allegations against conductors James Levine, Charles Dutoit and Daniele Gatti as well as many teachers and orchestra players.

Perhaps the best account of the divided reactions came in a story from The New York Times. Here it is:

One sign of the difficulty in dealing with the situation can be found in the carefully worded, balanced and empathetic Facebook comment by maestro John DeMain, the music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera.

DeMain has often worked with Domingo, perhaps most notably in the famous 1992 Concert for Planet Earth in Rio de Janeiro, which DeMain conducted. (You can hear Domingo singing an aria by Puccini and see DeMain conducting the orchestra in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Says DeMain (below in a photo by Prasad): “Thinking about the Placido Domingo controversy. While I’m not in a position to take sides in this very sad situation, I would just like to say that in my many interactions with this great tenor over many decades, I personally never witnessed him do anything that was inappropriate. He was always a kind and gentle person to me and my family. I wish him and his family well through this difficult time.”

Here is a link to DeMain’s Facebook page if you would like to read comments from others or leave one of your own:

How do you react to the accusations?

What do you believe should happen to Domingo?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music
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  1. I suspect that there is a serious psychiatric disorder out there that many of these males suffer from. One “friend” of Epstein’s describes him as being mentally sick with satyriasis (apparently he “needed: sex 3 times a day with under aged females). Taking under aged females across state lines for the purpose of sex is/was a criminal offense. Also troublesome in these cases are females (G. Maxwell) who aided and abetted known criminal behavior.

    Whether Placido Domingo falls into this category remains to be seen. I hope not but if there are many credible witnesses out there (as there appear to be) he too deserves to go to court.

    Wagner is different. Antisemitism was at the time he committed it, to my knowledge, not against the law. Repulsive yes, illegal, no.


    Comment by fflambeau — August 25, 2019 @ 11:37 pm

  2. This question may be one of those controversies that keeps coming up in the world of the arts How do we separate the art from the artist and when is it not OK to admire the art? One example: what about Wagner? May we be thrilled by the glorious music of an avowed anti-Semite? Is it OK for a Jew to be a Wagnerite? (There’s a great Youtube video by Stephen Fry on this.) Personally, I think there are real distinctions to be made. There’s a difference between being a seducer of young boys (Levine) and a womanizer. It’s a sad world if people can’t see that.


    Comment by powelsj — August 25, 2019 @ 6:26 am

    • “There’s a difference between being a seducer of young boys (Levine) and a womanizer.” How so? And does this make what J. Epstein was doing o.k.? Or Donald Trump (he was only grabbing pussy, for God’s sake)?

      The way you’ve phrased this loaded statement indicates where you stand. I disagree.

      And if laws were broken (whether involving young boys or young girls or people of either sex of any age) they should be enforced. Remember the ex head of the World Bank; the Frenchman who raped a woman in NYC. Was he just a womanizer? Or was he someone who committed a crime(s) and was using his position to cover it up? What about Harry Weinstein? Was he just a womanizer, or a rapist too?

      Interesting that on this blog a few years back (when Mozart in the City was being discussed) there were many posters who thought the classical music scene was immune from sexual escapades and scandals and this was overblown in the series. Not so!


      Comment by fflambeau — August 25, 2019 @ 9:48 pm

  3. I hope that DeMain is correct about Domingo because I have always liked and admired the great singer/conductor and wish it to be the case.

    Still, the J. Epstein case is revealing. Many people who had (mostly infrequent, like Demain’s dealing with Domingo) contact with Epstein saw nothing, probably because they wanted to see nothing. But it’s hard to believe the Duke of York knew nothing. Alan Dershowitz as well. But people who met him infrequently: he could mask what he was (probably did so to even himself and those closest to him who wanted to believe in him).

    My point is that people like Epstein are master manipulators; and can be one thing to one person and completely different to others. In the works of the great Belgian writer, Georges Simenon, a frequent theme is that mankind can never know what another person (even a husband or wife) is truly like. One of his books, I forgot the name, it is a masterpiece, concerns a master gold craftsman. His wife is in love with him (he believes) until a policeman taps him on the shoulder and says his wife has been killed accidentally on a street not anywhere near his work or house. It turns out she lived a double life being the sexual partner with the craftsman’s business partner! Ouch.

    I think Simenon was correct.


    Comment by fflambeau — August 24, 2019 @ 2:57 am

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