Israel Must Cancel Placido Domingo’s Appearance – for the Sake of the Women

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Opera singer Placido Domingo speaking at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, May 11, 2018.
Opera singer Placido Domingo speaking at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, May 11, 2018. Credit: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Given the #MeToo movement’s success this week with the conviction of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein for a criminal sexual act and third-degree rape, it’s unfortunate to see that in Israel some people still don’t believe women who strike up the courage to expose the sexual abuses they’ve suffered.

Evidence of this is the invitation to opera star Placido Domingo to appear in Israel after more than 20 women in the United States accused him of sexual harassment, as reported by The Associated Press in two investigative reports last summer.

The reports, based on the testimonies of singers, dancers, musicians and opera employees, as well interviews with more than 30 opera employees who confirmed the allegations, show how Domingo methodically exploited his status in the classical music world for 30 years. Domingo harassed and pressured young women early in their careers, particularly singers, to have sex with him in exchange for roles, and sometimes undermined them professionally if they refused.

Following these reports, the operas of San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, and the Philadelphia Orchestra all canceled performances by Domingo, and he withdrew under pressure from planned performances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. His appearance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has also been canceled and he has been forced to resign as general director of the Los Angeles Opera, which has launched its own investigation.

Despite all this, the Israeli Opera has invited Domingo to conduct the Rishon Letzion orchestra during the Operalia competition for young singers, which he established in 1993. The opera defended the move by saying there have been no official complaints or charges against Domingo and it’s not its job “to conduct a field court-martial.” Thus the opera has chosen to bury its head in the sand and abandon not only the victims who have reported what they’ve gone through, but all the female singers, musicians and employees of the Israeli Opera.

On Tuesday, the conclusions of a probe by the American Guild of Musical Artists were released. According to the union, the investigator “concluded that Mr. Domingo had, in fact, 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.”

According to the report, 27 women described inappropriate behavior by Domingo including kisses, caresses and late-night telephone calls. Two said they had sex with Domingo after he pressured them. Though Domingo quickly released an apology, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that this was merely an effort at damage control.

The Israeli Opera should cancel Domingo’s invitation to Israel.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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