Sunday 22 September 2019

Placido Domingo accused of sexually assaulting co-star before performance

Angela Wilson, then 28, starred opposite the legendary tenor in the 1999-2000 season production by Washington Opera of Le Cid.

Placido Domingo has strongly rejected all allegations against him (Adam Davy/PA)
Placido Domingo has strongly rejected all allegations against him (Adam Davy/PA)

By Jocelyn Gecker and Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

A singer who got her career break starring opposite Placido Domingo has claimed the legendary tenor sexually assaulted her while they were preparing for an evening’s performance.

Angela Wilson, then 28, was singled out for praise for her performance as the second female lead in the glittering 1999-2000 season production by Washington Opera of Jules Massenet’s Le Cid – a role she says she knew “was the start of big things for me”.

But one evening while having their make-up done before going on stage, she says Domingo reached down into her robe and grabbed her breast in an incident she said was painful.

Ms Wilson, now 48 and a voice teacher, is one of 11 women to come forward after a story published by the Associated Press on August 13 featured numerous women accusing the married, Spanish-born superstar of sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour, and of sometimes damaging their careers if they rejected him.

What woman would ever want him to grab their breast? And it hurt. Then I had to go on stage and act like I was in love with him Angela Wilson

In the weeks since that story was published, the women have shared new stories about encounters with Domingo, currently the general director of Los Angeles Opera, that they said included unwanted touching, persistent requests for private get-togethers, late-night phone calls and sudden attempts to kiss them on the lips.

Several additional backstage employees described for the AP how they strove to shield young women from the star as administrators looked the other way.

Domingo’s spokeswoman Nancy Seltzer has issued a statement disputing the allegations.

It said: “The ongoing campaign by the AP to denigrate Placido Domingo is not only inaccurate but unethical. These new claims are riddled with inconsistencies and, as with the first story, in many ways, simply incorrect.

“Due to an ongoing investigation, we will not comment on specifics, but we strongly dispute the misleading picture that the AP is attempting to paint of Mr Domingo.”

On Thursday evening, Dallas Opera announced it had cancelled a March 2020 gala in which Domingo was scheduled to perform. The opera’s statement cited “ongoing developments regarding allegations” against the singer.

Washington National Opera issued a statement saying it was “disturbed and disheartened” by the new allegations, but did not say whether it plans to investigate them.

An email sent on Thursday to LA Opera staff said administrators, who hired outside counsel to investigate after the initial accusations, “are very troubled by the ongoing allegations raised by the Associated Press, and take them very seriously”.

It noted that Domingo would not be involved in day-to-day management until the investigation concludes.

Ms Wilson said she was compelled to come forward after the 78-year-old tenor’s reaction to the AP’s initial story, in which he said he believed his actions “were always welcomed and consensual” and added that “the rules and standards by which we are — and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past”.

Ms Wilson rejects the idea that such behaviour has ever been acceptable.

“What woman would ever want him to grab their breast? And it hurt. Then I had to go on stage and act like I was in love with him.”

She went on to described other alleged incidents in which she claimed Domingo insisted she kissed him and trapped her in her dressing room until she did so, and invited her to dinner and to his apartment alone.

PA Media

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