Plácido Domingo announced his resignation from the general directorship of the Los Angeles Opera on Wednesday. Confronted with accusations of sexual harassment from 20 separate colleagues, stemming from a well-reported Associated Press investigation, the legendary singer and conductor has seen his engagements with major companies throughout the U.S. withdrawn over the past two months, including, most recently, the Metropolitan Opera, where the 78-year-old star had performed for 55 years.
But the Los Angeles Opera was the biggest, and probably hardest of these separations. Domingo was a central figure in the founding of the company, in 1986, has sung hundreds of LA Opera performances, and has been general director there since 2003.
Domingo’s resignation statement, released to the company on Wednesday, made this special relationship clear.
Recent accusations that have been made against me in the press have created an atmosphere in which my ability to serve this company that I so love has been compromised. While I will continue to work to clear my name, I have decided that it is in the best interests of LA Opera for me to resign as its general director and withdraw from my future scheduled performances at this time.
I do so with a heavy heart and at the same time wish to convey to the company’s dedicated board and hard-working staff my deepest wishes that the LA Opera continue to grow and excel.
Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera’s president and chief executive profiled in SFCV a few years ago, will fulfill Domingo’s responsibilities until the board names a new general director. In his own message to the company, Koelsch noted that the investigation the company had commissioned to look into Domingo’s behavior would continue. He specified in his message that “In the meantime, I want to reiterate that the leadership of LA Opera knows we must take further steps to guarantee we are doing everything we can to foster a professional and collaborative environment. It is imperative that we make sure all employees and artists feel heard, valued and respected, because you are.”
That investigation and another that has been commissioned by the American Guild of Musical Artists (the union that represents singers at LA Opera) still have the potential to damage the company, because of particularly damning testimony in the second of two A.P. stories, that managers knew of Domingo’s behavior and looked the other way. If those allegations are further substantiated, the company would be vulnerable to the charge of having tolerated a “culture of harassment.” Fortunately for LA Opera and other U.S. companies, the women interviewed in the A.P. articles have said they want to change conditions, not hold institutions liable. In that sense, Koelsch’s commitment is as important as Domingo’s resignation.