MILAN — Even as his U.S. career seemingly winds down amid accusations of sexual harassment, opera legend Placido Domingo remains on the bill of a host of European opera houses. But cracks, even if slight, are beginning to show in his support.
The 78-year-old singer who rose to stardom as a tenor has been confirmed to sing the baritone title role in “Nabucco” at the Zurich Opera House in Switzerland on Sunday.
It will be Domingo’s first performance since he stepped down Oct. 2 as general director of the Los Angeles Opera and withdrew from future performances at the company.
The move left the star with no more U.S. dates on his public calendar, putting a question mark over his professional future in a country where he thrived artistically for decades.
In addition to LA Opera, three U.S. musical companies already had cancelled Domingo performances, and he also pulled out of a series of appearances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera under pressure.
The U.S. response has been relatively decisive in the wake of a pair of reports by The Associated Press in August and September based on interviews with more than 20 women who accused Domingo of sexual harassment or other inappropriate contact.
Domingo has denied the allegations.
In contrast to the United States, so far no theatre in Europe, where the #MeToo movement has had little impact, has cancelled any of the singer’s planned performances on calendars running through the fall of 2020.
In continuing the performances, European venues have cited an absence of allegations in their venues, the lack of a judicial case against him and the singer’s well-known affability and undeniable popularity.
No investigations have been announced in Europe, although some houses say they are awaiting the outcome of one being conducted at LA Opera, suggesting possible future action depending on the findings.
Even as the Zurich Opera confirmed again last week that Domingo would sing the role of Nabucco in what it has been billed as “a really special gala performance,” the Swiss venue emphasized that it continues to monitor the situation.
“We have given a lot of thought about the upcoming performance of Plácido Domingo as Nabucco on 13 October and we take the matter very seriously,” spokeswoman Bettina Auge said in an email. “The Zurich Opera commits to establishing a work environment which is free of sexual harassment.”
Auge added, “For us the presumption of innocence is very important.”
Even before Domingo removed himself from the Los Angeles opera, the opera critic for Britain’s Guardian newspaper wrote that that singer’s “total withdrawal from the Metropolitan Opera in the wake of continuing sexual harassment allegations against him ought to mark a line in the sand for the operatic world.”
“The problem, however, is that when the world of opera is confronted with an expanse of sand, its instinct is to bury its head in it,” the Guardian’s Martin Kettle wrote last month. The headline for Kettle’s column said London’s Royal Opera House “is living in a dream world if it thinks Domingo should perform there still.”
Domingo isn’t scheduled to sing at the Royal Opera House until the July 2020 production of “Don Carlo.” Cast to sing the baritone part of Rodrigo, it would mark his 28th role there since 1971.
The opera house, called Covent Garden for short due to its location in the London district of that name, previously said it wasn’t aware of any accusations from his earlier appearances there and expressed a “zero tolerance policy towards harassment of any kind.”
This week, the Royal Opera declined to comment further when asked if there were any changes in the calendar in the wake of the U.S. developments.
“It would not be appropriate for us to comment before the conclusion of the formal investigation into Placido Domingo in Los Angeles,” it said.
In all, Domingo has been confirmed to appear in 17 European concerts or operas through November 2020, including a 50th anniversary concert at Milan’s La Scala on Dec. 15 and four appearances at the Vienna State Opera House – three operas and a youth gala concert.
And the Teatro Real in his native Madrid is sticking by him, reiterating an earlier statement that expressed no tolerance for violence against women and said such matters must be dealt with by a court.
The singer’s hometown theatre added, “We, as many people, think that Placido Domingo is an unquestionable artist with more than half a century of career as one of the most important voices in the lyrical genre.”