Nine women have accused acclaimed opera singer Plácido Domingo of sexual harassment, with many alleging the Grammy-winning musician promised them career help before aggressively pursuing them with late-night phone calls and unwanted hugs and kisses.
The women, eight singers and one dancer, detailed the alleged harassment to the Associated Press in a lengthy report that outlined a pattern of pursuit stretching three decades, and ended almost every time with the women suffering professional consequences.
Three women told the outlet Domingo, 78, “forced wet kisses” on them, while one claimed he stuck his hand down her skirt.
Almost all of the women’s accounts followed a similar pattern that saw the singer, married since 1962, begin their working relationship by telling them he wanted to help advance their careers thanks to his impressive network of connections.
The women say that their excitement soon soured as he began calling them at home repeatedly, often late at night.
A singer who met Domingo while traveling in Europe in 1992 told the AP he frequently called her with “flirty” messages asking to come to her apartment, and that eventually, the amount of calls left her “frightened.”
Another singer, who was just 23 when she met Domingo in 1988, started receiving calls from him after she says they shared a “sloppy, wet kiss” during rehearsals on stage at the LA Opera, after which he allegedly whispered to her, “I wish we weren’t on stage.”
“He would say things like, ‘Come to my apartment. Let’s sing through some arias. I’ll give you coaching. I’d like to hear what you can do for casting,’” she claimed.
The woman said that over the next three years, he became “uncomfortably affectionate,” and would touch her waist, kiss her cheek close to her mouth, and enter her dressing room uninvited.
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She said she tried to avoid being alone with him so as not to suffer professional repercussions, but eventually “gave in” and slept with him twice because she “ran out of excuses.” After their second encounter, she cut off physical contact, telling the AP she’s convinced doing so “derailed her career at LA Opera.”
Yet another singer alleged that he tried to kiss her in her car after asking her for a ride home in the mid-2000s, and later slid his hand down her skirt after inviting her to his apartment to work on professional matters.
Patricia Wulf, who sang with Domingo at the Washington Opera, was the only one of the nine to go on the record, and said she was uncomfortable by his asking her each and every night if she had to go home after work, and by his trying to enter her dressing room uninvited.
“What he did is wrong,” said a dancer who claimed he took her up to his hotel room during a business lunch and started hugging and kissing her before she pushed him away and left. “He used his power, he stalked women, he put women in positions of vulnerability. People have dropped out of the business and been just erased because of submitting or not submitting to him.”
In addition to Domingo’s nine accusers, the AP reports six other women claimed he made them feel “uncomfortable” with his “suggestive overtures.”
Nearly three dozen people who worked with Domingo also told the outlet they witnessed “inappropriate sexually tinged behavior” by the musician.
Domingo, who has served as the general director of the Los Angeles Opera since 2003, addressed the allegations in a statement to PEOPLE, claiming that he believed all of his interactions to be “welcomed and consensual.”
“The allegations from these unnamed individuals dating back as many as 30 years are deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate. Still, it is painful to hear that I may have upset anyone or made them feel uncomfortable — no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions. I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone,” his statement read.
“However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are — and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past. I am blessed and privileged to have had a more than 50-year career in opera and will hold myself to the highest standards.”
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Opera told PEOPLE in a statement that the venue will be investigating the allegations with help from outside counsel.
“We believe all employees and artists should be treated respectfully and feel safe and secure within their work environment,” the statement read. “LA Opera has robust human resources policies and procedures in place. In accordance with these policies, LA Opera will engage outside counsel to investigate the concerning allegations about Plácido Domingo.”
The statement continued: “Plácido Domingo has been a dynamic creative force in the life of LA Opera and the artistic culture of Los Angeles for more than three decades. Nevertheless, we are committed to doing everything we can to foster a professional and collaborative environment where all our employees and artists feel equally comfortable, valued and respected.”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.