#MeToo re-do: Opera legend walks back apology to his accusers

That was fast. Legendary opera star Plácido Domingo issued an apology to women who claimed he sexually harassed them on Tuesday. By Thursday he was couching the apology, saying he wants to “correct the false impression” his statement may have made. This is turning out to be a case of sorry, not sorry.

On Tuesday, Domingo said, “I respect that these women finally felt comfortable enough to speak out, and I want them to know that I am truly sorry. I accept full responsibility for my actions.” That is a basic, succinct apology. He didn’t denigrate his accusers, he took full responsibility, and he apologized. Since then, however, it looks like he’s had a change of heart. He’s sorry but he’s not admitting to guilt.

“My apology was sincere and wholehearted,” he said. “But I know what I haven’t done, and I will deny it again.”

“I have never behaved aggressively toward anybody, nor have I ever done anything to obstruct or hurt the career of anybody,” he continued. “On the contrary, I have dedicated a large part of my half-century in the world of opera to helping the industry and to promoting the career of innumerable singers.”

So, what changed from the original apology on Tuesday to Thursday? His professional career is hanging in the balance, that’s what happened. Placido Domingo faces professional repercussions. His additional statement came just hours before the executive committee of the Teatro Real, a major opera house in Madrid, was to meet. On the committee’s agenda is whether or not to cancel his performance of “La Traviata” in May. To head off an unfavorable decision, he withdrew from performing “to prevent my situation from affecting, harming or causing any additional inconvenience.”

Wednesday, after Mr. Domingo issued his apology, the National Institute of Performing Arts and Music of Spain canceled his scheduled performances at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid because he admitted guilt. “From the moment that he says that what happened did happen, involving serious acts that affect many women,” José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, the Spanish culture minister, said on Wednesday. “We have decided that we could not maintain his presence.”

The apology issued Tuesday happened because of the American Guild of Musical Artists, the union representing American opera performers, released its results from an investigation conducted after nine women accused Domingo of sexual misconduct. American opera companies immediately bailed on the opera star while European opera companies continued to support him. The Guild’s investigation found that he “engaged in inappropriate activity, ranging from flirtation to sexual advances, in and outside of the workplace.”

While he awaits word on future performances, Domingo said he will withdraw, if requested, to avoid any problems for opera houses. Otherwise, he intends to fulfill his commitments which include the Royal Opera House in London and the Bolshoi in Moscow this year.

Placido Domingo planned to avoid all of this publicity and consequences. He was in discussions to pay the performers’ union to limit statements about its investigation. Details from the investigation leaked out, though, so that discussion fell apart Tuesday. The agreement was to include payment of a $500,000 “fine” by Domingo to the union. It wasn’t a secret deal, you see. Wink, wink.

“Based on this flagrant breach of confidentiality Domingo’s counsel has withdrawn the agreement, which was expressly premised on A.G.M.A.’s promise to maintain confidentiality over the details of the investigatory report,” said the email, which was signed by Leonard Egert, the union’s national executive director, and Raymond Menard, its president, and sent to the union’s board. It was read to The New York Times by two recipients.

The union released a statement Tuesday night calling the payment a “fine” which it described as “to our knowledge the largest to be imposed on a union member,” and not in “exchange for A.G.M.A.’s silence or to make any ‘secret deal.’”

“Regardless of the fine imposed, A.G.M.A. was never planning to publicly release the specific details of its internal investigation, as the union had assured witnesses of confidentiality,” said the statement, which the union said it was releasing to counter “misperceptions” left by reports of the deal by The Times and NPR. “Any suggestion that the union was being paid to withhold information is patently false.”

Domingo is 79 years old. He is a world-famous tenor who held leadership positions at the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera, so this case was bound to generate lots of publicity. Some of his American dates have been canceled, including with the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera.

Next month, Mr. Domingo is scheduled to sing the title role in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” at the Hamburg State Opera. A spokesman for the company, Michael Bellgardt, said in an email on Tuesday that he expected Mr. Domingo to perform as planned “if nothing happens to call this into question.”

The Los Angeles Opera, which Mr. Domingo helped found, and led until he stepped down last year, is still conducting its own investigation.

Placido Domingo is doing the ultimate sorry, not sorry. We’ll see how it turns out for him.

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