An investigation into opera singer Placido Domingo by the US union representing opera performers found more than two dozen people alleging sexually harassment or inappropriate behaviour by the legendary singer, according to people familiar with the findings.
The incidents allegedly happened when Domingo held senior management positions at Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera.
The investigation, conducted by lawyers hired by the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), concluded the accounts from 27 people showed a clear pattern of sexual misconduct and abuse of power by Domingo spanning at least two decades, according to those who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
In response to a request for comment from the AP, Domingo issued a statement saying: “I have taken time over the last several months to reflect on the allegations that various colleagues of mine have made against me.
“I respect that these women finally felt comfortable enough to speak out, and I want them to know that I am truly sorry for the hurt that I caused them. I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I have grown from this experience.”
The union’s investigation was the first of two independent inquiries launched after multiple women accused Domingo of sexual harassment and abusing his power in two AP stories published last year.
The second inquiry, still ongoing, was launched by LA Opera, where Domingo had been general director since 2003 before resigning in October.
According to the people familiar with the contents of the union’s investigation, lawyers from the firm Cozen O’Connor interviewed 55 people from September until late December.
In addition to the 27 who said they experienced or witnessed sexually suggestive behaviour by Domingo in the 1990s and 2000s, 12 others said they were aware of the star’s reputation and that it was common knowledge at the two companies.
Mirroring AP’s reporting last year, the investigation found the allegations included unsolicited physical touching that ranged from kisses on the mouth to groping, late-night phone calls in which Domingo asked women to come to his residence, and inviting women to go out with him socially with such persistence that some felt they were being stalked.
Two of the women told investigators they had sexual relations with Domingo, saying they felt compelled to submit because of his position of authority and potential to damage their careers, according to the sources familiar with the investigation.
In the rest of his statement to AP, Domingo said: “I understand now that some women may have feared expressing themselves honestly because of a concern that their careers would be adversely affected if they did so. While that was never my intention, no one should ever be made to feel that way.
“I am committed to effecting positive change in the opera industry so that no one else has to have that same experience.
“It is my fervent wish that the result will be a safer place to work for all in the opera industry, and I hope that my example moving forward will encourage others to follow.”
Union officials would not directly address the contents of the report, which has not been made public.
But the union’s national executive director, Leonard Egert, issued a statement to AP saying: “AGMA salutes the brave people across all our industries and encourages them to continue speaking out against wrongdoing.
“We call upon management, and pledge to work collaboratively with them, to get at the root causes that have allowed this behaviour to occur, and go unaddressed, in opera, dance, and choral cultures for far too long.”
Egert, other senior union leaders and the investigators briefed the union’s Board of Governors on the findings Monday.
The people familiar with the investigation said Domingo, now 79, had reiterated his denials of wrongdoing to investigators and contended that he did not occupy a position of power over his colleagues and their careers.
They said he told investigators he had engaged in flirtatious behaviour but did not cross a line into inappropriate touching or behaviour like asking colleagues to meet privately in his residence.
They said the investigators characterised Domingo’s conduct as inappropriate workplace behaviour under the norms of the 1990s or by today’s #MeToo standards.
The investigators said that they found the witness accounts to be credible based on the number of people who came forward, the similarities of their stories, corroborations of their accounts, and the common theme that Domingo’s behaviour and reputation were such widespread knowledge that women at his companies were warned to avoid being in close contact with him.
The union announced its investigation in September, shortly after the publication of AP’s stories, saying it did not trust the industry to police itself.
Most of the harassment alleged in AP’s stories occurred at LA Opera and at Washington opera, which has repeatedly declined to say if it would investigate the claims. LA Opera has not said when or if it will make its findings public.