Opera star Placido Domingo honoured in Spain, fans back him despite sexual harassment claims

Singer Placido Domingo after receiving the "Honorary World Heritage Ambassador of Spain" award at Teatro Real in Madrid on June 10, 2021.
Singer Placido Domingo after receiving the "Honorary World Heritage Ambassador of Spain" award at Teatro Real in Madrid on June 10, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (REUTERS) - Spanish opera star Placido Domingo was honoured with an award at Madrid's Teatro Real on Thursday (June 10), a day after receiving a standing ovation for his first performance in his home country since a union said he had routinely harassed women.

Spain last year cancelled planned performances by him at publicly funded theatres, while he pulled out of shows after an investigation by the American Guild of Musical Artists concluded he had behaved inappropriately with female performers.

More than three dozen singers, dancers, musicians, voice teachers and backstage staff said they witnessed or experienced inappropriate behaviour over the last three decades.

American institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York and San Francisco Opera, axed planned engagements with him and he resigned as general director of the Los Angeles Opera.

Domingo, 80, has apologised for having made colleagues feel uncomfortable but denies having behaved aggressively or acting to obstruct any performer's career.

A representative said the singer "has never been investigated or tried by any court or other institutional investigative body on any charge".

His return to Madrid on Wednesday for a charity concert in aid of the Red Cross drew a huge crowd, including regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who said it was a "source of pride" to have him back in Spain.

Arriving at the ceremony, in which he was awarded the title of honorary ambassador for world heritage in Spain, Domingo spoke of the pride he felt to be back and the thrill of the previous day's show.

"I feel great emotion, it's my city, the great city of Madrid. After singing last night... it was such a special night I feel I have all the strength."

Fans outside the concert defended his legacy.

"We love him and we follow him almost anywhere. We love him as a person, as an artiste, as a singer," said a fan named Wilda from Germany.

Equality Minister Irene Montero, a leading figure in the feminist movement in Spain, criticised those who had applauded the singer.

"I would like them to ask themselves what message they are sending to these women and to those who are sexually assaulted every day in our country," she tweeted.

Neither the Red Cross, nor Association for the Dissemination and Promotion of Spanish World Heritage which organised the award ceremony, could be reached for comment.

According to his website, he is due to sing or conduct in France, Germany, Italy and Russia this year, but no American venues are listed.