Times Staff Writer

Music Center officials Friday denied a report in a magazine story to be published in March that Spanish tenor Placido Domingo will become head of the Music Center Opera Assn.

But they would neither confirm nor deny that the singer and conductor, who will be 44 Monday, will star in a production of Puccini's "Tosca" to be produced at the Music Center this summer, as also reported in Ovation magazine.

Thomas Wachtell, president of the board of directors of the opera association, Thursday afternoon denied categorically that Domingo would head the opera association, saying, "There is no truth in it whatsoever. There have been no such discussions with Domingo."

Friday morning, however, Wachtell issued a statement, acknowledging that "(Peter) Hemmings (executive director of Music Center Opera Assn.) has had discussions with Mr. Domingo, who is a member of the Opera Assn. board, regarding his additional involvement in Music Center Opera Assn. matters as an artistic consultant. The outcome of those discussions will be reported at a board meeting to be held next week."

Domingo, in New York Friday for a daylong dress rehearsal of "Otello" at the Metropolitan Opera, was not available for comment. But his publicist, Edgar Vincent, told The Times, "I would be very surprised if this story (about the Music Center post) were true."

As read over the phone by Ovation magazine editor Sam Chase, the story to be published in the March issue quotes the tenor as saying that he will become "either artistic adviser or music adviser" to the Music Center Opera Assn., the opera-producing arm of the 20-year-old cultural center.

"Already, things shape up very well," the article quotes Domingo as saying in referance to operatic plans made with Hemmings for Los Angeles. The piece was written by Detroit News music critic Nancy Malitz.

"We have been working together very closely, ahead three or four years, because everything in opera moves at that distance," the article further quotes Domingo. "We will know soon which will be my title for the moment. Then, little by little, I will become more involved."

Claire Segal, director of public affairs for the Performing Arts Council of the Music Center, said that "Mr. Domingo is not going to be the head of our opera company. As is well known, he is already involved with Music Center Opera, as a member of our board. I haven't seen the story, but it sounds to me as if there has been a total misunderstanding. Peter Hemmings is executive director of Music Center Opera, and will continue to be."

Later Friday, Hemmings, formerly an administrator at the London Symphony, who was appointed to his Music Center post in October, confirmed Wachtell's statement.

"I hope (these discussions with Domingo) are now explained," Hemmings said. "In any case, we will have that press conference, as I promised, at the end of January. And all will be revealed."

Malitz's article also states that the first fruits of the collaboration between Domingo and Hemmings will be importing the Berlin Opera production of "Tosca," with Domingo as Cavaradossi, in the summer of 1985.

It further quotes Domingo as saying that he will be winding down his singing career in the next 10 years and that "my goal is to be a real music director, but honestly, that needs a lot of time."

Marc Shulgold also contributed to this story.

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