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Entertainment & Arts

Plácido Domingo investigation leaves L.A. Opera opening the season without its star

The cast in Los Angeles Opera’s “La Bohème” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
The cast of Los Angeles Opera’s “La Bohème” runs through rehearsal Thursday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The company’s 34th season opens while an investigation continues into allegations of sexual harassment by general director Plácido Domingo.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The final note has been sung in the final dress rehearsal, the caterers have begun preparing the gala meal, the tickets are at will call and the forecast calls for sunny skies, but Los Angeles Opera prepared to open its 34th season Saturday with a dark cloud still looming overhead: the sexual harassment allegations against Plácido Domingo.

With Domingo staying away from Los Angeles while an internal investigation is underway, the company pushed ahead Friday on season-opener plans with its general manager absent and rumors swirling about whether he will step down. Domingo has not spoken about the allegations since issuing an initial statement that was part apology and part denial, and neither L.A. Opera nor the law firm it hired for the investigation, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, responded to The Times’ questions about the inquiry.

For the record:
1:13 PM, Sep. 14, 2019 An earlier version of this article said “Macbeth” was the Met’s season opener. The show is part of the company’s opening week but is not its first production.

On Friday that left crews to prepare for what in any other year would be an opening night of pure celebration, with a splashy production of Puccini’s “La Bohème” conceived by noted director Barrie Kosky providing the crescendo, and an elaborate black-tie ball outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on the newly renovated Music Center Plaza as the grand finale. With individual tickets running $2,588 to $15,525, the evening of dinner, dancing and cocktails beneath the stars — one of L.A. Opera’s most important fundraisers — now will unfold with the possibility of protests.

The company did not say if extra security measures were being taken to address the prospect of a demonstration. Guests arriving at the Music Center’s valet station will see a minimal red carpet with no step-and-repeat photography, lest anything delay their entry to a new welcome center building for check-in. After the performance, the ball will take place on the open-air plaza but behind a fabric perimeter. With John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” playing at the Ahmanson Theatre across the plaza, public access to the space will remain open via stairs, and restaurants will be open.

His “La Bohème” will open L.A. Opera’s season. Here’s why America, and especially L.A., would be lucky to see more of the outrageously clever Barrie Kosky.
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The prospect of a #MeToo protest appeared not to have hurt ticket sales. The production, in which Domingo has no part, has seen ticket sales fairly typical of a season opener — as of midday Friday, not sold out but close.

The company, meanwhile, sought to prevent the accusations against its star from detracting from “La Bohème.”

“We are thrilled with and proud of the work that more than 350 of our tireless and talented staffers, artistic corps and guest artists have been doing behind the scenes for months,” L.A. Opera’s president and chief executive, Christopher Koelsch, said via email to The Times. “Their sensational ‘La Bohème’ is a bold, and emotionally affecting take on the classic — and one that I have every hope will resonate strongly with today’s audiences.”

But the challenge of moving ahead with the season will remain difficult given the distractions and external pressures that come with an investigation. While San Francisco Opera has already canceled an Oct. 6 appearance by Domingo and the Dallas Opera canceled its March gala concert with Domingo, the Metropolitan Opera in New York reiterated that it has not made a decision on Domingo’s scheduled appearance in “Macbeth” on Sept. 25. The Met said it was withholding judgment until the results of L.A. Opera’s investigation are in, creating pressure for a timely resolution, and the New York Times reported that Domingo did indeed start rehearsals at the Met last week.

This fall’s classical music highlights include Esa-Pekka Salonen, “Porgy and Bess” and the L.A. Phil’s birthday gala.

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The scandal, among the biggest to hit the opera world, centers on two Associated Press reports in which two named singers and 18 anonymous women accused Domingo of sexual harassment and misconduct including unwanted touching, kisses, persistent late-night phone calls and hurt careers if those advances were rebuffed. The AP articles characterized Domingo’s behavior as an open secret at L.A. Opera. The company issued a statement saying that it took the allegations “extremely seriously.”

“We believe all our employees and artists should feel valued, supported and safe,” the company said. “We are, however, unable to discuss any specific claim.”

Sources close to company operations said that Domingo is not involved in day-to-day management of the company while the investigation is open.

‘La Bohème’
Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
When: Six performances Saturday-Oct. 6
Tickets: $24-$349 (subject to change); the Sept. 28 performance will be simulcast free on big screens at Santa Monica Pier and Columbia Park in Torrance)
Info: (213) 972-8001 or LAOpera.org


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