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Entertainment & Arts

After Plácido Domingo’s resignation, L.A. Opera eliminates his old title

Plácido Domingo’s role as general director of the L.A. Opera will be eliminated. L.A. Opera President and Chief Executive Christopher Koelsch will consolidate the role into his current duties.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)
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The question of who will replace Plácido Domingo as general director of Los Angeles Opera following the embattled star’s recent resignation got a quick answer Monday: nobody.

L.A. Opera’s board of directors announced that it will consolidate the role of general director with the duties of company President and Chief Executive Christopher Koelsch, whose title will remain the same.

“We are fortunate to be able to centralize our management structure … under a leader like Christopher, whose vision, compassion and dedicated commitment to further expand opera’s presence in Southern California we fully support,” the board wrote in a statement to The Times.

The move comes after Domingo resigned Wednesday from the position he held since 2003, stating that the ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment was distracting from the work of the company and making it impossible to do his job.

Domingo has denied the accusations, first reported by the Associated Press, saying that his actions had been misinterpreted and telling the AP in an official statement that the allegations were, “as presented, inaccurate.”

The choice of Koelsch as L.A. Opera’s top leader moving forward leaves the company without the glittery patina that Domingo brought to his role and that he parlayed into a powerful tool for fundraising.

But Koelsch, who has served the company since 1997 and was appointed president and chief executive in 2012, has earned a different kind of respect in the music world, said Renée Fleming, the soprano starring in L.A. Opera’s production of “The Light in the Piazza” opening Saturday.

“I think Christopher is one of the bright lights in opera in terms of leadership vision, how well he executes plans and how forward-thinking he is,” Fleming said. “And that’s something that opera needs across the country.”

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Deborah Borda, president and chief executive of the New York Philharmonic, who led the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 17 years, echoed Fleming. Koelsch has, she said, “in essence been running the company and fulfilling this position for quite a while.”

“Christopher has been completely committed to the organization,” Borda said. “He brings a passion to L.A. Opera that will be unsurpassed.”

Borda said she has been impressed with Koelsch’s commitment to new music and was particularly excited by the 2012 launch of L.A. Opera’s “Off Grand” initiative, which brought world and West Coast premieres such as Ellen Reid’s Pulitzer-winning “prism,” David Lang’s “anatomy theater” and the Chelsea Manning-inspired “The Source.”

For skeptics, however, the Koelsch appointment will not resolve questions about the scope of the outside investigation being conducted by independent counsel Debra Wong Yang of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Many have expressed concern about whether L.A. Opera management knew about instances of sexual harassment and whether it responded appropriately.

Yang has not responded to The Times’ queries about specifics of her investigation. When Domingo resigned, she said only, “Both we and L.A. Opera believe that it is important that our thorough and independent investigation continue.”

A timeline has not been announced for a conclusion to the investigation.

Koelsch, in a letter to the staff of L.A. Opera on Monday, expressed his “deep thanks” to Domingo for his service to the company, adding that he is leaving behind an organization that is in a “strong financial position, flourishing creatively and well-positioned for the future.”

Koelsch also wrote, “I am committed to a vigorous process of reflection and reform. It is imperative that we foster a positive environment that meets the needs of employees as well as the company. We will fall short of our goals unless every member of our community feels heard, valued and respected. I am committed to ensuring that they do.”

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