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Spain Cancels Plácido Domingo Concerts Over Sex Abuse Allegations

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Much of the opera world has shunned Plácido Domingo since last year, when allegations of sexual abuse became public. Now his home country of Spain has heard enough. From Barcelona, Lucía Benavides reports.

LUCIA BENAVIDES, BYLINE: Patricia Wulf's career as a mezzo-soprano was just taking off in 1998 when she was offered the role of second lady in a performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" at the Washington National Opera. Plácido Domingo was artistic director. The opportunity meant she'd perform alongside the opera star, one of the most famous and celebrated tenor singers in the world. In an interview with The Associated Press last August, she says it was one of the happiest moments of her life.

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PATRICIA WULF: And then imagine my surprise when I get to the second lady and then harassment starts. That kind of burst that bubble very quickly.

BENAVIDES: She says Domingo would stare at her breasts as he talked to her when she was in costume or sometimes wait for her in the wings and ask if she really had to go home that night.

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WULF: And you have to understand that when a man that powerful - he's almost like God in my business. He was. The first thing that goes through your mind is, what?

BENAVIDES: Wulf is one of nine women who accused Domingo of sexual harassment, saying he pressured them to engage in sexual acts in order to advance their careers. The allegations spanned decades, during which Domingo held top managerial positions in various opera venues. After the accusations were made public, many arts organizations in the U.S. canceled Domingo's upcoming performances, but he continued to receive support from Spanish institutions.

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PLACIDO DOMINGO: (Speaking Spanish).

BENAVIDES: "Never, never in my life," Domingo said, "have I harassed a woman." That was in an interview last December with Spanish newspaper El Pais. But this Tuesday, when yet another accuser came forward, he released a statement taking full responsibility for his actions. A day later, Spain's Minister of Culture Jose Manuel Rodriguez announced the cancellation of Domingo's performances in Madrid this May.

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JOSE MANUEL RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

BENAVIDES: In a press conference, Rodriguez said the ministry made the decision after Domingo recognized what he had done and assumed responsibility. Rodriguez added, they're doing this in solidarity with the women affected.

For NPR News, I'm Lucía Benavides in Barcelona.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that nine women have accused Plácido Domingo of sexual abuse. The correct figure is 21 women.]

(SOUNDBITE OF RODRIGO Y GABRIELA'S "THE RUSSIAN MESSENGER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: February 28, 2020 at 12:00 AM EST
The original version of this story incorrectly reported that nine women have accused Plácido Domingo of sexual abuse. The correct figure is 21 women.