Spanish singer is first to claim sexual assault by Plácido Domingo

<span>Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

A former colleague of Plácido Domingo has become the first Spanish woman to allege sexual assault by the tenor, claiming his behaviour was so well known in the opera world that the first thing women were told was: “Don’t get in a lift with Plácido Domingo”.

Sexual harassment allegations against the Spanish singer were first reported by the Associated Press almost four years ago, and at least 20 women have so far accused Domingo of forcibly kissing, grabbing or fondling them in incidents dating back to the 1980s.

On Sunday night, an unnamed Spanish singer told La Sexta’s Salvados programme that she had been harassed and assaulted by Domingo when they worked together two decades ago.

The woman – who spoke anonymously, appearing in shadow and with her voice changed – identified two separate incidents. On the first occasion, she said, Domingo had noticed she was wearing trousers with embroidery on the rear pockets.

“He asked me a very strange question in front of everyone – he asked me: ‘Can I put my hand in that lovely pocket of yours?’” she told the programme.

“It hit me right in the stomach and I thought to myself, ‘What do I say to this man now to try to keep things normal? If I say no, it’ll have consequences. I don’t even want to think about what could happen if I say yes.’ I fretted over what to say for three seconds.”

The woman said the “incredibly uncomfortable situation” had left her feeling as if she were “in quicksand”.

The second alleged incident took place when they were performing together, and the lights had gone out to mark the end of the act.

“In those seconds when your eyes are getting used to the dark, Plácido drew near me,” she said. “He kissed me on the mouth and it was a kiss that I didn’t even see coming and so I couldn’t dodge out of the way. I did not want to be kissed. The act had ended, the music had stopped and the curtain was coming down. There was no justification whatsoever.”

She told Salvados that she had been too afraid to speak out because of the possible consequences for her career, but said she had been moved by the courage of the first women who told their stories.

“I thought how brave they were,” she said. “It’s something that’s known about in the opera world: one of the first things they tell you is: ‘Don’t get in a lift with Plácido Domingo.’”

The tenor’s representatives did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment on the latest allegations.

When the allegations first emerged, Domingo, now 81, said he was pained to hear that he may have upset people or made them feel uncomfortable “no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions”.

He said he took “full responsibility” for his actions, adding: “I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone.”

Since then, however, Domingo has changed his position, claiming his apology may have given a “false impression” about what had happened.

“I know what I haven’t done and I will deny it again,” he said in February 2020. “I never behaved aggressively with anyone and I have never done anything to obstruct or impede anyone’s career.”

A 2020 investigation commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera into sexual harassment allegations against Domingo found the tenor had engaged in “inappropriate conduct” with multiple women over the three decades for which he held senior positions at the company, which he helped found and later led.

The report did not detail any of the allegations, but said the “level of discomfort reported by the women varied, ranging from some women stating they were not uncomfortable to others who described significant trauma”.