Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
Some corners of the international opera world were turned upside down last year with 80-year-old global opera sensation Placido Domingo was accused of multiple instances of inappropriate sexual behavior. The allegations called into question not only Domingo’s personal behavior but the culture of opera in general, causing many stakeholders to take strong positions on the issue.
Domingo himself voluntarily withdrew from a number of performances across the U.S., though he continues to perform in Europe, including celebrated dates in Berlin and Milan, where he sold out shows and received standing ovations.
Opera promoters in Israel are hoping for similarly positive fan reactions when Domingo arrives to host a week-long singing competition in Tel Aviv later this year. The show, dubbed Domingo’s Operalia, is slated to run this coming October, leaving many opera fans and hopefuls excited about the possibilities.
However, not everyone is excited. Some groups have come after not only Domingo, but the entire Israeli Opera organization for “receiving a serial assaulter with open arms.”
This particular critical message came from The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, which posted an excoriating missive on Facebook, including the following comments: “Leave it to the Israeli Opera to receive someone who in other places has turned into an outcast in light of his actions, and gladly announced his arrival to the country…”
In addition, an op-ed in the Hebrew daily Haaretz accused the Israeli Opera of being “disconnected and outdated…” and ignoring the #MeToo movement.
In response, the Israeli Opera released a statement noting that the organization maintains a “very strict policy” banning all forms of harassment, adding that there’s been no official investigation and “no official report” related to Domingo. In the statement, the Israeli Opera summed up its position with: “Since many leading opera houses around the world decided to continue to invite Mr. Domingo to perform on their stages, the Israeli Opera saw no reason not to act in the same way…”
The response to this message has been mixed. Partisans and activists continue to protest, while many opera fans, both in and out of Israel, see the decision as a positive move in support of a superstar who remains beloved to countless fans across the world. For Domingo, the return to Tel Aviv is going back almost all the way to the beginning. According to various media reports, he invested three years early in his career performing in local opera houses while living in the city.
This entire situation will provide an interesting litmus test on how to approach international entertainment Public Relations while under the cloud of misconduct allegations in the so-called #MeToo Era. How will fans and promoters and entertainment media respond? That remains to be seen.
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