Los Angeles (AFP)

The women who accused singer Placido Domingo of "inappropriate behavior" are credible, according to an investigation commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera on its former general manager, who however found no evidence that he abused his power.

Placido Domingo, who was also artistic director then general of the Washington National Opera, is accused of sexual harassment by twenty women in the United States, for facts dating back to the 1980s: touching, forced kissing and inappropriate remarks .

Some alleged victims say that the lyric singer, nicknamed "king of the opera", would have sought to harm their career if refused.

Before the scandal, and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the Los Angeles Opera House hired the services of independent private investigators to examine the complaints brought against Placido Domingo. The latter resigned last fall as director general of the Californian institution he had occupied since 2003.

The investigators concluded that "the level of embarrassment expressed by the women was variable" but that all the testimonies converged, the most serious mentioning "significant trauma" even if some said they had not experienced any discomfort.

In total, investigators from the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher heard 44 people, including ten alleged victims, the management of the Opera and Placido Domingo himself.

The charges against the singer, who is now 79 years old, are between 1986, the date of his appointment as artistic advisor, and his departure from the institution in October 2019.

- Fear of reprisals -

"Some people have said that they have given up reporting on Mr. Domingo's behavior because of his importance and influence," the investigators wrote in their investigation summary released Tuesday.

Jurists claim, however, that they have found no evidence that the singer "had engaged in a form of blackmail or reprisals against a woman by refusing her an audition or an engagement at the LA Opera".

Cabinet investigators point out that Mr. Domingo cooperated with them and testified voluntarily. He continued to deny any touching or assault, claiming that all of his relationships with the women had been consensual.

"Gibson Dunn often found him sincere in his protests but some of them were deemed less credible or uninformed," they write in their investigation summary.

Requested by AFP, the representatives of Placido Domingo did not wish to react at this stage.

Another independent investigation - commissioned by the American union of opera artists - had already concluded that the tenor, become baritone with the age, had in the past "an inappropriate behavior, going from the flirt to the sexual advances, on his place working and outside. "

"Many witnesses cited their fears of reprisals within the profession as a reason for not having reported themselves earlier," insisted the union.

Placido Domingo asked for forgiveness at the end of February from the women who accused him, before specifying two days later that he still rejected the accusations of harassment that target him.

Gibson Dunn believes that the Los Angeles Opera House has taken harassment complaints of which it was aware, but that its policies and procedures have sometimes been flawed.

"On a personal level, I am troubled, and I regret that individuals involved in the Opera may have felt helpless, vulnerable or ignored in any way," wrote the director of the institution, Christopher Koelsch, in an email sent to employees and obtained by AFP.

"We have learned that there is widespread reluctance in the profession to report harassment, and it is crucial for our future that we build mutual trust and transparency," he said.

Now fallen in the United States, Placido Domingo has also recently given up singing at the Royal Opera House in London and in Spain, his native country.

© 2020 AFP