Spanish tenor Placido Domingo reacts during the rehearsal of the opening gala of the Gerard Of Sagredo Youth Forum and Sports Center in Szeged, Hungary, Tuesday, August 27, 2019, a day prior to the event. (Tibor Rosta/MTI via AP)

Placido Domingo concert opening sports complex in Hungary

August 28, 2019 - 3:00 pm

SZEGED, Hungary (AP) — Opera legend Placido Domingo was set to appear Wednesday at a concert in southern Hungary to inaugurate a sports and youth complex for a local Catholic diocese, continuing his calendar of European engagements unabated despite allegations of sexual harassment.

Domingo, whose son Placido Domingo Jr., is also taking the stage at the concert, faces allegations of sexual harassment made by nine women in a report published Aug. 13 by The Associated Press.

The AP story included extensive allegations of sexual harassment by nine women against Domingo that spanned decades, starting in the 1980s. The women accused Domingo of using his power at the LA Opera, where he has been the longtime general director, and elsewhere to try to pressure them into sexual relationships. Several of the woman said he dangled jobs and then sometimes punished them professionally if they refused his advances. Allegations included repeated phone calls, invitations to hotel rooms and his apartment, and unwanted touching and kisses.

In a statement to the AP, Domingo called the allegations "deeply troubling and, as presented inaccurate" and said he believed his interactions with the women to be consensual. He hasn't spoken publicly about the allegations since the article was published.

On Sunday, the Spaniard received a standing ovation at the Salzburg Festival, his first performance since the publication of the allegations against him. No European engagements have been cancelled, but a news conference planned for Monday with Domingo in Szeged was called off. 

The #MeToo movement has had very limited impact in Hungary while leading politicians have drawn criticism for statements seen as demeaning to women. In a 2015 speech, Parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Kover said that "We would like ... our daughters to consider bearing grandchildren for us as the height of self-fulfillment," while in 2013, a lawmaker said that his wife broke her jaw and suffered cheekbone fractures after tripping over their blind dog. He later admitted punching her and slamming her head against a wooden railing.

Domingo has performed numerous times in Hungary — including a 1996 concert in Budapest with Jose Carreras and Diana Ross — and is also known for his support for "Virtuosos," a Hungarian talent show for young classical musicians.

News stories about the concert in the Hungarian media, large parts of which now belong to a foundation with strong ties to Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, often made no mention of the allegations against Domingo, while independent outlets focused mostly on the peculiarities of the soccer stadium and sports complex being inaugurated with his performance.

The Gerard of Sagredo Youth Forum and Sports Center was built with public funds totaling some 14 billion forints ($47 million) and is owned by the Roman Catholic diocese of Szeged-Csanad, led by Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo, an avowed supporter of Orban's policies, including his fervent opposition to immigration.

Kiss-Rigo is also the founder of Szeged-Csanad Grosics Akademia, a soccer team currently competing in Hungary's second division and which will play its matches in the 8,000-seat stadium. According to the bishop, the compound, which also includes basketball courts, practice fields, an indoor sports courts and other facilities, also will be used by the over 9,000 students attending diocese schools and around 4,000 children in state care.

Also scheduled to appear with Domingo at the Szeged concert are Puerto Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez, a ballet company from the city of Gyor, the MAV Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Kohn and Soma Balazs-Piri, a young pianist who came to prominence after his appearances on the "Virtuosos" talent show on Hungarian state television.

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Gorondi reported from Budapest, Hungary. Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.

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