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Spain takes first European moves against Plácido Domingo

FILE - In this May 23, 2007, file photo, Placido Domingo, general director of the Washington National Opera, speaks during a news conference in Washington about a simulcast of a performance of La Boheme. An investigation into Domingo by the U.S. union representing opera performers found more than two dozen people who said they were sexually harassed or witnessed inappropriate behavior by the superstar when he held senior management positions at Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera, according to people familiar with the findings. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish government said Wednesday it was canceling two upcoming performances by Plácido Domingo in Madrid to show support for the women who have accused him of misconduct and take a stand against sexual harassment, becoming the first in Europe to cancel on the megastar since since allegations surfaced last year in the United States.

Spain’s Culture Ministry said that “given the seriousness of the deeds,” and “in solidarity with women affected,” together with Domingo’s declarations of responsibility earlier this week, it had canceled his part in “Luisa Fernanda” at the Teatro de la Zarzuela light opera house in mid-May.

The ministry’s announcement came a day after the main U.S. union representing opera performers said its investigators found the opera star had behaved inappropriately over the course of two decades when he held senior management positions at Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera.

In response to the findings, Domingo issued a statement saying that he accepted “full responsibility” for his actions and was “truly sorry for the hurt” that he had caused women.

Domingo’s response marked a stunning reversal from the opera superstar’s initial statements in which he had denied wrongdoing.

The cancellation Wednesday was particularly notable because Domingo, who was born in Spain, is one of the country’s most popular and respected stars. Many people came to his defense in Spain and across Europe when the charges first emerged last year and U.S. companies took swift action to distance themselves from Domingo by canceling his appearances or announcing he had withdrawn.

Spanish Culture Minister José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes said, “Given that he (Domingo) wanted to take responsibility, our duty was to respond to that. Therefore, it is not the time for him to take part in the program, and that’s what we have decided in line with the facts admitted by him.”

“Until now the situation was different, there was a presumption of innocence,” said Rodríguez Uribes. “But since the moment he said that what happened did indeed happen, and given that this is a situation with serious events that affect many women, we have decided that it wasn’t appropriate to keep his presence and we informed him.”

“I think it’s more of a duty than a gesture of solidarity” to the women affected, he added.

The full results of the investigation by the American Guild of Musical Artists have not been made public. People familiar with the findings told the AP that investigators found 27 people who said they were sexually harassed or witnessed inappropriate behavior by Domingo.

It was the first of two independent inquiries launched after multiple women accused Domingo of sexual harassment and abusing his power in two AP stories published last year. The second inquiry, still ongoing, was launched by LA Opera, where Domingo had been general director since 2003 before resigning in October.

As a result of the investigation’s findings and Domingo’s apology and admission this week, other cracks were beginning to show in what had been staunch support for Domingo at other European opera houses. Several had said they would await the U.S. findings before taking any action.

Spain’s Teatro Real, one of the country’s main opera houses, said Wednesday it will hold a meeting to discuss whether or not to continue with Domingo’s participation in the opera, “La Traviata,” in May, for similar reasons cited by the Culture Ministry.

Teatro Real press chief José María Noguerol said the theater’s executive commission would hold the meeting soon but he could not say exactly when.

He said the theater had also requested a copy of the U.S. investigators’ findings.

The Teatro Real had initially said it stood by a presumption of innocence for Domingo when the allegations first surfaced last year, while stating that the theater had zero tolerance for the alleged misbehavior.

Both the Salzburg Festival and the Vienna State Opera said this week they, too, were seeking more information on the U.S. investigations before taking further action.

The Salzburg Festival, where Domingo is scheduled to perform two concerts of “I vespri siciliani” in August, said its priority was and remains to treat Domingo fairly and not rush judgment, “the facts, however, have now changed.” It cited Domingo’s statement in which he “concedes that his behavior might have hurt the women in question, and apologizes for this.”

The festival said it would obtain “comprehensive information on the investigations currently under way in the U.S. before it considers further steps.”

The Vienna State Opera said that it takes the case “very seriously,” and that it would take time “to examine the matter in detail,” before his scheduled appearances in June.

Domingo is still scheduled to appear in “Don Carlo” at the Royal Opera House in London in June and July.

Domingo is also scheduled to sing at a festival in the southern Spanish city of Úbeda in May. Spanish national television said the show has been sold out.

It was not immediately possible to make contact with the show’s organizers for comment.

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AP writers Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco and Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this story.

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