Milan, Aug 15 (AP/UNB) — While two U.S. opera houses immediately canceled performances by famed tenor Placido Domingo following sexual harassment allegations, European opera houses are taking stances ranging from supportive to wait-and-see.
The Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera immediately announced they would cancel upcoming performances featuring the star and the Los Angeles Opera opened an investigation following an Associated Press story in which numerous women accused the opera legend of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior spanning decades.
In Europe, there were no immediate cancellations of the 78-year-old Domingo's performances and even some words of support for the star. Opera world officials noted that no charges had been brought against Domingo and no formal judicial investigations were underway that might provide legal underpinning to cancel any contractual obligations.
The stark differences in the levels of urgency in the responses underline the differences in the footing of the #MeToo movement on both sides of the Atlantic.
Opera houses in the United States might consider the possibility of damaging protests outside their venues if they maintained the scheduled performances. But, in Europe Domingo's status as one of the most popular and influential figures in the opera world could trigger a backlash against venues if performances were canceled without due process, said one opera official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of lack of authorization to discuss personnel matters.
"Some attitudes, seen in hindsight, risk being misunderstood," cultural journalist Leonetta Bentivoglio wrote Wednesday in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "That he was a Don Juan was something everyone knew, and in the promiscuous theater world he is not alone. We must add that his charm has always attracted a crowd of women, and often it was he who had to defend himself."
Bentivoglio recalled an incident at a Paris hotel during Domingo's "Three Tenors" heyday with Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras, when he asked journalists to pretend to accompany him in the elevator "to escape to his room without being followed by some beautiful young women," who were in pursuit.
"These are difficult stories to tell in the slippery era of #MeToo," she wrote.
Nineteen of the singer's 24 engagements through November 2020 are on European stages, according to his website. Upcoming performances in Salzburg, Milan, London, Zurich, Cologne, Hamburg and Geneva were still on but some venues said they would monitor the investigation in Los Angeles, where Domingo has been general director since 2003 and previously was artistic director. Other venues postponed comment, citing the summer holiday.
Domingo received support from the Salzburg Festival in Austria, his next scheduled performance on Aug. 31, as well as from some singers who have shared the stage with him.
Salzburg Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler, who said she has known Domingo for 25 years and has long appreciated both his "artistic competence" and "appreciative treatment of all festival employees," said "it would be factually wrong and morally irresponsible to make irreversible judgments at this point."
The Hamburg opera house in Germany also said Domingo's Nov. 27 appearance there was still on, citing the lack of any legal action against the tenor.
"As a public institution we neither tolerate nor trivialize sexual assaults, but we are also bound by the principles of the rule of law in our actions. Valid contracts with the concert promoter exist for the appearance of Plácido Domingo," the opera house said in a statement. "Subject to further developments, the concert will therefore take place as planned."
Domingo did not respond to detailed questions from the AP about specific incidents, but issued a statement calling the allegations "deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate."
"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," the statement said. "However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are —and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past. I am blessed and privileged to have had a more than 50-year career in opera and will hold myself to the highest standards."
Domingo has a reputation for making the rounds of offices when he arrives at theaters to greet employees and workers at every level — a characteristic that has helped make him beloved in a world full of demanding divas and divos. He also founded the Operalia world opera contest, an event attracting 1,000 applicants each year that has helped launch careers for the last 26 years.
Three Spanish sopranos have come to his defense, saying that they have never experienced the sort of behavior described in the AP story, which included accusations that he put his hand down one woman's skirt and forced wet kisses on three others. All of the allegations were related to incidents in the United States, spanning two decades beginning in the late 1980s.
Spain's Europa Press news agency on Wednesday quoted Spanish soprano Davinia Rodriguez as saying she "never felt the least indication of what they accuse the maestro of," adding that Domingo had always shown her and theater workers "the maximum of respect, with the humbleness and generosity that characterizes him."
Fellow Spanish soprano Pilar Jurado said that Domingo had always behaved "as a perfect gentleman" with her and Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta expressed shock at the allegations, saying she considered Domingo and his wife to be family.
"I have no idea if he might have flirted and scored. That sort of thing went on before and still does now, but I know he is not a harasser, I'd put my hand in the fire on it," Arteta told the Spanish daily El Pais.
New York, Aug 15 (AP/UNB) — Lizzo's breakthrough hit "Truth Hurts" is a two-year-old song, but it still has a chance at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
Typically older songs that become hits long after their initial release — from Pharrell's "Happy" to John Legend's "All of Me" — can compete at the Grammys when a live version of the song, released during the current Grammys eligibility period, is submitted.
But "Truth Hurts," which was released as a stand-alone single in 2017, qualifies for the 2020 Grammys because the song was never submitted for contention in the Grammys process and it appears on an album released during the eligibility period for the upcoming show. Songs and albums released from Oct. 1, 2018 through Aug. 31, 2019 qualify for next year's awards, and "Truth Hurts" appears on the deluxe edition of her album "Cuz I Love You," released this year.
So far, the platinum-selling "Truth Hurts" has peaked at No. 4 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. It has reached at No. 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs and Hot rap songs charts, respectively.
Normally if an artist submitted an older song — that appeared on an older album — it would not be allowed into the Grammys' process. But "Truth Hurts" has the go-ahead and its fate will be decided when the Recording Academy and a group of music industry players meet in September at an annual gathering to choose what makes it on the ballot, what genres certain songs belong to, who really qualifies for best new artist and more.
A representative for the Grammys didn't reply to an email seeking comment.
It's part of a streak of good luck for Lizzo, who has dominated the music scene this year, appeared on dozens of magazine covers and earned praise for promoting body positivity and denouncing fat shaming. Though 2019 has served as her breakthrough, she released her debut album, "Lizzobangers," in 2013. Her team has had that album and its follow-up, 2015's "Big Grrrl Small World," removed from streaming services because Lizzo wanted her musical journey to begin with 2016's "Coconut Oil," her debut EP on Atlantic Records.
In the past, acts have won Grammys with live versions of their songs because their songs have become hits long after its release. Pharrell's Oscar-nominated anthem "Happy," which appeared on the "Despicable Me 2" soundtrack and was released in mid-2013, eventually topped the charts in 2014. At the 2015 Grammys, a live version of the song competed for in the best pop solo performance category, and won the honor.
That same year John Legend's "All of Me," which also hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart long after its release, competed in the same category with a live version of the tune. "All of Me" appeared on Legend's 2013 album, "Love In the Future."
At the 2012 Grammys, Adele won album of the year with "21" as well as record and song of the year with "Rolling In the Deep." The following year she submitted a live version of "Set Fire to the Rain" — the third No. 1 single from "21" — and won best pop solo performance.
Beyoncé nabbed best female pop vocal performance at the 2010 Grammys with "Halo"; the following year a live version of the pop ballad competed in the same category.
Train's megahit "Hey, Soul Sister" was featured on their 2009 album "Save Me, San Francisco," but the song took off in 2010. It won the band their first-ever Grammy when a live version of the song was awarded best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals at the 2011 Grammys.
Because Lizzo's "Truth Hurts" had not appeared on an album that qualified for previous Grammy eligibility, it could still compete at the 2020 show though it has been widely available for two years. Because Train, Pharrell, Legend and Adele's songs were featured on albums that qualified for previous Grammy inclusion, their songs were disqualified unless a live version was submitted.
At the 2020 Grammys, Panic! at the Disco — whose song "High Hopes" set a new record as the longest-running No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot rock songs chart this year — are likely submitting a live version of the track since the song and the album it appears on, "Pray for the Wicked," qualified for the 2019 Grammys. "High Hopes" peaked at No. 4 on the all-genre Hot 100 chart.
It wasn't clear if Drake's new compilation album of previously released songs — featuring tracks like 2013's "Girls Love Beyoncé" and 2010's "I Get Lonely" — would qualify at the Grammys. The album, titled "Care Package," debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's 200 albums chart this week.
Representatives for Drake and Panic! at the Disco didn't immediately reply to emails seeking comment.
Though Lizzo released the singles "Juice" and "Tempo" from her latest album, "Truth Hurts" has become her most successful song. The track got a major boost after it was featured in the Netflix film "Someone Great," released on April 19, the same day Lizzo dropped her album, "Cuz I Love You." ''Truth Hurts" wasn't originally featured on the 11-track "Cuz I Love You," but her record label released a deluxe version of the album — featuring three more songs including "Truth Hurts" — on May 3. "Truth Hurts" marked Lizzo's first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Nominees for the Grammy Awards will be announced on Nov. 20 and the show will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 2020 on CBS.
Nashville, Aug 15 (AP/UNB) — Christian recording artist Lauren Daigle, who has had major crossover success with her single, "You Say," received six nominations Wednesday from the Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards.
Daigle's nominations include artist of the year and song of the year.
"You Say" topped both Billboard's adult contemporary and Christian airplay charts. KING & COUNTRY, Hillsong UNITED, MercyMe and TobyMac are also vying for artist of the year.
Writer/producer Wayne Haun is the overall leading nominee with 10. Recording artists Kirk Franklin and for KING & COUNTRY have five nominations each.
The awards show will be held Oct. 15 in Nashville.
Stockholm, Aug 14 (AP/UNB) — American rapper A$AP Rocky was found guilty of assault Wednesday in Sweden, where his jailing after a Stockholm street brawl drew the close attention of U.S. President Donald Trump.
A judge and jury found the rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, and his two bodyguards hit and kicked a 19-year-old man during the June 30 fight. The defendants did not have to be at Stockholm District Court for the verdict and don't face an immediate return to detention.
After nearly a month behind bars, the three were released Aug. 2 and returned to the United States. The court gave them "conditional sentences" for the assault convictions, meaning they don't have to serve prison time unless they commit a similar offense in Sweden again.
They were ordered to a pay a total of 12,500 kronor ($1,310) in compensation to the victim.
Slobodan Jovicic, the Grammy-nominated artist's Swedish defense lawyer, said he had been looking for "a complete acquittal" and was disappointed by the verdict.
Mayers had pleaded self-defense. He said the fight happened after he tried to avoid a confrontation with two men he claimed had persisted in following his entourage. One of them picked a fight with one of the bodyguards, Mayers, 30, said during his trial.
But the court concluded the defendants "were not in a situation where they were entitled to self-defense," according to a summary of the verdict.
"In an overall assessment the court finds that the assault has not been of such a serious nature that a prison sentence must be chosen," the summary states.
During the trial, prosecutors played video footage that showed the Mayers throwing a young man to the ground.
Presiding Judge Per Lennerbrant said the evidence shows 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari was struck in the back of the head with a bottle but that it could "not be established by whom." That determination was a factor in the verdict since it "affected the assessment of the seriousness of the crime," the judge said.
Mayers had told the court before his release that Jafari and his friend refused to go away despite several appeals, and claimed they appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
Testifying in court, Jafari said his memory of the night was confused because of the blows to his head during the brawl. He told police earlier he had gotten angry when his headphones were broken during the initial argument with a bodyguard.
A full-scale brawl ensued shortly afterward. Prosecutors alleged Mayers and his bodyguards — David Rispers, Jr. and Bladimir Corniel — beat and kicked Jafari while he was on the ground. They also alleged that Jafari was hit with parts of or a whole bottle.
Jafari claimed the rapper pushed him to the ground. and photos showed the alleged victim's cuts, bruises and blood-stained clothes.
The case drew the attention of American celebrities and Mayers' fellow recording artists, including Sean "Diddy" Combs and Justin Bieber. A social media campaign, #JusticeForRocky, has been pressing for his release.
The issue also led to a U.S.-Swedish diplomatic spat.
U.S. President Trump intervened on behalf of the rapper while he was jailed. Trump called Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, offering to personally guarantee his bail, but the Swedish leader said he couldn't interfere in a legal case.
Trump later cheered the release of Mayers and his bodyguards.
Los Angeles, Aug 14 (AP/UNB) — Liam Hemsworth is wishing his wife Miley Cyrus "nothing but health and happiness" days after Cyrus' representative announced the couple's separation.
Hemsworth posted on Instagram on Monday confirming the pair's separation and saying he won't be making comments to "any journalists or media outlets."
A representative for Cyrus says the couple decided a break was best while they focus on "themselves and careers" after less than a year of marriage.
Hemsworth, who starred in "The Hunger Games" films, and Cyrus have dated on and off for more than a decade. They married in December.
The representative says the pair will remain "dedicated parents to all of their animals they share."