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Vittorio Grigolo, star tenor, fired for 'inappropriate' behavior
Vittorio Grigolo in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Puccini's "Tosca" in New York, Dec. 28, 2017. Grigolo, one of opera’s star tenors, was dismissed by the Metropolitan Opera on Dec. 5, 2019, after he was fired by the Royal Opera in London, which found that he had engaged in “inappropriate and aggressive behavior” during a recent company tour of Japan. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Michael Cooper

(NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- Vittorio Grigolo, one of opera’s star tenors, was dismissed by the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday after he was fired by the Royal Opera in London, which found that he had engaged in “inappropriate and aggressive behavior” during a recent company tour of Japan.

The Royal Opera said that an independent investigation of the incident, which occurred in September in Tokyo, concluded that Grigolo’s “inappropriate and aggressive behavior at the curtain call and afterward fell below the standards we expect of our staff and performers.” The Royal removed him from his upcoming performances with the company, and the Met, which had suspended him after the incident, quickly followed suit.

Grigolo preempted the announcement of his dismissal with a post on Instagram.

“I recognize that my personality can be very exuberant at times, and I am willing to make sure that what happened will not happen again in the future,” he wrote.

With his dismissal from the Royal Opera and the Met, where he had been scheduled to sing Alfredo in Verdi’s “La Traviata” this winter, Grigolo became the latest in a line of opera luminaries whose careers have been upended by allegations of misconduct and abusive behavior.

Plácido Domingo, one of opera’s most prominent figures, lost all of his remaining U.S. engagements this year and stepped down as general director of Los Angeles Opera amid allegations that he had sexually harassed women. And the Met fired James Levine, its longtime music director, in 2018 after finding evidence that he had “engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists.” (Both men have denied the allegations.)

Grigolo’s dismissal stemmed from an incident Sept. 18, when he was singing Gounod’s “Faust” while on tour with the Royal Opera in Japan.

The details of what happened are not clear. The Sun, a British tabloid, reported that Grigolo was accused of “allegedly grabbing a female member of the chorus” onstage during a curtain call, in view of the audience, and then arguing “vehemently” when asked to stop. Several Italian publications suggested it had been a misunderstanding, saying that Grigolo had touched the padded belly of a dancer playing a pregnant woman, and cursed at her when she objected.

The Royal Opera took the allegations seriously enough that Grigolo was replaced for the next performance by another tenor, Georgy Vasiliev.

Grigolo’s publicist did not respond to a request for comment shortly after the incident. But in an Instagram post this fall, Grigolo thanked his fans and friends for their support and said that he would cooperate with the investigation.

“I remain calm,” he wrote. He also posted an image from a curtain call he had taken during the Japan tour.

The Royal Opera did not reveal details about the incident Thursday, or what its investigation found. Grigolo claimed in his Instagram post that the investigation had contradicted “accusations made against me by several journalists and tabloids” and said “even though it was never my intention to offend anyone, the situation deteriorated unexpectedly due to a brawl between colleagues.”

It was not immediately clear if Grigolo might be invited back by either company.

In recent years, Grigolo has been establishing himself as something modern opera houses desperately need in the post-“Three Tenors” era: an exciting leading man. His strong voice and passionate, sometimes over-the-top stage presence made him a favorite with fans.

Grigolo also cultivated a rebellious image — “The Bad Boy of Opera” was the name of a short film that Bruce Weber made about him for Italian Vanity Fair, and he was known to race motorcycles and drive sports cars offstage.

“I like to push things to the limit,” he told The New York Times in April.

Although some critics accused him of showboating and unfocused singing, especially early in his career, he had been winning more than his share of rave reviews in recent years. Zachary Woolfe described one of his Met performances in The Times in 2017 as “both brazen and intimate” and added that “he may be the most galvanically convincing singer in the world today.”

The Royal Opera, whose findings now threaten to derail his career, was also where his international reputation was launched in 2010, when he stepped into a performance of Massenet’s “Manon” and won plaudits.

“A great operatic career lies in his sights,” Rupert Christiansen wrote in a five-star review of that performance in The Telegraph, “if he keeps his wits about him.”

© 2019 The New York Times Company

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