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Classical musicians with ties to Plácido Domingo arrested in Buenos Aires

Opera star Plácido Domingo at a press conference in Moscow in Oct. 2019.
Dimitar Dilkoff
/
AFP via Getty Images
Opera star Plácido Domingo at a press conference in Moscow in Oct. 2019.

Classical musicians who have been publicly linked to disgraced opera star Plácido Domingo have been arrested in Argentina or are still wanted by police in connection to an alleged crime ring. The group, which operated as the Buenos Aires Yoga School, was headed by 84-year-old Juan Percowicz. The group is accused of sexual trafficking, including of minors, as well as extortion and money laundering. No charges have been brought against Domingo.

At least three of the individuals whom Argentine prosecutors have identified as part of the alleged crime ring have performed or collaborated with Domingo since at least 1995, and have performed professionally with other major classical music artists and ensembles as well.

An Argentine law enforcement official told AP in a story published Thursday: "Plácido didn't commit a crime, nor is he part of the organization, but rather he was a consumer of prostitution." Prostitution is not a crime in Argentina.

Since Wednesday, NPR has repeatedly asked for comment from Domingo's representatives but has not received any response. Separately from the Argentine investigation, more than 20 women have come forward publicly since 2019 with sexual misconduct claims against the opera singer.

One of the people arrested in relation to the crime ring in Buenos Aires is Susana Mendelievich, whom the Argentine newspaper Clarin has identified as the woman called "Mendy" in police wiretap tapes released to media earlier this week.

Now 75 years old, Mendelievitch is a pianist and composer. In a 2000 biography of the composer Astor Piazzolla published by Oxford University Press, an Argentine pianist named Susana Mendelievich is mentioned as having rehearsed one of Piazzolla's works in Buenos Aires with the composer and Mstislav Rostropovich, one of the most revered cellists of the 20th century.

Though she seems to have little digital footprint of her own, Mendelievich is mentioned extensively on the website of an Argentine-born, New York-based singer and composer based in New York named Veronica Loiacono, who also cites her ties to Domingo at least eight times on her website, including a photo of the two singing together.

On Friday, the Argentine newspaper El Diario identified Loiacono and a woman named Verónica Ángela "Loia" Iácono as being the same person. Iácono, who is believed to be living in the U.S., is still wanted by police in connection to the alleged crime ring.

NPR contacted a phone number attributed to Loaicano's agent; an office number listed never connected to a machine or to a person, despite several attempts. The person who responded by text said that they were unavailable to comment before publication.

Per Loiacono's own website, she and Mendelievitch, along with two male Argentine musicians, refer to themselves as a composing "team" who have co-written an opera, a symphony and a ballet, among other works. Loicano's site also states that the four have performed with such renowned musicians as the late violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin and conductors Daniel Barenboim, the late Georg Solti and Zubin Mehta, as well as Domingo.

Mendelievitch and Loiacono's composing partners are listed as an oboist named Mariano Krauz and the late violinist Rubén González. González, who died in 2018, served as concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1986 until 1996.

Krauz has a limited online presence outside of Loiacono's website. With his last name spelled "Kraus," however, there are mentions of him in at least two reviews from the mid-1990s of performances in the U.S.

On Friday, the Argentine newspaper El Diario identified Krauz/Kraus as stage names of Mariano Krawczyk, one of the men arrested by Argentine police last week as part of the alleged crime ring.

Loiacono, Mendelievitch and Kraus are mentioned in a 1996 review from the Argentine newspaper La Nacion of a performance they gave with Domingo in Buenos Aires.

Another mention of Kraus is related to a performance he gave as a soloist with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in November 1995, led by González. In a disparaging review, a Baltimore Sun critic called Kraus a performer "who bopped onstage wearing a flaming red leisure suit...jaws dropped all around me," adding: "Somebody in quality control was asleep on this one." The work he performed was excerpts of a symphony by González called Dionisia y Lobo Solitario (Dionysus and the Lone Wolf). The Sun's critic wrote that the piece was "a crazy quilt of kitschy encounters with big-band swing, Viennese waltzes, blues, a rumba, klezmer and, of all things, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik!"

Despite the terrible review from Baltimore just months before, Kraus also appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra the following July performing the same symphony, which the Washington Post described in a largely unfavorable review as "a sort of oboe-driven Spanish klezmer music."

A 1995 opera called Cartas Marcadas, whose music was also written by the four, was based on a book written by the alleged crime group's leader, Juan Percowicz, and dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin. According to a 1995 article in La Nacion, Domingo praised the work, and included the opera's overture in a concert of his own. Within that article, La Nacion also mentioned that several of the opera's collaborative team were involved in the Buenos Aires Yoga School.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.