Helen Sjöholm and Tito Beltran singing “The Prayer” during the Rhapsody in Rock Tour in 2000.
I trained to be an opera singer — a tenor — and I have performed roles and in concerts with opera companies throughout the South, so you’d think I might have noticed the ongoing drama overseas with talented Chilean/Swedish tenor Tito Beltran. After all, I’m pretty sure I have a couple of recordings featuring Beltran and his name was immediately familiar to me.
Beltran has performed leading roles at some of the greatest opera houses in Europe: the Vienna Staatsoper; Covent Garden; and Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, just to name a few. Beltran has also performed at several houses here in America, including the San Francisco Opera. Beltran has played the mercurial poet Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme, the lovelorn and rather slow-witted Nemorino in Donizetti’s Elixir of Love and of course, the lecherous Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto. According to his own bio on his website, Tito Beltran has performed with opera luminaries such as Placido Domingo, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu.
Well, as the title of this post indicated, it looks as though this leading tenor may have had more in common with the Duke than with Rodolfo or Nemorino.
In 1999, Tito Beltran’s bio says he was called the “Artist of the Year” by Opera Now Magazine. Things were obviously going well. That same year he appeared in the Rhapsody in Rock concert tour in Sweden. One night after a concert, he raped an 18-year-old nanny in his hotel room.
Then in 2000 and 2002, Beltran “sexually exploited” a six-year-old girl who lived in Kungsbacka in western Sweden. He didn’t stop there. After the crimes against the little girl were reported to the authorities, Beltran allegedly harassed her father in an attempt to forestall any further judicial action.
Curiously, Beltran was first acquitted of all charges in a district court in Varberg, SE. The case was then reexamined as part of the appeals process and eventually, Beltran found himself in the Court of Appeal facing a combined case. He was convicted of all charges in February, 2008. The verdict against the tenor was unanimous. The court levied several thousand dollars of fines against the singer as well.
The case against Beltran relied less on forensic evidence and more on witness testimony, which was consistent. But Beltran’s status as an opera star in Europe seemed to be in his favor — other well-known musicians were more than willing to speak up on his behalf. Robert Wells, the musician who ran the Rhapsody in Rock tour, admitted that he just couldn’t believe the charges against the singer.
At one point, in January, Beltran even brought some of the drama from the operatic stage into the courtroom, as Wells was giving testimony in the case. Beltran, according Sweden’s English news outlet The Local, “burst into tears and collapsed” in court. Beltran’s lawyer described his client “lying on the floor vomiting,” and said it was “really serious.”
Beltran’s sentence in this case, less than 3 years in prison, may seem paltry by U.S. standards. For a tenor who once commanded the storied stages of Europe’s great houses, it is virtually a life sentence. The fall is Shakespearian in scope, from my perspective. I’ve put out feelers to friends in the world of opera for any anecdotes regarding this case, but most of my friends are Americans and never encountered Beltran when he performed here. If I do receive any comments or correspondence about this operatic Icarus, I’ll post them in another entry.