Placido Domingo Turns 70

Placido Domingo as Maurizio and Maria Guleghina in the title role of Francesco Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur," the very same opera which launched his opera career in 1968.(Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)
Placido Domingo as Maurizio and Maria Guleghina in the title role of Francesco Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur," the very same opera which launched his opera career in 1968.(Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

In the days when all great artists toured, and tickets were cheap, if you lived in Boston and had the inclination to see Placido Domingo with Beverly Sills (the artists of my youth) you could hop the T to Symphony Hall or the Opera House and hear both of them, over and over again. I did, and to my last breath, I’ll be grateful!

Beverly is singing in heaven now; Placido Domingo turned 70 yesterday, and to celebrate, Deutsche Grammophon recording company has created Domingo70.com, complete with time lines, feature articles, new CD compilations and brand new recordings of Umberto Giordano’s Fedora and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s I Medici. Not to be missed, if your interested in Placido Domingo.

Domingo has recorded the big boy tenor operas of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini three or four times a piece. He’s impeccable in Richard Wagner’s Parsifal. He recorded the bariton role (Figaro) of Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and will continue to give us up to date recordings of out-of-the-way opera.

Fedora hangs around, it’s trashy and fun with a hit tune for the tenor.

The Young Artist

Domingo made his stage debut at sixteen, as Freddie in a Spanish language version of My Fair Lady – this befits the son of Mexico’s leading zarzuela artists. As Domingo recalls, “My sister and I learned music before we learned the Pater Noster.”

Domingo in his 20s

Domingo came to the States in 1962, the same year he sang in Lucia di Lammermoor, opposite the elderly Lily Pons, in her final performance. The torch was passed.

Later, he spent two years in Tel Aviv, learning his craft with the (then) new Israeli Opera, singing La traviata in Hebrew. Eventually, he came to the New York City Opera, on to the Metropolitan Opera, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, Domingo was no beginner when, at the age of 28, he made an unscheduled debut at the Metropolitan Opera on September 28, 1968, substituting for tenor Franco Corelli in Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur — another trashy and fun opera – alongside the sublime Renata Tebaldi.

Domingo was at home, over the bridge, in New Jersey, with his wife and three young sons, when the phone rang. Franco Corelli, then, in the waning days of her career, cancelled at 4 p.m. and Domingo was asked to fill in.

Domingo in his 70s

Domingo continues to take on new roles. Catch him live from the Metropolitan Opera in HD on February 26, 2011 in Christoph Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride. Last year he sang the baritone role in Giuseppe Verdi’s Simon Bocanegra.

He also conducts and is the artistic director of the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington Opera. He recently starred in a film of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto and created the role of Pablo Neruda in Daniel Catán’s new opera Il Postino.

Domingo moves from strength to strength to strength, with no sign of slowing down. There is not one country producing opera in the world where Domingo has not appeared multiple times. The breadth of his repertoire is stunning. I’ve heard him perform Jean-Philippe Rameau and Richard Wagner and everything in between and after.

His Otello had me in tears every time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzTwgd-ADEc

It’s a pleasure to celebrate this great artist and gentleman on his birthday. I look forward to many more performances of his warm, burnished, paternal sound. And if I’m fawning, well, as my grandmother used to say, “Divil a bit!”

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