If one wanted to appreciate all the roles in his life on stage, the existing article would hardly suffice. Plácido Domingo has shouldered so much repertoire that it seems obvious that the Spaniard started doing it immediately after January 21, 1941, the date of birth on his résumé. This catalog comprises around 150 parts, ranging from the Baroque by Georg Friedrich Handel to the post-romanticism of Gian Carlo Menotti, pays just as much respect to the Viennese classicism as the heroic roles of Richard Wagner, and finds an emotional home in Giuseppe Verdi’s work.
With Verdi, Domingo is now celebrating his 80th birthday: On Friday, one day after his cradle festival, the Spaniard sings the title role in “Nabucco” at the Vienna State Opera. Lush cheers – a record of 80 minutes of applause and around 100 curtains – he has to do without this time, as no audience is allowed in lockdown. But the viewers are sure of it: the Plácido aficionados will get a TV recording on ORF III on Sunday at 8:15 p.m.
Breakthrough in the USA
Incidentally, Domingo has been familiar with television for a long time: as a child he appeared on a Mexican TV show, also proved himself in small stage roles and as a piano accompanist in a bar. This precociousness was not only about talent, but also so that these talents could develop on fertile ground: Domingo’s parents worked as singers in the genre of zarzuela, the Spanish equivalent of operetta. In 1946 the family emigrated to Mexico City, where they founded their own Zarzuela company and had the young Plácido sing along in high baritone roles.
Domingo’s operatic career also began early – in 1959 in Mexico, where he also met his wife Marta. The fame is still some time in coming. The tenor went to Tel Aviv for two years, then his breakthrough came in the USA: From 1965 Domingoan caused a sensation at the New York City Opera, including as a substitute in a “Madama Butterfly” and in Ginastera’s “Don Rodrigo” . In doing so, he paves the way to the leading houses: In the following year, Domingo takes the old world by storm and lays the foundation for an epic career.
The tall Spaniard interweaves beautiful sound with urgency like hardly any tenor, lending legato slurs a glowing inner tension. It is no coincidence that the fervent Otello becomes his star role. In the 1990s, Domingo’s popularity broke the boundaries of opera houses: the glamorous working group with Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras, known as “
The Three Tenors”, fills entire football stadiums. Not without controversy in the industry, these spectacles are just another way for the stage person Domingo to live out his passion. He also doesn’t care about genre boundaries, as his crossover CDs show. As old age lowers his voice, he quickly switches to the baritone subject. Nothing seems to be able to stop Domingo.
Not even the “horror year” 2020, as he calls it. Domingo not only suffers from a Covid 19 infection, he also gets caught in the mill wheels of the MeToo movement. 20 women, almost entirely anonymous, raise allegations of sexual misconduct, some of which go back decades; there is talk of unwanted flirting, including stalking. None of this will be decided in court. Two overseas investigations – where Domingo ran the opera houses in Washington and LA – believe the allegations are credible, which ended Domingo’s US career. His home country Spain will also close the door in his face in 2020.
But even this crisis does not force the man of the century into retirement. In any case, appointments are planned in Moscow, Paris and Baden-Baden after the current Vienna evening. And Domingo is already thinking about the more distant future: “I still have a lot of dreams to realize in music”, reveals the hungry man in an interview: “Roles that I would like to play for the first time in both the opera and the Zarzuela.”