The present concert was recorded at a charity gala, “Save the
at Wembley almost twenty years ago when Placido Domingo was
at the height of his powers. On that occasion he was both
inspired and inspirational. Backed by the admirable ECO under
Eugene Kohn, a favourite conductor of Domingo’s, the great
tenor delivers a resounding opening number, Giordano’s Amor
ti vieta. This is honest and full-voiced singing but
without many nuances. It feels a bit like a warm-up, but
it should be added that Domingo in warm-up sings more gloriously
than almost any other tenor on top form. And then he moves
over to the next song but after some nice and cosy conversation
with the audience. This is Dick Johnson’s aria from The
Girl from the Golden West in which he finds nuances and
a marvellous honeyed pianissimo that eluded him on the complete
recording dating from about the same time.
Enter Colombian mezzo-soprano Martha Senn to join Domingo in a dramatic
scene from Il trovatore. Visually she isn’t quite
believable as Domingo’s mother but her intense singing and
impressive chest-notes, dark as her hair, are impressive.
The next guest is Romanian baritone Eduard Tumagian, who
was one of the best Verdi singers for a number of years.
He had a fine Rigoletto for Naxos. In the Rodolfo–Marcello
duet that opens the last act of La bohème there is
excellent interplay between the two singers and here also
a beautiful pianissimo ending.
After this foray into traditional opera, Domingo takes a stroll down
memory lane, reminiscing about his early years as an operetta
and musical singer. He begins with a glorious On the street
where you live from My Fair Lady, a song I can’t
remember hearing from him before. Apologizing charmingly
for his English, which, as he puts it, needed some polishing
by Professor Higgins, he returns to his native Spanish for
a second stanza. Singing in his mother tongue his delivery
is even more glowing.
More surprises: In his formative years he also sang in The Merry
Widow and, again in Spanish he is the most elegant
Danilo, radiating tons of charm in the indestructible Maxim
Both his parents were zarzuela artists and young Placido got his bread
and butter from appearing in this Spanish operetta genre.
He has frequently included arias from zarzuela in his concert
programmes and recorded collections of arias. There is a
special glow, a special timbre, in his voice in this music. Bella
enamorata is such a beautiful melody and it can’t possibly
be better sung. In a duet from El Gato Montes (The
Wild Cat) he is joined again by Martha Senn, who lightens
her voice beautifully. No puede ser, written more
than fifty years before this concert, becomes a tribute to
its composer Sorozabal, who was still among us in 1987. He
died the following year, aged 91.
Time for encores, and what encores! Core ‘ngrato, written for
Enrico Caruso, is sung with such feeling that it challenges
even his great predecessor. After a grandiose Granada there
is no end to the ovations. Before and between the encores
Domingo keeps busy collecting the flowers being handed to
or thrown onto the stage and he is worth everyone of them.
It is a privilege to see a concert so filled with superb
music-making and happy atmosphere. The only thing that breaks
this spell is that the cameras on one or two occasions manages
to zoom in on a couple of real sourpusses in the audience.
The video direction is unfussy and the sound is fine for
its age. I can’t believe that there are people out there
who wouldn’t like this DVD. It is an hour filled with pleasure.