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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Viva Domingo! - Plácido Domingo
Presented in book form with extensive session photographs and portraits relating to the recordings and Domingo's EMI’
There is also a brief biographical essay in English, French, German and Spanish.
No libretto details or translations included
rec. various recording dates and venues, conductors and orchestras.
EMI CLASSICS 6487572 [4 CDs: 75.56 + 78.11 + 75.35 + 77.29]

Experience Classicsonline

For any opera-lover the main news over the last few months has been the sad death, at age eighty-two, of the great Australian-born soprano Dame Joan Sutherland and the seventieth birthday of an equally great singer, the tenor Plácido Domingo. Dame Joan made her big impact in 1958 in a performance of Donizetti’s bel canto spectacular Lucia di Lammermoor specially mounted for her at London’s Royal Opera House. She was thirty-two and had earned her spurs singing at the house for several years previously including a minor role in Bellini’s Norma with Callas in the title role. Like Domingo, hers was a big spinto-sized voice, with the addition of spectacular coloratura flexibility. She hung up her vocal chords at the mature age of sixty-four. Domingo had a more spectacular rise to the top when in 1967, at age twenty-six, he was invited to audition for New York’s Metropolitan Opera, debuting a year later. From then on his career was on a meteoric rise so that by his seventieth birthday he was not only still singing, but also conducting and being intendant of opera companies.

Born in Spain in 1941, Domingo spent his early life in Mexico where his parents, both singers, ran a company that presented zarzuelas, Spanish light operas, and other musical shows. The book form of this four disc eulogistic presentation includes session photos and portraits relating to his EMI recordings and his career. There is also an informative note in English, French, German and Spanish as well as a listing of his premiere performances from 1968 to 2010.

Plácido Domingo was never satisfied with being the lyrico spinto and Otello of his generation, but spread his vocal interests widely over a diverse repertoire, culminating in encompassing a different range in performances of Verdi’s eponymous Simon Bocanegra (see review) and Rigoletto in the baritone register. In the meantime, he clocked up a formidable number and diversity of roles, around one hundred and thirty or so, but also an unequalled number of studio recordings of his wide-ranging repertoire. His first recital disc, in 1968, was made in Berlin for the Teldec label (see review). Soon afterwards he signed for RCA who had, for a brief period alongside him Sherrill Milnes and Montserrat Caballé on their books as well as Leontyne Price. In between dabbling in surround sound experiments RCA did take advantage of their singer roster and several notable recordings, particularly of Verdi, appeared on that label and involving Plácido. But Domingo’s vocal quality and voice type was never going to be restricted to one label and he recorded widely for EMI and DG in particular. In latter years as studio recordings of opera declined, he even managed to persuade companies of the virtues of his interpretations of rarer repertoire. This present eulogistic selection of Domingo’s recorded legacy for EMI parallels that issued by DG and extends from a studio recording made in July 1971 of Puccini’s opera Manon Lescaut (CD 2 tr.3 and CD 3 tr.8) through to the recordings of La Gioconda (CD 2 tr.8) with the Bavarian Radio Choir and Orchestra under Marcello Viotti in July and August 2002 (see review). It also takes in Domingo’s interpretation of one of the most demanding heldentenor roles, that of Wagner’s Siegfried with London’s Royal Opera House forces under Pappano the previous year. Also included in the collection are a couple of Zarzuela extracts among those from his complete opera and recital recordings for EMI. There are some taken from live performances and including at least one very unusual combination. Last but by no means least is a disc (CD 4) of what are termed Latin Songs. These latter items may be new to many opera-lovers, but can be savoured here for Domingo’s wonderful expressiveness and ardent singing, qualities that are so much in evidence in the generally heavier demands of opera.

The collection is presented on the four CDs with the selections focused on four titles or descriptions. CD 1 is The Heroic Domingo, CD 2 The Romantic Domingo, and CD 3 The Great Duets with CD 4 devoted, as noted, to Latin Songs. There are fewer more heroic roles than that of Radames in Verdi’s Aida that opens CD1. It was a role that he recorded a number of times, first for RCA then this under Muti in 1974 (see review) with later studio recordings appearing from DG under Abbado and Sony with Levine. In his interpretation here the lyrical element of his voice is well in evidence as is the power of his voice taking the final notes (tr.1). The third excerpt has him in one of his rare excursions into bel canto, one he normally eschewed, his voice being a size too large for much of Donizetti and Bellini. Not so for the role of Pollione in Norma that featured on a regrettable sonically flawed RCA recording early in his career and which he never repeated. Here his burnished heroic tone is near ideal and one can only regret the lack of a later complete recording (tr.3). Notable for breadth of repertoire and style is his Fur del mar from Mozart’s early opera seria Idomeneo (tr.4), an aria from the composer’s last, Clemenza di Tito (tr.7) and vigorous in Vani sono I lamenti from Handel’s Giulio Cesare (tr.5). Less unexpected is his strong characterful singing of O paradis (tr.8) from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, a role memorably caught on DVD of his San Francisco performances alongside Shirley Verrett. By the time of this later recording, 1989, he had become the non-pareil Otello of his generation and the distinct lower-toned hue of his voice compared to his interpretation of Carlo VII in the recording of Giovanna d’Arco seventeen years earlier (tr.11) is marked. But, the highlight for me of this first CD is his Niun mi temi from act four of Otello. Taken from a live performance at Covent Garden in 1988 he is at the height of his powers of interpretation in that demanding role under the baton of the relatively unknown John Barker. It is here that Domingo’s greatness among tenors shines brightest. In the final moments of the opera, the by-now anti-hero, Otello finally realises what he has done and how Iago has duped him (tr.12). Wagner enthusiasts will perhaps take me to task for finding his virile heroic tone as Rienzi (CD 1 tr.13 and Siegfried (tr.14) more to their liking.

The second disc, CD2 has less drama and more romance as the title implies. Among some surprises is Domingo lightening his tone for Ottavio’s Il mio tesoro intanto from Mozart’s Don Giovanni; certainly no wimp this time as he uses his baritonal qualities to add expression, even threat (tr.6). His singing of Ferrando’s ardent song of love Un'aura amorosa del nostro Tesoro from Cosi Fan Tutte, as he and Guglielmo prepare to go to war, reveals him in his lightest and most expressive lyrical voice. It was recorded at the same 1981 sessions in Munich. He remains deeply impressive even if lacking the head voice of many tenors such as Wunderlich in this role (tr.7). His sympathy for this repertoire is heard to less good effect in the Portrait Aria from Die Zauberflöte from ten years later, at the height of his domination of the singing of Otello (tr.1). It lacks the ideal vocal mellifluousness with the tenor rather squeezing his tone for the higher notes. Reading the year-by-year listings of his career roles (pages 46-53) it does not seem that he ever sang these lighter Mozart roles on stage. The same is true of both Lehár’s Paganini and Das Land des Lächelns - more Webster Booth and Tauber repertoire - although he did sing Danilo in The Merry Widow in Mexico in the second year (1960) of his stage career. Despite a rather opulent and resonant recording, the two Lehár extracts are not without appeal (trs.9-10). Other contents of CD 2 are more mainstream. Donna non vidi mai from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, (tr.3), Recondita armonia from Tosca (tr.4) and Cielo e mar! from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda (tr.8) show him at full power and in character as we have come to know and love his singing. Not to be missed either is his singing in, to my ears good French, of Quel trouble inconnu me pénètre ... Salut! Demeure chaste et pure from Faust (tr.2) and Adieu, Mignon! Courage! and Elle ne croyait pas, dans sa candeur naïve from Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon (trs 12-13). The recordings are separated by fourteen years with Domingo having only a slightly thicker tone in the second to accompany his ardent and expressive characterisation. More unusual repertoire for many will be discovered in the two Zarzuela pieces by Jacinto Guerrero and Federico Moreno Torroba. It was a genre Domingo grew up with (trs. 14-15).

The most enjoyable of the four discs is CD 3, titled The great Duets. This may be because the extracts are often more substantial or perhaps because most are taken from complete opera recordings. One that that isn’t is the famous duet Au fond du temple saint from Bizet’s Pearl Fishers. In this performance Thomas Hampson joins him. If it doesn’t quite erase from memory that famous recording with Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill, loved by many listeners to BBC Radio Two’s yesteryear Your Hundred Best Tunes presented by Alan Keith on a Sunday evening, it certainly comes nearer than any other and is in an altogether superior recording sonically (tr.7). The CD also produces a few surprises. Not least of these is one of the live recordings from the 1996 Royal Opera House concert of the duet La ci darem la mano from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. With Domingo singing the baritone Don and the lyric mezzo Susan Graham as the lighter-voiced role of Zerlina, it is a duo with a difference. The tessitura has no difficulty for either, with Domingo relishing the seductive music of Don Giovanni’s propositioning of Zerlina (tr.5). The more substantial Verdi items have the greatest appeal. From that live Covent Garden occasion the great love duet that ends act one of Otello, Gia nella notte densa, with Cheryl Studer a womanly Desdemona, is notable (tr.10). More so are the two all-male friendship duets. Solenne in quest’ora from La Forza del Destino conducted by Muti at La Scala, alongside a sonorous Giorgio Zancanaro vying with that from Giulini‘s Don Carlo with regular partner Sherrill Milnes matching his tenor for vocal brio (tr.2). The duet from Wagner’s Tristan with Domingo alongside Deborah Voigt is also a thrilling choice (tr.9).

I had looked forward to the final disc, CD 4, titled Latin Songs. It is a complete contrast to what has gone before and comprises some of the most famous popular songs from Spain, Mexico, Cuba and the rest of Latin America in, to quote the advertising blurb, lively modern arrangements. Therein for me is the first disappointment. The orchestration is over-elaborate for these somewhat trite items, add excessive reverberation. I could not help feeling this was a Morris Minor with a Rolls Royce engine trying to get out and give the whole some ‘oomph’. Domingo’s skills are wasted although he may well have enjoyed earning his corn while singing sotto voce for much of the time. The final item, Agustín Lara’s Granada in front of an enthusiastic hero-worshipping crowd has a certain excitement (tr.17).

This diverse collection of Domingo’s recordings from EMI in a digibook format, with extensive session photos and repertoire details is good in parts.

Robert J Farr

Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Svanir le voci! [8.36]
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)
Les Pêcheurs de Perles
Au fond du temple saint [7.58]
with Thomas Hampson (baritone)
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Quel trouble inconnu me pénètre... Salut! Demeure chaste et pure [9.32]
Il se fait tard! Adieu!
with Mirella Freni (soprano)
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Giulio Cesare
Svegliatevi nel core. [4.54]
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Gern hab' ich die Frau'n geküßt. [3.27]
Das Land des Lächelns
Dein ist mein ganzes Herz [3.42]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
L'amico Fritz
Suzel, buon di - Cherry Duet. [8.21]
with Veronica Villarroel. (soprano)
Jules MASSENET(1842-1912)
Le Cid
Ah! Tout est bien fini... O souverain. [4.47]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Pays merveilleux... Ô paradis. [3.07]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Fuor del mar ho un mar in seno. [4.50]
La Clemenza di Tito
Ah, se fosse intorno al trono
Die Zauberflöte
Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön.
Don Giovanni
Il mio tesoro intanto. [4.03]
La ci darem la mano. [3.12]
with Susan Graham (mezzo)
Così fan tutte
Un'aura amorosa del nostro tesoro. [4.07]
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)
La Gioconda
Cielo e mar! [4.25]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Manon Lescaut
Donna non vidi mai. [2,25]
Oh, sarò la più bella...Tu, tu, amore? [8.03]
with Montserrat Caballé (soprano)
Recondita armonia.
E lucevan le stelle [3.13]
Mario! Mario! Mario! ...Son qui! ... Mia gelosa! [13.38]
with Renata Scotto (soprano)
La Fanciulla del West
Ch'ella mi creda libero e lontano. [1.54]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila
Arrêtez, ô mes Frères. [6.15]
Gaspare SPONTINI (1774-1851)
La Vestale
Ohime! Che veggo io mai?... Ah! No, s'io vivo ancora. [4.39]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Eine Nacht in Venedig
Komm in die Gondel [2.47]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin
Kuda, Kuda (Lensky's Aria) [6.13]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
Adieu, Mignon! Courage! [4.52]
Elle ne croyait pas, dans sa candeur naïve. [3.58]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Se quel guerrier io fossi! [4.23]
O figli ... Ah, la paterna mano. [3.35]
Giovanna d'Arco
Il Re!...Sotto una quercia. [5.41]
Niun mi tema. [5.35]
Giá nella notte densa. [13.38]
with Cheryl Studer (soprano)
Don Carlo
Fontainbleu!…Io la vidi e al suo sorriso. [4.23]
Dio, che nell'alma infondere. [4.58]
with Sherrill Milnes (baritone)
Un ballo in Maschera
Ma se m'è forza perderti. [5.19]
La Forza del Destino
O tu che in seno agli angeli. [3.25]
Solenne in quest'ora. [3.59]
with Giorgio Zancanaro (baritone)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Allmächt'ger Vater, blick herab! [9.57]
Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert! [6.21]
Tristan und Isolde
O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe. [5.11]
with Deborah Voigt (soprano)
Jacinto GUERRERO (1895-1951)
Los gavilanes
Fflor roja [3.25]
Federico Moreno TORROBA (1891-1982)
Adios dijiste…Amor, vida de mi vida [3.06]

CD4: LATIN SONGS [77.29]
Aquellos ojos verde [3.49]
La flor de la canela - Due nadie sepa mi sufrir – Remarraditos [5.01]
Mosotros-Contigo-Sin ti [5.43]
with Anna Gabriel
De México a Buenos Aires [3.06]
Se me olvidó otra vez [3.32]
El Humahuaqueno - Caballo viejo - Moliendo café [4.10]
Delirio Alma Llanera [4.54]
Solamente una vez - Veracruz - Hoche de ronda [5.58]
Manhà de carnaval - Aquarela do Brasil [8.17]
Sabràs que te quiero [3.28]
Alfonsina y el mar - Gracias a la vida [4.51]
with Patricia Soso
Lamento borincano-Vereda tropical [4.33]
Como ayer [3.34]
Perfidia - Frenesi- La ùltima noche [4.30]
with Pandora
Adiós [3.35]
Por amor - Así como te buscaba - Yo vendo unos ojos negros [3.55]
Granada [3.52]



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