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Placido Domingo – Great Scenes
19 May 2006

Placido Domingo — Great Scenes

Domingo-fans probably have all complete performances from which these scenes were culled, as they were widely broadcast in Europe during the eighties.

Placido Domingo – Great Scenes

Placido Domingo with Kiri Te Kanawa, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Carol Neblett, Anna Tomowa-Sintow

Kultur D 4048 [DVD]

$19.98  Click to buy

Moreover, the real Domingo-enthusiast will not be very happy with the strange selections. The DVD starts with a minute from a Vienna Fledermaus in which Frosch and the conducting tenor exchange a few jokes and the conductor sings a few phrases from ‘Celeste Aida’ to correct the jailer who had been humming the melody. Then comes the first selection from Ernani and it takes a few seconds before it dawns on you that the sleeve note is correct. Indeed you get the cabaletta of the first act aria ‘Mercè, diletti amici’ without the aria proper. Still, the cabaletta itself gets the two verses, no high note (Muti conducting and Domingo probably very much in agreement) and is a rounded piece. But in ‘La légende de Kleinzack’ the producers of this DVD go completely nuts. This is after all a classic A-B-A aria. After the A section and the middle part of the aria, everybody will expect the reprise of the main melody and the end of the aria. No way, the aria is simply cut off after two-thirds of the music. Therefore, one is not too surprised that the big final duet of Andrea Chénier, too, is given less than half its length and is cut from the moment the music really gets into a higher gear with ‘La nostra amor’. One wonders who made such decisions, all the more as 57 minutes are short value for a DVD.

One cannot help but wondering if the hand of Mr. Domingo is behind it all. In 1986 he produced a world première when he had the TV broadcast of La Gioconda delayed so that some “elder” high notes could be electronically inserted in places where he had cracked abominably. He had forgotten the radio broadcast that went directly into the air and his real ‘cielo e mar’ is still to be found on party tapes. Of course a small scandal erupted as Eva Marton was livid with fury. She, too, had missed a few notes and they were not edited and she loudly complained to the press.

The performances on this DVD are typical of Domingo in his middle period. The first period goes from 1966 (after a six year prologue) and ends in 1978 when the top was already shortening and he was barely able to sing a good high B. The second one goes till 1990 when he was still a fully committed tenor though avoiding high B roles and discreetly transposing (like he does with a semitone in ‘Ch’ella mi creda’ on this DVD). The third one up to today is well known for the no longer discreet transpositions that often embarrass his co-singers, as they have to adapt themselves to his weaknesses. That’s when he started talking about some tenors being in reality ‘baritenors’ like he did before the unveiling of the new Met Samson et Dalila production nine years ago, though in the 1974 book ‘The Tenors’ he boasted he would soon sing the C without any problem like he already did when practising. Typical for his whole career, however, are the brilliant and extremely beautiful lower and middle registers, which even after a strenuous activity of 45 years are still very much to be enjoyed. Typical, too, are the somewhat generalized interpretations he brings forth. It is always fine to hear them but one cannot say he has really probed the depth of his roles. He rarely disappoints; but he rarely does something unforgettable. Many of his predecessors and even one of his contemporaries (yes, that one) often succeeded in giving us ‘the magic phrase’; one or another utterance that you keep in your mind when listening to another singer. Bergonzi, Corelli, Di Stefano, even Del Monaco succeeded in doing this. Domingo doesn’t, at least not in opera though in some of his zarzuela recordings (the stuff he knew by heart long before he could read) everything comes together and he can be just wonderful (listen to his El ultimo romantico).

The 1982 Ernani on this DVD is not his best effort. The sound is sometimes nasal and comes out squeezed. Compare this with the opening of the La Scala season in 1969 and you immediately note the loss in richness. One year later, he is in better voice in Manon Lescaut touchingly acting young René des Grieux. The sound of the middle voice once again is golden though by that time the tessitura of the role lies already too high. He and Te Kanawa sing very flat in the climax of their final duet. As Dick Johnson he is very good indeed and the chopped up delivery that belongs to ‘Una parola sola’ suits his voice fine. In 1985 one hears that middle age as a singer has come. ‘Si fui soldato’ goes as follows ‘Va’ breath ‘la mia nave’ or ‘Ma lasciami breath l’onor’. And in the small part of the final duet we are allowed to hear he radically cuts short the note values. All productions on this DVD are fully traditional and sound and picture quality are excellent.

Jan Neckers

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