Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday: Plácido Domingo

José Plácido Domingo Embil KBE (born January 21, 1941, Madrid), better known as Plácido Domingo, is a Spanish tenor and conductor known for his versatile and strong voice, possessing a ringing and dramatic tone throughout its range. In March 2008, he debuted in his 128th opera role, giving him more roles than any other tenor. One of "The Three Tenors," he has also taken on conducting opera and concert performances, as well as serving as the General Director of the Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles Opera in California. His contract in Los Angeles has been extended through the 2012-13 season, but the Washington, D.C. will end with the 2010–11 season. Watch a special video of the tenor here. Birthday greetings from Angela Gheorghiu, Antonio Pappano, Rolando Villazón and more after the jump.

Plácido Domingo was born near the Barrio de Salamanca section of Madrid, Spain, and moved to Mexico with his family, who ran a zarzuela company. He studied piano at first privately and later at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. In 1957, Domingo made his first professional appearance, performing with his mother in a concert at Mérida, Yucatán. He made his opera debut performing in Manuel Fernández Caballero's zarzuela, Gigantes y cabezudos, singing a baritone role. At that time, he was working with his parents' zarzuela company, taking baritone roles and as an accompanist for other singers. Among his first performances was a minor role in the first Mexican production of My Fair Lady where he was also the assistant conductor and assistant coach. The company gave 185 performances, which included a production of Lehár's The Merry Widow in which he performed alternately as either Camille or Danilo. In 1959, Domingo auditioned for the Mexico National Opera as a baritone but was then asked to sight-read some arias and lines in the tenor range. Finally he was accepted in the National Opera as a tenor comprimario and as a tutor for other singers. He provided backup vocals for Los Black Jeans in 1958, a rock-and-roll band led by César Costa. He studied piano and conducting, but made his stage debut acting in a minor role on May 12, 1959, at the Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara as Pascual in Marina. It was followed by Borsa in Rigoletto (with Cornell MacNeil and Norman Treigle also in the cast), Padre Confessor (Dialogues of the Carmelites) and others. He played piano for a ballet company to supplement his income as well as playing piano for a program on Mexico's newly founded cultural television station. The program consisted of excerpts from zarzuelas, operettas, operas, and musical comedies. He acted in a few small parts while at the theater in plays by Federico García Lorca, Luigi Pirandello, and Anton Chekhov. In 1961, he made his operatic debut in a leading role as Alfredo in La Traviata at Monterrey and, later in the same year, his debut in the United States with the Dallas Civic Opera, where he played the role of Arturo in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor opposite Joan Sutherland in the title role. In 1962, he returned to Texas to play the role of Edgardo in the same opera with Lily Pons at the Fort Worth Opera. At the end of 1962, he signed a six month contract with the Israel National Opera in Tel Aviv but later extended the contract and stayed for two and a half years, singing 280 performances of 12 different roles. In June 1965, after finishing his contract with Israel National Opera, Domingo went for an audition at the New York City Opera and scheduled to make his New York debut as Don Jose in Bizet's Carmen but his debut came earlier when he was asked to fill in for an ailing tenor at the last minute in Puccini's Madama Butterfly. On 17 June 1965, Domingo made his New York debut as B. F. Pinkerton at the New York City Opera. In February 1966, he sang the title role in the U.S. premiere of Ginastera's Don Rodrigo at the New York City Opera, with much acclaim. The performance also marked the opening of the City Opera's new home at Lincoln Center. His official debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York occurred on 28 September 1968 when he substituted for Franco Corelli, in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur singing with Renata Tebaldi. Before Adriana Lecouvreur, he had sung in performances by the Metropolitan Opera at Lewisohn Stadium of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci in 1966. Since then, he has opened the season at the Metropolitan Opera 21 times, surpassing the previous record of Enrico Caruso by four. He made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1967, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1968, at both La Scala and San Francisco Opera in 1969, at the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company in 1970, and at Covent Garden in 1971, and has now sung at practically every other important opera house and festival worldwide. In 1971, he sang Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera, and continued to sing that part for many years, singing it, in fact, more than any other role. Domingo has also conducted opera–as early as October 7,1973, La traviata at the New York City Opera with Patricia Brooks–and occasionally symphony orchestras as well. In 1981 Domingo gained considerable recognition outside of the opera world when he recorded the song "Perhaps Love" as a duet with the late American country/folk music singer John Denver. In 1987, he and Denver joined Julie Andrews for an Emmy Award winning holiday television special, The Sound of Christmas, filmed in Salzburg, Austria. On 19 September 1985, the biggest earthquake in Mexico's history devastated part of the Mexican capital. Domingo's aunt, uncle, his nephew and his nephew's young son were killed in the collapse of the Nuevo León apartment block in the Tlatelolco housing complex. Domingo himself labored to rescue survivors. During the next year, he did benefit concerts for the victims and released an album of one of the events. [Source]







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