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Monday, May 16, 2005 - 1:43amSanction this postReply
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Domingo? Bah! Nasal squawker! He *needed* to work hard. But in fact, it could be argued that he worked *too* hard—his sound is so blatantly manufactured. I guess I can admire him, but I can't enjoy him. Sorry James, on this one you & I'll never agree. :-)

The sweetest thing about Domingo is his unabashed admiration for Lanza, even to the point where he hosted the 1980s television tribute to him, "Mario Lanza—The American Caruso." And of course, he wrote the Preface to Armando's Mario bio, to which I had the honour of writing the Foreword. :-)

Linz

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Monday, May 16, 2005 - 2:41amSanction this postReply
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My dear James: You write with such stirring conviction that if I'd never heard Domingo sing, I'd be racing off to the nearest CD store to snap up his discs. But the problem is, I do know his voice, and most of the time he doesn't do much for me. Apart from his problematic upper register, he lacks squillo; in other words, there's very little ping in the voice. While I find he's often impressive in short bursts, I never find myself dazzled by his sound. I'm always aware of his vocal limitations. And no matter how much I may admire his musicianship and professional longevity, if he doesn't move me, then something fundamental is missing in his singing.    

And I have heard Domingo in person without a mike. (In fact, I even met him for a few minutes, and found him very charismatic.) Back in 1982, I paid a fortune to see him in two performances of La Fanciulla del West at Covent Garden. La Fanciulla is one of my favorite operas, and Domingo shone in the role of Dick Johnson. I didn't find his voice particularly big, however (and I heard him in two different parts of the opera house); in fact, I found that Jose Carreras had the larger voice when I heard him at the Rome Opera House five years later. What I liked about Domingo's performances was that he acted very well indeed, and that he produced a nicely burnished sound in his middle register. But I remember thinking: Shouldn't I be thrilled here? After all, isn't Domingo supposedly one of the world's greatest singers? Well, I kept waiting, but the thrills never came...

Maybe I expect too much from my singers. But what I do know is that the hairs stood on my arms when I heard Carreras sing Don Jose in Carmen at the Rome Opera in 1987. He was already in decline - in fact, leukaemia would strike him down just six months later - but, my God, he was on fire on those two nights that I heard him! The most ravishing timbre that I have heard from a living tenor, coupled with an almost-heartbreaking intensity of performance. Yes, he was only at his peak for a decade or so, but - like Lanza and Callas before him - genius is not measured by longevity. 

(Edited by Derek McGovern on 5/16, 2:59am)


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Post 2

Monday, May 16, 2005 - 3:20amSanction this postReply
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I endorse Derek's observations about (most of) the pre-illness Carreras. His Tosca with Caballe is right up there with the Callas/di Stefano. I heard them both in that opera at Covent Garden in the 1970s, & he in particular was magnificent. His Zarzuela recording is second to none. Even *post*-illness, try his Samson & Delilah with Baltsa for size. Indeed, in his concert here just a year ago his voice was glorious, though unable to progress beyond a G without strain. The natural, *un*manufactured beauty of his voice leaves Domingo's contrived nasality in the dust. Jose is certainly not the world's greatest living tenor right now (actually, who is? The world is mesmerised by packaged pretenders like Watson & Bocelli), but in his heyday, he *was*. And he's still alive. :-)

There's no questioning Domingo's intelligence & musicianship. He's probably the most *intelligent* tenor there's ever been, bearing in mind Caruso's observation that tenors are 10% intelligence, 90% acoustics. :-) But move me he doesn't. It's all too obvious an artifice. And ultimately, the capacity to move me is what makes singers great in my book.

Linz

Post 3

Monday, May 16, 2005 - 4:26amSanction this postReply
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James: One further thought on the Carreras/Domingo comparison. You mentioned Domingo's No Puede Ser at the first Three Tenors concert. Yes, it was an exciting piece of singing, surpassed only by his Amor, Amor de Mi Vida four years later at the second Three Tenors outing. But what I'd love to do (if we ever meet!) is play you Carreras's 1986 live performance of No Puede Ser immediately after we've watched Domingo's version. I think you'll be amazed by the difference - not just vocally, but visually as well. This is the Carreras of yore, without a trace of the visible fear that mars many of his post-illness performances whenever he has to hit a high note. From top to bottom, his voice is perfectly placed here, and his singing is a marvel of passion and tenderness. I still remember Linz's enthralled reaction when I first played him this video. "You know," he exulted, "this guy really is the closest thing to Lanza we're ever going to get in our lifetime!" And I'm convinced Linz was right. 

It's a sad irony that Carreras only became a household name once he'd actually passed his heyday. Indeed, it may take another generation before he receives his proper due for the soaring magnificence that he once possessed. But as long as glorious voices continue to be revered, Carreras will be rediscovered... 


Post 4

Monday, May 16, 2005 - 9:13amSanction this postReply
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Pavarotti in his prime - especially the recordings with Joan Sutherland. Enough said.

Post 5

Monday, May 16, 2005 - 11:09amSanction this postReply
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I saw Carreras at his first performance in New York, I believe ( the New York City Opera in the early seventies). I was in the first few rows, and I thought he was marvelous. Unbelievably handsome in those days. I knew he would be a star. What I remember besides these observations was that there was very loud clapping from the side boxes, which I later discovered were people being paid to make his debut a hit. I got that story from the papers the next day, so it may not be true). Anyway, he didn't need to pay anyone that night.
My favorite Carreras is his Zeffirelli Boheme at the Met with Stratas in the early eighties. He also sings a wonderful Andre Chenier with Eva Marton, too, both available on DVD.

Jordan, one of the greatest nights I spent at the Metropolitan Opera was at I Puritani by Bellini with Sutherland and Pavarotti. I can't, for the life of me, remember the year now., but they were both in great shape ( vocally, that is). I was in standing room and lucky to be there. We lovingly call Joan "Old Slushmouth"in those days for possessing the worst pronunciation I have ever heard. However, I never heard more perfect singing in my life. The place was jumpin' that night. All the slurred words and missed dramatic moments were forgiven.

The sixties and early seventies were the best time to hear Sutherland. Those early Lucias, and Bellini operas were unbelievable. The seventies and early eighties were the time to hear Carreras. Perhaps I am not being completely fair to him. Barbara loves him, too. He was wonderful before his illness. I think that for a couple of years he could equally share the stage with Domingo and Pavarotti; but very briefly. The seventies and eighties were best years to hear Pavarotti. The sixities, seventies, eighties, nineties and twenties are the best years to hear Domingo, with the best getting better and better. I have seen all of them many times. I don't know what was wrong with Placido when you saw him, Derek, but he has a much bigger voice than Jose; and there is great excitement in his upper register. I have never seen him fail to completely conquer his audience. I saw him sing a Tosca in New Jersey before he was known where the audience was so beside itself that it made him sing "Recondita armonia" a second time. Being a big star may fill the house, but nothing but great singing can cause the ruckus that is almost always the result of a Domingo performance. I have seen him thrill audiences on both coasts with "La Fanciulla". He is the only man who can make me believe and feel for Don Jose in Carmen, and that includes a healthy Carreras in his prime.
If there is one performance I can sight, it is his unstaged performance a few years ago of act one of Die Walkure. I had heard the Melchior recordings and grown up with Jon Vicker's great early sixties version, but nothing prepared me for this. It was overwhelming, and the audience kept him coming back until what seemed like time for breakfast. Who is the greatest tenor alive? I don't think there was a question in anyone's mind that night as to how to answer that one.

I love the passion that great singing brings to its audience. And guys, I love ya', and always will, but we will have to agree to disagree on this great artist. I guess we can always come to agreement by ending every argument with, "If only Lanza had sang that..."

Post 6

Monday, May 16, 2005 - 10:46pmSanction this postReply
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I, too, adore Carreras, and prefer him to Domingo -- even present tense. Carreras is a passionate romantic in a way that Domingo is not; I see him, in certain ways, as the Chopin of tenors. There is a heavy-handedness about Domingo, a peasant quality, whereas Carreras soars to lyrical heights that I have not heard even Pavorotti reach.

Barbara

James, will you ever speak to me again?

Post 7

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 12:49amSanction this postReply
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Enchanting article on Placido Domingo. Very enjoyable. However I am saddened to learn that Robert Plant has died and left the title of "greatest living tenor" to someone else.

Regards,
Tom Knapp

Post 8

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 4:43amSanction this postReply
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In all seriousness, Carreras at his best was poetic, and very engaging, but never much of an actor. I find it painful to watch him in the original 3 tenors. Emotionally, he sings a beautiful "Core ngrato", but it is terribly forced, oversung- actually, in bad taste at points.
I just can't see him in Pavarotti's league, if you look over their whole careers, let alone Domingo's.
Barbara, I knew your feelings for Carreras, but am surprised that you don't hold Domingo in higher regard. His emotional palette has so many more shades the than other two singers combined. While, I would even say that in Samson e Dahlila he is more "Victor Mature" than Victor Mature himself.
Lady and gentlemen, you miss much of Domingo, but you all see Lanza so clearly that I will love you all forever.
Tom- thank you for being enchanted, but, ah..who is Robert Plant.

I would like to know if anyone out there who follows opera singers knows of any really promising newcomers.

Post 9

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 5:32amSanction this postReply
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Give me an amalgam of the three tenors and I'll be happy: Pavarotti's barrel-chested, missile projection, Domingo's professional succinctness and Carrera's passion.

To my taste, I'll take Pavarotti in his early prime -- before he got perfunctory. I can overlook his sloppiness. I saw him in Texas in 1992 before he got real bad.

He was magnificent!


Post 10

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 6:48amSanction this postReply
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James wrote:
In all seriousness, Carreras at his best was poetic, and very engaging, but never much of an actor. I find it painful to watch him in the original 3 tenors. Emotionally, he sings a beautiful "Core ngrato", but it is terribly forced, oversung- actually, in bad taste at points.
I just can't see him in Pavarotti's league, if you look over their whole careers, let alone Domingo's.
Carreras was never a *great* actor, but he generally got by, and unlike Pavarotti he gave it his best shot. In something like the 1993 Covent Garden production of Stiffelio - which you should definitely check out, James - he was actually quite impressive.

It's unfair to judge him on much of his post-illness singing, though he could still deliver the goods on occasion, as in the Stiffelio I've just mentioned, and at a 1994 concert in NZ that I attended along with Linz. But let's not forget that he lasted a lot longer than Di Stefano - and yet we would never dispute old Giuseppe's place among the greats just because his career was a brief one.

I would like to know if anyone out there who follows opera singers knows of any really promising newcomers.
Everyone's raving about the young Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon (who, incidentally, was inspired by Domingo), but I wasn't all that taken with his debut disc. The contemporary opera singer who really gets my juices going is not actually a tenor, but a baritone; he's the thrilling Russian hunk Dmitri Hvorostovsky.     


Post 11

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 5:19pmSanction this postReply
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I often work online without my reading glasses.  (Right now, I am getting used to tri-focals; and, I have a slight astigmatism.)  So, when I read "Our Greatest Living Terror: Placido Domingo" I thought, "Oh, no! This is worse than questioning Mario Lanza!" 

(... never mind...)


Post 12

Monday, May 23, 2005 - 10:38pmSanction this postReply
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Carreras had a magnificent voice, by far the best of the three tenors. But he was forever trying to make his voice sound bigger than it actually was. This coupled with a faulty technique brought him to a premature end, just like his idol Di Stefano.

I heard Carreras  twice in 1981, and the voice colouring was truly magnificent.

Domingo is admittedly less gifted vocally but, in my opinion, a greater singer and interpreter.  

I listen to Domingo much as I do with Callas. After the first few bars I forget about the voice quality and am totally won over by the interpreter. Callas’ was an ugly voice, but what a singer!

As for Pavarotti, I can only admire his technique as everything else leaves me cold.

 


Post 13

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - 5:38amSanction this postReply
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Armando, I agree with you. I am by no means as much a fan of opera as most of those posting here, and certainly not as knowledgeable; I just "know what I like to hear."  To me, Domingo always projected a far more masculine voice than many other tenors, especially Pavarotti. I also agree with you about Callas as a singer: she didn't have the most beautiful voice I've heard, not by a long shot; but what fire and passion!


Post 14

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - 8:55pmSanction this postReply
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Robert, There’s a tendency, particularly from people that are just starting to discover opera, to listen only to the quality of the voice. I was one of them, when at the age of twelve I started listening to various opera singers.  I certainly didn’t like Tito Schipa back then. Now I consider him one of the greatest tenors ever, far superior to Gigli who had a much more beautiful voice.

There are many other examples of singers that transcend their voice limitations. One of the best examples among tenors is Aureliano Pertile, again, not a beautiful voice but a marvellous interpreter with far more light and shade in his singing than the much heralded Caruso. Of course, Pertile is not as well known as either Caruso or Martinelli. Both had huge careers in the US, whereas Pertile sang primarily in Europe.

By the way, are you parents from Northern Italy ? Bidinotto sounds like a name from the Veneto. I was born in Venice.

 


Post 15

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - 7:40amSanction this postReply
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Armando, I've never actually spent the time to trace my ancestry back in The Old Country, but I know there are a host of Bidinottos there, and that there is a thriving Portuguese-speaking clan of them in Brazil, as well as quite a few in the U. S. If you are ever in a position to check a few Italian phone books for the name, I'd appreciate it.


Post 16

Tuesday, July 24 - 8:26pmSanction this postReply
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Don't Let Your Version of Beauty Deny Greatness in Your Lifetime

 

I've enjoyed the opinions of the previous commenters and came away wanting to re-approach my view with more circumspection. I'm so very late to the party. But, better late than never. Actually, I long ago wandered across this site but didn't feel ready to chime in quite yet on the subject I favor, the Great Placido Domingo. Since this blog was first posted, now some 10 years hence, much has transpired in the career of the Maestro and yet this blog remains untended. A pity.

 

As the phenomenon we know as the still quite tenorissimo Domingo is interpreting baritone roles with the baritonal register of his voice (all men have it; after all, he started out really thinking he was a light baritone...) at the amazing age of 77 (wow), there is so much more to consider in the mountain of empirical evidence. There is so much to discuss in support of the blogger's original post at this point in history.

 

I will start by saying that those who do not find his Voice appealing argue from a position of subjectivity. You may even find the heft of his body of work of no import (that is a pathological rejection of facts). But if you have integrity, you can acknowledge the accomplishments of a giant in this field of endeavor without feeling disloyal to "your guy." C'mon now. Domingo has not only smashed all the records Caruso held, nevermind Pavarotti, he has set new records that will take a very long time to break.

 

If you want to discuss his accomplishments on a trait by trait or record by record basis, by all means. But if you want to shove your subjective assessment of his voice on me, that won't work. Be scientific. That we can all agree on.

 

And on that note, I throw the gauntlet: Placido Domingo is the Greatest Tenor, the Greatest Opera Artist, of All Time. Caruso had his reign. No king reigns forever. Pavarotti had a great lyric high c voice for a time. But that is all. In service of the performing arts, there is no greater than Domingo. The 2008 BBC survery of 17 music critics and experts simply validates what the planet long ago decided. Even Domingo knows it is so much harder to build the myth in our current popular social and cultural development.

 

Placido Domingo is The Greatest Tenor of All Time: Prove Me Wrong.



Post 17

Wednesday, July 25 - 10:49amSanction this postReply
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Calling Placido Domingo the Greatest Opera Artist of All Time is not hyperbole.

 

Greetings,


(This may turn out to be my second post. I say "may" because I know I started to comment last night (24jul18) but my head hit the pillow shortly thereafter, so I don't remember clicking a Post button. As the fora here are semi-moderated, I don't know how long to wait to see if I did. Which is to say, please forgive what may be a repeat comment.)


For the past six months and counting, I've been on a catch up tour of the career of the great tenor Plácido Domingo. Daily online searches, using various engines, present wildly different results, even when using the widest of criteria ("Plácido Domingo -wiki"), or the same set of lazy engine results ("here's the first 20 most recent... here's the first 50 most recent... here's the first 100 most recent") but rather regularly, this post shows up in the results. For the longest time, I'd re-read it occasionally and sometimes I'd read the comments and then keep going, sometimes on to other posts here or back to the research.

Today, I thought I'd throw in my two cents. Though the post is nigh on a decade old, it remains relevant and with good reason: the subject is an enduring marvel.

Why am I on a catch up tour of Domingo's career? Because he's the greatest opera artist of all time. Whoa, who do I think I am?! Just a human like the rest of the commenters with n level of music knowledge and a student of measurable evidence. And the empirical evidence that supports my assertion is, frankly, now mountainous.

If you prefer someone else's voice that's fine, but it is not part of the calculus, nor should it be. Personal taste is subjective and thank goodness, or we'd all be forced to kiss blondes when we prefer brunettes. But, are brunettes inherently superior to blondes simply because we fancy them? Excuse me, my cow needs a buss....

The facts are easy to assess dispassionately, if one is so inclined. One should be so inclined, if you have integrity.

If you are a congregant of the Church of Caruso, have a nice day. You are practicing a religion and no one can reason with you about your cult. If you worship Fat Lucy, same salutation. And by the way, the facts about them are equally open to dispassionate survey.

The facts include that all the records set by Caruso have long been smashed by Domingo. And other records set by Domingo, are of such magnitude that they will stand for a very, very long time. I'll name two: Domingo has recorded more operas than anyone, often more than once. His total disc count thus far is 354 (Caruso got up to 290, per gramophone.co.uk). (Per operadis-opera-discography.org.uk, reports Domingo "appears on 439 recordings.") Domingo has performed 149 (to date) distinct opera roles, the most of anyone. (The previous record holder at 111 roles was comprimario tenor Charles Anthony.)

Domingo has sung, in German, more Wagner than Caruso and Pavarotti put together and to great acclaim at:  Bayreuth.

Let that sink in.

Domingo recorded Tristan at 63 years old (to critical acclaim); a fact for the monarchists who believe true talent is only in those so born such that it requires no effort.

Favoring merit over entitlement, I prize the enormous heights this artist has scaled by assiduously and faithfully honing his born tenor voice, into the plangent, allotrope, towering, clarion, silky, umbrous and, I might add, miraculously sturdy, instrument that has brought more people to their feet around the world than can be counted.

I have in my library a memento book covering Domingo's career at Weiner Staatsoper, printed 1992, titled "Von Don Carlos bis Parsifal [From Don Carlo to Parsifal], Plácido Domingo, 25 Years at the Vienna State Opera." Among the other acknowledgements and tributes given is that of Claus Helmut Drese, Manager of the opera house 1986-1991, in which he says, and I quote:

"Plácido is the most outstanding and loyal member of the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera. He feels deeply committed to it and is prepared to honour that commitment come what may. Helping others is second nature to him. I do understand that people will queue for nights outside the box office to get tickets for his performances. And that by applauding for 80 minutes his friends got him into the Guinness Book of Records -- and I proudly add that I had the good fortune to be there. Where else would one find an artist who is so uncomplicated a friend, so noble-minded and naturally loyal? Plácido is truly a Sunday child. This is not a picture-book story, not flattery -- it is the truth and nothing but the truth."

Since I'm new still, I won't insert a link straight away but instead will quote a portion of the report of a professional survey result conducted by the BBC in 2008 (three years after this post published):

BBC Worldwide Press Releases
Domingo hits BBC top spot as greatest tenor ever
Date : 11.03.2008

"A poll carried out by BBC Music Magazine to find the world's 20 top tenors has revealed that Placido Domingo is the greatest tenor of all time. And of the poll's top ten, he is the only one to still be performing.

"Michael Tanner, Opera critic for The Spectator, and one of the 16 renowned opera critics to have voted in the poll, commented: "The operatic scene since the mid 1960s is inconceivable without Domingo, and the gigantic treasury of opera recordings will bear witness to future generations of his greatness.

"In an age when 'celebrity' has rightly become a world of contempt, Placido Domingo's fame is an example of how a huge name was built on solid foundations."
 
It's would be silly to argue that all the participants are devout Domingo acolytes, I think we can agree. So take your cue from them and set aside your personal taste from regarding the great man's accomplishments and rightful placement.

Rather lengthy first comment, which leaves out all the other accomplishments of necessity (1985 earthquake fund raising, Operalia, etc), my apologies if it flouts any etiquette here I am unaware of as yet. Many thanks for offering the forum and inviting comment.

Until next time, cheers!



Post 18

Wednesday, August 1 - 8:03pmSanction this postReply
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It's been over two weeks and my original post is still pending... is this site moribund?



Post 19

Saturday, August 4 - 12:08pmSanction this postReply
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http://www.solopassion.com/tracker



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