Calling Placido Domingo the Greatest Opera Artist of All Time is not hyperbole.
(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!