A legend in his lifetime and one of the most famous and sought after performers in living memory, the great Spanish tenor and conductor Placido Domingo has for the last 30 years captivated world opera and concert audiences and critics with his consistently inspired and virtuoso performances of great masterworks. Remarkably, ever since his sensational international debut performances he has totally preserved his perfectly honed and richly resonant spinto voice whilst he has constantly added new roles to what is now an enormous operatic repertoire of 113 roles – the highest ever known for a tenor. He has one of the largest and most devoted followings of all time in music, with audiences, critics and fellow musicians alike constantly amazed at his vocal perfection, artistic inspiration, consummate musicianship and dramatic power. His stage presence impresses equally for the subtlety and imagination of his acting as it does for the sensitivity and impact of his singing.
Placido Domingo was born in Madrid. His parents were zarzuela singers who emigrated to Mexico when he was a child, and it was there that the young Placido made his very first stage appearances singing in a zarzuela, which is a traditional type of Spanish operetta with dialogue. Soon it was recognised that he had a freak talent both as a singer and an actor, and as a teenager he joined the Mexico National Opera. He was in fact enrolled as a baritone, but his huge vocal range (over four octaves) soon led him to develop into a tenor, and he made his major debut singing the role of Alfredo in La traviata in 1960, aged just 19 years. Just one year later he made his US debut in Dallas singing opposite Joan Sutherland in Lucia di Lammermoor, after which he joined the Israel National Opera for three years. Two vital watersheds followed when he made his New York Metropolitan Opera debut as Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur in 1968 and then his Royal Opera Covent Garden debut in 1971 as Cavaradossi in Tosca. Now he was acclaimed as one of the greatest singers in memory, and comparisons were made with legends such as Enrico Caruso and Benjiamo Gigli. Like them, his singing exhibited the rare equal mastery of lyricism and drama, with seamless lines, perfect intonation and intense attack, and this was accompanied by an outstanding acting flair, making him one of the most riveting of all stage performers.
And yet Placido Domingo’s achievement was just beginning. During the ensuing three decades he became a legendary performer of roles such as Pagliacci, Alfredo, Otello, Radames, Don Carlos, Rudolfo, Cavaradossi, Don Jose, Samson, Hoffman, Parsifal, Lohengrin, Herman and many more. All the greatest and most demanding conductors and stage directors asked for him, such as conductors Claudio Abbado, Carlos Kleiber, Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti, Valery Gergiev and Sir Simon Rattle and directors Piero Faggioni, Andrei Serban, Franco Zefferelli and Elijah Moshinsky. Remarkably he showed them all how flexibly he was able to combine their ideas and his, which was so impressively borne out by his performances of Otello in such varying productions as those by Peter Potter, Franco Zefferelli and Elijah Moshinsky and with such differing conductors as Carlos Kleiber, Sir Georg Solti, James Levine and Valery Gergiev.
Never content to stay still, Placido Domingo has more recently expanded his repertoire to encompass new contemporary roles such as Don Rodrigo (Ginastera), Goya (Menotti) and Divinas Palabras (Abril). During the ensuing season (1999-2000) he will debut with his 114th role when he performs in Margarita la Tornera (Chapi) in Madrid.
For over 25 years Placido Domingo has also pursued a distinguished career as a conductor. After making his conducting debut at the New York City Opera with La traviata, he soon was engaged to lead major productions at the New York Metropolitan, Vienna State Opera, and Royal Opera Houses. In particular his Covent Garden conducting debut in Die Fledermaus made an auspicious impression.
Placido Domingo was a founder member of the Los Angeles Opera and was a major influence in its entire formation. He is now the company’s artistic director, determining its policies and conducting its major performances.
In 1993 Placido Domingo created Operalia, the world’s largest international vocal competition. It has so far been held in Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, Bordeaux, Tokyo, Hamburg and Puerto Rico.
In 1985, Placido Domingo began giving benefit concerts for the victims of the 1985 Mexican earthquake, when he assisted rescue operations digging the dead and wounded out from the rubble with his own hands. He raised millions of pounds, and he has since raised enormous sums of moneys for the many charitable causes to which he has devoted himself.
A legend of the 20th Century, Placido Domingo is one of the best loved of all the musical giants. He radiates warmth and inspiration to his colleagues just as he has always done to music lovers all over the world.