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Culture

Star tenor Placido Domingo celebrates 70th birthday

He leads two opera houses, has recorded countless albums, conducts and continues to sing with an astounding voice: Placido Domingo, the musical multi-talent, looks back at an outstanding career.

Placido Domingo singing at a concert in Budapest

Placido Domingo sings tenor and baritone roles, and also conducts

His head of hair and his beard have turned grayer, but age reflects itself differently in Domingo's voice. That was certainly evident when he brought down the house at London's Covent Garden last year, singing the title character in Verdi's "Simone Boccanegra." That was just one highlight in the dazzling 50-year career of the star tenor, who occasionally takes on baritone roles.

Music in his blood

Domingo singing the title role in 'Parsifal' in 2001

Domingo singing the title role in 'Parsifal' in 2001

Placido Domingo, who was born in Madrid on January 21, 1941, learned to love of music before he could talk; his parents were singers of traditional Spanish zarzuelas. Following the Domingo family's move to Mexico when Placido was eight, the young man went on to study piano and conducting, and eventually voice, at Mexico City's Conservatory of Music.

He made his operatic debut as leading tenor in Monterrey at the age of 20 - as Alfredo in Verdi's "La Traviata."

Domingo's international breakthrough came in 1966 when, filling in at the last minute for a colleague who had taken ill, he gave his first performances at the New York City Opera. By 1968, he was singing at the New York Metropolitan Opera, and at other prestigious opera houses around the world - in Milan, London, Vienna and Buenos Aires.

Tricky German

While originally making a name for himself as an interpreter of Verdi's works, the singer has expanded his repertoire to around 135 different opera roles over the course of his career. Italian and French Romantic-era works - by Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, Bizet and Massenet - form the core of his repertoire, but the Spanish singer has also had a particular fondness for Richard Wagner's works. He sang "Lohengrin" for the first time in 1968.

The Three Tenors singing in Düsseldorf in 1996

The Three Tenors in Düsseldorf in 1996

But Wagner's roles have always presented a challenge for him. In addition to the trickiness of the German language, "the range is so incredibly difficult for a tenor voice in Wagner's works, especially if you're used to singing the Italian and French repertoire," he said in a 1976 interview. "I'm especially interested in singing Siegfried in 'Die Walküre.' And maybe I'll get to the point of being able to sing Tristan [in the opera 'Tristan and Isolde'] some day."

He got his wish 30 years later - singing the part of Tristan in 2005 for a CD recording.

Filling up stadiums

Placido Domingo continues to fill opera houses - as well as soccer stadiums. In 1990, he gave a legendary concert in Italy with the great Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras at the opening ceremonies of the soccer World Cup. The Three Tenors reunited for concerts following that performance, as well as inspiring many tenor formations that followed.

In addition to singing, Domingo began conducting early on. In 1973, he conducted his first opera, despite not really having formal training. "I studied conducting a little bit at the conservatory in Mexico, but I have mainly gained my training by listening closely," he said. "I know the repertoire very well, and am attracted to conducting."

He has since conducted opera performances at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, London's Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, and the Los Angeles Opera, as well as symphonic concerts with the Chicago Symphony, the London Symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic, among others. In addition, he is general director of the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera.

But the tenor Domingo continues to enjoy singing on stage, his voice still full and powerful after all these years.

Author: Klaus Gehrke / als
Editor: Kate Bowen

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