© 2023 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WOSU TV is experiencing intermittent issues on Spectrum Cable. Watch the live stream on the free PBS app.
Classical 101

Placido Domingo Turns 75

Wikimedia Commons

He was one of the few artists to make me cry when he sang the Verdi Requiem. 

He made an enormous career by virtue of artistry alone. The voice was full, like a wonderful wine when I first heard it live. It's mellowed today, controversially as a Verdi baritone, to a fine cognac.

Never mind. Placido Domingo's official birth date is January 21, 1941. His parents were leading zarzuela artists. Papa later became a tour manager. Mama was a light soprano adored in Spain and Mexico.  Young Placido began on stage in gaucho-next-door boy roles, and had a good run as Senor Freddie Einsford-Hill in a Mexican production of La senora justa.


The rest? Well, a high profile engagement at the New York City Opera introducing Ginastera's thorny Don Rodrigo. Beverly Sills's boyfriend in Manon, La traviata, and Roberto Devereux. His debut at the Metropolitan Opera on October 26, 1968 was opposite Renata Tebaldi.

To date he has done nearly 900 performance at the Met.  There is not an important hall in the word where Domingo has not appeared. Domingo conducts internationally. He has run the Washington National opera and the Los Angeles Opera. His competition Operalia​ slakes the opera lover's endless thirst for great young voices. And he can still make me cry:


I'm guessing I first heard Domino live on April 27, 1972. I looked it up. The opera was Faust, performed by the Metropolitan Opera on tour. There was an elderly soprano who had a bad afternoon.  The Met didn't stint on the rest: Domingo as Faust, Ruggero Raimondi as Mephistopheles and Robert Merrill as Valentin.  Frederica von Stade-radiant-had a supporting role.

Faust requires a flexible, slender voice with a ringing high C. Domingo was forced to wear purple tights. You know how some guys are all gut no butt? Placido had enough of both, and purple tights were not a good look for him. Likewise I can't imagine Faust was his favorite role. He was never a high-C tenor.

Still, where once there had been elegance and grace in Gounod's music, now there wasadded passion. Even with the elderly soprano, the purple tights and a big fanny, it was a great afternoon.

Domingo dropped Faust soon after. He was the best in just about every other opera. Who today would tell him to wear tights on stage? 

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.