Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The Divinity of Placido Domingo
For the first time since 1994, Placido Domingo is singing at the San Francisco Opera, in Franco Alfano's 1936 operatic version of "Cyrano de Bergerac." It's a handsome production, the music is pleasant, and the role is a perfect vehicle for the 69-year-old tenor whose voice, though diminished, is still one of the serious wonders of the world.
Last night's performance was powerfully nostalgiac for a number of old standees in the balcony. One nearby gentleman had seen Domingo in 1971 when he jumped in for an ailing tenor as Manrico opposite Leontyne Price in "Il Trovatore." My first sighting was in 1975, soon after moving to San Francisco, in Lotfi Mansouri's production of "Andrea Chenier" back when it was new. Then we saw him in a series of wonderful Jean-Pierre Ponelle productions of "Cav/Pag" (with Tatiana Troyanos as Santuzza), "Otello" in 1978, and "Carmen" in 1981. There was also the Harold Prince production of "La Fanciulla del West" in 1979 with Carol Neblett, and the lavish-when-new production of "Samson et Dalila" in 1980 with the awesome, inimitable Shirley Verrett, who just died last week.
I didn't know at the time that we were hearing legendary performances, but I do now, and the memories they conjured made me feel a bit old and mortal last night. The lingering melancholy should be perfect for tonight's opening performance at the opera of "The Makropulos Case" by Janacek, which really is all about mortality.
Update: The San Francisco Opera did right by "The Makropulos Case" this evening. It's a great production, cast and conductor. Get yourself a ticket, even if it's $10 standing room.