Plácido Domingo, KBE (born 21 January 1941), born José Plácido Domingo Embil, is a Spanish tenor and conductor known for his versatile and strong voice, possessing a ringing and dramatic tone throughout its range. As of the end of 2013, he has sung 144 different roles.
One of The Three Tenors, he has more recently taken on conducting opera and concert performances, and is the general director of the Los Angeles Opera in California.
Plácido Domingo was born on January 21, 1941 in the Retiro district section of Madrid, Spain, and in 1949 moved to Mexico with his family, who ran a zarzuela company. He studied piano at first privately and later at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City.
In 1959, Domingo auditioned for the Mexico National Opera as a baritone, but was then asked to sight-read some arias and lines in the tenor range. Finally he was accepted in the National Opera as a tenor comprimario and as a tutor for other singers. He provided backup vocals for Los Black Jeans in 1958, a rock-and-roll band led by César Costa. He studied piano and conducting, but made his stage debut acting in a minor role in 1959 (12 May) at the Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara as Pascual in Marina. It was followed by Borsa in Rigoletto (with Cornell MacNeil and Norman Treigle also in the cast), Padre Confessor (Dialogues of the Carmelites) and others.
In 1961, Domingo made his operatic debut in a leading role as Alfredo in La traviata at Monterrey (Maria Teresa Montoya theater) and, later in the same year, his debut in the United States with the Dallas Civic Opera, where he sang the role of Arturo in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor opposite Joan Sutherland in the title role.
In 1962, he returned to Texas to sing the role of Edgardo in the same opera with Lily Pons at the Fort Worth Opera. At the end of 1962, he signed a six-month contract with the Israel National Opera in Tel Aviv, but later extended the contract and stayed for two and a half years, singing 280 performances of 12 different roles.
His official debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York occurred on 28 September 1968 when he substituted for Franco Corelli, in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur singing with Renata Tebaldi. Before Adriana Lecouvreur, he had sung in performances by the Metropolitan Opera at Lewisohn Stadium of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci in 1966. Since then, he has opened the season at the Metropolitan Opera 21 times, surpassing the previous record of Enrico Caruso by four. He made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1967; at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1968; at both La Scala and San Francisco Opera in 1969; at the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company in 1970; and at Covent Garden in 1971. He has now sung at practically every other important opera house and festival worldwide. In 1971, he sang Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera, and continued to sing that part for many years, singing it, in fact, more than any other role.
On September 19, 1985, the biggest earthquake in Mexico's history devastated part of the Mexican capital. Domingo's aunt, uncle, his nephew and his nephew's young son were killed in the collapse of the Nuevo León apartment block in the Tlatelolco housing complex. Domingo himself labored to rescue survivors. During the next year, he performed benefit concerts for the victims and released an album of one of the events.
Giving him even greater international recognition outside of the world of opera, Domingo participated in The Three Tenors concert at the eve of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final in Rome with José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. The event was originally conceived to raise money for the José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation and was later repeated a number of times, including at the three subsequent World Cup finals (1994 in Los Angeles, 1998 in Paris, and 2002 in Yokohama). Alone, Domingo again made an appearance at the final of the 2006 World Cup in Berlin, along with rising stars Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón. On 24 August 2008, Domingo performed a duet with Song Zuying, singing Ài de Huǒyàn (The Flame of Love) at the 2008 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in Beijing. The Beijing Olympics was the second Olympics at which he performed; he sang the Olympic Hymn at the closing ceremonies of the Barcelona Olympics. At the Olympic games that followed that, he would meet Sissel Kyrkjebø, who performed the Olympic Hymn at both the opening and closing ceremonies at those games.
Since 1990 Plácido Domingo has received many awards and honors for his achievement in the field of music and in recognition of his many benefit concerts and contributions to various charities.
In 2002, Domingo wrote "Himno del Centenario del Real Madrid". The song was presented live at the Bernabeu Stadium during celebrations of the football club Real Madrid's 100 years anniversary.
During the visit of Pope Benedict XVI at Nationals Park and at the Italian embassy in Washington D.C. Domingo sang on 16 and 17 April 2008 while, on 15 March 2009, the Metropolitan Opera paid tribute to Domingo's 40th anniversary with the company with an on-stage gala dinner at the Met's 125th anniversary, commemorating his debut in Adriana Lecouvreur as Maurizio opposite Renata Tebaldi on 28 September 1968.
On 29 August 2009, he sang Panis Angelicus at the funeral mass of Senator Ted Kennedy in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston, Massachusetts.
Ever a sympathetic colleague, in March 2011 he refused to sing in Buenos Aires until the city settled a bitter musicians strike at the Teatro Colón.
Domingo sang Neptune in the Metropolitan Opera's world premiere performance of The Enchanted Island on 31 December 2011. A pastiche of Baroque opera with story and characters drawn from Shakespeare's The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream, a performance of the production was telecast on PBS' Great Performances at the Met.
On 13 May 2012, Domingo performed during Real Madrid CF's season-ending celebrations, the team having won their 32nd league title. Domingo is a fan of Los Merengues.
Domingo began an affiliation with the Washington National Opera in 1986, when he appeared in its world premiere production of Menotti's Goya. This was followed by performances in a production of Tosca in the 1988/89 season. Beginning in the 1996/97 season, he took on the role of Artistic Director, bringing new life to the company's productions through his many connections to singers throughout the world and his own annual appearances in one role each season. One example of his ability to bring new singers to the stage were those by the then up-and-coming Anna Netrebko as Gilda in Rigoletto during the 1999/2000 season. In 2003 Domingo became General Director and his contract was extended through the 2010-2011 season.
Parallel to Domingo's management of the Washington company, he had been Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Opera since 2000, assumed the position of General Director in 2003, and on 20 September 2010, he announced that he would renew his contract as General Director of that company through 2013, A week later he announced that he would not renew his contract as General Director of the Washington National Opera beyond its June 2011 expiration date, and reaction to this included The Washington Post 's comments on his accomplishments:
Domingo's goal was to make the WNO an internationally regarded company. At the beginning of his tenure, he lifted the opera to a new level, bringing in more international stars and big-name productions - including José Carreras in Wolf-Ferrari's Sly, Mirella Freni singing opposite Domingo in Fedora, and Renée Fleming in Lucrezia Borgia. And his commitment to American opera meant that the WNO presented the second or third productions of a number of important works: Maw's Sophie's Choice, Bolcom's A View From the Bridge, Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire.
Domingo attempted to quash criticism in East Coast newspapers that he was taking on too much when the singer gave an interview in the Los Angeles Times in which he stated, "When I rest, I rust".
In what has been called his "final career move", Plácido Domingo announced on 25 January 2007 that in 2009 he would take on one of Verdi's most demanding baritone roles, singing the title role in Simon Boccanegra. However, he would not be giving up tenor roles.
The debut performance was at Berlin State Opera on 24 October, followed by 29 other performances during 2009/2010 at major opera houses around the world, including the Met and the Royal Opera House in London.
Domingo has performed other baritone roles including the character of Rigoletto in Verdi's Rigoletto in August 2010 at Reignwood Theatre in Beijing. In March 2012, for the first time he sang the baritone role of the Cenobite monk Athanaël in Massenet's Thaïs, his 139th role. Again, in 2011 he undertook the role of Rigoletto in a live television broadcast in Europe which was shot in real locations in Mantua.
He appeared as Doge Foscari in Verdi's I due Foscari for the Los Angeles Opera in September 2012, a production directed by Thaddeus Strassberger, and again in Valencia in early 2013. In March 2013, at the Metropolitan Opera, he appeared for the first time as Giorgio Germont in Verdi's La Traviata. He sang the title role of Verdi's Nabucco at Covent Garden in March/April 2013, and since reprised it in St. Petersburg, Beijing, and Verona.
He was born to Plácido Francisco Domingo Ferrer (8 March 1907 – 22 November 1987) and Pepita Embil Echaníz (28 February 1918 – 28 September 1994), two Spanish zarzuela stars who nurtured his early musical abilities. Domingo's father was half Aragonese and half Catalan, while his mother was a Basque. His father was a violinist performing for opera and zarzuela orchestra. He was a baritone and actively took roles in zarzuela; however, his promising singing career ended after he damaged his voice by singing while suffering from a cold. Domingo's mother was an established singer who made her zarzuela debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. She met her husband at age 21 while performing in Federico Moreno Torroba's Sor Navarra. In 1946 Moreno Torroba and Domingo's parents formed a zarzuela company and travelled frequently to Mexico. His parents later stayed permanently in Mexico and established their own zarzuela troupe, the Domingo-Embil Company. In addition to their son, they also have a daughter, Maria José Domingo de Fernandez.
On 29 August 1957 at age 16, Plácido Domingo married a fellow piano student, Ana María Guerra Cué (1938–2006) and his first son, José Plácido Domingo Guerra (Pepe), now a photographer, was born on 16 June 1958. However, the marriage did not last long, with the couple separating shortly thereafter. On 1 August 1962, Domingo married Marta Ornelas (born 1935), a lyric soprano from Veracruz, Mexico, whom he met during his conservatory days. In the same year, Marta had been voted "Mexican Singer of the Year", but she gave up her promising career to devote her time to her family. They have two sons, Plácido Francisco (Plácido Jr.), born 21 October 1965, and Alvaro Maurizio, born 11 October 1968.
After a period of time living in Israel, Domingo and his family moved to Teaneck, New Jersey. During vacations, he usually spends his time with family in their vacation home in Acapulco, Mexico.
In March 2010 he underwent surgery for colon cancer. In July 2013, he was admitted to a hospital in Madrid after suffering a pulmonary embolism. He was released on July 14, and was "expected to make a full recovery".
Domingo has made well over 100 recordings, most of which are full-length operas, often recording the same role more than once. Among these recordings is a boxed set of every tenor aria Verdi ever wrote, including several rarely performed versions, in different languages from the original operas, which Verdi wrote for specific performances.
In August 2005, EMI Classics released a new studio recording of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in which Domingo sings the title role of Tristan. A review of this recording, headlined "Vocal perfections", that appeared in the 8 August 2005 issue of The Economist begins with the word "Monumental" and ends with the words, "a musical lyricism and a sexual passion that make the cost and the effort entirely worthwhile". It characterized his July 2005 performance of Siegmund in Wagner's Die Walküre at Covent Garden as "unforgettable" and "luminous". The review also remarks that Domingo is still taking on roles that he has not previously performed.
Recordings that were released in 2006 include studio recordings of Puccini's Edgar, Isaac Albéniz's Pepita Jiménez, as well as a selection of Italian and Neapolitan songs, titled Italia ti amo (all three with Deutsche Grammophon). Domingo appeared as the star act in the New Orleans Opera Association's A Night For New Orleans with Frederica von Stade and Elizabeth Futral, in March 2006. The concert was to raise funds for the rebuilding of the city. In September 2011, aged 70, he signed an exclusive record contract with Sony Classics.
Domingo has appeared in numerous opera films, among them are Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's Madama Butterfly; Gianfranco de Bosio's Tosca with Raina Kabaivanska; Giuseppe Patroni Griffi's Tosca with Catherine Malfitano (Emmy Award); Franco Zeffirelli's Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci — all made for television — and, for theatrical release, Francesco Rosi's Carmen (Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording); Zeffirelli's Otello with Katia Ricciarelli; and Zeffirelli's La traviata (with Teresa Stratas, which received a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording).
His singing voice was heard performing the song "In Pace", during the closing credits of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996).
He has also appeared on television in the 1978 La Scala production of Puccini's Manon Lescaut which marked the Scala debut of Hungarian soprano Sylvia Sass, as well in zarzuela evenings, and Live at the Met telecasts and broadcasts. In 2007, Domingo had a cameo role in The Simpsons episode "Homer of Seville", which revolves around Homer Simpson becoming an opera singer. In his cameo, Domingo sang briefly. Domingo appeared on The Cosby Show Season 5 as Alberto Santiago, a colleague of Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
In 1989, the international television series 'Return Journey' featured Domingo returning to his home city of Madrid reflecting life there whilst recording an album of Zarzuela arias for EMI. The film was directed by Ken MacGregor.
Domingo is the executive producer of the critically acclaimed 1998 Mexican film The Other Conquest, produced by his son Alvaro and directed by Salvador Carrasco, in which Domingo also performs the original aria "Mater Aeterna", composed by Samuel Zyman with lyrics by Carrasco.
In 2008, Domingo provided the voice of the long-haired Chihuahua named Montezuma in Disney's Beverly Hills Chihuahua. He will appear as Manolo's great-grandfather in the film The Book of Life.
In 1990, the idea for a Christmas-themed concert, involving the collaboration of Domingo, fellow operatic tenor and friend José Carreras, and pop music legend Diana Ross was first brought up. Vienna was chosen in 1992 to host the event due to its reputation as a capital of music and the particular charm of Austria during Christmas time. The Wiener Symphoniker under the direction of maestro Vjekoslav Šutej provided the orchestral music, and the Gumpoldskirchen Children's Choir provided choral vocals. On 23 December 1992, the first in what would turn out to be a series of Christmas in Vienna concerts was seen worldwide by several hundred million people. Plácido Domingo returned to Vienna for many more Christmas in Vienna concerts, performing with stars and friends of both pop and classical music, including Dionne Warwick, Charles Aznavour, Sissel Kyrkjebø, Michael Bolton, Sarah Brightman, Charlotte Church, Natalie Cole, Riccardo Cocciante, Patricia Kaas, Luciano Pavarotti, Tony Bennett and others.
Domingo has sung 144 roles in Italian, French, German, English, Spanish and Russian. His main repertoire however is Italian (Otello; Cavaradossi in Tosca; Don Carlo; Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut; Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West; Radames in Aida); French (Faust; Werther; Don José in Carmen; Samson in Samson and Delilah); and German (Lohengrin, Parsifal, and Siegmund in Die Walküre). He continues to add more roles to his repertoire, most recently performing as Francesco Foscari in the early Verdi opera The Two Foscari in September–October 2012.
Additionally, Domingo has created several new roles in modern operas, such as the title role in Tan Dun's opera The First Emperor at the Metropolitan Opera. In September 2010, he created the role of the poet Pablo Neruda in the world première of Daniel Catán's opera based on the film Il Postino at Los Angeles Opera. During the 2011-2012 season at the Met he created the role of Neptune in the original baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island conducted by William Christie with a libretto by Jeremy Sams.
Domingo won his first Grammy Award in 1971 and has gone on to win eight more, as well as three Latin Grammy awards including an award for Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. A Kammersänger of the Vienna State Opera and the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates, he has received other major awards that include being made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2002. He has also received the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, 1st class (1992); Grand Decoration of Honour in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria (2007); Commander of the French Légion d'honneur; Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle; Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for Arts (1991); the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom; and in 2011, a Medal of Honour from Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman. In 2012, Domingo was voted into Gramophone's first Hall of Fame.