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Subject: Re: Tenor Marcel Alvarez critizizes Domingo
From: [log in to unmask]
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Date:Tue, 9 Feb 2010 21:36:32 EST
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In a message dated 2/9/2010 7:26:22 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:

Domingo  has had an astounding success in defining down what
excellence is. His  Boccanegra was not a disgrace and was not as bad a some
others would  probably have been and that was true of his first Otellos, his
exploits in  Wagner -- but it was far from the best I have seen just as his
Otello was  never a match for Jon Vickers and James McCracken (at his
considerable  best), the young Atlantov, Wolfgang Windgassen (late, in 
German
but  astounding) or Mario del Monaco, complained of as he might have been
whose  voice I could feel in my face all the way upstairs at old Met and
whose  torrential passion filled the huge house


There is a lot of truth in what Albert Innaurato writes above. I can't  
comment on Domingo's Boccanegra since I haven't seen it yet (I will comment  
after I see the encore HD theater presentation) but I wholeheartedly agree  
that Domingo's Otello was in no way a match for Vickers or McCracken (alas I  
never saw those others, but probably very few Otellos have ever matched Del  
Monaco although his recordings are sickeningly disappointing). But yet,  
Domingo's Otello was excellent, superb in fact. It was a considerable  
achievement and was just about universally praised. And while I would  agree with 
what Albert writes about his Siegmund, it's no match for Vickers, I  don't 
agree about King. I never much liked King who I felt was merely adequate;  
Domingo's Siegmund was the best for me after Vickers' and I never heard a 
better  Lohengrin in person. In fact, the Lohengrin does stand alone, because  in 
every other role I admired him in, Domingo would never have been my first  
choice. For instance IMHO Corelli, Bergonzi and Tucker were far better as  
Radames, Corelli and Tucker were far better as Manrico, and Bergonzi was  
non-pareil as Riccardo. Those were the days!
 
Except perhaps for his Lohengrin, there isn't one role by Domingo that  I 
would rate above others I saw, but what does make him stand above those  
others, perhaps unique during the time of his career, then and now, is his  
absolute reliability, his uniform excellence and his ability to sing just about  
any role he wanted, always very well, always on the highest level. His  
consistency is just amazing.  Except for what must have been a sub par  night 
singing Andrea Chenier, I never heard a less than fine performance from  him, 
beginning with the first time I heard him in Miami as a wonderful Riccardo  
in 1968, a performance of Un Ballo In Maschera that was a high point in the 
 history of the Greater Miami Opera. 
 
So from the beginning, Placido Domingo has been a superlative tenor of  the 
highest rank, and yet, those who carp about his not being able to produce  
squillo are correct, he can't and couldn't. And in discussing what are  
"distinctive" voices (an interesting thread indeed), this would be for me his  
greatest drawback. His voice is splendid, even, a rich juicy baritonal hue,  
and a fine ample tenor sound, produced with quite a bit of power, and yet  
IMHO without much individuality. There is a slightly generic quality to it,  
and in fact to all his singing. This is where I can understand and to a 
point  agree when Albert writes: "Domingo has had an astounding success in 
defining  down what excellence is".  Compared to a Gigli, a Corelli, a Di 
Stefano, a  Bergonzi, a Tucker, a Vickers, he is a step down, I agree. That being 
said,  I can't think of another singer in the long history of opera, except  
perhaps for Ernestine Schumann-Heink, and on a lesser level (meaning mostly  
lesser roles), Lucien Fugere and Hugues Cuenod, who sang half so well for  
so long. Considering his preposterously diverse repertory and  complete 
mastery of role after role, it would not be an exaggeration to  call the last 30 
years "The Age of Domingo." Though I have (or in Villazon's  case, had) 
high hopes for Jonas Kaufmann, Juan Diego Florez, Piotr Beczala, I  fear that 
Domingo is truly the last of a line of kingly tenors and that his  
replacement for even a small part of his repertory is not in sight. 
 
There are a whole range of spinto and dramatic roles that Domingo once  
commanded, like Riccardo, Radames, Chenier, Don Alvaro, Don Carlo, Manrico,  
Otello, Siegmund, Lohengrin, that I fear may never be as well sung again. 
 
Great baritones? What baritones are Alvarez referring to? I sat  through a 
voiceless Boccanegra at Covent Garden already. Been there, done that.  That 
Domingo is now the only reasonable alternative in a Simon  Boccanegra 
production (with the verdict still out on how the light voiced  Hvorostovsky will 
fare)  speaks volumes. As for Alvarez himself, he   is just about the last 
person I should think would be criticizing a Placido  Domingo. Alvarez is to 
Domingo what a highway overpass is to Mt. Everest.  Right now, I would 
rather hear Domingo in any part, in any opera, over  Alvarez. 
 
Regarding voice types, the baritones complained when Pinza sang Escamillo  
and Don Giovanni. Albert has expertly explained why Carmen has been the 
province  of both sopranos and mezzos. It's also interesting that another role 
created by  Galli-Marie, Mignon, was also played by sopranos. Mezzo sopranos 
can sing  soprano roles as shown by Grace Bumbry, Christa Ludwig and Shirley 
 Verrett. As Albert has pointed out previously, the very usage of the  
categories both mezzo soprano and baritone was very limited until about the  
middle of the 19th Century. It was soprano or alto, or bass or tenor. But  not 
even the basses were safe.  It's hard to imagine that one of the most  
famous Don Giovannis of the 19th Century, was Mario, the creator of Ernesto in  
Don Pasquale! There is no reason on earth why Domingo shouldn't sing Simon  
Boccanegra. 
 
Placido Domingo is truly a giant. When he does retire, and I hope it's  a 
long way off, the void he will leave will be enormous.
 
James Camner
 
 
 
 

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