Plácido Domingo Celebration - Royal Opera House, 27 October 2011
This season is, almost unbelievably, Plácido Domingo's 40th at Covent Garden. He generously chose to mark the anniversary with a hot-ticket celebratory evening of three Verdi last acts, and was greeted by the packed audience with flowers, cheers and standing ovations.
I cannot lie, his voice is not untouched by time. But despite the years and the still-punishing workload (he's off to Moscow tomorrow, back in London the next day) he still sounded remarkably fresh, even if he did fumble the odd word.
The recent switch from tenor to baritone is hard to justify in terms of timbre alone, but his Rigoletto and Simon Boccanegra are stamped with the weary resignation of age, and utterly convincing in a way a more technically appropriate voice often isn't.
Unexpectedly, both made a stronger impression than his Otello. With much of Domingo's tonal lustre rubbed away by time, Otello's essentially youthful rashness is harder to put across convincingly. Even so, it's a sad reflection of today's talent bank that there are still few active tenors who can touch him in the role.
This was of course Domingo's night but he had superb support from the likes of Marina Poplavskaya (Desdemona and Amelia), Paata Burchuladze (Lodovico, Sparafucile and Fiesco) and Francesco Meli (Duke and Adorno) with Hanna Hipp (Emilia) and Ailyn Perez (Gilda) making brief but promising appearances.
Three last acts from three separate operas could end up like three quickies with no foreplay, but somehow Pappano ratcheted up enough orchestral tension to create dramatic contours. The playing was undeniably messy though - maybe Sunday afternoon's repeat performance will be a little more elegantly crafted. More details then.
official photos (above) - Catherine Ashmore / Royal Opera House
curtain call photos (below) - intermezzo.typepad.com
Simon Boccanegra (plus reappearances of the earlier casts):