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Interpretative talents

An evening with Placido Domingo,
live at Wembley -


'... how detailed and engaged are his interpretations of all he sings ...'

An evening with Placido Domingo -- Live at Wembley (p) 2001 Span Pictures Ltd


Placido Domingo's vocal longevity has been one of the great operatic joys of the past thirty or forty years. Not only is he blest with a glorious voice, he is also a consummate stage actor -- one of very few who can combine vocal lyricism with dramatic intensity and achieve utter integrity in both. Given his interpretative talents, then, it can be frustrating to watch him, tethered and platform-bound, in this 1987 Wembley recital that was something of a solo prototype for the future Three Tenors concerts. Domingo brings such characterisation to every role, be it Rodolphe from La Bohème or Freddy from My Fair Lady, that one longs to see him in costume and in performance on the operatic stage. Perhaps that's why the inevitable Zarzuelas and Neapolitan songs offer fewer rewards than the operatic excerpts; they are less about drama, more about moods.

Mere listening is another matter, though, and driving along to the strains of the bonus CD of the same concert one is struck by a number of things: first, how superb Domingo's instrument was fourteen years ago; second, how detailed and engaged are his interpretations of all he sings, whether great music or trite; and third, alas, how poorly engineered this recording is, with the English Chamber Orchestra in particular subjected to shrill close-miking that distorts the ensemble and removes every shred of instrumental bloom.

Back with the DVD, the visual programme is little better. For most of the time all we can detect is a tuxedo-clad Domingo ambling in front of a handful of first violins, or else the energetic silhouette of the evening's conductor, Eugene Kohn (who is uncredited anywhere on the packaging, incidentally). Domingo's guest singers for the evening, Marta Senn and Edouard Tomigian, bring style and variety to their duets with the great tenor, and their colourful presence certainly helps break the monotony; but, really, there is little need for any but the most ardent fan to be too excited about this issue, since Domingo has recorded all of this repertoire elsewhere in more felicitous circumstances. Morover, fifty-five minutes with no extras is short measure for a DVD. What happened to the rest of the concert, I wonder?

Copyright © 15 September 2001 Mark Valencia, Essex, UK







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