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Naked ambition in world premiere of new Placido Domingo opera

September 24, 2010 |  2:00 pm

Postino Among its virtues, the world premiere production of “Il Postino” Thursday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion unveiled a number of visual surprises.

First, this is surely the first opera in history to include a game of Foosball (final score 3-0, but we won’t ruin it by telling you who won). There was also a very adroit multimedia use of projected visuals in the third act that coalesced wonderfully with Daniel Catán’s pliant score.

But the biggest visual talker is probably the unexpected sighting early in the first act that can be deduced by looking at the adjacent, fit-for-print photo. Especially riveting was that this moment unfolded slowly, and quite literally, in the hands of the world’s most celebrated living tenor.

First, a couple notes:

The nudity is contextual, and drawn from Plácido Domingo’s role as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. He sings a passage to his on-stage wife that taps into a famous Neruda love poem called "Sonnet XXVII," that begins  “Naked, you are as simple as one of your hands…”

The soprano in question is Cristina Gallardo-Domâs. Gallardo-Domâs’ bona fides as a singer are unquestioned, a celebrated artist who has been seen at the Met, Covent Garden, La Scala and dozens of other houses, including her 2008 Los Angeles debut in “La Rondine.”

Also, nudity, invariably female, is not unknown in opera, or to L.A. Opera. In its 1986 first-season, soprano Maria Ewing appeared topless in “Salome,” though it should be pointed out that at the Met and overseas Ewing routinely disrobed down to nothing in that role.

In "Il Postino" this viewer found the several-minute interlude absorbing in that it took awhile for Domingo to move through the lyrics and built in a loving, erotic passage. During this period, the same viewer also found himself a bit envious of those seated in the front few rows of the orchestra, far stage left, whose view of the proceedings were clearly more, shall we say, revealing than those elsewhere in the house.

The end of the musical passage received lengthy applause, presumably for Domingo’s singing.

Tickets, as they say, remain available.

-- Christopher Smith

Photo: Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Cristina Gallardo-Domâs as Matilde in "Il Postino." Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

PD RECENT AND RELATED

Opera review: L.A. Opera premieres 'Il Postino'

L.A. Opera to deliver 'Il Postino' premiere on Thursday

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Plácido Domingo renews contract with L.A. Opera through 2013

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