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Placido Domingo reunites with the Met and 'Adriana Lecouvreur'

February 9, 2009 |  3:01 pm


Domingo_in_1968_2Before he was the artistic director of Los Angeles Opera, before he was one of the Three Tenors, before his record 21 opening nights at the Met, Placido Domingo was just another singer hoping for a break.

It came on the evening of Sept. 28, 1968, when he got the call to fill in for Franco Corelli at the Metropolitan Opera, singing the role of Maurizio in Francesco Cilea’s "Adriana Lecouvreur."

Forty years later (well, 40 years, 5 months and 6 days... but who’s counting?) Domingo, now 68, and the Met reunited to see if operatic lightning could strike twice. The tenor scheduled to sing Maurizio in the current revival of "Adriana Lecouvreur" dropped out in August, and Domingo agreed to step into the role again — this time with a few months to prepare, instead of a few hours — even though he hasn’t sung the part at the Met since 1983.

The drama backstage last week threatened to overshadow the opera. Rumors spread that Domingo was unable to sing at Tuesday's final dress rehearsal and that parts of the score (written in 1902 for a young Enrico Caruso, in his prime) were being transposed down so that Domingo could hit the notes.  On Friday, AP reported that Domingo was suffering from a cold.

Friday's opening night was standing room only, with opera stars milling about the lobby beforehand, including Anna Netrebko, in a full-length black fur. Still, there was genuine worry among opera fans that Domingo would cancel or not make it through the night. “I made sure to be here for the first performance, just in case he can’t sing it anymore and there isn’t a second one,” said Geoff Morley, a Hollywood manager and frequent Los Angeles Opera-goer who flew in from Westwood just to see Domingo. 

Many in the audience were holding their breath. Then Domingo stepped onstage...

Applause greeted him, before he even sang a note.  His first aria, “La dolcissima effigie,” was delivered with clarity and vigor, despite some tightness in his voice and was received by more enthusiastic applause.

John Freeman, who heard Domingo sing at the Met back in 1968, said that 40-plus years hadn’t erased his memory of those performances and that Domingo somehow “sounds just the same as he did back then.”

Giuseppe Filianoti, an Italian tenor, had come to the opera that night to hear Domingo. He wasn't disappointed.  Filianoti made his Met debut four years ago, and when asked if he imagined himself singing the part in 36 years, he laughed and said: “Probably not the same role, maybe something easier.  Domingo is the only one who does this.  That’s why Domingo is Domingo.”

-- James C. Taylor

Top photo: Olga Borodina and Placido Domingo in "Adriana Lecouvreur" at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit: Associated Press / The Metropolitan Opera, Marty Sohl. Second photo: Domingo in 1968 debut performance at the Met. Credit: AP  / Metropolitan Opera, Louis Mélançon