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Placido Domingo accepts President's Merit Award from Recording Academy

January 28, 2010 | 11:18 am

Domingo To his awards mantel that already includes seven Grammys, three Latin Grammys and numerous career recognitions, Plácido Domingo added yet another honor Wednesday evening at a celebration at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

Domingo accepted the President's Merit Award from the Recording Academy, the organizer of the Grammy Awards. "This is a very thrilling and emotional evening," Domingo said as he took the stage to receive the award.

The Spanish tenor, who recently turned 69, said he still finds its difficult to listen to his own recordings. "It doesn't matter if it won a Grammy -- you remember exactly what you didn't do right, " he said.

Domingo said that of all the Grammys he's won over the years, he is most proud of the ones he received for Cuban and Mexican music. In his nearly 50-year career, Domingo has received a total of 31 Grammy nominations.

The tribute to Domingo was part of the evening's Grammy Salute to Classical Music, an annual celebration that is part of the festivities leading up to the Grammy Awards, which will be held on Sunday at Staples Center. Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, presented the award to Domingo.

Previous honorees include Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta, Lang Lang, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the late Earl Wild.

Wednesday's celebration included performances by four vocal soloists. Sean Michael Plumb, 18, was the youngest of the singers, performing an aria from Donizetti's "Don Pasquale." José Adán Pérez performed a Zarzuela piece by Federico Moreno Torroba -- a nod to Domingo's roots in the Spanish operatic genre. And David Lomelí sang an aria from Puccini's "La Bohème." 

The star performer of the evening was soprano Ana María Martínez, who sang "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's "Rusalka." Grant Gershon led an ensemble of musicians from the L.A. Opera orchestra.

Domingo, who serves as general director of L.A. Opera, singled out the instrumentalists for applause on Wednesday and made a brief allusion to "difficult times" for the opera company. In December, the company received a $14-million emergency loan from Los Angeles County to help it stay afloat through the middle of 2010.

The tenor made a reference during his speech to the common recording practice of digitally correcting singers' voices. "Thankfully, we here still practice live performance," he said.

Wednesday's audience at the Broad Stage included L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and members of Domingo's family, including  his wife, Marta, two of his sons and his granddaughter, Nicole.

During his speech, Domingo related an anecdote about his wife's insistence that he work less. "Many years ago, she said to me that when you are 50 years old, you will do a little less," he recalled.

The tenor said he acquiesced to his wife, "but I forgot to say it will be 50 years of being married. And that will be in 2012."

-- David Ng

Photo: Domingo, accepting his award Wednesday evening at the Grammy Salute to Classical Music in Santa Monica. Credit: Noel Vasquez / Getty Images

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