Placido Domingo returns to singing -- to prolonged bravos -- at La Scala
And he returned in not just any opera or on any stage, but singing Verdi at Milan's La Scala, a storied house with a notoriously demanding audience.
The 69-year-old tenor sang the title role -- a rare baritone part for him -- in "Simon Boccanegra," playing the pirate turned peacemaker who becomes doge of Genoa.
After the three-hour performance, the audience -- which included fellow "Three Tenor" José Carreras -- responded by whistling, throwing carnations and giving the Spaniard a sustained ovation.
"It was a great evening," Domingo said backstage after being thronged by well-wishers, according to the Associated Press. "It was very emotional. I was happy to be in front of an audience."
Amid the bravos, the cast and conductor Daniel Barenboim heard some boos as well, especially from the traditionally hard-to-please loggione. "La Scala is always La Scala," said Domingo, according to Reuters. "There were one or two people. They are entitled to their opinion."
This production premiered in Berlin last fall to great acclaim and will go on to London and Madrid. But this night was special.
"Verdi at La Scala is Verdi at La Scala," said Domingo, "and the joy of returning to Milan is double because of the circumstances."
Domingo will sing five more performances in Italy, ending May 7. He hopes to maintain his busy international schedule, which includes performances on several continents and serving as general director of the Los Angeles Opera and Washington National Opera. But he has said he will wait to undertake recording projects until he sees how he feels onstage.
At the end of May, Domingo is scheduled to begin singing in three performances of Wagner's "Die Walküre" as part of L.A.'s Ring Festival. In September, he is set to play poet Pablo Neruda in the L.A. Opera's world premiere of Daniel Catan's "Il Postino."
Domingo had surgery to remove a malignant polyp March 2 in New York. A little over three weeks later, he was back at work in L.A., sitting in on rehearsals for Wagner's "Götterdämmerung," which opened this month.
Before opening at La Scala, Domingo had told reporters he felt "great joy" at singing again. However, he also acknowledged fearing that he might finally have to bring his long career to an end.
"My biggest triumph ever is the one over illness," he said.
Photo: Tenor Placido Domingo and soprano Anja Harteros during the opening performance of Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" at La Scala in Milan. Credit: La Scalla