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Music review: Plácido Domingo conducts young singers at the Broad Stage

May 21, 2010 | 11:09 am
After recovering from successful colon cancer surgery in March, it was full-speed-ahead-as-usual again for the indefatigable Plácido Domingo this spring – singing the baritone role  in “Simon Boccanegra” and presiding over his Operalia competition at La Scala, a zarzuela concert in Qatar, conducting “Hamlet” at Washington National Opera, three Siegmunds in the “Ring” cycles here....

And in between all of this activity, Domingo kept another promised local date – leading eight gifted singers from Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artists Program in an opera-zarzuela concert at the Broad Stage Thursday night.

For most of the singers, whose residencies are about to end, this amounted to a glittering graduation recital – with a chamber-sized delegation from the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra on the small stage and the boss himself wielding the baton.  It was also the first time in its short history that the Broad Stage has hosted an opera-with-orchestra concert; the sound was a little dry but quite detailed from a seat in the middle of the orchestra section, and the young, strong voices carried easily, sometimes piercingly, over the ensemble.

After opening the first half with Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” Overture – a bit heavy in texture, but it moved – Domingo guided his singers through a cross-section of Bellini, Beethoven, Delibes, Offenbach and Wagner, with another stop in the 18th century for a sparkling rendition of the Act 1 sextet from Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte.”

PD2 The second half contained a smorgasbord of selections from a dozen zarzuelas – some with a strong Spanish tinge in harmonies, one a bel canto-like vocal obstacle course, another sporting the unmistakable Ernesto Lecuona gift for a good tune,  a bewilderingly diverse sampler.

Space precludes a thorough survey of the vocal talent on display; a listing of their names – sopranos Danielle Walker, Erika Wueschner and Valerie Vinzant, mezzo-sopranos Erica Brookhyser and Ronnita Nicole Miller, tenor Hak Soo Kim, baritone José Adán Pérez and bass-baritone Yohan Yi – will have to do. Yet one was especially impressed by Brookhyser’s smooth, richly caressed phrasing and Vinzant’s delectable lyric soprano in the Flower Duet from Delibes’ “Lakmé,” and by Wueschner’s touching command of Elsa’s character in an aria from Wagner’s “Lohengrin” (she will be covering the role for L.A. Opera’s production this fall).  The applause meter probably registered the highest for Perez’s flat-out belting of a sentimental number from Federico Moreno Torroba’s “Maravilla.” And one noticed again how graceful and supple Domingo’s baton technique becomes when accompanying singers.

-- Richard S. Ginell

Placido Domingo Conducts Opera Highlights and Zarzuela, 7:30 p.m. Friday, the Broad Stage, Santa Monica, $55-$100, (310) 434-3200, or


Placido Domingo back at work following surgery

Photos: Plácido Domingo conducts at the Broad Stage. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times