Plácido Domingo Celebrates 30 Years With San Francisco Opera

At a black-tie gala, the legend reminds his audience why he is considered one of the world’s greatest tenors.

SAN FRANCISCO — Tenor

COLOR="#003163">Plácido Domingo turned 30

last week — at least in the eyes of the

COLOR="#003163">San Francisco Opera.

The company threw a magnificent black-tie gala on Friday in

honor of the celebrated Spanish singer and its 30-year

relationship with him.

"Viva! Domingo" (as the show was billed) featured fully

staged acts from three operas, with the tenor singing three

of his signature roles: Loris from

COLOR="#003163">Giordano's Fedora, Samson

from Saint-Saëns'

Samson et Dalila and the title role from

COLOR="#003163">Verdi's Otello. The concert

was followed by an onstage ceremony and an exclusive catered

dinner at City Hall for cast members and high-end patrons.

"We absolutely believe that Plácido, without question,

is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and the

beginning of the 21st century," San Francisco Opera General

Director Lotfi Mansouri said during the ceremony.

After a few brief remarks, Mansouri presented Domingo with a

proclamation on behalf of Mayor Willie Brown that officially

named Friday "Plácido Domingo Day" — the second

time the singer has been so honored in San Francisco.

"It is very emotional and a great thrill to be here after 30

years," Domingo said, standing in front of the entire company

after the performance. "For me this company has been a great,

great family."

Ever since his last-minute debut with S.F. Opera in 1969,

filling in for an ailing tenor in La Bohème,

Domingo has sung 13 roles with the company, including his

first Samson back in 1980.

In recent years, however, the tenor has seemed more like a

prodigal son than a full-fledged family member. With his

obligations as artistic director of the

COLOR="#003163">Los Angeles Opera and the

COLOR="#003163">Washington Opera — and let's

not forget those popular "Three Tenors" tours — Domingo

hasn't appeared in a staged opera in San Francisco since

Hérodiade 1994.

But a party's a party, and if the 30th-anniversary gala was

little more than an excuse to get Domingo back to the City by

the Bay, no one was about to complain.

And for good reason. Because even at the vocally less-than-

agile age of 59, and suffering from a nasty cold, Domingo

gave a commanding performance, reminding the audience why he

is still considered one of the greatest tenors of our time.

The evening got off to a somewhat slow start with the third

act of Giordano's Fedora, the tragic love story of

Russian nihilist Loris Ipanov and Princess Fedora Romanov.

Despite the high drama of the story (which, among other

things, features murder and suicide), the opera's score was

often less than exciting, and the playing in the pit

sometimes seemed so loud as to almost completely drown out

the performance onstage. That said, what one could hear of

Domingo's singing sounded relatively solid, and

COLOR="#003163">Elizabeth Whitehouse made a fine

company debut in the title role.

From then on, though, the evening improved exponentially,

moving through a powerful Act II of Samson et Dalila,

with wonderful performances by Domingo and mezzo

COLOR="#003163">Marina Domashenko, to the final

act of Otello, which Domingo performed opposite the

glorious-voiced Carol

Vaness with such vocal potency and dramatic

presence as to leave little doubt the veteran tenor can still

claim the role as his own.

"I'm closer to the end than I was 30 years ago," Domingo said

after the concert. "But I hope I will still sing for a few

more years. If God would take my voice today, though, I would

say 'thank you,' and be so thankful that He gave me so many

good years."