Tonight’s Toronto concert by Placido Domingo with Sondra Radvanosvky was the proverbial “happening”. Held in a converted tennis stadium enjoying its christening as a musical venue, we were watching their faces on a jumbotron, hearing a wall of amplified sound, in a mix of opera & popular songs. I was reminded a few times of the first Three Tenors concert, on the eve of the World Cup in 1994, whether via the repertoire of songs, or the genial tone.
While the concert was not without its glitches the crowd (I’d estimate it at somewhere around ten thousand) was in a forgiving mood. Jet planes coming to and from the nearby airport regularly piped up, as if auditioning for parts, occasionally in the right key. A cold breeze that might have helped carry homerun balls to the outfield did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Placido Domingo is a seventy year old man with at least four operatic incarnations:
• Impresario (artistic director first in Washington, then Los Angeles)
On this occasion we mostly saw and heard the baritone, as the tenor isn’t available very often. The opening aria (from Le Cid) was the one genuine tenor aria. In addition Domingo sang the duet at the conclusion of Act I of Otello, although partway through they modulated down a semitone, so that the high note was now less of a challenge.
But that’s all quibbling. The man is 70, and is already defying the calendar & the odds, and he has been living in this borderland for awhile now. Heldentenor roles like Siegmund require more of a baritone’s colour with the occasional high note thrown in.
While the audience was thrilled, to me the baritone rep sounds a bit odd. In the duet from Simon Boccanegra, where father sings to his daughter, although the visual impression was right, the sound is different than what we’re accustomed to hearing from a baritone. In ”Nemico della patria” the notes come out almost too easily, but they’re not aligned in the usual ways. Those at the bottom are hard to hear, while those at the top of a baritone’s natural range sound relatively easy. While I dislike stereotyping, I’d have to say that Domingo is still a tenor, but unable to hit the high notes any longer.
Even so the audience ate it up, and I have to admit i thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I had already had a day of Radvanovsky, hearing her Aida on CBC this afternoon (recorded months ago); she gave us the vocal highlight of the evening during the encores. After saying how good it felt to sing in front of the hometown audience, to a warm ovation, she sang a very impressive ”vissi d’arte,” from Tosca.
Radvanovsky & Domingo were so generous with their encores that I lost count (somewhere around six i believe!), watching them happily return to the stage over and over again. The other big moment was clearly understood to be the finale of the evening, when Domingo unexpectedly took up the baton to conduct the Black Creek Festival Orchestra and Chorus in a brisk “Hallelujah” from Messiah, climaxing with fireworks.