Concerts & Opera

Don't ever leave the stage Domingo!



I know, I want the impossible by saying this. However, what are the things that 74 years old Domingo succeeded at the stage, if they are not making the impossible, possible?

Domingo has become a baritone turning from a tenor due to his ‘age matter’ and his voice’s bronze tone allows it, and I had the opportunity of watching him with his ‘new voice’ in three different productions till now. I’ve watched this far and away the best singer, sometimes with amazement and sometimes with boredom, in Simon Boccanegra at Vienne State Opera on February 2012, in Il Trovatore at Berlin State Opera on December 2013 and the last but not the least, in Ernani at New York Metropolitan Opera on this April. In Simon and Ernani, Domingo could come through his roles with success, however in Il Trovatore, he had some hard moments because of the toughness of his role ‘the Duke’.

A sweet excitement invaded in me when I learned that Domingo undertook the role of Francesco Foscari in I due Foscari opera that will be sang as a concertant at Liceu Opera in Barcelona, on 30th of April and 3rd of May. This was the excitement of watching the virtuoso in a new opera on its last leg of his career that he can’t put an end. I was going to watch Domingo for the first time in the role of Francesco Foscari, but he already performed this role in the cities like Los Angeles and London and took credit for it. Although some of my fellow critics don’t like his baritone roles performances and say their opinions in high decibel grousing, I personally find that every baritone role that Domingo undertakes as a new earning for the art of opera.

Even though this comment can be found assertive by some people, this is the least I can say for the performance that 74 year old Domingo gave as Francesco Foscari at Liceu stage on the night of 30th of April. Domingo was perfect in the role of old and tired Francesco Foscari, the Duke of Venice, who is desperate and useless despite of his title, before the banishment of his son claimed to have committed a crime by council. Yes, we can accept the fact that being a ‘baritonal tenor’ does not mean that Domingo is a ‘Verdi baritone’. He is now having difficulty in singing Verdi’s long and very difficult lines but it can be seen that he is exerting himself incredibly to get through with these difficulties and he is succeeding in general. Also, he being able to sing the baritone roles now doesn’t mean that he can sing the low pitched sounds like a real baritone, and most of the time these low pitched sounds turn into murmurs or talking tone. And it is a fact that his voice is unconfident a little bit in semitones.

However, these can all be forgotten since the bronze tone of his voice that is pertain to Domingo can be heard vibrantly in the middle and high tones. In my opinion, this is where the miracle of Domingo lies. What is the secret of being able to preserve this tone beauty this nicely, as a person who is 74 years old? Perfect professionalism? A miracle of God? Or in this phenomenon, both?

On the evening of 30th April, 2.300 people who filled Liceu were aware that, this was maybe one of the most important performances of Domingo’s late career. In fact, after listening the Duke’s last big aria ‘Egli ora porte’ that tells about the acceptance of his son’s exile and the heartbreak it causes in the final scene of third act, the audience brought down the house with their applause and this applause unbelievably lasted for well over a minute. The conductor Massimo Zanetti saw that the applause was not going to end, so instead of raising his baton up and continue to conduct the music, he left his baton on his music stand in front of him and joined the crowd in applause. His applause caused the joy of the audience reach its peak, and their applause turned into an uproar right away.

This was my first time watching the Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska who had the role of Domingo’s daughter in law. I was angry at myself for the fact that how I could have not given any attention to this kind of talented soprano till today. Verdi wrote very hard stunts to overcome for the role Lucrezia Contarini that Monastyrska undertook, in this early period opera, dated, 1844 which carries obvious bel canto period features. As I understand, Monastyrska is a popular soprano who shuttles among the greatest opera houses of our day, and she has a majestic voice and strong technique that it makes one feel like these performances were like shelling peas for her. She played the role of the bride, who is sad because she has to send her husband to exile and angry because she believes that her father in law does not fulfil his title and do anything about it, demonstratively with adding excitement and tension in her voice. She had the second big round of applause after Domingo and she deserved it.

Venezuelan tenor Aquiles Machado was really suited as a voice for the role of Jacopo Francesco. Machado is an artist who has downright Italian tenor voice with a very beautiful tone. Unfortunately, due to the fact that he couldn’t pull through the illness he got, he had cracks in his voice especially in high pitched notes. However in my opinion, his tone colour and the expertise in singing cantabile was top notch. Because of all these qualities, he got maybe not cheering, but lots of applause at the end of the performance. American bass Raymond Aceto was also one of the most impressive voices of the night who played the role of Jacopo Loredano, Jacopo’s enemy. Aceto made sure to make an impression in our minds with his exceptional vibrant tone and sublime singing that Loredano is an enchanting evil character. I was very happy to get to know closely this Ohio born talented bass who is one of Metropolitan’s regular soloists. In assisting roles, Josep Fado as Barbarigo and Maria Miro as Pisana also did their parts.

On the evening of 30th April, the orchestra and choir of Barcelona Liceu Opera, which is one of the most prestigious and rooted opera establishments, displayed a bright accompany in every way, under the baton of experienced Italian conductor Massimo Zanetti. Today, Zanetti is one of the names that all important opera houses consider when they are going to stage bel canto era and Verdi operas. He really has a grasp on the score and his communication with soloist singers and the choir is very good. He knows very well when to make the orchestra to accompany or when to make it step forward. Liceu Orchestra is a disciplined orchestra with steady intonation, which has much more tone richness than an opera orchestra usually possesses. Having high qualities, it was inevitable to deliver a very good performance under the baton of a qualified conductor like Zanetti who is just the man for this repertoire. 

One of Verdi’s early period of operas that does not have enough librettos in dramatic aspect is I due Foscari. There is no plot. During the first two act of this three act opera, the father character’s fear against the decision of his son’s exile is processed. And in the third act, the exiled son dies etc. There are no side themes that is added to the main theme, the characters are not processed thoroughly. It is essential to consider that Verdi produced his first masterworks after 7-9 years from this date. However, the musical themes that Verdi used in this opera to describe the characters are very interesting. The three main characters enter with the musical themes that the composer identified with them every time. It is not quite right to consubstantiate this simple symbolical use with Wagner’s more advanced leitmotif technique. However, if we consider that Wagner’s Flying Dutchman in which he used this technique first was written in the same years with I due Foscari opera, the similarity between the two composers and these two operas that reflect two opposite aspects is becoming more interesting.

One of the most obvious benefits of Domingo turning into a baritone from a tenor that we could be closely acquainted with Verdi’s early period operas that had not been on the agenda for a long time. I wonder which opera is next? Let’s conclude our article with an answer that we give to the ones who ask about when Domingo will leave the opera stages: Till stage says that is it, do not ever leave the stage Domingo!

Serhan Bali



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