Placido Domingo’s gala concert at the Royal Opera House Muscat means a privileged night of music for the audience, writes Georgina Benison.
Age might have caught up with him but it can’t yet taint his titanic talent.
Whether Placido Domingo carries on performing or not doesn’t matter; his (very prominent) place in the history of opera is assured.
The locks might have greyed, the physique may be a little more portly but the stage presence is still there, and then some. I was among a packed audience at the Royal Opera House Muscat enraptured by this music legend.
At 75, Domingo strikes a distinguished, sympathetic character on stage, and his voice has lost nothing of the warmth and expression we have come to know and love.
What audience members didn’t expect, however, was the guest appearance of the amazing Albanian soprano, Ermonela Jaho, whose vocal control held the audience spellbound.
The first half was dedicated to The World of Opera while the second, Favourite Music From Around the World, was much lighter in mood and style.
On stage were the 70 Italian members of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Brescia and Bergamo Festival, conducted by the American maestro and long-time collaborator with Domingo, Eugene Kohn. They played some pretty rousing instrumentals, opening the show with Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger.
As Domingo entered from stage right there was a palpable silence, and then an eruption of applause before he had even opened his mouth.
And then when he did, it was with Nemico della Patria from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier.
The first part of the concert remained serious, and firmly within the classical repertoire, culminating in the tender, lyrical final love duet from Massenet’s Thais.
Part two included a couple of zarzuelas from Domingo’s native Spain, and some very well-known, popular numbers.
From Jaho we enjoyed Delibes’ Les Filles de Cadiz aria, and the impossibly beautiful Vilia from Lehar’s The Merry Widow. The inclusion of Franz Lehar’s delightful light opera brought an almost Viennese New Year’s Eve mood to the programme, with Domingo singing that favourite chestnut, Lippen Schweigen.
Then to Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady: Domingo must have read my review last week, as he sang my all-time favourite, On The Street Where You Live following Jaho’s I Could Have Danced All Night, which was as convincing as it was beautifully executed.
Unexpectedly, the orchestra’s final overture was The Sound of Music, which was hard not to sing along to, leading seamlessly into Domingo’s Maria from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and the final, haunting duet, Tonight.
But it wasn’t yet the end, and Domingo took the first encore, which was what we had been waiting for: Besame Mucho was beckoning the audience to sing, as his voice was beginning to run out of steam by this time.
This was followed by Jaho’s coy rendering of Puccini’s beloved, O Mio Babbino Caro, a favourite encore number, but sung here with exceptional poignancy and careful phrasing.
In response to persistent standing ovations and two more curtain calls – another Zarzuela from Domingo and a popular Italian song from Jaho – were followed by the soprano dragging the first violinist off stage so we had no option but to go home!
It had been nearly three hours of pure joy, and we still had Placido Domingo conducting ROSO to look forward to.
• On a separate night, Domingo took to the podium to conduct the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. The highlights included a rousing version of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and the 7th Symphony and a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 by Beatrice Rana, a 23-year-old student from Italy.