Plácido Domingo is feted in style at Lyric Opera
On Thursday evening, Lyric Opera honored one of the most towering figures in a concert titled “Celebrating Plácido Domingo.” The 76-year-old honoree performed with soprano Ailyn Pérez and tenor Michael Spyres, with Eugene Kohn conducting the Lyric Opera Orchestra.
With Domingo assuming the role of Germont, in keeping with his reinvention as a baritone in recent years, the first half of the evening presented the entire second act of La Traviata, semi-staged by Matthew Ozawa.
In the Germont-Violetta duet, one sensed that Domingo’s gentler vocal shades were no longer accessible to him. He sang ardently but not tenderly, which seemed less an interpretative choice, and more the default mode in which he needed to approach each phrase.
But Domingo was in finer form for “Di provenza il mar.” It was the moment when one veered from thinking about how good he still can sound to just how good he sounds. Any natural baritone would have been proud of his intelligent phrasing and emotional power.
Ailyn Pérez made her belated Lyric Opera debut at this concert. On the basis of one act of her Violetta, one can only hope that she returns frequently.
Her voice’s many colors were expertly employed in the service of the dramatic situation. Has “Dite alla giovine” ever been sung that softly, with such an angelic glow of altruism? Pérez’s pain-choked chest tones as Violetta orders Annina to deliver a letter of surrender to the baron were almost Callas-like in their darkness. And few other sopranos would have been willing to break the flow of Violetta’s last line of the first scene as a means of communicating her desperation.
Michael Spyres was a keen and fresh-voiced Alfredo. Somehow, without ever bellowing or harshening his ripe tone, he made all of Alfredo’s rage believable, from his horror at Violetta’s letter all the way through to their cash-throwing confrontation.
Matthew Ozawa’s direction was traditional but intelligent—distributing the key dramatic moments seamlessly about different areas of the stage.
The second half of the program offered selections from across the standard repertoire. After a serviceable performacne of the Overture to Verdi’s Les vêpres siciliennes came the reunion duet from Simon Boccanegra in which Domingo and Pérez confirmed their chemistry.
Each singer then took a solo turn, displaying a different virtue: silkiness for Spyres in “Salut, demeure” from Faust, charisma for Domingo in Gérard’s monologue from Andrea Chenier, and luster for Pérez in “Io son l’umile ancella” from Adriana Lecouvreur.
Spyres’s straightforward delivery did not quite mesh with Domingo’s more elastic phrasing in the friendship duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. But all the duet truly requires is two beautiful voices, and those both singers certainly possess.
Barring a small clump of uncoordinated ritardandos in the first Traviata scene, Eugene Kohn’s conducting was flexible and attentive to his soloists throughout. He and the Lyric Opera Orchestra fluently shifted between the evening’s many styles.
Four encores were offered. First, Domingo paid tribute to his zarzuela roots with “No puede ser” from Pablo Sorozábal’s La tabernera del puerto. But for the remaining three encores, the singers took out microphones. This was more symbolic than expedient since were miked so faintly that the orchestra would occasionally swamp them.
Spyres successfully channeled the spirit of Mario Lanza in the schmaltzy “Be My Love.” And Pérez voiced some aspirational sentiments to the audience, before singing “Estrellita” by the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce.
Then, Domingo performed what seemed to be a pop remix of “Besame mucho,” sometimes singing himself and other times encouraging the audience to join in with the orchestra.
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