Domingo and Martinez soar in festive Lyric Opera concert

Sun Jan 10, 2016 at 1:47 pm

By Wynne Delacoma

Placido Domingo and Ana Maria Martinez performed Saturday night at a Lyric Opera concert. Photo: MIchael Brosilow
Placido Domingo and Ana Maria Martinez performed Saturday night at a Lyric Opera concert. Photo: Michael Brosilow

It’s been far too long since Chicago opera fans have been able to see Placido Domingo on the Lyric Opera of Chicago stage. In fact, 11 years have passed since he sang a passionate Siegmund in Die Walkure, during Lyric’s traversal of Wagner’s Ring cycle in spring 2005.

On Saturday night at a festive concert at the Civic Opera House with Lyric favorite soprano Ana Maria Martinez, and the Lyric orchestra, Domingo reminded Chicagoans of exactly what they had been missing. In selections ranging from dramatic arias by Verdi and Giordano to zarzuela and a deliciously over-the-top, disco-tinged version of the pop hit Besame mucho, he owned the stage. Coming up on his 75th birthday, Domingo sang with the precise intonation, fluent legato, power and fervor of someone half his age. During the five encores, the Spanish tenor-turned-baritone told the audience that he missed Chicago. After talks with Lyric’s administration, he said, he will “come back probably sooner than I thought.” Music to the ears of the large, adoring audience.

Domingo made plain his intentions to wow the crowd from the first bars of his first number, Gerard’s Act III aria, “Nemico della patria” from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier. Wearing a subtly hip, collarless version of white tie and tails, a tall, distinguished figure with his white, wavy hair and expressive eyes, he paced the stage in front of the orchestra, pouring out the anger and despair of a man who has compromised his ideals.  Hurling clear, thundering phrases into the vast opera house, melting into almost innocent reverie as he described happier days, he was a thrilling combination of gifted actor and consummate musician.

A similar portrait of fury and regret suffused his “Perfidi!…Pieta, rispetto, amore” from Verdi’s Macbeth. Deeply wounded, looking both weary and stunned, Domingo’s Macbeth poured out both his confusion and bitter certainty that he would die alone and unmourned.  His smooth, dark voice soared and plummeted throught Verdi’s dramatic arcs, sounding effortless, agile and stirring.

Martinez was Domingo’s equal in every way. The two have worked together periodically, including ib a recording of zarzuela duets, and they had an easy rapport onstage. Throughout the evening Martinez’s voice was fluid, lithe and strong with an eloquent dark streak in its lower register.

A high point was her reprise of Dvorak’s “Song to the Moon,” which she sang with such purity and tenderness as the title character in Lyric’s production of Rusulka in 2014. She was all sexy nonchalance in one of the encores, “Al pensar en el dueno de mis amores,” from the comic zarzuela Las Hijas del Zebedeo by Ruperto Chapi. Romantic sparks flamed between Martinez and Domingo in two dulcet duets, “Tonight” from West Side Story and “Lippen schweigen” from Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

But in the confrontation between the elder Germont and the young, ailing Violetta from Verdi’s La traviata, their intensity was heartbreaking. Their voices entwined, they fully conveyed the duet’s crucial emotional shifts, from skepticism and anger to almost frightening acceptance for Violetta, from patriarchal entitlement to awe at Violetta’s selflessness from Germont.

Led by Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s ebullient music director, Lyric’s crack orchestra added its own highly colorful voice. As befits an ensemble whose repertoire stretches from Handel to Jimmy Lopez, the orchestra sounded entirely at home in whatever they played, whether the brooding, high drama of the Overture to Verdi’s La forza del destino or the flashy Latin sizzle of “Granada,” an obligatory encore on any Domingo recital. It was a grand night for singing and, with Martinez already a welcome regular on Lyric’s roster and Domingo perhaps returning to the fold, hopefully we can look forward to many more of them.

Posted in Performances

5 Responses to “Domingo and Martinez soar in festive Lyric Opera concert”

  1. Posted Jan 10, 2016 at 9:36 pm by Tom Sillitti

    Mr. Domingo is greatly missed at Lyric Opera. The company would do well to offer to him whatever he would like to do, singing or conducting. This concert was sold out. For an administration which has been content to present too many good to mediocre performers in recent years, this should be a lesson to them. Let’s hope that they are smart enough to learn it.

  2. Posted Jan 10, 2016 at 11:47 pm by Tom potter

    Mr Domingo was first a baritone then switched to tenor and is now singing things back in the baritenor range

  3. Posted Jan 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm by Angelo Otero

    The write up was marvelous. Inspired me to have been in the audience.

  4. Posted Jan 11, 2016 at 2:34 pm by Doris Tozer

    Have just read the Chicago Classical Review. I agree with what you have said. Maestro Domingo is a fantastic performer with a wonderful voice. Wish I could have been there

  5. Posted Jan 11, 2016 at 6:02 pm by Kenneth Chrzastek

    An amazing evening of superlative artistry! A word to the (un) wise……by purchasing tickets upon my subscription renewal last March, I spent $54 on tickets in-demand for $250 and sold out!! SUBSCRIBE NOW !!!!!

    That said, I concur with the above comment that Maestro Domingo and Ms. Martines should be back doing anything they wish! Let’s have Domingo in BOCCANEGRA or better yet, Massenet’s DON QUIXOTE transposed for his vocal range!

    Bravi/Bravo and molto grazie~!

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