Domingo and Belcanto? Surely that was more something for his colleagues Pavarotti, Carreras and Kraus? And yet: certainly at the beginning of his career Domingo was also a Belcanto singer, although his high notes were not always really that high. For him, the interpretation of both the music and the text was essential. That is why even in this repertoire he was looking for the roles in which the character had more to offer than just ‘clean’ singing.
Lucia di Lammermoor
Domingo made his international debut at the age of 21, as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in Dallas. A special event, because his Lucia was then sung by 61-year-old Lilly Pons, who said her farewell to the operatic stage with this role.
In 1970 he sang Edgardo at the Metropolitan Opera, with none other than Joan Sutherland as Lucia. Gala (GL 100.571) released the highlights, combined with excerpts from La Traviata, from December that same year (also with La Stupenda). The sound is very poor, but it is definitely a noteworthy document.
It was only in 1993 that Domingo sang the role in the recording studio. The result is not entirely satisfactory. Which is not his fault. His Edgardo sounds less lyrical than twenty years earlier, but with such passion!
Cheryl Studer, who at that time was recording anything and everything soprano, was no real Lucia. She was a great Strauss and Mozart singer and her Wagners and Verdi’s were outstanding, but Lucia was too ambitious for her. Understand me well: she did have the high notes and they were very solid, but that’s exactly what you do not want for Lucia. The notes shouldn’t stand rock solid, they should shine, sparkle, sprint if necessary, and she couldn’t do that.
However, the real ‘culprit’ is the conductor. He is rushing things along and never ever stops. Still, the recording is very worthwhile, especially if you want to hear something else from Domingo and appreciate the quality of the sound.
A reviewer from the New York Times wrote that it was without a doubt the most exciting event of the musical year 1970, and that I can totally believe. The performance of 24 October 1970 was recorded live and we are very lucky to have it.
Julius Rudel (well, where have all these great maestros gone?) conducts with a firm hand and with great love for the work. To cry so beautiful.
Domingo’s voice sounds like a bell and his performance causes ecstatic ovations. And about Beverly Sills (Elisabetta) I can be brief: overwhelming! No one, but no one has ever sung the part better than she has. She surely is Elisabetta. Everybody should see or hear her in this role (there’s also a DVD, unfortunately without Domingo). The applause after her ‘L’Amor suo mi fé benata’ seems to last forever.
Anna Bolena is considered to be the first important Romantic Italian opera and for Donizetti it was his big breakthrough. For Domingo too, Anna Bolena was a milestone: with the role of Percy he made his debut in New York.
He was then (can you believe it?) 25 years old, but his voice was completely ‘mature’: full, firm, soft, hard, begging, determined, with all the nuances in between. Talk about phenomenon!
The leading role was sung by Elena Souliotis, then 23. An almost forgotten singer now (her career didn’t last), but her intensity can only be compared to that of Maria Callas. A fun fact: La Divina was in the audience at the time!
Giovanna was sung by Marylin Horne and their duets will surely give goosebumps to the devotees. Janet Baker also made her American debut in the role of Smeton.
The opera was recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 1966. My copy is by Legato (LCD-149-3), but the recording is now also available on other labels.
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