Mare Nostrum: Plácido Domingo honours the Mediterranean Sea


Plácido Domingo recorded this CD in 2016. The ‘Mar’ in this case is the Mediterranean Sea. The singer who never takes a break, as Domingo is widely known, has collected songs from numerous Mediterranean countries. A surprising selection…

The Romans called the Mediterranean Sea ‘Mare Nostrum’, our sea. And that is true: the sea belongs to all of us. Domingo states on the album: “I bow before your grandeur. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of having been born in Spain, the land that is always caressed by your waters. I honour you in the only way I can: by singing your songs.”

The countries that surround the sea are all different and you can hear that in their songs. Domingo’s choice is surprising. Besides the not very exciting ‘Torna a Surriento’ and ‘Plaisir d’Amour’ (both in a new arrangement by Robert Sadin), he sings, among others, the Spanish classic ‘Del Cabello Más Sutil’ by Fernando Obradors, one of the most beautiful songs ever.

Very exciting and surprising are the Corsican polyphonic ‘Anghjulina’, sung with Barbara Fortuna and ‘Potho Reposare’, a beautiful love song from Sardinia.

I am less happy with ‘Aranjuez’, which in my opinion has already been completely milked dry, although the arrangement here is very refreshing. In its place I would have liked to hear something from Greece, because the traditional Cypriot song ‘To Yasemi’ certainly tastes like more.

There are more things of beauty on the CD. ‘Adio Kerida’ for example, sung in Ladino, one of the best known songs of the Spanish Jews.

Natan SAlterman

Or the Israeli ‘Layla Layla’ by poet Natan Alterman, sung in perfect Ivrit. Or ‘Lamma Bada Yatathana’, a ‘muwashshah’ from Arab Andalusia, from the 12th century, with a typical North African rhythm (samai thaqil).


Sony 8875006852

Il Giuramento: a succession of such very beautiful melodies that you can’t help but listen


Some forty years ago, I paid a real fortune for those two badly copied cassette tapes of Saverio Mercadante’s Il Giuramento, recorded live in Vienna on September 9, 1979. And now that the Austrian broadcaster ORF is digging up one after the other live recorded opera from their archives and transferring them to CDs, this splendid opera also came on the market – for little money and in an excellent sound quality (Orfeo C 6800621).

Giuramento HUgo

Il Giuramento is, just like La Gioconda, based on Victor Hugo’s play ‘Angelo, Tyrant de Padoue’, but there is a world of difference between the two works. La Gioconda is a very passionate, at times overwhelming, opera and contains a selection of (over)famous arias. Think of ‘Suicidio’ or ‘Cielo e mare’. Il Giuramento is smaller and more intimate. Think of Bellini with a touch of early Verdi.

The whole opera is really nothing but a succession of the most beautiful melodies, which force you to listen without even wanting to sing along. Or it must be ‘Compita è ormai la giusta e terribil vendetta’, a beautiful aria sung with much melancholy and elan by Domingo.

Domingo rehearsed the role, which was completely new to him, in four days (!) and stepped in – after only one rehearsal – for the sick Peter Dvorsky. Who else would be capable of pulling this off?

Mara Zampieri, unlike many of her contemporary colleagues, had a very individual sound that you may or may not like, but you cannot not possibly confuse her with anyone else. Her silver-coloured, sensuous soprano blends in beautifully with the golden velvet of Agnes Baltsa (then still without the ugly register break that marred her later performances so much) and in ‘Oh! Qual nome pronunziaste’ their voices melt together into a wonderful unity that is so beautiful it hurts.

Hérodiade or Salome by Massenet

Herodiade Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert: Herodias. Illustratie Lucien Pissarro

Richard Strauss composed his world hit Salome to a play by Oscar Wilde; and the latter drew his inspiration from a short story by Flaubert, ‘Herodias’. Paul Milliet and Henri Grémont also based their libretto for Massenet’s opera Herodiade on this story. Neither Wilde nor Milliet and Grémont were very faithful to Flaubert. Whereas the French novelist more or less limited himself to the biblical narrative, enriched with his poetic language and descriptions, the playwright and librettists added entirely new aspects and twists to the story.

Hérodiade was first performed in the Royal Theatre of Brussels on 19 December 1881. Anyone expecting animal eroticism, blood and sweat, as with Richard Strauss, will be disappointed. Massenet’s Salome is a truly innocent and devout girl. When her mother left her to marry Hérode, she was given shelter by Jean (John the Baptist), with whom she fell in love. A love that proved to be mutual.

Herodiade - acte I Brussel

No opera is complete without complications: Hérode has a crush on Salome, Hérodiade becomes jealous of her and Jean is beheaded. Salome sees Hérodiade as the instigator of all evil and wants to kill her. Hérodiade whispers “I am your mother” and Salome commits suicide.

The music already exudes a hint of the perfume of Massenet’s later works, but with all those choruses, exotic Oriental scenes and elaborate ballet scenes, it is nothing less than a real Grand Opera in the best Meyerbeer tradition.

One of the earliest recorded fragments of the opera is, I think, the famous aria of Hérode ‘Vision Fusitive’ by the French baritone Maurice Renaud, made in 1908:

And from the recording Georges Thill made in 1927, we know what an ideal Jean should sound like:


Herodiade crespin

If you are in possession of this performance, you need look no further. It doesn’t get any better than this. There is only one problem: this recording does not exist. At least not of the complete opera.

In 1963, EMI recorded the highlights of Hérodiade with the best French singers of the time (and of today, for that matter) and the answer to the “why not complete ????” will probably never be given.

Georges Prêtre conducts the orchestra of the Theater National de Paris as if his life depends upon it and every role is more than excellently cast.

Regine Crespin sings ‘Il est doux, il est bon’:

Regine Crespin’s Salomé is unequalled and so is Rita Gorr’s Hérodiade. Albert Lance (Jean) shows how that role should really be sung in the tradition of Georges Thill, and for Michel Dens as Hérode we really cannot find the right words. Such singers no longer exist.

Hopefully, Warner will one day release the recording on CD.


Herodiade caballe

This recording also may only be obtained via a pirate (or You Tube), but then it is complete and moreover with (admittedly bad) images!

Dunja Vejzovic portrays a deliciously mean Hérodiade and Juan Pons is a somewhat youthful but otherwise fine Hérode. A few years later, he will become one of the best “Hérodes” and you can already hear and see that in this recording.

Montserrat Caballé is a fantastic Salomé, the voice alone makes you believe you are in heaven and José Carreras is very moving as a charismatic Jean.

Below, Carreras sings ‘Ne pouvant réprimer les élans’:

None of the protagonists is really idiomatic, but what a pleasure it is to watch a real Diva (and Divo)! They really don’t make them like that any more

The whole opera on you tube:

RENÉE FLEMING 1994 (Sony 66847)

Herodiade Domingo fleming

In the mid-1990s, Herodiade enjoyed a short-lived revival. The opera was then performed in several opera houses and it was even recorded – officially – three times: once in the studio and twice live.

I must admit that I was a bit concerned about Gergiev as the director, but he really did an excellent job. Under his baton the opera sounds like a real Grand Opéra, grand, fiery and compelling.

Plácido Domingo (Jean) is perhaps a touch too heroic, but his voice sounds youthful and contageous, worthy of a true prophet.

Personally, I find Dolora Zajick (Hérodiade) a bit on the (too) heavy side, but her singing is undeniably excellent and there is nothing wrong with her interpretation.

Juan Pons is an excellent Hérode, but I would have liked Phanuel (Kenneth Cox) to be a bit more idiomatic. Something that also applies to the Salomé of Renée Fleming: she sings beautifully but in this role she can not totally convince me.

NANCY GUSTAFSON 1995 (RCA 74321 79597 2)

Herodiada wenen

The performance in Vienna was highly praised, and that this praise was justified is proved by the recording made live in the house by ORF.

First of all, there is Agnes Baltsa’s brilliant title role: fierce and dramatic. If you ask me: apart from Rita Gorr probably the best Hérodiade ever.

Placido Domingo sings ‘Ne pouvant réprimer les élans’:

Domingo, in the role of Jean, is even more impressive here than on Sony and also Juan Pons (Hérode) actually convinces me yet more on this recording. His rendition of ‘Vision Fugitive’ is very, very moving. Unfortunately, Nancy Gustafson (Salomé) must acknowledge the superiority of Fleming (Sony), but both pale in comparison to Cheryl Studer (Warner). Not to mention Regine Crespin!

Judging by the photos in the text booklet and the sparse clips on YouTube, we should be glad that the recording appeared on CD and not on DVD.

Finale of the opera:

In any case, the sound is excellent and the Vienna Opera orchestra under the direction of Marcello Viotti plays with great passion.

CHERYL STUDER 1995 (Warner 55983525)


Orchestrally, this recording is really top-notch. Michel Plasson conducts the orchestra from Toulouse very energetically, with a lot of verve and drive, and he also knows how to allow space for all the subtleties. Exciting and beautiful. That is how I like to hear opera.

José van Dam is an impressive Phanuel and Nadine Denize an excellent Hérodiade., although her intonation is not always pure.

Hérode is not really a role for Thomas Hampson, but he sings it very beautifully. Something that unfortunately cannot be said of Ben Heppner’s Jean. A heroic tenor in that role is nothing but a terrible mistake.

Cheryl Studer, on the other hand, is a Salomé of everyone’s dreams: girlish, innocent and naive. Her voice shines and sways and her final words “Ah! Darned Queen, if it is true that your cursed loins have given birth to me, look! Take back your blood and my life!” leave you shuddering and desperately weeping. Brava.

Cheryl Studer zingt Elsa in Wenen en Bayreuth

Tekst: Peter Franken

In 1990 verkeerde Cheryl Studer in haar wonderyears waarin ze de successen aaneen reeg. Zo trad ze dat jaar zowel in de Staatsoper Wien als tijdens de Bayreuther Festspiele op als Elsa in Wagners Lohengrin, een rol die haar op het lijf geschreven was.

Arthaus bracht een opname op dvd uit van een voorstelling in de Staatsoper die bijna als muzikale benchmark zou kunnen dienen. De titelrol is in handen van een indrukwekkende Plácido Domingo en naast Studer treedt er een topcast aan met Robert Lloyd als Koning Heinrich, Hartmut Welker als Telramund en Dunja Vejzovic als Ortrud. Als Heerrufer is George Tichy te horen.

De productie van Wolfgang Weber is rechttoe rechtaan, alles keurig volgens het boekje. Decors en kostuums ogen fantasie middeleeuws en als de belichting het weer eens toelaat ziet het er prachtig uit. Dat is wel een minpunt, het toneel wordt voortdurend erg donker gehouden. Voordeel is wel dat de kijker zich geheel op de tekst en de zang kan richten wat met de Duitse ondertitels natuurlijk goed lukt.

Zodoende dacht ik weer eens na over wat er eigenlijk met Elsa gaande is. Ze wordt van ontvoering en moord op haar broertje beschuldigd, een incident dat zich al een tijdje terug moet hebben voorgedaan gelet op het feit dat Telramund inmiddels met Ortrud is getrouwd. Dit zijn de middeleeuwen, het is een wonder dat Elsa überhaupt nog in leven is. Ook ten overstaan van Heinrich heeft ze feitelijk geen schijn van kans, totdat die kerel met die zwaan ineens komt opdagen.

Claudio Abbadao leidt koor en orkest van de Staatsoper in een topuitvoering. En de solisten betalen hem met gelijke munt. Hartmut Welker is een van de beste Telramunds die ik tot op heden heb beleefd. Meestal valt die rol me nogal tegen maar Welker overtuigt in spel en zang. Dunja Vejzovic is een creepy Ortrud die een groot deel van de tweede akte naar zich toe weet te trekken. Lloyd is bijna een luxe bezetting in de rol van de weinig standvastige koning. Heinrich is een opportunist en dat valt gemakkelijk op al zingt hij nog zo heldhaftig.

Domingo is een mooie Lohengrin maar ik speelde deze dvd voor het eerst in lange tijd weer eens af omwille van Cheryl Studer. Ze is een ideale Elsa, oogt kwetsbaar en wereldvreemd genoeg om haar personage herkenbaar gestalte te geven en zingt de sterren van de hemel. Ik was indertijd helemaal weg van die stem en weet nu weer precies waardoor dat kwam.

De eerste keer dat ik Cheryls stem hoorde was bij het afspelen van een cd met highlights van Tannhäuser onder Sinopoli, opgenomen in 1989. De eerste track was ‘Dich teure Halle’ en haar stem kwam als een klaroenstoot de kamer en blies me bijna van mijn sokken. Overweldigend, die eerste kennismaking. Ik heb die cd talloze malen afgespeeld, kon er niet genoeg van krijgen en nam me voor alles aan te schaffen waarop ze te horen was. Ik ben een heel eind gekomen.

Als Elsa in de productie van Werner Herzog voor de Bayreuther Festspiele van 1990 doet ze dit nog eens dunnetjes over. Ik vind haar hier nog mooier dan in die Weense productie. Sowieso is deze Lohengrin een stuk interessanter dan die van Weber.

Herzog neemt het romantische middeleeuwse gebeuren voor kennisgeving aan en brengt het zo goed en mooi mogelijk op het toneel. Hij gebruikt een toneelbeeld dat overigens op twee gedachten hinkt. Enerzijds toont hij de schamele overblijfselen van een kerk met gotische spitsbogen, het enige ‘gebouw’ op het toneel maar wel een directe verwijzing naar het christendom als ‘overwinnaar’. Anderzijds probeert hij recht te doen aan Ortruds weigering dit te accepteren, ze roept letterlijk Wotan en Freia aan. Om dat aannemelijk te maken wordt de bevolking getoond in een zo basaal mogelijke levensomstandigheid alsof we een paar eeuwen eerder zitten.

De gehele handeling speelt zich buiten af en bij het begin van de kerkscène in de tweede akte zien we personen gewoon buiten op de grond slapen. Het ‘dorpsplein’ wordt gemarkeerd door een stel megaliethen. Het liefst zou Herzog nog een paar druïden aan het geheel willen toevoegen, zo lijkt het. De strijd tussen de oude goden en het christendom is nog niet beslist, ‘is hanging in the balance’. Dat weerhoudt Henning von Gierke er niet van iedereen op en top gekleed er bij te laten lopen, een kleurrijk ‘mideleeuws’ geheel.

Verder ziet alles er een beetje somber uit, niet zozeer donker maar er is weinig tot geen zon te zien door de permanente nevel. Alleen als Elsa is getrouwd komt de zon even door, maar evengoed staat het bruidsbed gewoon weer buiten in de nacht. En als ze die Frage heeft gesteld begint het te sneeuwen.

Muzikaal staat deze uitvoering op een zeer hoog niveau. Behalve Studer laten ook de andere protagonisten zich van hun beste kant zien en horen.

Manfred Schenk is een welluidende Heinrich en Eike Wim Schulte een goede Heerrufer. Ekkehard Wlaschiha weet me aangenaam te verrassen met een zeer goede vertolking van Telramund. Soms vind ik hem wat ruw maar hier zingt hij een rol die hem past als een handschoen.

Gabriele Schnaut is een zeer felle Ortrud die in ‘haar‘ akte veel aandacht weet weg te halen bij Elsa, ook bij Telramund overigens. Paul Frey doet me een beetje denken aan Klaus Florian Vogt, in de verte dan. Mooi optreden van deze Canadese tenor. Koor en orkest spelen zonder meer weergaloos, met dank aan maestro Peter Schneider. Zeer de moeite waar om nog eens terug te luisteren.

Rigoletto op locatie in Mantua was één van de grootste operasensaties in 2010

In september 2010 werd de opera Rigoletto live vanuit Mantua uitgezonden op televisie, met Plácido Domingo in de hoofdrol. De Italiaanse media spraken over het evenement van de laatste tijd.

Achter de coulissen:

Het was wis en zeker een formidabele gebeurtenis en daar waren maar liefst een paar miljoen mensen getuige van. De opera (in “real time” en op locatie opgenomen) werd in maar liefst 148 landen live uitgezonden. Daar wordt een mens bijzonder blij van, tenzij dat mens in Nederland woont en geen beschikking heeft over kabel of een digitaal kastje, want onder die 148 landen was Nederland er niet bij. Waarom? Dat zou ik zelf ook willen weten!

Opera op locatie kan je natuurlijk niet vergelijken met een voorstelling in een operahuis. Er kan van alles misgaan. Zo zien het orkest en de dirigent de zangers alleen maar op de monitors, en vice versa. Daarnaast kunnen de omstandigheden belabberd zijn. Het kan regenen (dat werd ons en de zangers gelukkig bespaard), maar het kan ook snikheet zijn. En dat was het ook in Mantua, want het zweet vloeide overvloedig en maakte de gezichten van de arme zangers helemaal nat.

Je kan helemaal niets smokkelen, geen enkele wankele noot. En je moet opletten waar en hoe je loopt, waar en hoe je kijkt, want de camera’s zijn meedogenloos.

Daar komt nog bij dat je als zanger niets kan smokkelen. Je kunt geen enkele wankele noot zingen. En je moet opletten waar en hoe je loopt, waar en hoe je kijkt, want de camera’s zijn meedogenloos.

De vraag rijst: voegt zo’n opvoering iets toe aan de geijkte, traditionele voorstellingen? Mijn antwoord is volmondig ja! Je beleeft de opera als een soort film, meer eigenlijk dan een film, want je wordt – of je het wilt of niet – een radertje in het geheel, je neemt als het ware actief deel aan de gebeurtenissen.

En dan heb ik het niet eens over de prachtige ‘couleur locale’: de beste decorbouwers (en belichters!) van de hele wereld kunnen de pracht en praal van Italiaanse steden en kastelen niet nabouwen. Om over de schilderijen en muurtekeningen nog maar te zwijgen. Of over de lichtval. Of de vallende schemering boven de rivier.

Plácido Domingo is natuurlijk geen bariton. Hij was en is nog steeds een tenor en dat hoor je. Zijn lage noten zijn niet altijd optimaal, je merkt dat daar ergens een grens voor hem ligt. Maar wat hij met de rol (en die noten) doet, nou… daar kunnen heel wat van zijn collega’s nog een puntje aan zuigen. Hij kruipt met huid en haar in zijn rol en laat je vergeten dat het ‘maar’ een opera is.

Julia Novikova was een perfect gecaste Gilda. Niet alleen zag zij eruit als de reïncarnatie van een onschuldige engel, ook haar heerlijk lichte en soepele sopraan met perfecte coloraturen paste de rol als een handschoen.

Vittorio Grigolo moest er even in komen. Hij had zichtbaar last van zenuwen, wat hem, zeker in het begin, parten speelde. Maar hij herstelde zich en al was hij niet altijd even vlekkeloos en was er af en toe iets op zijn noten (soms had hij de neiging tot pushen) op te merken, hij vulde zijn rol prima in. Dat hij een smakelijk uitziende jonge man is, maakte hem zeer geloofwaardig als een vrouwen verslindende hertog.

Ruggero Raimondi (Sparafucile) heeft nog maar weinig van zijn stem over, maar zijn presence, zijn hele optreden eigenlijk, maakten nog steeds een bijzondere indruk. Nino Surguladze was een wulpse Maddalena, precies wat je van een ‘straatzangeres’ verwacht.

Van mij mag het vaker. Hier wordt mijn hart warmer van. En hoe zit het met het hart van de bazen van de Nederlandse omroepen? Hebben ze überhaupt een hart?

Jessye Norman als Cassandre in Les Troyens

Tekst: Peter Franken

Morgen, 30 maart, is het anderhalf jaar geleden dat Jessye Norman overleed. Een mooie aanleiding om terug te kijken op twee van haar grootste rollen in de Met. Vandaag Cassandre, morgen volgt Sieglinde.

In 1983 debuteerde Norman in de Metropolitan Opera in de rol van Cassandre in Berlioz’ Les Troyens. Die voorstelling werd verfilmd en bij het zien ervan raak je gemakkelijk in de ban van deze ietwat hysterische zieneres die de verwoesting van Troje voorspelt maar door niemand geloofd wordt. Haar andere grote rollen in New York waren de titelrol in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos en Sieglinde in Wagners Die Walküre.

Les Troyens had een schitterende cast waarvan behalve Norman ook Tatiana Troyanos als Dido en Placido Domingo als Énée deel uitmaakten. De eerste akte draait zoals verwacht helemaal om Norman die een werkelijk fenomenale vertolking geeft van de door haar vloek geteisterde Cassandre. Met name het grote duet met Chorèbe is adembenemend en vooral ook ontroerend door de subtiele begeleiding die Berlioz hiervoor heeft geschreven.

Ook in de volgende scènes zien we Cassandre als dominant personage terug, in steeds groter wordende vertwijfeling. Als Énée opkomt met de mededeling dat Lacoön is gedood door een zeeslang als kennelijke bestraffing voor het feit dat hij het door de Grieken als gift achtergelaten paard niet vertrouwt, geeft Cassandre het op, praat daarna alleen nog maar in zichzelf. Énée is ervan overtuigd dat Pallas Athena is beledigd omdat de Trojanen het Griekse afscheidsgeschenk niet willen accepteren. Hij dringt er op aan het paard snel de stad binnen te halen en dan breekt de hel los. Norman komt nog eens nadrukkelijk in beeld als ze de Trojaanse vrouwen voorhoudt dat zelfmoord beter is dan een leven als slavin van een van de Grieken. Ze geeft zelf het (goede) voorbeeld en de anderen volgen haar. Mooi in beeld gebracht is hier de aarzeling die sommige vrouwen laten zien.

Het optreden van Andromache, een zwijgende acteerrol, met haar zoontje vind ik ondanks Normans schitterende prestatie toch het meest ontroerende moment in de eerste akte. Hectors weduwe wordt gespeeld door Jane White die haar diepe rouw een koninklijke uitstraling weet te geven. Met de melancholieke klarinet erbij die haar tijdens de gehele scène begeleidt is het nauwelijks mogelijk hier je ogen droog te houden.

De muziek van Berlioz vertoont een aantal opvallende kenmerken. Solerende blazers markeren emotionele momenten, vaak is een harp te horen die een orkestpassage accentueert. Passages met tutti strijkers klinken opmerkelijk vol doordat Berlioz de houtblazers gelijk op met hen laat spelen. Het maakt zijn muziek uiterst herkenbaar maar natuurlijk ook wel een beetje voorspelbaar. Zo ook Les Troyens, het klinkt allemaal vertrouwd en bekend. Maar de opera is te lang om de aandacht volledig vast te houden. Het eerste deel, La prise de Troy, is compact en de handeling is vol dramatiek. Na anderhalf uur is Troje verwoest en Aeneas ontvlucht.

Jessye Norman als Cassandre

Het tweede deel, Les Troyens à Carthage, duurt twee en een half uur en dat is veel te lang voor een werk dat pas tegen het einde een dramatische wending krijgt. Monologen en duetten kabbelen eindeloos voort, balletten nemen veel tijd in beslag zonder iets aan de handeling toe te voegen. Zeelui zingen een lied vol heimwee, Iopas moet op commando van Dido ook nog een lied zingen, om haar op te vrolijken. Naar verluidt heeft Berlioz het originele werk al flink ingekort, hij had er zonder meer nog een uurtje extra uit kunnen halen.

De komst van Énée komt als geroepen voor Dido aangezien hij haar nog maar kort bestaande koninkrijkje, nauwelijks meer dan een nederzetting, redt uit de handen van de Nubische heerser Jarba. Dat is op zich natuurlijk al genoeg reden om hem op een voetstukje te plaatsen. Als Dido vervolgens hoort dat uitgerekend Andromache die als slavin door Phyrrus is meegevoerd naar Griekenland voor hem door de knieën is gegaan en met haar ontvoerder is getrouwd, begint Dido zich af te vragen of ze beslist trouw moet blijven aan haar overleden echtgenoot, zeker nu er zo’n geschikte opvolger aan haar hof verblijft en lijkt te treuzelen om verder te reizen. Dat verandert alles: Dido wil Énée koste wat het kost bij zich houden, de goden en geesten van dode Trojanen die Énée uit zijn slaap houden kunnen de boom in. Love trumps destiny vindt Dido.

Maar Énée vertrekt, hij volgt zijn bestemming die hem een grote strijd en een roemrijke dood voorspelt, na eerst natuurlijk een ‘nieuw Troje’ te hebben gesticht. Opmerkelijk genoeg verdwijnt hij direct achter de mythologische horizon. Verder dan een verhaal over zijn zoon die een nederzetting inItalië zou hebben gesticht, komen we niet. Over Énée heeft niemand het meer na zijn vetrek uit Carthago.

Tatiana Troyanos vind ik nogal vlak klinken gedurende de eerste twee uur van haar optreden. Vermoedelijk spaarde ze haar stem want in de laatste dramatische fase is ze nadrukkelijk een ander personage en ook een andere sopraan. Haar woede en vertwijfeling, haar zelfverkozen dood en vervloeking van Énée’s nageslacht doen je in een klap de voorafgaande twee uur vergeten.

Sterfscéne van Dido:

Placido Domingo is een uitstekende Énée maar feitelijk is dat een vrij saaie rol. Hij is verantwoordelijk voor die blunder met dat paard maar weet wel als enige zoon van Priamus de slachtpartij te ontkomen. Vervolgens zit hij in zo’n handenwringende situatie van ‘ga niet, ik moet’ en daarna verdwijnt hij in de vergetelheid.

Zoals te verwachten in een al wat oudere Met productie ziet alles er prachtig uit met overdadige kostuums en een mooi vormgegeven toneelbeeld. Maar uiteindelijk is de opname toch vooral de moeite waard vanwege het optreden van Jessye Norman.

Overigens pleegt Cassandra niet in alle mythen zelfmoord. In Agamemnon, het eerste deel van de Oresteia van Aeschylus, arriveert ze als Agamemnons slavin en bijslaap in Mycene waar ze door Aegisthus wordt vermoord. Klytämnestra neemt tegelijkertijd haar teruggekeerde echtgenoot voor haar rekening.

Plácido Domingo and Puccini: a match made in heaven

Puccini Domingo

Sometimes I think that Placido Domingo must be the reincarnation of Puccini. Not because they look so similar (although they are very much alike in the photos), but because of the music. It seems to have been created for Domingo’s timbre. It is as if Puccini composed with Domingo’s voice in mind.


And yet (or perhaps because of this): there is no other repertoire that shows as clearly whether a role suits him or not. He was never a memorable Rodolfo and his Pinkerton was not noteworthy. Even as Calaf, despite the great performances, he did not really identify with the role. He was too friendly, too kind, too human.


Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Domingo Puccini"


Domingo sang his very first Cavaradossi on 30 September 1961 and since then he has sung more performances of Tosca than of any other opera. This is the role he researched with the utmost care. He even added some qualities to the painter’s character that are not really there, in my opinion.

Personally, I find Cavarodossi’s flirtation with the revolution no more than a whim, but Domingo takes it dead serious and sees himself not only as the lover but also as the freedom fighter. From the start, he knows that the execution is actually going to take place, but he is playing along with the lie to spare his beloved Floria. Very humane and very moving.

tosca Nilsson


He sang his first Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera in 1969. It was not planned: he took over at the last minute for the sick Sándor Kónya. Birgit Nilsson was Tosca. In her memoirs, she stated that she found his acting ‘superb’ and his singing ‘gorgeous’.

It was indeed a memorable performance, not least because of Nilsson’s ‘scream’.


Fortunately, the performance was recorded for radio and was released on CD (Nuova Era 2286/870).

Tosca Scotto
Of the studio recordings, two are very dear to me. On Warner Classics (5665042), Renata Scotto meticulously sings all the notes prescribed by Puccini ( her colleagues are not always as scrupulous) and Renato Bruson is very ‘courteously dangerous’ as Scarpia.

Tosca Price


RCA (88697448122) has recorded one of the best Scarpias ever: Sherrill Milnes. I once heard him live in the role and it was a real experience! Leontyne Price is a sultry Tosca.

Tosca Kabaivanska


On DVD, I find the Decca film version (0434909) by far the most impressive. It was shot on location in 1976, which was not very common at the time. Well, location… The Palazzo Farnese was then home to the French Embassy, so filming was not allowed inside.

Milnes was once again present and the lead role was sung in a very tormented way by Raina Kabaivanska.

Domingo is so beautiful it makes you want to cry, but what gives the film that little bit extra is the tiny role of the little shepherd. It is sung by Placido junior, then 10 years old.



Manon Domingo


Another Puccini role that fits him like a glove is Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut. Of this opera with Domingo, there are many recordings, both studio and live. Not all of them are worth listening to and in most cases it is the interpreter of the title role who presents the problem. It is nothing new: when a record company had a new ‘star’, he or she just had to record everything available. With often disastrous results.

Manon Domingo Olivero


In 1970, Domingo sang Des Grieux in Verona, with Magda Olivero in the title role. Quite bizarre when you consider that Olivero made her professional debut eight years before Domingo was born. And yet: her portrayal of the young heroine is utterly convincing. Indeed, most of her colleagues still cannot match it! My copy was released on Foyer, but better quality editions are now available.

Manpn Domingo Scotto


In 1980, the opera was broadcast on TV. That recording is now available on DVD. Believe me: there is no better. Scotto sings and acts Manon like no one else has done before, and together with Domingo, she makes us cry with the beauty and the sadness of it all. Menotti’s very realistic, true to life and very exciting direction simply could not be better. A MUST (DG 073424)




Luigi in Il Tabarro was also a role after Domingo’s own heart. His recording from 1968 with the New York City Opera, conducted by Julius Rudel (Melodram 17048) is splendid, with Jeannine Crader as Giorgietta, a wonderful singer who sadly never made it in Europe.

Il Tabarro


On DVD, there is a fine Zeffirelli production from New York, recorded in 1994. Giorgietta is sung by Teresa Stratas. Unfortunately, it is coupled with Pagliacci with Pavarotti and again with Stratas, in the leading roles. Not really my ‘cup of tea’ (DG0734024).


Below a curiosity: a duet from Il Tabarro with Domingo and Beverly Sills from 1967



Puccini Edgar
There are at least two good reasons to welcome the 2006 Edgar (DG 4776102): it is the very first studio recording of the work and it is the first time that Domingo sings the role, the only one still missing from his Puccini discography.


I never understood why the opera was so unloved. Musically, it is in line with Verdi, but one can already hear tentative fragments of the ‘real’ Puccini: a vague promise of Manon Lescaut, a study for La Bohème and creative exercises for Turandot.

With Adriana Damato and Marianne Cornetti, we can welcome a new generation of phenomenal singers and Domingo is, as always, very musical and committed.


La Faciulla Dominfgo Neblett cd


For me, the very best is a 1978 DG recording (4748402), with an underrated Carol Neblett as a very fierce Minnie. Domingo is a languorous and surprisingly lyrical Johnson, and Sherrill Milnes sounds like he’s in a real western.

La Fanciulla Domingo Zam[ieri dvd


Two worthwhile recordings have appeared on DVD. One with Mara Zampieri and Juan Pons (Opus Arte OA LS3004 D) from La Scala, 1991, in a beautiful, colourful direction by Jonathan Miller.

La Fanciulla Domingo Neblett dvd


The other is with Carol Neblett and Silvano Carroli (Kultur Video 2038) from the Royal Opera House, 1982.



Dommingo Puccini


There were once plans to make a feature film about Puccini, in which Domingo would play the composer. It did not go ahead. In preparation for the project, Domingo recorded all Puccini’s songs in 1989, under the title Unknown Puccini (Sony 44981).

For the cover, he is made to look like Puccini and there he is: dressed in white, hat on his head and the moustache prominent on his face. Puccini to the life!

Anyway, it is all about the music and it is a must- have for anyone interested in Puccini. Most are first ever recordings and gradually you follow the composer on his path towards his Manon’s, Tosca’s and other ‘girls’. The renowned conductor Julius Rudel accompanies Domingo on piano and organ.


Domingo and Wagner


domingo tannhauser

I have never been a ‘Wagnerian’. I could never muster the patience to sit through hours of his operas. I found them bombastic. Pathetic. And even though I had to admit that there were some beautiful melodies, I felt that I really needed a pair of scissors and radically shorten them

That this feeling has totally changed, I owe to Domingo. In my collector’s mania (I had to have everything he had done), I bought the recently released Tannhäuser (DG 4276252) in 1989. And then it happened: I became addicted.

At first, it was mainly Domingo who was to ‘blame’, whose deeply human interpretation of the title role gave me the goose bumps. His words:  “Wie sagst du, Wofram? Bist du denn nicht mein Feind?” (sung with emphasis on ‘mein’ and ‘Feind’ and with a childish question mark at the end of the phrase) caused me to burst into tears.

Later, I learned to appreciate the music for itself and to this day, Tannhäuser is not only a very beloved Wagner opera, but also one of my absolute favourites.

I still consider this recording, conducted very sensually by Giueseppe Sinopoli, to be one of the best ever. Also because all the roles (Cheryl Studer as Elisabeth and Agnes Baltsa as Venus, such wealth!) are excellently cast. At the time, in the eighties and early nineties, this was not necessarily a given.


Fliegende Hollander Sinopoli
For the 1998 recording of Der Fliegende Holländer (DG 4377782), Domingo added the role of Erik to his repertoire. His Erik is attractive and charming, he sings the role not only with great commitment but also very idiomatically.

This recording is particularly dear to me, not only because of Domingo, but also because of Cheryl Studer, at the time perhaps the most beautiful Senta imaginable. Her delightful lyrical soprano with its easy and sensual height is perfect for the role.

The Holländer is sung by Bernd Weikl. A little past his prime, but the role suits him and Peter Seiffert is wonderful as Der Steuerman.


domingo lohengrin-solti
Despite all the swans, Lohengrins do not usually fall out of the sky. Before officially recording the role in 1985 (Decca 4210532), Domingo had been preparing for it for almost twenty years. And the result was worth it.

At the time, the Puritans were all up in arms: a Germanic hero performed by a Spanish bel canto singer, and with an accent too – no, that was unacceptable. I can still vividly remember the reviews from those days, written by the renowned music critics (no, I’m not going to mention any names). They not only cried shame, but also knew for sure that his career was about to end, because this was destroying his voice. Well…

Today, almost 40 years later, we know better.  Not only is his voice undamaged, but nowadays it is readily admitted that this was a formidable presentation, by one of the best tenors of the last century. His Lohengrin is not only heroic, but loving and warm-blooded, less god, more of a man.

Jessye Norman was the perfect Elsa in those days: young and innocent. And when you know that the conductor is called Solti…. Simply wonderful!


domingo lohengrin hamburg

Domingo’s baptism of fire in the role of Lohengrin was in Hamburg in 1968. He was then 27 (!) years old. It was not only his first Wagner, it was also the very first time he sang an opera in German, a language he did not yet master.

Fragments of the performance have been preserved (e.g. Melodram MEL 26510). His voice sounds like a bell, with a lot of bronze and a golden shine. The high notes are high and sung in full. Where can you still experience a Lohengrin like this? So beautiful that it makes you want to cry.

His Elsa was Arlene Saunders, at that time a much-loved prima donna in Hamburg, today she is totally forgotten. How unjust! Saunders was not only an amazingly good singer, she was also a beautiful woman and an exemplary actress.

Below Placido Domingo and Arlene Saunders in ‘Das süße Lied…Wie hehr erkenn’ ich’:


domingo parsifal-0028947760067

In 2006, Domingo sang his last Parsifal (officially at least). It was recorded live in Vienna by Deutsche Grammophon (DG 4776006). Although he is audibly not a spring chicken anymore, he still manages to be utterly convincing, which is actually also true of Waltraud Meier’s Kundry.

Franz-Josef Selig is a fantastic Gurnemanz. His warm bass with its splendid legato seems created for all the long monologues. Falk Struckmann also is a splendid Amfortas.

It has been said of the conductor Christian Thielemann that he is a worthy successor to Furtwängler, and there is a lot of truth in that. He makes no secret of his predilection for the great German composers and his interpretations of them are rightly praised.

He also shares his capriciousness and wilfulness with his illustrious predecessor. His interpretations are therefore often controversial. I like that, because it forces the listener to listen attentively. In Parsifal, he emphasises the human aspect of the work rather than its mysticism. The truly brilliant orchestra follows closely behind.

domingo parsifal heilie graal
In 1998 Tony Palmer made a very fascinating film titled Parsifal – The Search for the Grail (Arthaus 100610). Domingo is our host and he explains not only the work, but he also tells us the history of the Holy Grail.

It is a very fascinating and enjoyable quest, illustrated by excerpts from Indiana Jones and Monty Python, among others, and from a performance in the Mariinski Theatre, with, alongside Domingo, Violeta Urmana as Kundry and Matti Salminen as Gurnemanz. Gergiev conducts.



In the winter of 2004/2005 the moment had finally come: the crowning glory of Domingo’s long career. Tristan had been on his wish list for a long time and twice it had almost come true (Bayreuth and Vienna), but in the end he dared not go through with it. But he seized the opportunity to record it with both hands.

EMI (now Warner Classics 5099996686423) immediately made a true feast of it and went all out – it is said that the project cost almost a million euros!

The result is overwhelming. Nina Stemme sings a young and vulnerable Isolde and René Pape is one of the best Markes I have ever heard. His monologue ‘Tatest du’s wirklich’ is among the most beautiful and moving moments of the opera.

Domingo is a Tristan to fall in love with. He is a man, a human being of flesh and blood, if necessary heroic and strong, but also weak and fragile. He is loyal, but mostly in love, until, finally, death comes for him.

His interpretation bears little resemblance to that of other great Tristans in history. That is not surprising: he is not a heroic tenor. But singing is what matters most to me, and does he sing! Peter Alward (EMI’s outgoing A&R producer and the mastermind behind the recording) in an interview once said, that he would not be surprised if a whole future generation of Wagner tenors committed mass harakiri after listening to Domingo in the role.


domingo siegmund                                             Domingo als Siegmund in Washington in 2007.

By now, Domingo pretty much identifies himself with Siegmund (Die Walküre), and it was also his most frequently performed Wagner role. I heard him sing it in London, at the Proms, an experience never to be forgotten.

There are plenty of recordings in circulation, official and less official, so I assume you will have at least one of them. If you are interested, that is.

fragment of his debut in the role (Vienna 1992) with Waltraud Meier as Sieglinde:


domingo ring scenes

No. He has never tried Siegfried, at least not on the stage, and it is very unlikely that he will do so in the future, but with Domingo you never know. After all he surprises us every year with at least one new role, no small feat when you turn 80!

On a CD with the title Scenes from the Ring (once EMI 5572422, probably not available anymore) he sings all the great music from both Siegfried and Götterdämmerung and he is doing it great. Just listen to ‘Nothung’ or ‘Dass mein Vater nicht ist’, not to mention ‘Brünnhilde! Heilige Braut!’. Can it get any more impressive? What a pleasure to hear him in this role.

Plácido Domingo and his French roles

Domingo jose

Bizet: Carmen

Domingo carmen-wiener-staatsoper-kleiber

I never used to like opera. I loved violin concerts and piano solo works, very early on I learned to appreciate chamber music and when I got a bit older, songs also came my way. But opera? The mere idea that an old, fat lady would try to portray a young girl dying of TB, gave me the giggles. Talk about prejudice!

Until one memorable evening in 1982, when I turned on the TV to watch Carmen. I only did it to please my then boyfriend and then it happened! From that night on, the world was forever changed and my life gained a great love.

For years I cherished this Carmen, although I only had a badly copied but very expensive mc (does anyone remember what it was?). It was later released on various ‘pirate labels’ and finally on DVD (Arthaus Musik 109096).

Many years and a lot of experience have passed, but I still find the recording irresistible. First of all because of Domingo. Listen to his ‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’: if that doesn’t give you goose bumps, I don’t know what will. And also because of Carlos Kleiber, a conductor, the likes of whom do not exist anymore these days.

Domingo Camen berganza

The most beautiful CD recording, at least to me, is the one with Teresa Berganza under Claudio Abbado (DG 4196362). It was recorded in the studio in 1978, but only after a series of live performances, and it is all the better for that! Ileana Cotrubas (Micaela) and Sherrill Milnes (Escamillo) complete the excellent cast.
Two years earlier, Domingo also recorded the opera in the studio (Decca 4144892), but I am less enthusiastic about it. Solti conducts superbly and Tatiana Troyanos as Carmen is one in a thousand, perhaps she is even better than Berganza, but José van Dam is no Escamillo and the whole lacks the atmosphere of the theater.


Domingo Camen Resnik

The very first recording I know, dates from 1967. It is from the Teatro Municipal de Santiago and is conducted by Anton Guadagna (Legato LCD 194-2). Regina Resnik is an excellent Carmen, but what makes the recording truly memorable is the Escamillo of Ramon Vinay, once a Don José of note himself.

Domingo Carmen Verrett
Also interesting is the recording from Covent Garden, 1973 (Arkadia MP 498-3). Mainly because of Shirley Verrett in the leading role and the very young Kiri te Kanawa as Micaela.

Massenet: Werther

Domingo Werther

Werther was one of the young Domingo’s favourite roles. Unfortunately, little of it has been documented. On 18 December 1977, the opera was recorded by the Bayerische Rundfunk in Munich. This recording has been released on CD (Orfeo C 464 982).
Charlotte was sung by Brigitte Fassbaender, not really a singer one would associate with the role… Well! Allow yourself to be surprised, because what happens here, happens very rarely: drama, passion, love, despair… She and Domingo really bounce from your player.
An excerpt:

Domingo Werther Chailly
A studio recording of the opera was made in 1979, under Riccardo Chailly, with a totally miscast Elena Obraztsova as Charlotte. It is quite exciting, but lacks the necessary poetry.

Massenet: Manon

Domingo Manon

Yes, Manon was once part of Domingo’s repertoire. The only recording I know is on Melodram (MEL 27054). It was recorded live at the New York City Opera on 20 February 1969. Manon is sung by the truly irresistible Beverly Sills. Julius Rudel conducts.

Massenet: Le Cid

Domingo Le Cid

An oddity, certainly, but such a beautiful oddity! Sony (7454942 – check the number to be sure, they change so quickly!) recorded the concert performance in New York, 1989, live. Eve Queler conducts and Grace Bumbry shines as Chimene.

Gounod: Faust

Domingo Faust Freni
Fortunately there is a good studio recording of Domingo’s Faust. It was recorded in 1979 by EMI (now Warner) and it is easily one of the best recordings of the work. The orchestra of the Paris Opera is conducted by Georges Prêtre, one of the best conductors of French repertoire.

The cast is finger-licking gorgeous: Mirella Freni is a fragile and sensual Marguerite and Nicolai Ghiaurov a very impressive Méphistophélès. In the small role of Valentin we hear none other than Thomas Allen.

Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila

Domingo Samson Warner

EMI (now Warner) recorded the opera in Paris in 1991. The conductor was Myung-Whun Chung and there is the rub: he does not really know the opera. But he was not the only culprit! Someone came up with the unfortunate idea of having Dalila sung by Waltraud Meier. Forget it.

Domingo Samson Borodina

The other studio recording, this time on DVD (DG 0730599), also has a Dalila that just doesn’t work for me: Olga Borodina. It was recorded at the Metropolitan Opera in 1998. I was there and didn’t like it – and I still don’t like it.

Domingo Samson Verrett

But, I’ll go for the San Francisco recording every time! It was directed by Nicolas Joel and Dalila was sung by the really sexy Shirley Verrett (Arthaus Video 100 202)

Offenbach: Les Contes d’Hoffmann

Hoffmann was one of Domingo’s greatest roles. As far as I am concerned, no other singer even comes close to him.

If you want the opera on CD, the Decca recording conducted by Richard Bonynge, with Dame Joan Sutherland in all three female roles (4173832) is highly recommended.

Placido Domingo and Verdi


Ernani is an important opera to a Domingo collector. Domingo made his debut with it at La Scala on 7 December 1969. It was also the only opera he sang in Amsterdam, on 15 January 1972. Concertante, of course (yes, during the Matinee, where else?). Unfortunately, no complete recording exists, so we have to make do with fragments only (Bella Voce BV 107.004). Felicia Weathers, who sang the role of Elvira, had a terrible head cold and neither Piero Francia nor Agostino Ferrin are names to remember, but it remains an important document.
At La Scala, besides Domingo, there were two other greats of bygone days: Raina Kabaivanska and Nicolai Ghiaurov. Unfortunately, Cappuccilli had to cancel due to illness, but his replacement, Carlo Meliciani, really gives his best. Add to this the truly sublime direction of Antonino Votto and you know that you can expect a special ‘evening’ of opera.

Radames was among Domingo’s favourite roles. No wonder. Here he could really ‘show it all’, because the hero is very complex. He is a ‘macho with a lot of muscles’ and a vulnerable boy at the same time, and he is torn between duty and passion. Unfortunately, the two are not compatible. To sing Radames well you need not only a cannon of a voice but also an intellectual ability. And he has both.

Domingo verdi Aida
He made his debut with Aida in 1968 in Hamburg and he has since sung the opera thousands of times. There are many recordings on the market, both studio and live. I would like to dwell on a recording that will not evoke an ‘aha’ moment for most of you – also because at first glance the cast is not idiomatically perfect.

The fact that Anna Tomowa-Sintow was one of Karajan’s favourite singers had its advantages and disadvantages. She was a welcome guest in Salzburg and her name appears on many recordings conducted by the maestro. But it also meant that she was primarily rated as a Mozart and Strauss singer, while she had so much more to offer.
Her Desdemona and Amelia were legendary and after her Munich Aida, Leonie Rysanek praised her performance for its pure beauty.

Fassbaender is really surprising and particularly convincing as Amneris. Just listen to what she does with the single word ‘pace’ at the end of the opera. The opera was recorded by Bayeriche Rundfunk on 22 March 1979 and released on Orfeo (C583 022).


Also noteworthy is the recording from Munich 1972, with a now almost forgotten Verdi singer, Martina Arroyo. As Amneris, we hear Fiorenza Cossotto and Cappuccilli and Ghiaurov complete the excellent cast conducted by Claudio Abbado.

Domingo Verdi Arroyo




The recording from Vienna 1973 (Bela Voce BLV 107.209), under Riccardo Muti, is also of particular interest. In the leading role we meet Gwyneth Jones and Amneris is sung by an exceptional mezzo: Viorica Cortez.


Verdi: Aida / Leontyne Price; Placido Domingo; Sherrill Milnes; Grace  Bumbry; Rugg - HBDirect Genres
Of Domingo’s studio recordings the 1970 RCA (now Sony)release, is probably the best. How could it be otherwise, when you know that the conductor is Erich Leinsdorf and the other roles are sung by Leontyne Price, Sherrill Milnes, Grace Bumbry and Ruggero Raimondi. The whole thing almost pops out of your speakers.



Il Trovatore was the very first opera Placido Domingo, then 28 years old (!), recorded in the studio in 1970. Fiorenza Cossotto stars as Azucena, but the recording is really indispensable because of one of the most riveting Lunas ever: Sherrill Milnes .

Below: Price, Domingo and  Milnes in ‘E deggio e posso crederlo?’



Il trovatore was one of Von Karajan’s favorite operas. In 1962 he directed a series of performances in Salzburg, those were taken over by Vienna in 1978 and broadcast on television.

Domingo was a last minute replacement for Franco Bonisolli, who had left the production in a fit of temper.  Domingo’s delightful, radiant topnotes in ‘Ah si, ben mio’ earned him an ovation that lasted for many minutes.

Cossotto’s Azucena is now legendary: like no other singer she put her mark on the role (Arthouse Music 107117).

Below:  Domingo, Kabaivanska, Cappuccilli en Cossotto in ‘Prima che d’ altri vivere’


Ballo Abbado Schenk ROH


The Royal Opera House production released by Opus Arte (OA 1236D) dates from early 1975. The sound is a little dull, but you will forget that as soon as you hear the beautiful voices of the singers.

Katia Ricciarelli is one of the most moving Amelias I know. The sound that she produces is perhaps not really ‘Verdian’, and perhaps her voice is a little too light, (she has sadly destroyed her voice by singing this type of role), but the pianissimi that she spins deserve a prize for sheer beauty, and her fragility is palpable.

The kindly anxious, loving, but also playful tenor of the young Placido Domingo fits the role of Gustavo like a glove. Piero Cappuccilli is an excellent Renato and Reri Grist an Oscar such as you do not often hear them anymore. Her performance alone is worth buying the DVD.

Claudio Abbado (how young he was then!) conducts lightly and keeps the tempi sparkling, resulting in an effervescent orchestral sound.

The direction by Otto Schenk is effective. Conventional and yet surprising. And like no other, he exposes the comic aspects of the opera.

Trailer of the production:

Ballo Solti Schelsinger


Fifteen years later, Domingo is already a seasoned Gustavo. His king is now more mature, more serious too… But although he says he doesn’t believe Ulrica’s predictions, you can still see something like terror in his eyes. It could so easily be true…
This production includes also a more mature Amelia. Now she is not a dreamy girl, but a woman with intense desires. Josephine Barstow certainly lives up to this interpretation. She is a torn Amelia, full of love, sorrow, pain and tears. In ‘Ecco l’orrido campo’, her fear is physically palpable and in ‘Morro’ you think you may die with her. Leo Nucci shines as Renato and Sumi Yo is a light, bouncy Oscar.

The direction lies in the hands of the famous film director John Schlesinger. The end result is devastating: overwhelming, true-to-life sets, beautiful costumes and dazzling mass scenes. The picturesque image is occasionally reminiscent of enormous tableaux-vivants, and the direction of the characters is- as you would expect from a renowned director – phenomenal.
At the opera’s finale, when the dying king gathers his last strength and, gasping for breath, bids farewell to his beloved, his subjects and the fatherland, no one can suspect that with his last ‘addio’ an entire era is also coming to an end.
It would be Herbert von Karajan’s last production in Salzburg. He died just before the premiere in 1989 and was replaced by Solti, who also conducted the revival of the opera in 1990 (Arthaus Musik 109105).