By Enrique Lopetegui
It often happens that, whenever artists reply to an interview request with a “send your questions via email,” they either don’t answer them or send half-hearted, generic responses that don’t mean anything. Not Plácido Domingo. The Spanish tenor, who will present
Con Amor a San Antonio on Wednesday, June 1 at AT&T Center, opened his heart to the
Current via a Spanish-language email from Boston.
Plácido Domingo singing in Athens.
We all know your deep connection with Mexico and Los Angeles, but what is your story with San Antonio?
My history with San Antonio is brief but memorable. I sang more in Dallas and Houston, and did my U.S. debut at Texas Stadium in Fort Worth in November 1962, singing Lucia di Lammermoor
. In San Antonio I only sang once at the Alamodome and the National Anthem on the Riverwalk, as part of the Spurs’ celebrations for their 2007 NBA championship. Those were very special days for me and I’m proud of being able to celebrate with all of you. Too bad this year we won’t be able to do it again. Maybe next year.
San Antonio has welcomed (and is still hosting) many Katrina refugees. You almost raised a million dollars for the reconstruction of New Orleans. Have you been back to that city?
I returned to New Orleans in January 2009, for the reopening of the New Orleans Theatre for the Performing Arts. The stage was renamed the “Plácido Domingo Stage.” New Orleans was lifting itself up and was recovering its spirit and personality. New Orleans’ crowds are also extremely warm.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you started singing zarzuela from an early age. How difficult it is now to find young opera singers? What should be done about it?
That’s right. From an early age I accompanied my parents in their zarzuela
company doing all types of things, from selling sweets at the candy store and lending a hand wherever it was needed, between boxes backstage, to playing the piano in rehearsals and actual functions. Soon after that I started singing with my mother, and the first time I sang onstage professionally was as a baritone in the zarzuela Molinos de viento
at the Degollado Theater in Guadalajara.
I simply believe pop music has a marketing budget that’s infinitely bigger than that of classical music. Pop music campaigns are targeted to the masses and young people are exposed to this music, almost involuntarily. Classical and opera, until now, have a more limited reach and are genres that you need to look for, but we also have the obligation to teach it to the young. Then, when they have the whole menu, they can choose which one they want to listen to.
But if we want more young people into opera, we need to go get them. Every year we organize events to listen to young voices and recruit them for preparatory programs in Washington, Los Angeles, and, most recently, Valencia [Spain]. Another way of discovering them is through my Operalia World Opera Competition, which is celebrating its 19th year and will take place in Moscow.
Why did you decide not to renew your contract with the Washington National Opera?
As was the case with all opera institutions in the country, the financial crisis hit us hard and we had to integrate the Washington Opera with the Kennedy Center. This will give the Opera some breathing and a necessary injection of financial support. I will continue going to Washington to sing and direct, and I’ll be in charge of the repertoire planning for the next two years. But in terms of being the general director, it was my time to go. The transition is good both for myself and for the company. But I will continue to be totally committed to the Domingo-Cafritz Young Singers Program.
How’s your health, after undergoing colon cancer surgery in 2010?
Very well, thank God. After the surgery and necessary recovery, I returned to the stage at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala with Simone Boccanegra and have continued with the rest of my calendar without looking back. I’ve felt good, strong, and happy to be able to continue forward surrounded by my family and doing what I like. The audiences have also been marvelous wherever I go, and they give me a lot of strength.
Would you like to add anything else?
Simply, that I’m happy to return to San Antonio alter a four-year absence, and I’m looking forward to feel the warmth of the people of the city and surrounding areas. I hope to see you all at the concert.
$45-$528, 7:30pm Wednesday, June 1, AT&T Center, 1 AT&T Center, (800) 745-3000, attcenter.com