Fifty years ago to the day— on November 17, 1967 — the fast-rising Spanish tenor on tour with the New York City Opera took to the stage of the new Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, to sing the title role in Alberto Ginastera’s Don Rodrigo. By the time the curtain came down, it was clear that Plácido Domingo was destined for stardom. But few could have predicted the profound and lasting impact that the young singer would make on the city’s cultural life.
On November 17 2017, LA Opera will celebrate its General Director with a star studded concert featuring artists from across the musical spectrum.
In the five decades since Plácido Domingo’s first appearance in Los Angeles, he has helped transform it from the only major western city without a resident opera company into one of the world’s most artistically ambitious operatic centers.
In the years before the existence of LA Opera, Mr. Domingo returned to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion regularly, with an additional four performances during New York City Opera tours to Los Angeles. With every visit, his peerless voice, dramatic power and stage magnetism drew ever-increasing notice from music-loving Angelenos.
By the time he made his 1971 debut with the LA Philharmonic—at the Hollywood Bowl in a concert performance of La Traviata under the baton of James Levine—he was a genuine star, every bit as famous as his great stage partners that evening, Beverly Sills and Sherill Milnes.
In the early 1980s, he returned to the Chandler in two major productions, Turandot with London’s Royal Opera (during the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival) and Tosca with the Deutsche Oper Berlin. These performances gave Angelenos a taste for opera of international quality. Los Angeles was ready for a world-class opera company of its own, and Mr. Domingo was eager to make this dream a reality. As a new company was formed, he proved critical to its launch, serving as artistic advisor and joining the board. He then performed his signature role of Otello for LA Opera’s inaugural production in 1986. Even more importantly, he committed to returning to the company regularly. He has taken part in every season in LA Opera’s history, singing 29 different roles, conducting 18 different operas and participating in nearly 300 performances to date.
He has been an important and vital presence in LA Opera’s artistic administration since the company’s formation, having served as Artistic Consultant (since 1984) and Artistic Director (2001-2003) before he was named the Eli and Edythe Broad General Director in 2003. His keen interest in helping young singers led to the formation of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. He has also brought his prestigious international vocal competition, Operalia, to Los Angeles three times.
Other notable Los Angeles appearances include a 1994 “Three Tenors” concert with Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras at Dodger Stadium and his 2007 induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. In 2011, he delighted baseball fans by singing the National Anthem on opening day at Dodger Stadium. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993 and he received the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor, during a ceremony and masterclass at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music earlier this month.
Plácido Domingo has done much to bring opera to millions of Americans of all ages through a variety of television appearances: guesting on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and later with Jay Leno; starring with Carol Burnett in Burnett “Discovers” Domingo, filmed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; performing in an Olympic gala televised live from the Greek Theatre; presenting and performing at the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards and Latin Grammy Awards; and even appearing as himself on Sesame Street and (in cartoon form) on The Simpsons. His voice was featured in the 2008 Disney film Beverly Hills Chihuahua, in a 2012 special edition of the children’s educational cartoon Dora the Explorer, and as Skeleton Jorge in the 2014 animated film Book of Life. In 2008, he appeared in the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, performing for an estimated television audience of almost two billion people worldwide.
Born in Madrid to parents who were zarzuela performers, Plácido Domingo moved with his family to Mexico at the age of eight. He went to the Mexico City Conservatory to study piano and conducting, but eventually was sidetracked into vocal training after his voice was discovered. His first leading role came in 1961, as Alfredo in La Traviata in Monterrey. His Metropolitan Opera debut came in 1968, as Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur. He has subsequently appeared there in more than 750 performances of 50 different leading roles, conducted more than 150 performances, and is currently celebrating his 49th consecutive season there. He appears at all the great opera houses, including Milan’s La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, London’s Covent Garden, Paris’ Bastille Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Bayreuth and Salzburg Festivals. He has now performed a total of 148 different roles, with more than 3,900 career performances. As a conductor, he has led more than 500 performances worldwide, including opera productions in all the important theaters, from the Met and Covent Garden to the Vienna State Opera, as well as symphonic concerts with such renowned orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, and the Chicago Symphony.
Mr. Domingo has raised millions of dollars to aid the victims of natural disasters, including Mexico’s devastating 1985 and 2017 earthquakes, the 2017 hurricanes that struck the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and the floods caused by Hurricane Paulina in Guerrero and Yucatán (also in Mexico and in El Salvador), and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
For more information or to purchase tickets for Plácido Domingo 50th Anniversary Concert, click here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.