Domingo: ‘You pitiful old man, a shadow of what you were’main
As Placido Domingo sang that line in the third act of last night’s revival of Verdi’s Nabucco at Covent Garden, few in the house failed to register the pathos.
Domingo is 75, still singing for all he’s worth.
Wherever he appears, there are critical mutterings in the media that he’s not a ‘real’ Verdi baritone, or that he shouldn’t be taking up stage space at his advanced age.
On the strength of last night’s performance – and it showed great strength – these cavils are irrelevant.
Domingo is a Lear-like Nabucco, capable of summoning a swell of sympathy even in megalomania and dementia. No matter whether he’s proclaiming himself God or stumbling around in search of his spear, his voice has more colours in its palette than the next three cast members put together and he has yielded nothing of his stage presence, his ability to dominate. Not having heard him sing live for two years, I found no distracting signs of decline.
The power is slightly dimmed and the body creaks a bit as it bends, but this is a great singer who carries on bearing the flame – not because he’s chasing money or acclaim but, in exemplary and traditional fashion, to convey what he knows to the next generation.
A member of the Vienna Philharmonic messaged yesterday that he’d not heard a false note from him in a week of work. Nor did I. The pitch is perfect and the projection supple. Never having been a Domingo groupie, I warm to him more as the clock goes on. I was greatly moved by Domingo’s Nabucco. Who can ask for more? And what courage to sing a line that channels total attention to his own senescence.
For the rest, Jamie Barton had mesmeric moments as Fenena and Liudmyla Monastryka was a chilling Abigaille. The chorus was outstanding and the orchestra slightly under-cooked; Maurizio Benini conducted.
Designer Alison Chitty and the costume department disgraced themselves with three shapeless overcoats for the leading characters.
photo: ROH/Catherine Ashmore
UPDATE: Critics persists in graceless pursuit, here.