Placido Domingo plans next Operalia in darkest Kazakhstan

Placido Domingo plans next Operalia in darkest Kazakhstan


norman lebrecht

January 10, 2017

It has been announced that the 25th Operalia competition will take place in July 2017 n one of the most corrupt oligarchies on earth, the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

The country is still ruled by its last Soviet-era leader, Nursultan Äbishuly Nazarbayev.

Operalia will be accompanied by the Astana Opera orchestra and paid for by Nazarbayev’s ministry of culture.

Maybe Placido should be more choosy about his pals.




  • Halston Worthington III says:

    I doubt that Mr. Domingo is “pals” with the leader of Kazakhstan. And one should note that culture interaction like this is a part of the solution, not a part of a problem.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      As it was when the NY Phil went to North Korea? That theory has been discredited.

      • Max Grimm says:

        True. However, this doesn’t imply that Lorin Maazel, Zarin Mehta and Yoko Nagae Ceschina were pals of Kim Jong-il or were insufficiently “choosy about [their] pals” in general.

        • M2N2K says:

          Why not? In a certain way, it does imply exactly that.

          • Max Grimm says:

            You seem to have quite an unusual concept of what constitutes a friendship.

          • M2N2K says:

            If you prefer the phrase in the post to say “more choosy about whose useful idiot to be”, then you would have a point. But I think that in this case it might be too harsh and therefore do not object to a more charitable “pal” instead.

          • Max Grimm says:

            Forget about ‘pal’ and ‘useful idiot’. ‘More choosy about whom they associate with/are associated with’ would have made the point just fine.
            I shall simply stock my lacking agreement with Norman’s choice of words up to me being a non-native English speaker and Norman’s frequently equivocal phraseology.

          • M2N2K says:

            Unfortunately, this is more than “whom they associate with/are associated with”. It is closer to “to whom they are helpful”. Many dictators/tyrants like to appear cultured and open. Helping them do so is a “friendly” gesture/action that is badly misguided.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Makes one wonder with how much $ this tiresome individual, PD, is walking away with. Enough.

    • Alexander says:

      If he just wanted to make money I’m sure there would be better ways of doing it than organising an opera competition. Even if you believe that he is accepting a bribe in Kazakhstan (I don’t for a moment imagine that he is), do you think he was just organising Operalia for his own gain/bribery when it was hosted in countries like the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA, and Canada? I don’t doubt that Domingo must have made a lot of money over the course of his career, especially when he was performing, recording, appearing on television, etc, as part of the The Three Tenors, but I cannot see that Operalia is contributing to his wealth. Quite the opposite, in fact, if you consider the time he gives up to run Operalia that could be spent on more lucrative activities such as singing and conducting, for which I assume he still commands a high fee. And I assume you know that he donated his $1m Birgit Nilsson Prize money to Operalia, rather than using any of it for himself? One million dollars would be a lot of money even to somebody like Domingo. If he’s in this for personal enrichment, why would he give away a sum of money like that? Unless you think it was a shrewd investment, which is stretching the possibilities.

  • Nick says:

    Certainly cash must have played a key role – if not THE key role – in the decision.

    • Nick says:

      From experience I know that Kazakhstan will lash out the cash to get international events to take place there. We know too that, great artist as he undoubtedly is and for all the good he has done, PD is not averse to high fees. In the case of the 3 Tenors World Tour concerts often well over $1 million a pop. I suspect he has never earned much himself from Operalia and it takes up a reasonable chunk of his time. But I’ll not be surprised though if there is a concert in which he features during his time in Kazakhstan – fee only to be guessed at!

  • Mike says:

    The west has a lot to learn from Kazakhstan. They do not pay their classical music stars ridiculous fees demanded by agents in the west and you can see and hear top class ballets and opera for a couple of quid.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Ridiculous fees notwithstanding, a couple of quid for top class ballets and opera is all you can charge, when the average nominal monthly income is ~ £450.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    I have troubles with anyone that legitimizes Putin.
    I was always a Pavarotti girl!

  • Ivan says:

    Lol, Kazakhstan is indeed country with corruption, typical former Soviet republic, but saying that it’s one of the darkest country in the world can say only darkest and arrogant person.

  • Snmkytkn says:

    All you westerners have a biased view of countries like Kazakhstan. What you know is gathered from mass media. In the Soviet era and now in the post Soviet countries art was, and stil is made for people. NOT FOR THE CHOSEN ELITE WHO CAN PAY FOR THE TICKETS. Everyone can go and enjoy a night at the opera for reasonable fees. As you can see , stars don’t have to get sky high fees.

    • Alexander says:

      That is certainly not the case in Russia, which has some of the highest ticket prices in the world for opera, ballet, and concerts.

  • Eli says:

    Good for PD! Cultural exchange is important to build people to people ties. Kazakhstan has a rich cultural tradition of music and dance.