Wake up, 2021: Placido Domingo is your January cover boy

Wake up, 2021: Placido Domingo is your January cover boy


norman lebrecht

January 03, 2021

The French music magazine Diapason has given its January cover to the singer Placido Domingo, who turns 80 on the 21st.

The editors acknowledge that ”accusations of sexual harassment have forced him to withdraw to a small number of countries where he is still wanted.’ Be that as it may: ‘Meet the last living legend of opera.’

Except in Russia, will any other magazines follow suit?



  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Well at least he is still performing unlike some of the other big names who have almost disappeared from the scene thanks to the pandemic.

  • Bloom says:

    The fact that he cannot stop is rather a sign of weakness. And some journalists definitely fall for this obscene display of fake power because it makes them feel very “empowered” too.

  • V. Lind says:

    Probably not. But the line you cite is true. He IS “the last living legend of opera.” The days where people like Lily Pons were regulars on the Ed Sullivan Show, the love life of Maria Callas was tabloid fodder, Mario Lanza was a movie star or Marian Anderson was on the cover of Time, thus making opera singers part of the regular entertainment conversation and therefore household names, are — at least for the moment — gone. The Three Tenors was the last gasp of widespread opera talk, and for all his gifts, the third tenor was never of the stature of the other two.

    | doubt many Canadians outside the music world could name the conductor of a single Canadian orchestra (maybe Y N-Z, but that would probably be because of the Met). But years ago Seiji Ozawa was so popular that at least two Canadian writers wrote popular novels featuring him prominently. Perhaps they more or less could have named Pinchas Zukerman when he took on the National Arts Centre Orchestra, but due to his fame as a violinist. I also doubt they could name an opera singer, though when I was growing up everyone knew of Teresa Stratas, Louis Quilico, Maureen Forrester. They, and others, appeared on Canadian variety shows as well as in opera.

    Outside music circles, the names even of Kaufman and Netrebko are unknown. Let’s face it, while both are regularly undermined around here, they are good — but not as great as Domingo was in his heyday as a singer, or Joan Sutherland in hers. The only “household names” are retired, or should be, like Kiri Te Kanawa — and Placido Domingo.

    It is hard, these days, to imagine anyone getting excited about “the King of the High Cs.” But perhaps one day soon someone will light upon something original that will capture public imagination again and relight an interest in opera.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I generally agree.

      If we define “last living legend of opera” by fame beyond connoisseurs, the description is right for Placido Domingo.

      If we went by respect among connoisseurs, Domingo is not unique. Christa Ludwig instantly comes to my mind, who of course was great in both opera and the concert hall. She is not the only one.

    • William Safford says:

      Yes. Remember when opera stars and classical artists would appear on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on a regular basis? Or Dick Cavitt? Or a number of such shows? Not only would they talk, they would usually perform.

      I can’t think of a single instance of classical musicians appearing on the current iteration of the Tonight Show. I can think of just one example with the current Stephen Colbert show: members of the Met orchestra and one singer.

      • William Safford says:

        I know less about equivalent shows in the U.K., especially historical ones.

        Imagine if a classical artist were to appear on, for instance, the Graham Norton Show. Alas, I doubt it will ever happen.

    • Federico Piantini says:

      Those names were known to me since a very young boy. Some voice students do not know much about Caruso. Thank you for your great comments.

  • The View from America says:

    Oh, joy.

  • Fernandel says:

    I had a dream: Gramophone and Fono Forum suddenly decided to get the ball(s) back.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “….the last living legend of opera.”
    This statement just shows you the depths that opera has sunk to.
    Retire, Placido. Just do it. Take it easy and spend your fortune living out the rest of your life quietly and comfortably.
    Despite what this French sales magazine may say, there are many people who would be grateful if you did so.
    And to forestall at least some of the inevitable flood of downvotes: yes, I know very well that Diapason was once the French equivalent of what The Gramophone used to be.
    Need I say more?

  • Victoria says:

    In addition to Diapason, Placido Domingo is also on the covers of the January issues of Germany’s Das Opernglas and Spain’s Opera Actual:



  • Placido Sings On says:

    Since August 2020 the European theatres reopened for a few months, Domingo has performed in Vienna, Verona, Florence, Milan, Monte Carlo, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. His future announced engagements include theatres and concert halls in Austria, France, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, etc.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Of course he is a ‘living legend’ in opera. The fact that like other artists he has a private life which has also become the subject of legend is another matter. His achievements in opera are indeed remarkable. One would wish he would now retire and allow us to remember him as the remarkable tenor of the last century.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      “The” remarkable tenor of the last century????
      I think not.
      Just off the top of my head: Caruso, Gigli, McCormack, Martinelli, Tagliavini, DiStefano, Wunderlich, Melchior, Vickers, Corelli, Del Monaco, Pavarotti, Bergonzi, Bjoerling.
      Domingo, put next to these artists, is certainly not “the” remarkable tenor of the last century.
      He is, at the very most, “a” remarkable tenor.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        Hmmmm . . . I might place Domingo above Corelli and Del Monaco. They were all a tad different though.

  • sam says:

    “ténor, baryton, chef d’orchestre, objet de passion et de scandale”

    -Tenor by nature
    -Baritone by hubris
    -Conductor by pity
    -Object of passion by the desperate
    -Object of scandal by the fearful

  • EU person says:

    Thank you, Diapasón for this cover and article. Domingo is definitely a living legend and false statements of metoo liars can’t change that.

  • Heidrun Haag says:

    Unfortunately I discovered opera for me only 2 years ago. And because of Placido Domingo I was addicted right away.

    I saw him last year in Berlin, Caserta, Verona, Vienna, Florence and Monte Carlo. Every performance was sold out! He is still fascinating. Maybe he doesn´t sing the same way as he sung when he was 40. And maybe this is because he is 80? But he still arouses emotions like no other. His voice is strong as well as soft and shining like velvet. He is full of energy and passion. Beside this he is an extraordinary person with humility and kindness.

    I hope to see him many more times. For those who want him to retire, why don´t you just make place for those, who want to see him? No one forces you to pay a lot of money for something you don´t like. And his performances still are sold out at the highest prices…

    • EU person says:

      Here are too many losers which are too jealous of Domingo success. They can’t see the one man got everything: talent, success, money. These losers will never make anything great, they can only post their dirty comments about Domingo.

      Enjoy your future trips to see Maestro Domingo!

      • Larry D says:

        Did you take low-down name-calling lessons from Trump? I take it you consider yourself a “winner” for some inexplicable reason…

        • EU person says:

          Successful people don’t waste their time to post dirty comments about great artists. Losers can’t see that other people have a great success.
          Domingo doesnt post bullshit about you, for example. That is a difference.

    • EU person says:

      I agree with you !

  • Emil says:

    Embarrassing, maddening, and saddening.

  • Fat Bob says:

    Pour, Emil…Don’t cry, please))

  • Nicola Cattò says:

    In Italy MUSICA (of which I am editor) did. And my interview was published also in Scherzo, a magazine that you should probably know…

  • Russian hacker says:

    Wow, the French have balls! Viva, France!
    UK and US men are not so successful unfortunately….
    Ugly metoo women got their balls there))))

  • Karin Becker says:

    In May 2010, journalist E. Büning wrote about Igor Levit in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “Six years ago I heard Igor Levit for the first time. There he was seventeen, a small, round man and incomprehensibly chatty. Interfered everywhere, told unfunny jokes, knew something to say on every subject. It was only when she was sitting on the wing and playing that this fat kid temporarily stopped talking.” Years later, she stylizes 23-year-old Levit as a “century pianist.” I follow Levit’s career and activities as a “Twitter king” and his outspoken statements. I have heard Levit three times in concerts and will not attend a concert anymore. I don’t buy his CDs either. For me, Levit is a chatterer, unfortunately, he doesn’t stop talking at the piano anymore.

  • BruceB says:

    Last performing legend, perhaps.

    Leontyne Price is still alive.

    • EU person says:

      Carreras is also alive and he is a also an opera legend.
      Leontyne Price is not so well known outside opera world, unfortunatelly.

      • Tiredoftiall says:

        In the US, Miss Price was well known during her career.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        There are fine artists and there are legends. Miss Price remains a legend, at least in the US.

      • Larry D says:

        Who cares what the world outside opera thinks about opera? For people outside of the opera world, it’s just celebrity, like having heard of the Kardashians for some reason you can’t put your finger on or would ever want to.

      • BruceB says:

        Carerras, of course! (slaps forehead) Also Christa Ludwig, as someone else mentioned. Surely many more that I’m just not thinking about. (Marilyn Horne, Samuel Ramey, Sherrill Milnes, Frederica von Stade…)

        Leontyne Price is a legend within the opera world; that’s good enough.

  • IP says:

    I don’t see a problem if the only remaining journal whose reviews can be trusted is capable of the fairly elementary distinction between the person and the lifetime contribution to art. And I don’t even like Domingo…

  • Jo Ingham says:

    Happy birthday maestro

  • Dan S says:

    Last living legend? Ever hear of Leontyne Price????????? Such silliness.

  • Dr. Shirley Rombough says:

    Placido is the greatest living legend of opera. I think he was treated so unfairly. I never read any actually documented incidents of sexual abuse. The accusations seemed mostly unproven innuendos. He was diagnosed with Covid 19. When he recovered he took some other musicians on a concert tour to raise money for other musicians who got Covid but couldn’t pay for their treatment. All the opera houses that shunned him need to reach out to him. He is in his late 70s and won’t live forever.

    • EU person says:

      Unfortunately , Other opera houses are too scared Of metoo histerics. Failed artists like 3 Domingo accusers are more important for them than one of the greatest opera singers of all times.

      Unbelievable that people can be so blind to blind to believe non proof statements of 3 women which are not ready to confirm their statements at police and court. Domingo accusers are ready to lie at corrupted media only. I’m not surprised if they were pays for their false statements.

  • Eduardo says:

    what would Gurnemanz say????

  • Edgar Self says:

    A good list of nominees, Greg. I heard only two them on stage, Ferruccio Tagliavini and Giuseppe DiStefano, but both in a good year, 1950, as Nemorino and Faust. I’d include Tito Schipa and Lauritz Melchior, and try to find a place for inimitable niche tenors such as Heddle Nash, Aksel Schiotz, Ivan Kozlovsky, Karl Erb, Leo Slezak, and Hugues Cuenod, none of whom could ever be mistaken for anyone else. Beniamino Gigli is my usual favorite, when his sobbing was under control, and sometimes even if not, as in the trios from “Attila” and “I Lombardi” with Pinza and Rethberg.

    Remove the century bar and I’ve heard performanes by Juan Diego Florez, Rufus Mueller, Lawwrence Brownlee,Stephen Costello that almost qualify and linger in the ear. Not “centurian” material, perhaps, but very fine tenors who linger in the ear.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Thanks, Edgar.
      But I did write “just off the top of my head”…. and I did mention Melchior.
      However, I heartily agree with your choices of Schipa, Nash, Schiotz, Kozlovsky, Erb, Slezak, and Cuenod. I would also add Thill, Lauri-Volpi, Gedda, Tucker, and Windgassen to our collaborative list.
      The reason I don’t rate Domingo higher than I do is that even at his peak, when his voice was at its most beautiful (and its tonal quality can certainly be favorably compared with a number of the tenors mentioned), to my ear his interpretations sounded very generalized – his Rodolfo sounded like his Don Jose, which sounded like his Cavaradossi and his Nemorino.
      Now, of course, his voice is just an empty husk. That’s why I believe he should retire, and make space for other singers.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Scusi, caro, my eyes slipped right over Melchior. but now we have a very strong list. I don’t know Thill but read good things of him everywhere. And I thought hard about Gedda and am glad to see him here. Those Rachmaninoff songs he sings in Russian on EMI with Weisselberg, especially one of them, are pectacular. I saw Tucker a few times, early and late, and thought by the end he’d become almost a characture of an Italianate tenor, and he’s not alone. The others I cheerfully agree to, with thanks for yoour further thoughts. Laura-Volpi and Francesco Merli are certainly good enough, and behaved so well in arranging Claudia Muzio’s last rcordings, that they deserve place of honor.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      You simply must check out Thill’s singing of Don Jose! I have his recording of a 1927-28 complete “Carmen” (Divine Art 27809); Jose’s arias as sung by Thill have been reissued separately elsewhere.
      Thill is superb, and is the main point of interest in this set. Mezzo Raymonde Visconti, the Carmen, has a fine voice, but is not very characterful. All in all, though, it’s a very pleasant set, Thill is simply the best, and (at least on my Divine Art issue, which was remastered by Andrew Rose), the sound is excellent for its time.
      And it’s true about Tucker; at the end of his career he let all those bad tenor habits get the best of him, but earlier, when he was at his peak, he was marvelous.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Thanks, Greg. I will certinly try to hear Georges Thill’s Don Jose now. Good Carmen’s are rare. Conchita Supervia had the brass and temperament, but her rapid-fire vibrato ican be unnerving on records. I liked Gladys Swarthout musically, much more than Rise Stevens, but Swarthout might have been singing oratorio. Callas could probably do it. Theres a funny photo of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, dyed or in black wig, as Micaela.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Callas HAS done it, amico! (Although, sadly, never on stage….)
      My copy of her 1964 “Carmen” with Gedda, Pretre cond., is on EMI 7243-5-56281-2-1.
      And I must admit to LOVING Supervia!

  • Michael says:

    Oh, Placido, won’t you please just disappear and stop talking and trying to sing and conduct. Have some shame, find some dignity. S T O P !