Placido Domingo – Carlo Maria Giulini
Opern-Gala / Gala Opera Concert
Roger Wagner Chorale
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon, 1981 (2007)
This recording, originally released in 1981 is now part of the collection 111 Years of Deutsche Grammophon. It features two of the most outstanding artists of the 20th century, conductor Carlo Maria Giulini and tenor Placido Domingo, who perform Italian and French popular arias from operas by Donizetti, Verdi, Halévy, Meyerbeer and Bizet.
At the time of the release, Domingo said that «it is fabulous when one really establishes contact with the conductor and the orchestra right away. This happened here». Actually, this immediate understanding is one of the reasons why listening to this album is such a delightful experience.
Firstly, all the arias has a trait in common. They are all pause for reflection before or after a stunning or unpleasant event. With the exception of Di quella pira (which however is preceded by Ah sì ben mio) and of the martial recitative before Celeste Aida, the tenor/hero is always portrayed in “static” but meaningful moments, for the most part romantic.
Gala Opera Concert: Carlo Maria Giulini
Considering the kind of arias that constitutes the programme of the album, there is little surprise that Carlo Maria Giulini’s conduction has a crepuscular colour, even though he resorted to it in other recordings (I am referring in particular to his Le nozze di Figaro with Giuseppe Taddei and Anna Moffo). This shade characterizes not only the gloomiest scene Tombe degl’avi miei (which is set in a sepulchre), but also an aria as Una furtiva lagrima, which is spontaneous to imagine sung by moonlight. Elsewhere, the atmosphere is dreamy and conjures up the image of remote places. This is the case of Celeste Aida with its vague accompaniment, and especially of Pays merveilleux, with its luxuriant colours.
Gala Opera Concert: Placido Domingo
As for Domingo, he sings with the generosity and opulence which are his own. He sings all the arias with full-throated, robust singing and his musicianship and stylishness are perfectly suited to this repertoire. His smooth and large voice is always clear, pure and loud, with the crowning achievement in Di quella pira. He is also able to depict to the most delicate nuances, as in Celeste Aida or in Je crois entendre encore (from Les Pêcheurs de perles). His almost flawless diction – with the exception of some final “e” that sounds “i” in the French arias – and his always appropriate accents are also valuable features.
What emerges from these arias is the romantic hero par excellence, undaunted and martial if necessary (in Il Trovatore, the recitative from Aida), but above all fervent and in love.