Domingo & Milnes
Great Operatic Duets
London Symphony Orchestra
Anton Guadagno, conductor
RCA, 1970 (2010)
The partnership between Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes is among the most famous in the history of opera and the two singers’ names are rightly remembered after those of other illustrious tenors and baritones that created a musical duo before them. The album Great Operatic Duets, recorded in 1970, is the proof of this lucky collaboration, featuring duets from Puccini’s La Bohème, Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, Bizet’s Les Pecheurs des Perles and four operas by Verdi (La forza del destino, I Vespri siciliani, Don Carlo and Otello).
Many of the duets among those just listed were later performed again by Domingo and Milnes and some of them were part of the recording of complete operas, as it happened with Don Carlos (under Giulini’s conduction in 1971), La Bohème (with Solti, 1974), I Vespri siciliani (with Levine in the same year), La forza del destino (again under Levine’s conduction, 1977) and Otello (with Levine, 1978).
Considering that Great Operatic Duets has been recorded in the early Seventies, the sound is not the most vivid, but it is definitely good despite some noise disturbs the listening when the orchestra plays too loud.
The album is not a surprise for those who have already familiarity with Domingo and Milnes but, after so many decades, it reminds of how natural their collaboration was. Although their voices work very well together, they do not blend with each other as it happens to hear with other singers that maybe do not have the same close partnership and, on the contrary, even when Domingo and Milnes sing together they are clearly and individually recognizable.
There are exception to this rule and the blend of their voices characterizes some passages as Quando al mio sen per te parlava from I Vespri siciliani, Dio, che nell’alma infondere from Don Carlo and Invan Alvaro from La forza del destino. This is possible because what really unites the two singers is the way of singing and it is in this that the strength of their partnership resides. They share the same nobility, a trait that suits very well to their respective characters as many of them (with the notable exception of La Bohème) have high social origins. Apart from this, there are several features in their singing that are similar: a great attention to the expression, to the meaning of every word, the same elegant phrasing and above all the constant impression that there is a strong personality behind the voice.
The zest for singing animates both singers and makes easy to guess their common aim, while their commitment to their art can be considered the guiding thread of Great Operatic Duets. This is also what determines the success of the long partnership between Domingo and Milnes beyond the “limits” of the album.