PUCCINI Edgar Domingo Veronesi

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GIACOMO PUCCINI

Edgar
Plácido Domingo · Adriana Damato
Marianne Cornetti · Juan Pons
Rafal Siwek
Core e Orchestra dell'Accademia
Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Alberto Veronesi
Int. Release 05 May. 2006
2 CDs / Download
CD DDD 0289 477 6102 0 GH 2
Deutsche Grammophon celebrates Plácido Domingo ’s milestone birthday year with four new releases


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CD 1: Puccini: Edgar

Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924)
Edgar - Opera in 3 Acts

Act 1

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Adriana Damato, Plácido Domingo, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Marianne Cornetti, Plácido Domingo, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Juan Pons, Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Juan Pons, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Plácido Domingo, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

10.
0:00
3:14

Juan Pons, Plácido Domingo, Rafal Siwek, Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Juan Pons, Plácido Domingo, Adriana Damato, Rafal Siwek, Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Act 2

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Plácido Domingo, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Marianne Cornetti, Plácido Domingo, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Plácido Domingo, Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Juan Pons, Plácido Domingo, Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

총 재생시간 45:46

CD 2: Puccini: Edgar

Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924)
Edgar - Opera in 3 Acts

Act 3

1.
0:00
3:15

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani, Pablo Assante

Adriana Damato, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani, Pablo Assante

Adriana Damato, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Juan Pons, Plácido Domingo, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Plácido Domingo, Adriana Damato, Rafal Siwek, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Adriana Damato, Juan Pons, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Marianne Cornetti, Plácido Domingo, Juan Pons, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Plácido Domingo, Marianne Cornetti, Juan Pons, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi

Plácido Domingo, Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

Plácido Domingo, Juan Pons, Marianne Cornetti, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi, Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Roberto Gabbiani

총 재생시간 37:47

. . . a convincing performance. Ther is no hint of strain, and throughout an arduous three acts he uses his voice with all his accustomed commitment and fervour . . . Domingo is well partnered by Marianna Cornetti as Tigrana and Adriana Damato as Fidelia.

One has to admire a singer who, despite being in his sixties, is still undertaking new roles, both on record and, more laudably, on stage . . . Of the men, Rafa³ Siwek's dark bass is noted, even in his small role. Juan Pons's tone has a slight huskiness in places . . . it is firm and strong enough to meet Domingo's in their scenes together. Edgar is a more interesting role and suits Domingo well. His voice still burns with intensity, remains surely supported and steady and suggests no hint or evidence of strain . . . The recorded sound is full and clear . . .

Jetzt ist er 65 und immer noch kein bißchen müde. Das zeigt eine neue Gesamt-Einspielung von Puccinis zweiter . . . Oper "Edgar" mit Plácido Domingo in der Titelrolle. Musikalisch wird diese Aufnahme der zwischen dem Erstlingserfolg "Le villi" und "Manon Lescaut" komponierten Oper Puccini- wie Domingo-Fans voll auf ihre Kosten kommen lassen . . . Um den hervorragend gestaltenden und leidenschaftlich singeden Domingo sind auch die anderen Rollen (mit der blutjungen Adriana d'Amato, Marianna Cornetti und Juan Pons) mehr als adäquat besetzt. Alberto Veronesi, Direktor des Puccini-Festivals in Torre del Lago, begleitet mit der römischen Accademia di Santa Cecilia zündend und stilkundig.

Die Balance zwischen den Instrumentengruppen ist vorbildlich, die Wärme der Holzbläser und der Streicher nimmt besonders für sich ein . . . Der von Roberto Gabbiani einstudierte Chor überzeugt sowohl in den fröhlichen Momenten des Kirchgangs als auch in der Verfluchtungsszene Edgars und Tigranas durch sicher fokussierte Höhen und eine optimale Austarierung zwischen den Stimmungsgruppen . . . Plácido Domingo verfügt als Edgar noch immer über die notwendige vokale Durchschlagskraft, um die für Puccini so typischen heroischen Momente mit beeindruckender vokaler Präsenz zu meistern . . . Domingo bietet insgesamt eine in den Bann ziehende Interpretation, läuft gerade im letzten Akt zu Höchstform auf. Als Tigrana hat er eine gleichwertige Partnerin. Die US-Amerikanerin Marianne Cornetti bringt die notwendige vokale Variabilität mit . . . Cornetti besticht durch warme Timbrierung, satte Tiefen und flexible sowie sicher gesetzte Aufschwünge. Die junge Italienerin Adriana Damato . . . verfügt über einen sicher geführten lyrischen Sopran, der wie geschaffen scheint für die feinen Kantilenen der Fidelia, die Puccini ohne Zweifel später als Vorbild für Liù gedient hat . . . Damato nimmt die Übergänge mit bemerkenswerter Weichheit im Tonansatz . . . Juan Pons singt die Partie des Frank mit . . . voller Ausdruckskraft, Leidenschaft und mit einer bemerkenswerten vokalen Geschmeidigkeit. Entstanden ist eine überzeugende und mitreißende Aufnahme . . .

Die "gute" Fidelia wird von Adriana Damato mit wunderbar gefluteten Spitzentönen ausgestattet, während Marianne Cornetti für die Mörderin Tigrana den rechten Tropfen Gift auf den Lippen trägt. Beeindruckend Chor und Orchester, die von Alberto Veronesi zu imponierendem Auftrumpfen angespornt werden.

Die neue Studioaufnahme aber mit Plácido Domingo in der Titelpartie könnte Puccinis Sorgenkind revitalisieren, denn seine hochengagierte, dramatisch glaubwürdige Interpretation ist schier überwältigend. Edgar steht zwischen zwei Frauen: Marianne Cornetti der exotischen Verführerin Tigrana nichts schuldig, während Adriana Damato für den "guten Engel" Fidelia anrührende Belcantotöne findet. Alberto Veronesi sorgt für aufregende Orchester-Effekte.

. . . Plácido Domingo [zeigt sich] mit seinen 66 Jahren noch keineswegs müde . . . Ihn gelüstet es nach neuen Spielfeldern für sein immer noch kerniges, oft wohlklingendes Organ . . . Insgesamt eine bravouröse Leistung . . .

. . . [Domingo fasziniert] einmal mehr als intelligenter und sensibler Interpret. Er ist stimmlich hervorragend und kann sich so mit der Rolle identifizieren, dass die Stimme total jugendlich klingt und man dem Sänger seine 65 Jahre keineswegs anhört.

. . . "Edgar" wartet mit viel Schmelz auf, mit zartem, echten Puccini-Sentiment . . .

Das Orchester der Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia spielt fulminant, ja rauschhaft, in Fragen der Artikulation bzw. der klanglichen Staffelung akribisch und wunderbar ausgewogen . . . Adriana Damato singt die Fidelia mit subtilen dynamischen Schattierung und mühelosem Volumen . . . Die Amerikanerin Marianne Cornetti verleiht der Tigrana, Puccinis einziger größeren Rolle für Mezzosopran, ein warmes Timbre und kraftvoll-glutige Tiefe . . . Die Unverwechselbarkeit seiner [Domingos] Stimme, sein untrügliches Gespür für die Musik und ihre dramatischen Höhe- und Wendepunkte sind nach wie vor gegeben, sei es nun ein Geschenk Gottes oder das Ergebnis gelebter Disziplin.

[Es] sind zuallererst einmal Chor und Orchester der Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia unter Alberto Veronesi, die das noch recht unausgegorene Werk mit Feuer und Brio zu Gehör bringen . . . Adriana Damato klingt wie die Tochter des Tenors -- lieblich, jung mädchenhaft . . . Gut schlägt sich Juan Pons als Fidelias Bruder Frank mit großzügiger Phrasierung und durchaus noch jugendlichem Timbre. Sonores steuert Rafal Siwek als Gualtiero bei. Bemerkenswert ist besonders das Vorspiel zum 3. Akt -- das ist schon vollkommener Puccini und wird auch so gespielt.

C¿est ici correctement chanté et dirigé . . .

L'événement du mois
. . . les admirateurs du ténor espagnol ne seront pas déçus par leur héros qui n¿a rien perdu de sa mâle séduction et d¿un art de l¿incarnation toujours irrésistible . . . La Fidelia d¿Adriana Damato a pour elle une couleur attachante, une vraie sensibilité . . .

Plácido Domingo pone todo su entusiasmo en la recuperación de esta partitura, dirigida con templanza por Alberto Veronesi, que se recrea en las escenas de mayor tensión dramática, Juan Pons es un Frank de primer orden ... e igualmente Adriana Damato y Marianne Cornetti cumplen a las mil maravillas supliendo con pasión y lirismo la unidimensionalidad de sus respectivos roles. Merece la pena escucharla.

Plácido Domingo ... se entrega con pasión desbordante al personaje de Edgar ...


EDGAR

Puccini's second opera has always been the Cinderella among his stage works, the only one never to have been accorded a singing translation. Even Puccini himself showed no retrospective affection for it: indeed a copy of the vocal score which he sent to his English friend Sybil Seligman carries the annotation: "E Dio ti GuARdi da quest' opera!" ("And may God preserve you from this opera!"). Be it remembered, however, that at the time the only way of experiencing an opera was to see it in the theatre. Concert performances had yet to arrive, likewise complete recordings. That Edgar contains "pages which do me credit" the composer readily admitted - an understatement, since the opera's musical strengths are considerable. What keeps it from the repertory is a preposterous plot woven round a protagonist whose motives remain obscure and an action whose clumsiness successive revisions failed to remedy.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that the play on which Fontana based his libretto - La Coupe et les lèvres by Alfred de Musset - was intended for the armchair, not the stage. Frank, a Tyrolean peasant, is a lonely, Byronic figure, plunged in accidie and unable to communicate with his fellows. After much philosophical reflection he burns down his house, curses his father's memory and sets out on a voyage of self-discovery. A neighbour's daughter, Deidamia, throws him a sprig of eglantine. With her to share his life, he muses, he might have been happy, but it is too late. The knight, Stranio, passes by, carrying on his saddle the courtesan Belcolore. There is a fight; Stranio is killed and Belcolore attaches herself to the victor. With her help he accumulates vast riches and enjoys a life of debauchery, of which, however, he soon tires. He joins a passing soldier on the way to the wars. Tales of his military prowess spread far and wide. Reported killed in a duel, he attends his own funeral disguised as a monk and rouses the congregation to fury by recalling his past misdeeds. They tear open the coffin, only to find in it an empty suit of armour. He orders them away and resumes his disguise, as Belcolore enters in deep mourning. She succumbs, however, to his offer of riches and agrees to embrace him even though he assures her that he is hideous and diseased. Again he reveals the empty suit of armour and chases her away with a dagger. After 200 lines of soliloquy he decides to return to his native village, and to Deidamia, who has waited for him for 15 years. They are about to be wed, when Belcolore steals up to her rival and stabs her to the heart. Such is the slip betwixt cup and lip.

Fontana's immediate task was to re-work Musset's sprawling narrative so as to keep the principals in view for as much of the action as possible. Belcolore, renamed Tigrana, is therefore present from the start, now a Moorish orphan adopted by the hero's family and already bent on seducing her foster brother. Likewise Fidelia, the opera's Deidamia, who must later appear at the mock funeral to defend his memory. With the setting removed to Belgium in the year 1302, the year of the Battle of Courtray when the Flemings defeated the French, Frank becomes Edgar, having left his original name to Fidelia's brother - an addition of Fontana - who is in love with Tigrana but spurned by her. He will also be the soldier who persuades Edgar to join the army. Something stronger than mere boredom was needed to account for Edgar's setting fire to his home, therefore Fontana presents him already torn between love for Fidelia and subjection to Tigrana, and it is the villagers' hostility to the latter that prompts him to carry her off. Two revelations of the empty suit of armour had to be avoided; so now it is Tigrana who provokes the crowd into opening the coffin.

The opera, which was seen on 21 April 1889 at La Scala, Milan, conducted by Franco Faccio, with Romilda Pantaleone (Verdi's Desdemona) as Tigrana, was in four long acts, a late outcrop on the "grand opera" tradition, which had been the most prestigious genre over the previous two decades. Though not an outright failure, it was coolly received by both critics and public, so that before relaunching it for the following season the publisher Giulio Ricordi insisted on substantial cuts, all of which he included in the first printed vocal score. However, the revival was cancelled due to the indisposition of the tenor, and the revised four-act version was first given at Puccini's native Lucca, where it ran for 13 nights. Even so, it was generally felt that, given the recent vogue for "verismo", the opera's length told against it. With Fontana's consent, therefore, Puccini abolished the fourth act with Edgar's homecoming, so that the stabbing of Fidelia had to be brought forward to the scene of the funeral. In this form the opera was submitted to the conductor Luigi Mancinelli with a view to a performance at Madrid with a starry cast. Again illness forced a postponement and the premiere took place at Ferrara under Carlo Carignani, Puccini's fellow-student at Lucca and the arranger of his piano reductions. Finally on 19 March 1892, Madrid saw the three-act Edgar with the great Tamagno (Verdi's Otello) in the name part. Four of the numbers were encored, and Queen Maria Cristina invited the composer to her box to offer her congratulations. Later that year Ricordi brought out another vocal score in three acts.

But Puccini had still not finished with the opera. As late as 1901 he considered eliminating the second act (the one which had given him and Fontana the most trouble) and restoring the fourth with various alterations. Nothing came of this, however. The definitive version, given in Buenos Aires in 1905, a year after the premiere of Madama Butterfly, with Giovanni Zenatello as the tenor lead, merely reduces still further the previous edition. The chief loser thereby is Tigrana. But at least the excision of the showpieces designed for Romilda Pantaleone allowed Puccini to cast the role as a mezzo, as had been his original intention, possibly with Carmen in mind. The opera was never taken up again during his lifetime.

Various influences will be found to impinge on Puccini's youthful style: Ponchielli in the great pezzo concertato which forms the climax to Act I; the Bizet of Les Pêcheurs de perles in Frank's aria "Questo amor, vergogna mia"; Massenet in Edgar's "O soave vision". But what must surely astonish all who come fresh to the opera is to discover how so many of the procedures that we regard as belonging to the mature Puccini are already in place: the pulsating seconds on pairs of woodwind that accompany the exchanges of Edgar and Fidelia; the plain, diatonic melody posed over unresolved dissonances moving in a subdominant direction ("Già il mandorlo vicino") where Fidelia plucks a spring of almond blossoms, kisses it and throws it to Edgar. Note, however, that they are "soft" dissonances in that they avoid a semitonal clash - another Puccinian trait, which helped to bring pentatonic and whole-tone harmony within his reach. Edgar's apostrophe to Tigrana ("Non più dai tuoi sguardi ammaliato sarà il mio cor") is based on an ostinato of alternating chords, soon to be a favourite device for raising the emotional temperature. It will be quoted almost literally in La fanciulla del West where Dick Johnson resigns himself to the prospect of a lynching.

A life-long admirer of Wagner, Puccini made copious use of recurring motifs to fill out the narrative, often voicing the singer's unspoken thoughts. Thus, where Edgar declares himself surfeited with riches and debauchery, the opening strain of Fidelia's aria suffices to conjure up memories of a lost innocence. The evil nature of Tigrana is established at the outset by a fierce gesture scored in the manner of the "fate" motif from Carmen, keeping, however, to the major key (as with Scarpia's "visiting card", Puccini does not need a minor tonality to connote villainy). It will be noticed, however, that his use of thematic recurrence is less consistently referential than Wagner's. In Act I, Tigrana begins by tempting Edgar to the honeyed strains of the Kyrie from the composer's Mass of 1880. Later this same music will be heard in its devotional character as the villagers gather for worship within the church. But it is again in its sensual guise that the melody reappears in Act II. Frank's despair at Tigrana's rejection of him is summed up in a cluster of Wagnerian diminished and minor sevenths in Act I; but in Act II these are transferred to Tigrana, desperately begging Frank, who by now despises her, not to take Edgar away. The duet-movement for Edgar and Tigrana ("Dal labbro mio suggi l'obblio") in which the temptress exerts all her powers of seduction originated in the discarded fourth act as an extended aria for Fidelia, who, convinced of her imminent death, begged her father and the village maidens to adorn her with a bridal veil ("Un'ora almen a te rapir"). The bestowal of music associated with the pure-hearted heroine upon the villainess may seem a little bizarre, but this was far too god a tune to lose.

That Puccini should have been tempted to restore the fourth act at the expense of the second is understandable, since it contained some striking pages, notably a love duet whose model would appear to be "Già nella notte densa" from Verdi's Otello. Here we find the most startling anticipation of all. At the words "Ah, nei tuoi baci te voglio tutto dimenticar", Puccini launches a pattern of "soft" dissonances that will be found note for note in the Act II duet from Tosca ("Amaro sol per te"). True, the melody is more beautifully shaped in the later work, but the concept is the same in both cases. Once again it was a matter of not letting a good idea go to waste.

"The Lord God touched me with his little finger," Puccini once said, "and told me 'Write for the stage and only for the stage!' And I have obeyed the supreme injunction ever since." Not quite true, of course. But of his non-theatrical works there is scarcely one on which he failed to draw for his operas, the music being much more effective in its new context. By general consent, the high point of Edgar is the funeral service, a vast tableau deploying all the resources of the vital choral tradition that Puccini had inherited from his native Lucca. Here he helps himself to two quotations from his Capriccio sinfonico of 1883, his diploma piece from the Milan Conservatory: a mournful, drooping melody in the minor whose bass line is doubled by the trebles an octave above ("Del Signor la pupilla veglia nell'ombre eterne"); then a consolatory rising theme for the full adult choir, the boys contributing a shrill "Ora pro nobis!" and Fidelia a lyrical aside that floats down over an octave and a half. The two ideas are juxtaposed, extended rhetorically to the advantage of the second, exactly as in the Capriccio, whose "ghost" programme seems here to be taking on flesh and blood. Toscanini could have chosen no better music to perform at Puccini's own funeral service.

Julian Budden
2/2006




In Celebration of an Immortal Voice

Plácido Domingo has just turned 65 and - 30 years after his first solo album for Deutsche Grammophon - looks ahead to an extraordinary year: three complete opera recordings and a CD of Italian songs.

Recently, at a London airport, an elderly woman recognized him: "Why, you're Plácido Domingo, aren't you?" - "Yes", answered the tenor, "I am." "I'm so pleased to meet you. You are the greatest singer in the world!" said the woman, adding: "Please greet the others for me, too - Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras. And give my special greetings to Maria Callas."

Plácido Domingo smiles as he tells this story. He's too wrapped up in living life to give much thought to the immortality of his voice. "I'll greet the two other gentlemen," he replies to the lady, "but with Callas I'd still like to wait for a bit." Before he enters the heaven that welcomes singers, this tenor still has some things left to accomplish here on earth.

On 21 January the artist celebrated his 65th birthday - and 2006 will be one of his most productive years ever. No fewer than three complete opera recordings starring Domingo will appear on Deutsche Grammophon: Wagner's Parsifal, Puccini's Edgar and Isaac Albéniz's Pepita Jiménez. In addition, he will release "Italia, ti amo", an Italian and Neapolitan songbook.

No tenor embodies classical music as fully as he does: singer, opera company director, conductor and impresario. Domingo was born in Madrid in 1941, but moved with his parents to Mexico, where his father directed a zarzuela company. "Singing for me," Domingo recalls, "was as natural as eating and drinking - as breathing." Before long he trod the boards for the first time, as Borsa in Verdi's Rigoletto.

Following early successes on the operatic stage, Domingo became a central figure in a new era of tenors - along with Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras - taking over from Mario del Monaco, Giuseppe di Stefano and Franco Corelli. And the three singers reinvented classical music in 1990 when they appeared together for the first time at the football World Cup as "The Three Tenors". They thrilled a worldwide audience of millions.

"I still get letters where people write me that after our concert they bought an opera subscription for the first time in their lives." When Domingo receives such letters he's close to realizing his fondest dream: "Music should be possible for everyone."

"The world of opera has changed a lot since I started out," says the tenor. "On the one hand, there are many more opera houses, and the standard of singers has improved; but on the other hand, it's more difficult for singers of the next generation to establish themselves." Domingo has certainly established himself: he has sung over 120 roles in over 40 years on the stages of all the world's greatest opera houses. But he's not thinking about retiring. He devours new roles insatiably, discovers new works, and sings operas that he's never done before.

In recent years he's been devoting himself especially to the works of Richard Wagner. His appearances as Siegmund and Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival were highly acclaimed; last year Domingo recorded Tristan und Isolde (EMI). This year will witness another high-point of his Wagner cycle: Parsifal, live from the Vienna State Opera.

"Wagner is a composer of marathons," the tenor declares, "among the greatest challenges for a singer. And his Parsifal is a profound, wondrously beautiful confession of faith." Together with the conductor and Wagner specialist Christian Thielemann, Domingo achieved a breathtaking evening in the theatre, one that is now documented in a live recording.

"It's often said that record companies make live recordings to save money," he says, "but there are opera evenings when such recordings function brilliantly, because the CDs manage to convey the excitement on stage, the crackle of electricity in the air."

Domingo is a singing actor, a stage animal, but he's also a "recording artist", who knows how to put his whole physical being into his voice when he stands before a microphone. You can hear that on his other two new opera recordings from Deutsche Grammophon.

As opera company director and as conductor, the tenor is constantly occupying himself with neglected works in the repertoire. "It's a tragedy that most opera houses concentrate on barely 100 pieces. There's so much music that we haven't heard yet." One of these pieces is Isaac Albéniz's lyric-comic opera Pepita Jiménez. Albéniz (1860-1909) became known as a Spanish piano virtuoso, but this cosmopolitan composer, who lived for many years in London, also wrote five zarzuelas and four operas. These works have long been forgotten, but thanks to historically minded musicians like Domingo, the composer, who brought a fresh breeze into the post-Wagner era, is now enjoying a renaissance - especially on the Spanish opera stage.

Pepita Jiménez tells the amusing and morally contentious story of an Andalusian widow who falls in love with a young seminarian. The work, which had its premiere in 1896, marks an important step in the development of Spanish national opera. Yet, despite its significance, this recording with Jane Henschel and Carol Vaness, conducted by José de Eusebio, is the opera's first.

Puccini's Edgar is another opera that has languished outside of the standard repertoire, and yet this early work about the amorous escapades of a young soldier is brimming with invention. Puccini was inspired by the success of Bizet's Carmen and wrote an opera that allows the tenor, in particular, to display his lyrical powers to the full. "I love Puccini", the singer declares. "He lets you revel in the sheer sound of the vocal writing. Joining him are soprano Adriana Damato and bass Juan Pons. Alberto Veronesi conducts the Santa Cecilia Orchestra.

In addition to the three complete operas, Domingo this year is presenting a further album that's also something rather special: in it he pays homage to "the land that has given us some of the most beautiful of all melodies". It has been long overdue for Domingo to turn his attention to Neapolitan and other Italian songs - this new recording marks the first time for that in his career of more than 40 years. "I love the dynamism, the emotionality and the exuberance of these songs." Alongside some discoveries, Domingo has also recorded classics like "Core 'ngrato" - the only song on the CD that he's released before: that, in fact, was on his very first solo recording for Deutsche Grammophon, made 30 years ago. He understands the fine line that separates performing large-scale operas and small-scale songs, as did his great predecessor Enrico Caruso. For both, every kind of singing was and is always a matter of serious art.

"Italia, ti amo" is a declaration of love - and further evidence of the versatility of this incomparable artist, who is equally at home in Wagner and zarzuela, Puccini's lyricism, Spanish opera and the life-affirming Italian sunshine.

Someone who achieves immortality on earth with his voice can even expect one day to greet Maria Callas.

Axel Brüggemann
2/2006