PLACIDO DOMINGO Italia, ti amo

Italia, ti amo

Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
Eugene Kohn
Int. Release 03 Apr. 2006
0289 477 6086 3
CD DDD 0289 477 6086 3 GH
Limited Edition - Special Packaging:
Plácido Domingo offers affectionate tribute to Italian and Neapolitan songs


Furio Rendine (1920 - 1987)
Stanislao Gastaldon (1861 - 1939)
Cesare Andrea Bixio (1896 - 1978)
Ernesto Tagliaferri (1889 - 1937)
Lorena Tassinari
Ernesto de Curtis (1875 - 1937)
Eldo di Lazzaro (1902 - 1968)
Emanuele Nutile (1862 - 1932)
Rodolfo Falvo (1873 - 1937)
Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846 - 1916)
Plácido Domingo Jr. (1965 - )
Eduardo di Capua (1865 - 1917), Alfredo Mazzucchi (1879 - 1972)
Plácido Domingo, Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Eugene Kohn

Virgilio Panzuti (1919 - 1994)
Plácido Domingo, Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Eugene Kohn, Reinhard Pobel

Giuseppe Cioffi (1901 - 1976)
Nicola Valente (1883 - 1946), Ernesto Tagliaferri (1889 - 1937)
Salvatore Cardillo (1874 - 1947)
Plácido Domingo, Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Eugene Kohn

Gesamtspielzeit: 1:00:36

The songs on this recording . . . are a beautiful fit for Domingo's own robust tenor.

. . . Domingo . . . servees up a variety of attractive, less often heard canzoni . . . it's remarkable how strong and supple Domingo's voice sounds. The singer's great affection for these lilting melodies is clear in every bar, and he brings impassioned advocacy, expressive depth and subtelty of feeling . . .

. . . Domingo, phenomenal in this as in so much else, in his sixties still has the voice, if not of youth, then of a man in his prime . . . He sings with uninhibited emotion but knows when the limits of good taste are reached.

. . . he brings his signature passion, commitment and musicality to every one of these songs.

Domingo, immer noch stattlich bei Stimme, erdig und herb im Timbre, nimmt diese Tenorlieder bitterernst. Er entdeckt eine gewitterschwangere Melancholie darin, eine Tragik, die mit Italienkitsch gar nichts zu tun hat. Die Budapester Philharmoniker unter Eugene Kohn stehen ihm dabei souverän zur Seite.

Domingo hören, und träumen! . . . Wie ein großer, lange gereifter Rotwein strömt die Musik aus der CD. Man schließt unwillkürlich die Augen und sieht die Bilder, die in den wunderschönen kleinen Mini-Arien stecken: Sonnenuntergang am Meer, die Lichter der Stadt, eine Trattoria am Hafen -- Italo-Romantik pur . . . Er singt diese kleinen Liebeslieder von Herzen, mit Leidenschaft und der Grandezza eines ganz großen Tenors . . . [Domingo] interpretiert so ehrlich, so ergreifend -- da kann man nur glücklich mitschluchzen.

Für ihn ist Italien nicht nur das Land der Lebensfreude unter heißer Sonne, sondern vor allem das Land der Leidenschaften und Schicksale, der dramatischen Gefühle von ewig geschworener Liebe, von Verlust und Eifersucht, von verzehrender Sehnsucht und glückseligen Augenblicken. Das alles vermittelt er mit der theatralischen Größe eines Vollblut-Tenors. Jede Canzone transformiert sich in seiner Interpretation zu einer Miniatur-Oper, in der der Domingo-Fan lustvoll den Cavaradossi-Domingo oder den Don-José-Plácido heraushören kann. Die orchestrale Begleitung des Budapest Philharmonic Orchestras unter der Leitung von Eugene Kohn, die statt der ursprünglichen, gattungsspezifischen Gitarren- oder Klavierbegleitung gewählt wurde, hat an dieser Wirkung natürlich auch ihren großen Anteil.

Nun hat der Spanier Plácido Domingo eine späte und sehr persönliche Liebeserklärung an die italienischen "canzoni" dokumentiert, die stilistisch zwischen Kunstllied und Schlager reizvoll changieren . . . Alle Lieder, ursprünglich für Klavier- oder Gitarrenbegleitung geschrieben, werden in neuen Orchesterarrangements gespielt, die Eugene Kohn mit den Budapester Philharmonikern süffig, aber unaufdringlich präsentiert. Erfreulicherweise versucht Domingo nicht, jugendlichen Überschwang zu simulieren, sondern geht die Lieder mit der heiteren Gelassenheit eines alternden "latin lover" an, der noch lange nicht an den erotischen Vorruhestand denkt. Auch in vokaler Hinsicht ist das eine runde Sache, denn der Sänger setzt seine durchaus noch beträchtlichen Mittel ökonomisch (und in einer bequemen Lage) ein und kann sich auch hier auf seinen sicheren musikalischen Geschmack verlassen. Domingos "bella Italia" leuchtet in milden herbstlichen Farben.

A Declaration of Love

Plácido Domingo talks about Italian and Neapolitan songs

Plácido Domingo has waited for almost forty years to demonstrate his affinities with a genre that is a self-evident part of the standard tenor repertory. Ever since the days of Enrico Caruso and Fernando de Lucia, Italian and Neapolitan songs have been the ideal way for every tenor of a Mediterranean stamp to win his public's hearts with their artless yet memorable melodies. Plácido Domingo's declaration of his love for Italy,
Italia, ti amo, features sixteen songs in new orchestral arrangements, many of them rarities and all of them deeply moving songs telling of grand emotions with a sense of profoundly stirring melancholy.

Mr Domingo, your new CD Italia, ti amo is devoted to Italian songs. What is your personal connection with this repertory?

I got to know many of these songs at a very early age - I belong to a generation for whom these songs are inextricably associated with the voice of Mario Lanza, although I personally have always been more fascinated by the recordings made by Giuseppe di Stefano and the lesser-known Francesco Albanese. Albanese sings the Neapolitan songs in particular with an incomparable charm that goes straight to the heart.

In spite of your early acquaintance with these songs, you have waited for forty years to record an album of them.

That's simply because I'm Spanish, so that it was a point of honour for me to record the much less well-known Spanish repertory. I felt that there were already enough Italian tenors singing Italian songs. That's why in recent years I have recorded albums of zarzuela arias and Mexican and Cuban songs. The Italian and Neapolitan songs have played a marginal role in my concerts, so that the present project has evolved only slowly.

What is the distinction between Italian and Neapolitan songs? Is it a question of the language?

That plays a role, of course. The pronunciation is completely different, the articulation and vowels have completely different colours that are not so easy to learn. Fortunately I had a very good language coach for the album and I think I've managed to acquire an authentic Neapolitan accent. Quite apart from this, however, the atmosphere of these songs is very special - on the one hand it is very close to Italian, while on the other it is very remote from it. Most of these pieces have an incredible sense of melancholy that is deeply moving.

In spite of this, they are still regarded as "lightweight" in the world of classical music.

That's because of their wonderful melodies, which lodge in your head straightaway. In spite of this, there is often a great emotional depth to these songs, and as a singer you have to fill every single note with this passion. That is why these songs are by no means easy to sing.

But listeners will search this CD in vain for the best-known songs such as Torna a Surriento and O sole mio.

I think that audiences are rather tired of always hearing the same old pieces - also, the best-known songs are not always the best. The only really well-known song that I've included here is Core 'ngrato as I'm very fond of its underlying mood, which is wistful and ever so slightly sad. Most of the pieces that I sing are ones that I discovered only while researching this CD.

Is the Italy of these songs still with us, or is it already part of a nostalgic past?

You have only to go to Naples to see how much this music is still alive among the people. On the streets, in the port, in pizzerias, everywhere - people still sing these songs, especially the most famous ones.

The pieces that you have included in your album cover a wide chronological range from the 19th to the 21st century. Have Italian songs changed much during this period?

No. I see no real development between a canzone by Tosti and Nino Rota's What Is a Youth?, which he wrote for Zeffirelli's film of Romeo and Juliet: it's all entirely melodious music whose charm lies in its simple and deeply moving melodies. At the same time - and even with Tosti - there is an operatic side to the emotions that you don't find in Schubert and Brahms. It was in part to bring out this extrovert aspect that we decided to record these songs not with a piano accompaniment but in orchestral arrangements. And I think that these brighter colours are particularly well suited to a song like Tosti's Non t'amo piů.

You've spoken a great deal about the sadness and melancholy of these songs. Is the alternative, sun-drenched Italy also represented on your CD?

Certainly. Songs such as Chitarra romana and Mandolinate are all full of joy and high spirits. I think we've struck a very good balance between the different moods.

But one of the songs isn't by an Italian composer at all ...

You mean Quarant'anni by my son, Plácido Junior. He wrote this song for me and my wife on the occasion of our fortieth wedding anniversary last year, so that it's a source of great personal pleasure for me to offer this piece to a wider public.


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