Domingo: Verdi (CD review)

Placido Domingo, baritone; Pablo Heras-Casado, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana. Sony 88883733122.

For the past four or five decades, two tenors have dominated the operatic scene: the late Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. Pavarotti may have had the more thrilling voice, but Domingo had the richer, more versatile voice. It’s always a pleasure when the man releases a new album.

The back cover of Domingo’s latest CD (2013), titled simply Verdi, explains that “for the first time the world-renowned tenor has released an album of baritone arias--an exceptional document of Domingo’s discovery of opera character new to him, and a tribute to Verdi, who has played a crucial role in Domingo’s career. ‘Verdi is a wellspring of great music, and every lyric singer is grateful to him. So for me this recording is a special celebration and an act of thanksgiving and love toward Giuseppe Verdi.’” What goes without mention here is that doing an album of baritone arias is also a nod to Domingo’s age, since the man is as of this writing in his early seventies. Not that I believe he isn’t still fully capable of doing tenor arias; just saying. Besides, he has already recorded every major tenor aria there is, so perhaps it’s best to give him the benefit of doubt.

Anyway, Domingo provides well over an hour of music on the album, eighteen tracks from nine different Verdi operas, starting with “Perfidi! All’anglo contro me v’unite!” from Macbeth. No, these aren’t the most-common numbers for non-opera fans, and as I have less interest in opera than I should, I found most of them only vaguely familiar. Nevertheless, one cannot deny that Domingo has the talent for them.

As always, the voice is still strong and flexible. The intonation remains remarkably accurate, and the tone smooth, mellow, and mellifluous. What's more, although these are baritone arias, Domingo's natural tenor continually manifests itself. Some minor tremolo creeps in at times, whether intentional or not. It's not distracting, and many listeners will welcome it.

And so it goes through further selections from Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, La traviata, Simon Boccanegra, Ernani, Il Trovatore, Don Carlo, and La forza del destino. The voice remains relatively strong, and if anyone doubts the power, one has only to listen to "Si, la mia figlia!" to learn otherwise. The control is still there, the projection, the phrasing, the precise articulation and control, even at his age, if not always so exacting as in his prime.

As important, the poetic qualities of Domingo's voice continue to manifest themselves. Listen to the lyric flow of "Di Provenza il mar, il suol" or "Il balen del suo sorriso," and you'll see what I mean.

On several tracks other singers join Domingo: soprano Angel Joy Blue, tenor Aquiles Machado, baritone Fernando Piqueras, and basses Bonifaci Carrillo and Gianluca Buratto. Maestro Pablo Heras-Casado and the Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana lend commendable, sympathetic accompaniment throughout.

The greatest tenor of all time? The greatest baritone of all time? Perhaps the greatest singer of all time, period? Who knows. I won’t take sides. But it is pleasurable listening to his voice again, even in its mature years.

Domingo made the recording in 2012-2013 at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia” Auditori, Valencia, Spain and Angel Recording Studios, London, England. The sound displays an acceptable depth of field for a recording of this sort. There is good dynamic impact, too, making for a fairly realistic presentation. Clarity seems fine most of the time as well, although there are occasions when the orchestral accompaniment can be a touch bright. It's an overall welcome sound, in any case.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

JJP

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa