Domingo: Encanto del Mar (CD review)

Mediterranean songs. Placido Domingo; small ensemble accompaniment. Sony 88875006852.

Over the last few years, I've heard any number of people complain about Placido Domingo not singing the strong, operatic tenor roles he used to entertain us with. Why, they ask, is he taking the easy road of now singing essentially pop songs for light tenor and baritone voice? If he can't sing big, bravura tenor parts anymore, they reason, he should just give it up, quit singing and fade off into the sunset rather than duping people out of their money for such flimsy fare as he's been serving up lately. Well, everyone is entitled to his and her own opinion, and to such folks I say, "Don't buy this album." For the rest of us, though, it's still a treat to hear Domingo's voice--light tenor, baritone, or whatever. And for Domingo, now in his seventies, who's been singing all his life, he obviously loves what he's doing. As long as he's in good voice, pop or not, he's a far sight better than many other such singers today.

Anyway, on the present album Domingo sings fifteen songs of Mediterranean origin, and if there's any concern I have with the program it's that like most pop albums it isn't very long; in this case, about fifty minutes.

The songs Domingo sings are Joan Manuel Serrat's "Mediterráneo," Bruno Martino's "Estate," Georges Moustaki's "En Méditerranée," Alfredo Garcia Segura's arrangement of Joaquin Rodrigo's Adagio from his Concierto de Aranjuez, Maxime Merlandi's "Anghjulina," Ernesto and Giambattista de Curtis's "Torna a Surriento," Guiseppe Rachel and Savatore Sini's "Non potho reposare," Robert Sadin's arrangement of "Lamma bada," traditional arrangements of "Adio kerida" and "To Yasemi," Gaetano Lama and Libero Bovio's "Reginella," Mordechai Zeira and Natan Alterman's "Layla, layla," a traditional arrangement of "El Cant dels ocells," Fernando Obradors's "Del cabello mas sutil," and Jean-Paul Edide Martini and Jean-Pierre Caris de Florian's "Plaisir d'amour."

Placido Domingo
Accompanying Mr. Domingo are between one and seven vocalists and instrumentalists, the number varying according to the selection. Mostly, it's guitar, violin, bass, cello, and sometimes harp, percussion, and vocals. One of the most moving items on the program, "Del cabello mas sutil," has Domingo accompanied by harp alone.

Before you ask, yes, Domingo remains in good, though not great, voice, even if in recent years he has undergone surgery for colon cancer and later suffered a pulmonary embolism. Today, the voice remains fairly strong and firm, continuing to display a lot of the power and flexibility for which we have always known it. The man still has a commendable range, too, and in these Mediterranean songs, which don't require the most from him, he shows a decent control of tone, inflection, color, and nuance. In other words, Domingo remains a singer you want to hear, even though he's lost a little something with the passing years.

Favorites? Of course, for what it's worth. While I liked everything I heard, I particularly liked "En Mediterranee" for its sweet, romantic inflections; "Anghjulina" for its lovely a cappella voices; "Turna a Surriento" for a sweeter, more-leisurely approach than one normally hears; "Lamma bada" and "To Yasemi" for their rhythmic, mid-Eastern flavor; "Plaisir d'amour" for its unabashed sentiment; and the aforementioned "Del cabello mas sutil" with its touching harp accompaniment.

Produced and arranged by Robert Sadin and engineered by Clark Germain at several different studios, the album runs a gamut of sounds with the various sized ensembles accompanying Domingo. The sonics are more typical of a pop album than a classical album, as probably should be the case: very clear, very dynamic, very close, the voice firmly centered. But like most pop albums, there is little dimensionality involved, little sense of place or venue, little actual realism. It all sounds well coordinated, well staged, but slightly artificial. The upper midrange also appears somewhat forward, making Domingo's voice seem unnecessarily shrill at times.


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

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa