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."
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: