Plšcido Domingo is a phenomenon. As singer, conductor, and arts administrator, he has stretched the boundaries of what an artist can accomplish, on stage and behind the scenes. And now he has even been immortalized on canvas. Commissioned by the Met, acclaimed painter Julian Schnabel has created a portrait of Domingo that was unveiled recently as part of an onstage celebration honoring the tenor on the occasion of his 40th anniversary with the company. The painting is now on display on the Grand Tier level of the opera house.
The unveiling was just one of several tributes during the special one-night-only gala on September 28. A host of friends, colleagues, and Met Patrons had assembled to honor the tenor, 40 years to the day after his company debut as Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur, when he replaced an ailing Franco Corelli. The event began with a short film of highlights from Domingo's Met performances, among them Otello, La Traviata, Tosca, La Fanciulla del West, and The First Emperor. (It also included a clip of his appearance on The Muppet Show opposite Miss Piggy.)
Two generations of Met stars then took the stage for musical tributes, beginning with Jos_ Carreras, who sang a song by Carlo Valente. Taking a moment to remember the late Luciano Pavarotti and their joint appearances as the "Three Tenors," Carreras then announced that it was time to pass the torch to a new trio. Enter Patricia Racette, Susan Graham, and Deborah Voigt, dressed in tuxedos, which were soon ripped off to a flash of lightning to reveal matching gowns. The three divas performed a humorous medley of favorite soprano showpieces, including "Three Little Maids from School Are We" from The Mikado, which drew waves of laughter from the audience, as did excerpts from La Bohme, The Merry Widow (sung in Spanish), and Die Walk‹re. The medley ended with a rousing rendition of the "Three Tenors" signature aria, Puccini's "Nessun dorma." Erwin Schrott and Lisette Oropesa, both winners of Domingo's Operalia Competition, and tenor Piotr Beczala were also on hand to perform.
Met Music Director James Levine, the last of the evening's speakers, began his very personal remarks by reading the titles of the 27 operas the two have performed together at the Met. "We've worked together for almost 40 years in perfect harmony," Levine said. "Plšcido is like a brother to me."
At the end of an emotional evening, Domingo, standing under the newly unveiled portrait, thanked his family, friends, and colleagues. "The Met is my home as an artist," he said. "This stage is the most beautiful place in the world, and I'm proud to still be able to sing."
In an amazing feat, Domingo will do just that and bring his career full circle this coming February, when he returns to the role of his debut, appearing in six performances of Adriana Lecouvreur (which he was originally scheduled to conduct). Later in the season he will reprise his acclaimed portrayal of Wagner's Siegmund in Die Walk‹re, giving audiences the opportunity to experience the full range of his artistry within the span of a few weeks. The Met's 125th Anniversary Gala on March 15 will also honor Domingo and his four decades with the company.
No one in the audience on that memorable evening 40 years ago would have been able to predict that Domingo would still be performing at the Met today. In fact, the 2008 _09 season was supposed to be his swan song at the Met, as General Manager Peter Gelb pointed out during the celebration. "But since his career has miraculously outlived any reasonable expectations of longevity," Gelb said, "I'm happy to report that we have now made new artistic plans with Plšcido far into the future. To paraphrase Mel Brooks," he added, "'If you got him, flaunt him.'"