The Austin Chronicle

Ojos Verdes

By Raoul Hernandez, June 3, 2011, 6:07pm, Earache!

Plácido Domingo at the AT&T Center Wednesday trumped a 2004 Prince show there. AC/DC, Rush: neither juggernaut’s recent visits to the same venue compares to the 70-year-old Spanish tenor’s nearly three-hour performance two nights ago. Only musician I've seen wield their instrument that way was on Long Island in 1989 for the only solo tour by Jimmy Page.

“A Night at the Opera” with Plácido Domingo is one thing – unamplified, primarily. Hearing him boom arias from Puccini’s Tosca, then give the word duet a whole new meaning with soprano Ana María Martínez on Verdi’s Rigoletto (“Si, vendetta!”) in a 45-minute opening set amplified by an basketball arena P.A. proved utterly awe-inspiring. The Three Tenors' lead vox, Luciano Pavarotti, at the Frank Erwin Center in 1999, wasn’t the fine physical specimen Domingo remains.

Part II, rang more opera in the form of Spanish zarzuelas (“Ya mis horas felices...,” “Amor, vida de mi vida,” “En mi tierra extremeña,” “No pueda ser”), though it was tango-bolero “Júrame” (Swear to Me) bringing the house down with timeless Latinate. Domingo’s last note of Verdi had shaken the temple walls, but “Júrame” got under one’s skin. “En mi tierra extremeña,” a cheek-to-cheek vocal coupling with Martínez, quieted an already silent hall to just the AC, but the standing ovation for the rich balladry of “Júrame” found Domingo alternating between a measured vocal waft and soaring waves of lung heroism.

Flowers and curtain calls followed, but so did another 45 minutes of encores. Grinning and taking a tango turn or two on “Ojos Verdes” (Green Eyes) – both Martínez and classical Spanish dancer Nuria Pomares shared the space in front of the San Antonio Opera Orchestra with Domingo – the man of the (three) hour(s) sat on stool for a tender “Estrellita” before the 12-piece Mariachi Los Galleros marched out for the final wild thrills of the evening. When Domingo emerged from the wings dressed as the 13th bandmember, the AT&T Center went Beatles crazy. After each selection, a new standing ovation ensued, peaking with show stopper “Granada.” Final ovation: “Calla el labio.”

A day earlier I’d stood outside a basement rehearsal room at San Antonio's Trinity University listening to Plácido Domingo sing “Ojos Verdes.” For the world’s most famous tenor, practice makes epic.

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