Emailing Plácido Domingo

Austin Chronicle: My father's from Mérida, Yucatán. Famous in our family lore is your parents' zarzuela company playing there.

Plácido Domingo: My parents came to the Americas in the 1950s and to Mexico in particular to bring Zarzuela to these parts of the world. The Theater is the tradition and Zarzuela the music with which I grew. It was a forming experience and I worked backstage or at the concession stand until I began to accompany the rehearsals and performances at the piano and eventually singing. The theater within my parents company was my playground and musical notes my toys.

AC: I saw you perform Cyrano de Bergerac in San Francisco last year. This was my first opera as an adult. Was Cyrano, technically speaking, a good "first"?

PD: Oh, Cyrano was a perfect choice. [Franco] Alfano's work is wondrous and I have grown to love the role. It has all the manliness, sensitivity, and musical beauty that one could expect from an Operatic hero. The beauty of its music and its straightforward story must have made it very easy to follow and enjoy.

AC: How does opera crossover into modern day "pop" culture?

PD: I think that the Opera audience nowadays is growing and evolving. With the advantages of movie theater's simulcasts, DVDs, and overall audiovisual access to Opera, people are enjoying this genre and its stories just like they watch and enjoy a film drama or romance. Productions and particularly singers have had to become more believable so that apart from the beautiful music, the audience can follow, identify, and feel for the characters and their stories. The stories are universal; they are about power, love, and jealousy or about comedic romance. It's just a matter of giving it a chance. Whomever gives Opera a chance ends up loving it. It is up to theaters to bring an interesting repertoire to first educate and then satisfy your audience. Cyrano de Bergérac is a fantastic piece with a beautiful and dramatic love story. It was hard to believe it would not appeal to any audience.

AC: During your career as a singer you've recorded in a myriad of "popular" styles. What kept you from going down that career path exclusively, being a "pop" star? How does the world of opera respond to one of its biggest stars diversifying in such a way?

PD: I am and will always be an Opera singer first and foremost. I love the stage and I love getting into a role, evidence of which is the amount of different roles that I have sang in my career. Nothing can compare to the personal pleasure and satisfaction of playing and singing a role in a story that captures an audience's attention for a couple of hours. That relationship is unique. The rest I have been able to try and record because I believed myself capable of doing it at the same time as I was satisfying my pleasure. Some Rancheras, some Tangos, even Spanish Coplas and some Broadway gems are just too good to pass on. Tangos are like mini Operas! I think the audience that knows me for what I am is perfectly happy and curious to hear me in other genres. I don't think I have ever been negatively criticized for it.

AC: Your late friend and colleague Luciano Pavarotti performed at Austin's Frank Erwin Center in 1999. Have you ever been in or performed in Austin?

PD: No, unfortunately, no .... Not yet. In Texas I have only sang in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and of course Fort Worth, where I made my debut as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in November 1962. I sincerely hope that the opportunity will appear and that I will be able to one day come to Austin. For now, you can count on my enthusiasm and eagerness to come but meanwhile, join me in San Antonio.

AC: You were born in Spain and grew up in part in Mexico. What is the difference, if any, between being Spanish and Mexican?

PD: I love both countries so much. I spent crucial years of my youth in each, and their respective cultures, foods, traditions, and especially their music have shaped who I am. There's also a great relationship between Spain and Mexico that's been growing for the past centuries. I make sure I am able to spend as much time as possible in both during the year. I also have family in both places, Madrid and Mexico City.

AC: A movie called The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman popularized the notion of things we must all do/see before we die. In Austin, we apply that to music – you were at the top of my bucket list after Stevie Wonder. Are there any musicians on your bucket list, people you have yet to work with but must at some point?

PD: There are too many to mention, but one of them is certainly the young dynamic Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel and I hope to perform with him in the very near future. On the other hand, I have already performed with Lucero, but would sing with her again anytime.

I will see you all very soon.

Con todo cariño,

Plácido

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