TRIUMPHAL MARCH FOR A KING

Verdi Concert

Arturo Chacon-Cruz, Irina Lungu en Plácido Domingo

Verdi Gala in Paris, 18 January, 2019

Irina Lungu, soprano
Arturo Chacón-Cruz, tenor
Plácido Domingo, baritenor
Rafał Siwek, bass

Belgian National Orchestra
Conductor: Eugene Kohn

 

The Grande Salle Pierre Boulez at the Philharmonie de Paris is one of the biggest concert halls in Europe. In can seat a maximum of 3,650 people (e.g. for pop concerts) when all its retractable seats and tiers are removed. For classical concerts, it has a capacity of 2,400 seats, located not only in the orchestra stalls, but also on floating balconies around and behind the stage. The acoustic design redirects the sound in multiple directions.

For the singers this is difficult to handle, but it provides the majority of the audience with an exciting experience.

I witnessed this during the “Verdi Gala”, performed on 18 January 2019. That evening was not only an homage to Verdi, but also one to Plácido Domingo, whose French fans often complain that he too seldom sings in their country. He was joined on stage by Russian soprano Irina Lungu, Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz and Polish bass Rafał Siwek. Eugene Kohn conducted the Belgian National Orchestra.

The programme (see below) was quite ambitious. Instead of going easy on the singers by giving them Verdi’s well-known “operatic earworms” and going for a guaranteed success, the mix contained some really challenging pieces.

Plácido Domingo opened after the overture of Un giorno di regno. He was greeted by thunderous applause, and he absolutely justified this “praise in advance”. He was in tremendous vocal shape, singing so powerfully that we – sitting in row 2 – were literally pushed back into our seats by the fullness of the resonance. Throughout the evening, he evoked this almost magical feeling every time he took to the stage. Interestingly, people sitting at the back of the orchestra stalls or even on balconies generally confirmed this experience as well. They apparently tried to find out where the amplifiers were positioned, but there were none to be found. It was just Domingo’s natural voice that reached out to the farthest seats with almost superhuman-sounding power.

 

Double layer diaphragm

It is hard to describe – his voice sounded as if he had a “double layer diaphragm” with its own resonating body. Even the low notes were carried out to the back seats.

Indeed, after more than 50 years of singing he has such a tremendous wealth of experience, knowledge and technique that it does not matter in which “register” he sings. It is not a “high baritone”, nor a “low tenor” – it is simply THE Domingo: ageless, unrivalled, a stage animal with an immense feeling for (not only) Verdian style. In short, unique. It is almost unbelievable that he will turn 78 in a few days, as he is not getting any slower, weaker or less interesting. No doubt, it was him who filled the huge hall to the last seat, even though the entire cast was very good.

Arturo Chacón-Cruz and Irina Lungu are both former winners of Domingo’s “Operalia” contest. They keep performing at a high level on international stages. Their performances were different, though. While Lungu has a very good technique, I often felt that her voice lacked a kind of characteristic, individual note. It is a beautiful instrument which she handles almost flawlessly, but at times it sounds a bit cold and too technical. Nevertheless, she delivered a great performance and was warmly applauded.

Arturo Chacón-Cruz sometimes struggles with technique, but he makes up for this with a very warm-hearted performance that makes you forget the (minor) flaws. HisQuando le sere al placido” was sung with such heartfelt passion that it was hard to not get swept up by his emotion. His voice has a very characteristic, warm timbre, which glows all the more when he does not try to push it. Once he relaxes, one gets carried away listening to him.

It was the first time I heard bass Rafał Siwek live – and I really liked what I heard. He has a very interesting voice colour, which I would describe as “blackish with a touch of bronze”. It does not lose its power or its magic in the very low notes, which he demonstrated in Fiesco’s prayer “Il lacerato spirito”. His facial expressions were fascinating. When he came on stage, he had the look of a rascal on his face, “smiling with his eyes”. But as soon as he was into his various roles (mostly evil, of course), his eyes turned into maliciously sparkling weapons. I am eager to hear him in a complete opera in future. On this evening, he made a remarkable impression on me. Also, his voice’s power was quite impressive.

 

 Strange acoustics

Interestingly, the singers later reported that the acoustics for themselves felt rather strange, they could barely hear their own voices and were insecure about how their voices would project to the audience. Given that fact, Eugene Kohn has to be thanked for his supporting the singers very carefully. He had not an easy job, because I had the feeling that the Belgian National Orchestra was playing bouncy, but sometimes a bit too nonchalantly. A few disproportionally loud or misplaced notes here and there underscored that impression.

However – it was a singers’ evening, anyway. And mainly an evening of Domingo without any doubt. He was carried by a wave of enthusiasm, from the first loud welcome applause to the last glowing standing ovations. Once again he proved his reputation as “King of Opera” is still justified. Verdi would for sure have been pleased.

 

Programme:
Overture Un giorno di regno
“Perfidi… Pietà, rispetto, amore” (Macbeth, act 4) – PD
“A te l’estremo addio… Il lacerato spirito” (Simon Boccanegra, prologue) – RS
“Mercè dilette amiche” – (I Vespri Siciliani, act 5) – IL
“Restate… O signor, di Fiandra arrivo” (Don Carlo, act 1) – PD/RS
“Forse la soglia attinse… Ma se m’è forza perderti” (Un ballo in maschera act 3, scene 2) – ACC
“Valse” (Macbeth/ballett) – Orchestra
“Padre, ricevi l’estremo addio” (Luisa Miller, act 3) – all soloists

Ouverture I Vespri Siciliani – orchestra
“Sogno, o son desto ?… Quando al mio sen” (I Vespri Siciliani, act 3) – ACC/PD
“È strano… Ah, fors’è lui… Sempre libera” (La Traviata, act 1) – IL
“Son io, mio Carlo… Per me giunto” (Don Carlo, act 3) – ACC/PD
“Oh ! Fede negar potessi… Quando le sere al placido” (Luisa Miller, act 2) – ACC
“Mentre gonfiarsi l’anima… Oltre quel limite” (Attila, act 1) – RS
“Udiste… Mira, di acerbe lagrime” (Il Trovatore, act 4) – PD/IL

Encore (different composers):
Tosca: E lucevan le stelle – ACC
Il barbiere di Siviglia: La calunnia – RS
Gianni Schicchi: O, mio babbino caro – IL
Andrea Chénier: Nemico della patria – PD

Gabi Eder (Published January 21st, 2019)

11 Comments

  1. Ingrid schreef:

    Thanks for this very interestimg review. I was also in the audience and I agree completly – Domingo is still a phenomen. He showed once again the style of singing Verdi. But the most fascinating of all is the sound of his voice!!! It‘s (still) so beautiful and he sings with such a power, and his acting is so convincing. I hope, that there are some more years to hear this great singer, who is also a great actor.

  2. Paola Biraghi schreef:

    Grossartige Künstler. Die besten. Einfach wunderschön. Das Programm sehr anspruchsvoll. Wünsche ich wäre dabei gewesen

  3. Mona Cayer schreef:

    I was not there but having seen such gorgeous photos and having heard wonderful clips of this magnificent concert I must say that this review is so wonderful. Placido always gives 1 million percent to his audience and still has it all!!!!! His voice is beautiful and powerful and no one ever could surpass our beloved precious Placido with his acting and singing. For me he is and always will be number 1. He gives us so much and makes each and everyday brighter. A good man, a humble man who always keeps once riveted to their seats be it live or in a video. Thank you Placido for all who you are and all that you give to the world in every aspect of your life. The whole cast from what I did hear in clips were wonderful as well!!!!!

  4. Dragos Cojocaru schreef:

    I am happy to read a good review about such a wonderful event. I was among the lucky people who attended this Verdi Gala in the Paris Philharmonie and I must say I had and still have the feeling that we attended a historical moment. Placido Domingo is Superman and his artistry was once again overwhelming all along the evening. Even most amazing was his vocal shape: power and beauty at the same time, which he seems to bring to us from a much better, extraterrestrial world. When we write about his performances, we never find enough beautiful words and metaphors to describe this unparalleled phenomenon.

    • Chantal CHAIGNEAU schreef:

      I was lucky enough to attend this performance on 18th in the salle Boulez at the Philharmonie-de-Paris. I had not seen Placido for 15 years and I enjoyed every minute of his unique singing which conveys all sorts of emotions, sadness, despair, jealousy and fury to the hearts of the audience. His acting too is amazing and I was carried away by his artistic performance. Undoubtedly Mr Domingo is still the King of Opera and this unbelievable concert at such a high level, with Placido’s three talented colleagues who were rightly warmly applauded( especially Irina as Traviata, Arturo as an amazing , deeply moving Mario ) will remain one of the best, unforgettable evenings in my whole life …
      an incredible blissful moment. A dreamlike experience for me.
      Congratulations to Eugene Kohn who brilliantly conducted the National Belgian Orchestra.

  5. Edite schreef:

    What a concert! … I was not at this performance but this review made me feel as if I had been there … and made me regret missing it. Ms Eeder’s comments and descriptions vividly put the whole concert in perspective and confirmed once more Mr. Domingo’s capacity to amaze and leave the audience in awe while at the same time presenting a challenging program where his colleagues could also shine. Rock-on Plácido!

  6. Antonella Gasbarri schreef:

    I’m very happy to read this very interesting and competent review of Gabi Eder. I was in the audience and, once again, I felt so lucky to enjoy the unsurpassable artistry of Maestro Placido Domingo, His incomparable divine voice, His incomparable dramatic qualities, His unique ability to give so strong beautiful emotions and communicate enthusiasm, passion and magic feelings. So, endless thank you to the best singer/musician/actor/artist ever and forever! Thank you to the whole fantastic team Arturo Chacon-Cruz, Irina Lungu, Rafal Siwek and Eugene Kohn.

  7. Christine Linke schreef:

    Regrettably I couldn’t be in Paris for this wonderful evening…but reading this review I felt some of the magic atmosphere which only Plácido Domingo is able to create in his concerts. All his artistic abilities, his dedication and devotion to opera, his incomparably beautiful and expressive voice, his support for rising talents are there to make us feel and witness the beauty of opera and music….without this I couldn’t live! Thank you, dear Maestro and to his collegues and friends for a surely unforgettable night!

  8. Lan Xiao schreef:

    Every occasion to experience Maestro Placido Domingo’s artistry is an enormous privilege. And there is no privilege greater than experiencing Maestro performing the music of Verdi, in Maestro’s sovereign way with the Verdi style, his instinctive mastery of the texts, the tremendous intensity and sincerity in his delivery, and on top of all, the most beautiful voice.

    In the grand hall of the Philharmonie de Paris, Maestro Domingo either stood by himself, or partnered with his colleagues, to lead a journey through the Verdi masterpieces. The concert opened with Maestro’s tour-de-force rendition of “Perfidi… Pietà, rispetto, amore” of Macbeth, a role Maestro has made his own, to thunderous ovation when he finished the aria, firmly setting the evening to become legendary.

    From Posa’s impassioned plea to the King, to his noble sacrifice for his country and his friend Carlo; from father Miller who despairs at the loss of his daughter, to father Monforte who tries to win back the heart of a son; and then on to the rage of Count di Luna who is consumed with jealousy. Maestro and his colleagues brought the evening from one climax to another. Even in concert, the drama was palpable in every moment. And thanks to the concert format, free from the trappings of staging, the communication of emotions was even more direct and impact to the audience more intense. It was a most glorious celebration of Verdi, a most glorious celebration of the art of opera.

    Heartfelt gratitude to Maestro Domingo and his wonderful colleagues, Irina Lungu, Arturo Chacón-Cruz and Rafal Siwek, as well as to Belgian National Orchestra, led by Maestro Eugene Kohn.

    Bravi tutti! Bravissimo Maestro!

  9. Jutta Paesold schreef:

    Reading this review gives me a strong and vivid impression of a wonderful concert night. I would have loved to be there. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Arnaud Kientz schreef:

    I totally agree with what is written here about Placido Domingo’s performance. I was in the theatre too this evening and what he gave was absolutely amazing. The sound, the line, the breath, the perfect musicality and Verdi’s style….
    As an opera singer myself it’s really fascinating how Domingo manages his vocal technic. He’s definitely a very clever singer as he respects his voice perfectly having a true powerful sound as usual and having now a baritone’s technic making him able to have low chest notes very loud as a baritone and covering the sound as a baritone too giving perfect powerful high notes too. That’a a great example for any singer making him still one of the best opera singers alive actually. It’s always a gift having the opportunity to listen to him live. A unique experience. Thanks too him.

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