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Plácido Domingo: My Greatest Roles

DVD Review

Alicia M. Doyle

Notes, Volume 67, Number 1, September 2010, p. 177 (Review) Published by Music Library Association

DOI: 10.1353/not.2010.0012

In this documentary, Plácido Domingo reflects upon what he considers to be the ten greatest operatic roles of his career. Directed by Chris Hunt, this documentary does much to endorse the fact that Domingo has consistently offered greatness to the public in his performances.

Despite unnecessarily hyperbolic statements such as “Plácido Domingo is simply the most important man alive in the world of opera,” the material presented in this film provides the means with which to successfully achieve a deeper understanding of Plácido Domingo as an extraordinary artist while witnessing highlights from his career.

In the eighty-minute film, fragments of interviews are woven together with filmed excerpts of his performances to create a history of his stage career. Although it is not meant to be comprehensive, it does remind the viewer of his incredibly rich and diverse experience beginning with his family’s involvement in zarzuela. Some of the ten selected roles seem to have been chosen for sentimental reasons (Carmen), and others for the sociological and psychological complexity of the character (Hoffmann), and still others for the technical challenges they presented (Lohengrin). The result is neither precious nor contrived but rather entirely believable and persuasive.

Domingo appears genuinely passionate about music, in an endearing and personal manner. He speaks to the camera as a close friend and the resulting intimacy makes his devotion realistic. Interviews with col- leagues reveal that he is remarkably adaptable to stage and screen and that while he comes to a production with a wealth of experience, he is not inflexible and is in fact quite respectful of the ideas of others.

Overall, the documentary material is not centered upon musical issues, but rather the characters he has portrayed. Clearly the film is geared towards the general opera lover. Subtle comments within reveal this bias including Zubin Mehta’s comment that Domingo is a “singing actor, an acting musician, a musician who is singing.” A less subtle comment comes in the voice over, wherein conducting is said to be “something few singers have the musicianship to even attempt.”

These somewhat unfortunate statements are easily forgiven however, as the ultimate result of the documentary is the experience of Domingo’s talent and love for music. On film he comes across as humble and charming. Well spoken and articulate, he manages to not appear arrogant but rather quite likeable, and yet extraordinary.

The filming is beautiful and the sound is high quality. The variety of theaters in which the excerpts were filmed provides a stunning visual context. The behind-the-scenes glimpses of him rehearsing, performing, and directing are valuable. Of particular interest is the footage and discussion about the live broadcast of the on location production of Tosca in July 1992. Learning about the fascinating challenges this live performance presented musically and technologically is worth the price of the DVD. Each chapter after the introduction is devoted to an operatic role, and all of the excerpts have subtitles in English.