In 1957, he made his debut professional piano performance at a concert in Mérida, Yucatán. The same year he gave his first zarzuela performance by singing a solo baritone role. He began by assisting in his parents’ zarzuela company by taking up baritone roles and assisting other tenors. The following year he got the opportunity to perform as a tenor for another production as their tenor had fallen ill. This exposed him to more opportunities as a tenor though at that point he felt it was above his skill to perform at that level.
In May 1959, he appeared in a baritone role in Emilio Arriera’s opera ‘Marina’. Around this time he also worked as an assistant coach and assistant conductor in the Latin American production of the musical ‘My Fair Lady’. While he was a team member of the production, the musical is said to have been played around 185 times across various parts of Mexico.
In 1959 Plácido Domingo auditioned for the baritone role at the Mexico National Opera. However, he was inducted as a tenor and a tutor for other singers. In September that year, he performed in the Opera named ‘Rigoletto’. Well-known operatic baritones Cornell MacNeil and Norman Treigle performed along with him. This performance opened doors to more opportunities and he performed in other productions like ‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’, ‘Turandot’, ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ and ‘The Merry Widow’. As a secondary source of income, Plácido Domingo used to play the piano for cultural television station at Mexico and a ballet company.
In 1961, he performed his first leading role in the opera ‘La traviata’ at Monterrey, Mexico. The same year he got the chance to perform in the United States of America as part of the Dallas Civic opera company. In 1962 he returned to USA to sing for the same opera for a different character. In 1962, he finalized a deal with Israel National Opera based in Tel Aviv. This deal however got extended to two and half years and he sang about 280 performances in 12 roles during this time.
In 1965, he auditioned and got selected at the New York City Opera. He gave his debut performance with this group on 17 June 1965 in Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’. In 1966, he performed the title role of ‘Don Rodrigo’ and this earned him much appreciation and critical acclaim.
In the year 1968, Plácido Domingo had his debut performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Since then, he has opened the season 21 times at the Metropolitan Opera, surpassing previous records of singers. In the years that followed, he gained more exposure and made debut in many more platforms like Vienna State Opera (1967), Lyric Opera of Chicago (1968), San Francisco Opera (1969), La Scala(1969), Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company (1970) and Covet Garden (1971).
In 1973, Plácido Domingo conducted his initial opera presentation. He also released his album as a conductor titled ‘Domingo Conducts Milnes/Milnes Conducts Domingo’ along with baritone Sherrill Milnes.
In 1975 he debuted at the renowned Salzburg festival in the title role of ‘Don Carlo’. The same year he debuted in the title character of Verdi’s ‘Otello’ in the Hamburg State Opera. This role went on to be a signature role of Plácido Domingo, and he has since performed the role more than 200 times. He has also appeared in the filmed versions of the opera.
Plácido Domingo recorded a song ‘Perhaps Love’ with American singer John Denver in 1981. This led to him being famous outside the world of opera as well. Following the success of this debut, he recorded many more albums. His popularity increased and he appeared in popular television shows as ‘The Tonight Show’ with Johnny Carson and ’60 Minutes’. In 1982 he performed in his opera movie titled ‘La Traviata’. In 1984 he performed for the movie version of opera ‘Carmen’. Amongst exploring new platforms to showcase his talent, Plácido Domingo remained active in the opera scene and managed to perform live an constantly travelled between Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Vienna, and Madrid.
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In 1986, Plácido Domingo got the opportunity to perform at the special concert held for Queen Elizabeth II. He also performed at the world premiere of the opera ‘Goya’, which was specifically composed by composer Gian Carlo Menotti for him.
During the 1990s he began to look for opportunities surpassing the then existing Italian and French repertory and began involving himself in Wagnerian Operas. He collaborated with opera stars Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras in 1990 and the trio was called ‘The Three tenors’. The first live album recorded by the Three Tenors in 1990 became a huge success and went on to become the best selling classical album of all time. The Three Tenors had initially performed on the eve of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final in Rome. The concert was repeated multiple times later in Los Angeles (1994), Paris (1998) and Yokohoma (2002).
In 1991, he debuted through portrayal of the character in Parsifal and in 1992 he performed as Siegmund. For almost two decades that followed, he continued to portray these characters. In 1994, he performed his debut Mozart opera, ‘Idomeneo’. During the decade he appeared in many less performed operas like the Verdi Opera ‘Stifellio’, French grand operas like ‘Le prophète’, Russian ‘ The Queen of Spades’ and Brazilian ‘II Guarany’. In 1996 he took up the role of becoming the artistic director of the Washington National Opera and held this post till 2011.
With the onset of the 21st century, he concentrated on fresh roles. In 2000 he assumed the post of Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Opera company, and in 2003 he took the position of General Director of the same and stayed in this position till 2011. Also, it is during this time that he sang many of his final performances of his most popular and successful operas like ‘Samson et Dalila’, ‘Otello’, ‘Andrea Chenier’ , ‘La Fanciulla del West,Fedora’, ‘Adriana Lecouvreur’ and ‘Pagliacci’.
He developed several new roles in modern opera like the title character in ‘The First Emperor’ (2006), the poet Pablo Neruda in the opera adaptation of the film ‘II Postino’ to name a few. He shifted music styles and appeared in 18th century operas towards the end of the decade.
In 2002, he made a guest appearance in the song ‘Novus’ from the musical album Shaman by Santana. In 2008, Plácido Domingo performed a duet with Chinese singer Song Zuying singing ‘The Flame of Love’ at the 2008 Summer Olympics closing ceremony held at Beijing.
He continues recording and in 2014 he released ‘Encanto del Mar: Mediterranean Songs’ and ‘Puccini: Manon Lescaut’. He had also signed the deal for being part of Woody Allen's opera ‘Gianna Schicchi’ to be performed in Madrid. In 2015, he also performed his debut title role in Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’ in Berlin, along with ‘Ernani’ in New York and ‘Gianni Schicchi’ in Los Angeles.
Awards & Achievements
Plácido Domingo has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, government honours and honorary doctorates.
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He is the recipient of the Grammy Award in the Principal Soloist for Best Opera Recording category for four years: for his performance in Verdi’s ‘Aida’(1974), G. Puccini’s ‘La bohème’ (1974), Verdi’s ‘La traviata’ (1983) and for ‘Carmen’ by Bizet in 1984. In 1984 he also won the Grammy award for Best Latin Pop Performance for ‘Always in My Heart / Siempre en mi Corazon).
He won the Grammy Award for the Principal Soloist for Best Opera Recording in 1988 for Wagner’s Opera ‘Lohengrin’.
In 1990, his performance of Carreras Domingo Pavarotti in Concert earned him a Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance.
In 1992, he won the Grammy Award in Principal Soloist for Best Opera Recording category for Strauss’ ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’.
In 2000, he was awarded the Grammy Award for the Best Mexican-American Performance for’ for 100 Years of Mariachi’.
Plácido Domingo has won the Latin Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album for ‘La Dolores’ (2000), ‘Merlin’ (2001), and ‘PasiónEspañola’ (2008) and ‘Baritone Arias’ (2014).
The governments of Austria, France, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Sweden, Spain, United Kingdom, USA, Venezuela, Portugal, Italy, Malta etc have bestowed him with government honors like the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ by USA in 2002 and ‘Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ by the United Kingdom the same year.
He has received honorary doctorates from various prestigious universities like Oklahoma City University, Harvard University, USA, Oxford University, England, and Georgetown University, USA etc.
Personal Life & Legacy
Plácido Domingo married piano classmate Ana María Guerra Cué on 29th August 1957. The couple had a son José Plácido Domingo Guerra on 16 June 1958 and he grew up to become a photographer. However, their marriage did not last long and they separated shortly after the birth of their child.
He married lyric soprano Marta Ornelas on 1 August 1962. They have two sons, elder son Plácido Francisco was born on 21 October 1965 and younger son Alvaro Maurizio was born on 11 October 1968.
In 2010, he had to undergo surgery as he was diagnosed with colon cancer and he made a complete recovery. In 2013 he was hospitalized after suffering pulmonary embolism. However, he was discharged in a few weeks.
He initially lived with family in Israel. He later moved to New Jersey. He has properties in New York, Barcelona and Madrid. He also owns a vacation home at Acapulco in Madrid.