x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Placido Domingo was a true legend on form at Emirates Palace

The combination of honoring Verdi and Wagner, followed by lighter operettas and Broadway tunes showcased the versatility of the Spanish tenor.

Placido Domingo performed at Emirates Palace.
Placido Domingo performed at Emirates Palace.

It was billed as the centrepiece of the 10th Abu Dhabi Festival and maestro Placido Domingo delivered in front of a sold out crowd at Emirates Palace.

The Spanish tenor, aided by Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez presented a vivid programme catering to all tastes.

With the year being the bicentenary of the birth of opera music giants, the composers Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, the first act of the programme was dedicated to pieces from both careers.

Domingo began with Vorspiel from Wagner's comic opera Die Meistersinger.

It was a light hearted yet feisty start with Domingo quelling fears raised by his recent focus on baritone roles.

His tenor remained strong and perfectly controlled in what was a gentle opener.

Domingo's intensity rose with the follow up Winterstürme from Wagner's Die Walküre.

Ana María Martínez took the stage for the nocturnal Elsa's Dream from Lohengrin.

The delicate piece saw the performer and the Czech Philharmonic wonderfully meld together with conductor Eugene Kohn keeping a steady reign as Martinez expressed the anguish of a character accused or murder.

Domingo then returns as Wolfram, another of Wagner's hero in O du, mein holder Abendstern from the opera Tannhäuser.

It was here that Domingo showcased his underrated acting chops as he took on a more vulnerable persona - which is harder than it looks considering his hulking frame - as he yearned for his "evening star."

The orchestra had it's own time to shine with a muscular rendition of the Verdi's Ballet music from Macbeth before Domingo and Martínez returned for the sensitive rendering of Ah! Dite alla giovine from La Traviata.

The programme's second act was a more breezy affair with shorter up-tempo pieces, lighter operettas and Broadway tunes. It is easy to chalk this down to populism, but it was also a showcase for Domingo's versatility.

Domingo was suitably plaintive as the French plantation owner Emile in Some Enchanted Evening from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific.

Some show-tunes did suffer from the operatic treatment however, Martínez's I Could Have Danced All Night felt heavy handed while the old chestnut Tonight from West Side Story lumbered rather than soared.

These minor missteps were more than remedied by a wonderfully Spanish infused encore performance by Domingo including the lilting Granada and the singalong Besame Mucho.

The latter inspiring one of the night's many standing ovations given to a true legend.

ssaeed@thenational.ae

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