Music Interviews
12:03 am
Sat October 20, 2012

Placido Domingo On Pop Singers And Karaoke

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 2:21 pm

Placido Domingo is one of the most influential people in classical music. During a 50-year career, he's played more than 140 roles, conducted more than 450 operas, and won just about every award that a human being can win in opera and life.

Domingo has a new album of solo songs and duets with other singers, whose names might surprise you. Take, for example, his version of Shania Twain's "From This Moment On" — a duet with Susan Boyle.

"It was wonderful, first, to discover her," Domingo says. "On these live television programs, sometimes I don't like the way some of the artists are treated. But the talent that comes out is, no doubt, great. You see somebody that is completely unknown, and all of a sudden you hear this sound like an angel."

Domingo's new album is called, simply, Songs. It features guest spots from singers such as Josh Groban, Harry Connick Jr., and Domingo's own son, Placido Domingo Jr. Here, he sits down with NPR's Scott Simon to discuss choosing duet partners, switching from tenor to baritone roles, and singing karaoke at family gatherings.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Placido Domingo is one of the most influential people in classical music, ever.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "O SOLE MIO")

PLACIDO DOMINGO: (Singing in Italian)

SIMON: He's played more than 140 roles during a 50-year career, and conducted more than 450 operas; winning just about every award that a human being can win in opera, and in life. And now, Maestro Domingo has a new album of solo songs, and duets with some other singers whose names might surprise you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FROM THIS MOMENT ON")

SUSAN BOYLE: (Singing) From this moment...

SIMON: Placido Domingo joins us from our studios in New York. Maestro, thanks so much for being with us.

DOMINGO: It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you very much.

SIMON: You record a song made famous by Shania Twain - "From this Moment On" - with Susan Boyle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FROM THIS MOMENT ON")

DOMINGO: (Singing) From this moment, I have been blessed...

BOYLE: (Singing) I live only for your happiness...

DOMINGO: (Singing) And for your love...

DOMINGO, BOYLE: (Singing) ...I'd give my last breath, from this moment on...

SIMON: You two sound good together. Inevitably, you have to reflect on the different storylines. Of course, you've been famous for 50 years; Susan Boyle, just in the past few years, and improbably so. What was it like to sing with her?

DOMINGO: Well, it was wonderful, first, to discover her, you know. I mean, I know that this live television programs - sometimes, I don't like the way some of the artists are treated, you know. But the talent that comes out is, no doubt, great.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FROM THIS MOMENT ON")

BOYLE: (Singing) I give my hand to you with all my heart...

DOMINGO: You see somebody that is completely unknown. And all of the sudden, you hear this sound - like an angel. And she's all around the world, from the night to the morning, popular artist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FROM THIS MOMENT ON")

DOMINGO, BOYLE: (Singing) From this moment, as long as I live, I will love you, I promise you this. There is nothing I would not give, from this moment...

BOYLE: (Singing) I will love you...

DOMINGO: (Singing) I will love you...

DOMINGO, BOYLE: (Singing) ...as long as I live, from this moment on.

SIMON: Let me ask you about another song, if we could, on this CD. You sing a duet with your son, Placido Domingo Jr. This song is "What a Wonderful World." Let's listen to a little of this.

DOMINGO: Oh, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD")

DOMINGO: DOMINGO, DOMINGO JR.: (Singing) I see friend shaking hands, saying how do you do? They're really saying, I love you.

DOMINGO: DOMINGO: (Singing) I hear babies crying, I watch them grow...

SIMON: Not a heart will be unturned by that.

DOMINGO: Well, when you say that your children - crying songs, I remember the times he was a boy, you know, and...

SIMON: I have to ask - like, when the extended family's together for holidays, do you two sing like, "White Christmas," or Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song," together - or anything?

DOMINGO: Well, I think, yes, it is quite wonderful when we have any kind of parties. And the karaoke part of the evening is quite interesting, you know. (LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Let me get this straight - the Placido Domingo family sings karaoke?

DOMINGO: Well, yes, because when we get together...

SIMON: (LAUGHTER) I guess you can't have a - although I think almost any orchestra in the world, would show up for your family parties. But that being said, you sing karaoke, eh?

DOMINGO: Yeah. I mean, it's difficult to have an orchestra, in a party at your house. Sometimes, we can have a trio; or a group of mariachi, you know. I mean, I like to check myself - you know, how adequate I do it, with the karaoke - because they give you points, you know. And sometimes I realize, by the points they gave me, I wouldn't make it, you know. So...

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: I'd appeal to the judges, on that one. You, of course, are considered one of the great tenors of history. But you sing baritone roles now.

DOMINGO: The thing is, I have done practically all the repertoire of tenor that I can. And I find myself, after 50 years singing, I find that I can still sing. And I said well, Placido, as long as when you are singing the opera house is full - people come, you know, and fill the theater - then you are in shape. I think it's my obligation to sing, you know. I mean - so I have picked beautiful baritone operas, roles that I have either loved all my life, or roles that I am learning because I am searching for it. For instance, in the case of "Simon Boccanegra," it was really, a dream that I will - always, I thought I will sing Boccanegra before I was - retiring.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC FROM "SIMON BOCCANEGRA")

DOMINGO: I don't pretend to be a baritone. It's still myself singing. But the most I do it - I mean, it's the anger and, you know, the color, and the darker sound. Then little by little, who knows? It might make me a baritone one day but in any case, I am enjoying it tremendously.

SIMON: Maestro, is there something on this album you'd like to - you'd particularly like to talk about?

DOMINGO: It was very, really wonderful when I recorded with Harry Connick Jr. because we have fun, you know. So - boy, how wonderful this guy sounds, you know? I mean, this is really, really a beautiful voice; and a style as close as could be, to Sinatra, you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME AFTER TIME")

HARRY CONNICK JR.: Hey, Placido.

DOMINGO: Hey, Harry.

CONNICK: What do you think of that girl over there?

DOMINGO: She's beautiful. Let's sing over her.

CONNICK: (Singing) Time after time, I tell myself that I'm so lucky to be loving you.

DOMINGO: (Singing) So lucky to be the one you run to see...

SIMON: That's a great version of a great song. Were you snapping your fingers?

DOMINGO: Yeah.

SIMON: Kind of hard not to, isn't it?

DOMINGO: (LAUGHTER) How can you, I mean, control yourself?

SIMON: Yeah. Well, of course, Harry Connick Jr. - like Frank Sinatra - is famed for his phrasing.

DOMINGO: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know what I love in the pop singer? It is the way they delay the phrasing. And you think they are never going to get there. Like, they hit it, you know? So you learn. and you do it sometimes. also. You know? But it's wonderful.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME AFTER TIME")

DOMINGO: (Singing) But time after time, you hear me say that I'm so lucky to be loving you...

SIMON: Maestro, wonderful speaking with you.

DOMINGO: Thank you very much. My pleasure.

SIMON: You can hear more songs from Placido Domingo, by going to our website - nprmusic.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME AFTER TIME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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