The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Should superstar tenor Placido Domingo retire? | March 28, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Should Spanish superstar tenor Placido Domingo (below) – who has aged into a baritone as well as a conductor and the artistic director of an opera company – retire?


That is the touchy question that was taken up last week by The New York Times senior music critic Anthony Tommasini in his opening night review of Domingo’s performance in the role of the King of Spain Don Carlo (below, in a photo by Sara Krulwich for The New York Times) in the opera by Giuseppe VerdiErnani,” which was based on the play “Hernani” by French writer Victor Hugo.

Placido Domingo in Ernani at the Met 2015 Sara Krulwich NYT

The production of “Ernani” is taking place at the Metropolitan Opera – hardly a strange stage to the veteran Domingo, who is now 74. James Levine led the orchestra. And Tommasini offered quite specific criticisms to back up his opinion about Domingo. 

Here is a link to the review:

Read it and weigh in with your own opinion about whether it is time for the great Placido Domingo to retire.

The Ear wants to hear.



  1. […] started to ask: should superstar Placido Domingo retire? (Read here) Even the New York Times has brought up the sensitive issue: when is it time for a great artist to […]


    Pingback by Meet Placido Domingo’s new friends – Europe’s authoritarian leaders — August 10, 2016 @ 9:10 am

  2. He is not an exception to the overinflated ego syndrome that plagues so many opera stars. Domingo has, after singing so gloriously for so many years, “sort-of” conducted…”sort-of” run opera companies and gotten roasted by the critics for so-so performances and nepotism (Mrs. Domingo is a terrible stage director who worked only when he was at the helm) and he has gotten into some big battles with critics, including Anne Midgette of the Washington Post. The situation here is simple: Verdi baritones are the rara avis of the operatic zoo: they have to sing mostly high and loud for hours on end within a certain range. Additionally, there is a certain SOUND to the Verdi baritone that cannot be faked. The great baritones of the past had it – Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill , to name but two, had it. IN SPADES. In today’s opera world there are two or three Verdi baritones worth their salt – George Gadnidze (a Georgian so check my spelling) among those still working. By insisting on taking on these roles, Domingo is cheating the music and the public with the MET management’s blessing. A bad situation altogether.


    Comment by Rafael de Acha — March 28, 2015 @ 8:01 am

    • Sorry, Rafael, I disagree with you. Not about most of the details of your post but about your conclusion. I accept your analysis that Placido Domingo’s voice is not what it once was. He is after all, 74 years old. But I think he still has enough in him to perform, and certainly, conduct. I saw him in Berlin, leading the Berlin Philharmonic, in an outdoor concert of Spanish music a few years ago; he and the program were superb. No one criticized him or the performance. Quite the opposite.

      The great Arthur Rubinstein also performed until late in his life, at the piano of course. (Ditto for Robert Merrill who you also mentioned). He missed quite a few notes in his old age, but not many people in the audience cared (aside from a few hot-shirted “critics”). I think the same goes for Domingo. Audiences, even knowledgeable ones, are willing to make some allowances for the “greats”. And there is no question but that Placido Domingo is one of the finest opera singers we have ever seen.

      As to egos, show me a great performer who has NOT had one! The same goes for most critics, including Anthony Tommasini who is embroiled in lots of controversy himself, and who once was denied tenure at a not very prestigious school.


      Comment by fflambeau — March 28, 2015 @ 10:01 pm

  3. The NYT’s writer seemed to be more troubled by Domingo’s changing roles from a tenor to a baritone than anything else. Perhaps that was a polite way of saying he did not have the voice for it; but I see nothing wrong with such a change. Oddly enough for someone posing as an expert on music, the writer seems unaware that Domingo actually began his singing career by singing baritone parts in zarzuelas (Spanish musicals). Caruso also had baritonal low notes. The great opera singer, Lauritz Melchoir (519 Wagnerian opera performances with the Met alone), also sang baritone and tenor roles. So did Carlo Bergonzi, considered by many experts to be one of the greatest voices of all time, and I am sure, there were others.

    The NYT article, aside from this major blunder, otherwise is pretty fair and begins with a statement like Domingo will retire when he knows he should retire (and suggests that time is now). Perhaps. He’s not only been a great voice but a great exemplar for classical music. As long as audiences love his performances and he continues to get booked, I see no reason for not continuing. He truly is one of the links to greats in the past and that is perhaps why audiences love him now, at 74, even though he is well past his prime, voice wise.

    When the maestro determines his time as a singer has ended, I hope he will continue to conduct, until the end.


    Comment by fflambeau — March 28, 2015 @ 12:46 am

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