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Domingo The Baritone In Verdi's 'Simon Boccanegra'

When Giuseppe Verdi's publisher approached the composer in 1881 about creating a brand new version of a decades-old opera, Verdi was nearly seventy years old. He was also about to prove that, at least in his case, age was no impediment to continued greatness.

The opera in question was Simon Boccanegra, and Verdi went on to do far more in his final years than just produce a spectacular new edition of that drama. He promptly went on to compose two more operas, and they're among the greatest operas of all time: Otello and Falstaff.

So it's fitting that the production of Simon Boccanegra featured here happens to star another artist who's in the process of confirming his greatness at a similar stage of life.

It was more than 40 years ago, in 1968, when a little-known tenor named Placido Domingo took the international spotlight in his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as a surprise fill-in for the legendary tenor Franco Corelli. Now, as Domingo approaches his own 70th birthday, he's still making plenty of headlines.

Domingo has always lived by the personal credo, "If I rest, I rust." And to prove it, he continuously explores new artistic territory. For example, over the past few seasons, World of Opera has featured Domingo in roles as varied as Siegmund in Wagner's Ring Cycle and Bajazet in Handel's Tamerlano -- the 126th role of his career. And now, he's pushing his boundaries even further, singing not as a tenor, but as a baritone, in the title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.

Along with complex characters, plenty of spectacle and a deep, psychological underpinning, Simon Boccanegra has one more element that fell right into Verdi's wheelhouse. Throughout his career, the composer had an affinity for creating complex and highly-nuanced baritone roles. Just think of Rigoletto, Germont in La Traviata, the villain Iago in Otello and the title role in Falstaff -- and then add Simon Boccanegra to the list. It’s perfect material for a singer with extraordinary expressive range, as well as a great voice. Even, as it turns out, if that singer is a tenor -- and especially if that tenor is Placido Domingo.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Simon Boccanegra in a production from the 2010 Proms Concerts in London, featuring Placido Domingo with a fascinating and stirring interpretation of the opera's baritone title role. Joining Domingo on stage at the Royal Albert Hall are three other singers who also give standout performances: tenor Joseph Calleja as Adorno, soprano Marina Poplavskaya as Amelia and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco.

See the previous edition of World of Opera or the full archive.

Copyright 2010 WDAV

Bruce Scott
Bruce Scott is supervising producer of World of Opera. He also produces NPR's long-running, annual special Chanukah Lights, with Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz.