November 28, 2005

UNPLACID:

Plácido's quest for the Grail: Robert Wilson's sound-and-light show stuns at L.A. Opera. (Mark Swed, November 28, 2005, LA Times)

Plácido Domingo has done the unthinkable. He sings Parsifal in this production. It was his choice; he runs the company. He certainly didn't need to do it. But apparently, there are few challenges of this order left in his career as tireless tenor, conductor, administrator and celebrity.

For the ordinary mortal Wagnerian heroic tenor, simply singing Parsifal well into his 60s is a rare accomplishment, and Domingo was in stentorian voice Saturday. He, of course, is not going to sell anyone on impersonating a young "holy fool" anymore. Indeed, in a Wilsonian get-up of slicked-back hair and heavy white makeup, he looked very much the old fool.

And he seemed all the more fool to subject his aging joints to the heavily stylized Wilsonian postures and slow-motion movements. When he first walked onstage, wearing a stiff, white Japanese-inspired costume (toned down from Frida Parmeggiani's more flamboyant early '90s avant-garde original) and trying way too hard to restrict his natural Latin exuberance, the effect was almost risible. It might have been a "Saturday Night Live" skit, if "Saturday Night Live" knew anything about culture.

But you have to love Domingo's determination (he has signed up to sing in Wilson's production of the "Ring" in Paris this spring). In the end, uncomfortable as he clearly was, he came remarkably close to pulling this Parsifal off, especially given the way the physical challenges served to make his ageless vocal power and musical command of the role all the more thrilling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2005 8:27 AM
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