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A Gift of Love

New York
Avery Fisher Hall
02/14/2011 -  
Richard Wagner: Excerpts from Die Walküre & Die Meistersinger
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovski: Excerpts from The Nutcracker & The Queen of Spades
Johann Strauss II: Overture to Die Fledermaus
Franz Lehár: Excerpts from Giuditta, Das Land des Lächelns & Die lustige Witwe
Manuel de Falla: Excerpts from La Vida Breva & El sombrero de tres picos
Agustín Lara: Granada

Plácido Domingo (tenor), Sonya Yoncheva (soprano), Nuria Pomares (dancer)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Alan Gilbert (Conductor)

(© Chris Lee/Courtesy of Avery Fisher Hall)

On a chilly February evening, in the midst of one of the coldest New York winters in memory, a sold out Avery Fisher Hall gave its audience a treasure of a Valentine's Day gift: an evening with the world's most beloved classical artist, Plácido Domingo. He was joined on the stage variously by the gifted young soprano, Sonya Yoncheva , a fiery flamenco dancer, Nuria Pomares, and the musicians of the New York Phiharmonic, with their Music Director, Alan Gilbert.

On the day dedicated to the celebration of love, our maestro, Mr. Domingo as our always gracious and at times highly amusing host, presented through music the many faces of love. We also got to see and hear the many faces of Plácido – an opera singer at home in an astonishingly wide variety of the operatic repertoire, an interpreter of popular songs, an ambassador for his native and beloved Spain, a discoverer and nurturer of new talent, and as a birthday gift from the orchestra, a guest conductor of the NY Philharmonic. While certainly not Fred Astaire, he even cut a rather dashing figure whirling Ms. Yoncheva about the stage in a waltz.

In a running commentary on the program, Mr. Domingo spoke to us all as if we were old friends, assuming a confiding tone as he took us on a journey of the heart. He was charming and very funny in his rueful, head-shaking commentary about our musical journey from incest (Siegmund's “Winterstürme”), suicide (Lisa in The Queen of Spades, first love (an encore from West Side Story and as he so impishly put it "love for just one night" (the encore “Ojos Verdes”).

Mr. Domingo sang with increasing beauty and strength as the program progressed from the more dire to the more joyful aspects of love, seemingly inspired by his subject matter. He was at his best singing full voice and showing off his gleaming burnished top, still with the power to thrill, and almost undimmed by the passing decades. He infused the program with the passion and enthusiasm we have come to expect from everything he touches.

Ms. Yoncheva complemented Mr. Domingo beautifully, singing with a rich dark tone. She won over an audience which, of course, had not come to hear her, with her highly flexible voice, blooming top, and winning stage presence. That she held her own with a legend is a testament to her great talent and self-possession. New York was privileged to see her last year in Dido and Aeneas. In this more exposed concert format, stripped of the cloak of stagecraft, she did not disappoint.

One of the highlights of the evening was Mr. Domingo’s birthday surprise. As Maestro Gilbert explained, the orchestra, rather at a loss to come up with a 70th birthday present for “the man who has everything,” finally resorted to asking him what he would most like as a gift. His reply was that he would love to conduct the New York Philharmonic in the overture to Die Fledermaus. And so he did. He gave a highly spirited rendering, spinning light and airy textures into a piece overflowing with brio – the music as ebullient as he himself.

The orchestra, under Alan Gilbert, was at its best in the Tchaikovsky and the de Falla selections – rendering the former with elegance and grace and the latter with passion, dynamism, and splendid orchestral coloration.

There were four encores – two at the end of the first half, “Il Bacio” by Luigi Arditi and the “Romanza de Rafael” from the zarzuela Maravilla by Federico Moreno Torroba, and two at the end of the program, “Ojos Verdes” by Manuel L. Quiroga and “Tonight” by Leonard Bernstein. The last of these utterly captivated the audience. A hushed and lyrical version of the balcony scene love duet from West Side Story, it was a paean to young love by a soprano on the brink of a promising career and a tenor cum baritone who is almost magically forever young.

Mr. Domingo is currently appearing across Lincoln Center Plaza in the Metropolitan Opera production of Iphigénie en Tauride. The 26 February performance will be broadcast, worldwide, live in HD.

Arlene Judith Klotzko



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