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Domingo’s new release is beyond parody

We are hoping no-one sends us Songs Domingo for review because, having read the blurb, it becomes unreviewable. Are we to believe this? After a recording career spanning more than fifty years of classical performances, Placido Domingo fulfills his wish to record an album of famous songs that accompanied his life. The Maestro himself chose the repertoire on SONGS, his first pop album in over twenty years, paying tribute to some of the greatest songwriters and including some of the world’s most popular songs from the past seventy years. For this long-awaited new album,Domingo invited world-renowned artists and highly talented newcomers to join him for duets including Josh Groban, Harry Connick, jr., Susan Boyle,Chris Botti, Megan Hilty and Katherine Jenkins. Particularly close to his heart is the duet with his son, Placido Domingo, Jr., on “What a Wonderful World.”

Pavarotti, at his most crossover, was never so indiscriminate in his embrace of Walmart trash.


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  1. Who does the Louis Armstrong imitation on “Wonderful World”……must be Placi Jr.

  2. Beryl Lewis says:

    Can’t imagine anything worse than an opera singer singing ‘pop’!! He can’t be short of money and I can think of no other reason for this!

    • Steve de Mena says:

      I think Renee Fleming pulled it off on her “Dark Hope” CD

      • Sebastian Petit says:

        The Fleming case is different – Renee had a strong background in Jazz singing before becoming an opera singer. She brings off Dark Hope by exploring an entirely different vocal pallette. Placido tends to sing pop pretty much as he sings oper (with predictably bizarre results)

      • Reggie Benstein says:

        No no no … Renee cannot sing pop or jazz. I’ve heard it and it’s awful.

  3. Thomas Moser says:

    I shall remain silent, except to ask : who re-touched the photo, or is it simply twenty years old ?

  4. This reeks of snobbishness. At the very least, the album may introduce more people to Placido’s ‘opera’ voice and encourage them to seek out other recordings. I see nothing wrong with trying to expand your audience. This attitude that he is slumming is nothing but elitism. Singing duets with ‘pop’ artists increases the possibilities of reaching a wider audience.

    • Eric Benjamin says:

      “Elitism”. I’m so tired of that word. Its only used in this context – someone critiques an artist for possibly (probably) selling out, or, at least, exercising some really poor taste, and someone decides to damn the critic with the “elitist” label. What does it mean, exactly?

      No one wants to deprive the masses of anything, but Norman (and I and many others) have a right to decry poor taste when they see it or, at least, cringe at the prospect. Domingo’s wonderful voice and background are really not right for pop music and the results are pretty certain to be corny. It is not snobbish to say so.

    • ken scott says:

      Well said.

  5. Brian Hughes says:

    Domingo’s “duet” with John Denver so many years ago was already beyond parody. I cannot think of the proper term to describe this.

  6. Sebastian Petit says:

    Sorry but the old chestnut that this sort of tripe is going to widen the audience for opera is a fallacy that was long ago disproved. And, furthermore, I am sick to the back teeth of being accused of snobbery by people who think that Katherine Jenkins and her ilk are proper opera singers only prevented from rocketing to opera superstardom at La Scla and The Met by a “snobbish elite” who “jealous” of her utterly mediocre talent

  7. If you do not like Domingo’s album that’s fine, and I would likely join you in that, but don’t let its very existence cause you write things such as “indiscriminate in his embrace of Wallmart trash” — it makes you seem like a caricature of a close-minded classical music snob. Exclusionary strategies are no longer what classical music needs, at least in America.

  8. When I heard a story, about this album, on National Public Radio, I thought, “This is going to be *terrible*,” but then, after I heard a few cuts, I realized that…it’s terrible.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Yep. I couldn’t care less about the aspirations and calculations that went into it; I will stick to the merits. On that level, it is bad music-making, among the least of what he has ever done.

      I mentioned in an earlier post listening to the duet with Harry Connick Jr. on the 1940s standard “Time After Time,” a song I do like. Hearing Domingo carefully and stiffly negotiate both the words and the relaxed swing rhythms, I couldn’t figure out why he was even there. I wished Connick (who, while no Sinatra reborn, is a real pro at this stuff) would just take over and sing the whole thing.

      A weird duet choice anyway. Are they supposed to be the two oblivious lovers of the same woman?

  9. Neil van der Linden says:

    There have been interesting crossovers between classical voices and pop, like Elvis Costello with Anne-Sophie von Otter, Kiri sings (the lighter side of) Gershwin, Thomas Quasthof singing jazz, Quashof singing R&B and soul with some of the best European jazz musicians, etc. But joining forces with the singers Domingo joined forces with demonstrates even worse taste than Pavarotti ever practiced. At least he went along with Sting, Zucchero, and… Domingo. Of course this does not wipe away all the great achievements by Domingo. But putting some basic benchmarks is not the same as elitism.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Also well said. However, Megan Hilty is a thrilling performer — of all of these names, she is the only one I’d get excited about seeing or hearing. So there’s one cut that could have been good, and the opportunity is wasted on that “Titanic” song, which I need never hear again in my life from anyone.

      I like your mentions of ASVO and Quasthoff, and I would add Nathan Gunn’s pop/easy-listening album (I believe the title was “Just Before Sunrise”?), which had some lovely and sensitive performances (e.g. “The Brian and the Rose,” “And So It Goes”). I wish Domingo had attempted something like that — in both the repertoire and the collaborators chosen, it was miles above this and most classical dross-over.

  10. Sorry folks – all this invective about snobbery, elitism, Walmart trash and the like misses the point that this release is not about music. It’s about record sales and marketing to a mass audience. Domingo and others do these releases to sell records – not to introduce new audiences to his artistry or another take on “You Light Up My Life” or other pop song. Really. Norman’s swipe at poor people and their supposed representation of all of American taste notwithstanding, when people see a classical artist on an endcap in a mass merchandising box, they pick it up as a gift for Aunt Harriet who listens to classical music because it’s cheap and available and because they have no idea what else to get her. Again – it’s not about the music, it’s about sales. Get over it.

  11. Graham Harris says:

    It is so monstrously superannuated that it requires a phrase rather than a ‘term” adequately to attempt a description. Perchance – “Ineffectual, fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs” – accesses the tenor of the experience.

  12. Michael P Scott says:

    I’m so old I remember liking Eileen Farrell’s “I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues” LP — back in the dark ages.

    This recording sure didn’t do anything dampen MY enthusiasm for opera music and only added weight to the comments I heard from my father about Ms. Farrell’s talent on the opera stage.

    I have a hard time liking any of the “duet” albums — top of my ‘are you KIDDING me’ list was the first Sinatra duet album which, if I recall correctly, featured “phoned in” performances by Frank’s guests. It was awful.

    At least Domingo’s guests were in the same studio at the same time making eye contact if the video on is to be believed.

    Nevertheless the vocal pairings, from the little I heard on the video panegyric, are clashes rather than collaborations.


  13. Sam McElroy says:

    I don’t know which is worse, Domingo doing this, which is just sinfully tacky but not harmful, or vandalising opera itself in the opera houses by singing the baritone repertoire. I see he due to sing G. Germont at the Met. Why? Does his great name alone allow him to do anything he wants, including singing so far out of his Fach? I just randomly listened to Welsh baritone David Kempster singing “Eri tu..” on YouTube, for example. When we have wonderful Verdian baritones like him around, why is Domingo taking their roles and jobs and livelihoods? God knows how much money he is sucking out of the system to fulfill his fantasy, but not ours. That he started as a light baritone is totally irrelevant. He became a tenor, in an irreversible process! The Verdi baritone is a million miles away! Audiences deserve to hear roles sung by the voices for which they were written, and I would not pay a penny to hear his G. Germont. I prefer to fondly remember his phenomenal Otello with Kleiber, back in the good old days, when he was doing what he was born to do. Enough is enough…

  14. Sarah Smith says:

    The Album Songs is actually fabulous. I would suggest try listening to it before you decry it.

  15. Iain Scott says:

    Has anybody actually heard the disc or are the comments just the usual self indulgent prattle of the self styled musical elite?

    • Michael Varcoe-Cocks says:

      I’m thinking of buying (or borrowing!) this CD to see if competes with Florence Foster Jenkins’ wonderful work, but then at least her voice had art and irony. It would interesting to know if calling this work “Walmart trash” is an insult to Walmart trash.

      After admiring many of his early performances, I tired of Domingo’s distraught face and timbre more than 20 years ago and could never understand anything he sang in German. For a long while he was no longer a real tenor and now that the fawning musical world that surrounds him has shown us that he is not a real baritone we have “this long-awaited new album”! Was anyone actually waiting for it?

      I would add to Sam McElroy’s comment: “How much more money do PD, his agents and entourage actually need?”

      Finally, is it true that Domingo has taken over the New York State Theatre so he can star in an alternating repertory of Sweeney Todd and Fiddler on the Roof? Or is it Yankee Stadium? Such joys cannot be far away.

  16. Herewith (supplied with the greatest of humnility!) is my review for Fine Music magazine:

    I am a great fan of Placido Domingo when he’s singing opera or classical music. But this? I’m sorry. One can always anticipate the reasons for certain inclusions in new CDs. In the case of this album, the appearance of non-classical names like Josh Groban, Harry Connick Jr and Susan Boyle can only point to one thing – that a commercial decision to sell the album to non-classical patrons AND in overseas countries is in the offing. I’ve heard of most of the guys/gals on this CD but who on earth is Zaz or Megan Hilty? I realise I am not the world’s greatest authority on new talent and I presume Zaz comes from a Gallic country purely because she accompanies Domingo in a French song – La chanson des vieux amants – and that Megan Hilty is perhaps Italian because her duet with Domingo is called Il mio cuore va but neither can match the musicianship of Domingo or his dynamics. One wonders whether either guest artiste can be heard without the aid of a microphone. The same applies to Domingo Jr…without the aid of pater would he be appearing on a CD? The songs on offer also leave a lot to be desired. Except for Cancione para una Reina and Besame mucho aided and abetted by Chris Botti’s trumpet the rest leave me cold. At least Harry Connick Jr tries with Time after Time and he plays a nifty jazz improvisation on the piano but really, what a waste of papa Domingo’s talent.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Ibmar: Megan Hilty is an American singer/actress in her early thirties. She’s had success both on and off Broadway, and she parlayed her stage career into a co-lead role as Ivy on the Broadway-themed TV show “Smash.” She’s a great performer with, surely, a lot of great achievements still ahead of her.

      “Il mio cuore va” is just Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” under another name.

  17. Sebastian Petit says:

    Ah, there it is! The ‘elite’ word! Yawn… And clearly some people have heard parts of the album. Most of us love Domingo (even when pretending to be a baritone) but he has no aptitude for this sort of music. To be frank it would be pretty weird if he did!

  18. If I see it the next time I’m in Walmart, I might just buy it, if only for the novelty.

  19. I downloaded and enjoyed several of the songs on this CD. I believe it might be the finest singing ever done by several of his duet partners, who clearly seem to have raised their game. Many tracks weren’t of interest.

    I do not begrudge Domingo trying to, depending on your point of view, reach out to new audiences or sell some CDs. I am sure he found this an interesting side project.

    The use of the term “Walmart trash” smacks of a level of snobbishness that isn’t appropriate. It’s the type of attitude that represents classical music as closed to “outsiders.”

  20. Graf Nugent says:

    Why can’t people stick to what they do well? I realise that Placido and his kind may be bored of doing the same old stuff decade after decade, but if they want to do trash, then please keep it private and not inflict it on a widely gullible audience who’ll think it’s up-market because it’s done by a famous opera singer. As for duet albums, Frank Sinatra’s first one was fantastic.

  21. My question (which I assume will go unanswered) is ‘why does Domingo need the money?’ a nasty new habit? mafia payoffs? eyeing an island for sale perhaps?

  22. Just so you all know, the CD isn’t available at Walmart. I actually looked. I’ll have to get mine from Amazon, I guess.

    Anyway, I imagine that Sony asked Domingo to do this so THEY could make money. I can’t fault Domingo for embracing this repertoire, and I see nothing wrong with him generously working with non-opera singers (consider his recent appearance singing with Stephen Colbert). It gives non-operatic singers more credibility as musicians, and will, no doubt, inform the work that they do in the future. Perhaps some of them might even want to go the extra 20 or 1000 miles and study so that they can have the kind of vocal technique that might allow them to sing non-pop music.

    When instrumental musicians play music that is not “symphonic,” (and we do it ALL THE TIME) we do our best to make it sound as good as it can sound. Singers do it too. And some of the material on this CD is really lyrical and beautiful.

    (Perhaps Sinatra’s duet album had some parts that were “phoned” in, but Tony Bennett made an interesting Duet album where he worked directly with all sorts of young singers and brought out the best in them. Fritz Wunderlich made a terrific “crossover” album with a mean “Granada,” and Elly Ameling’s “After Hours” is one of my favorite recordings.)

  23. “Walmart trash,” eh? To paraphrase Wilde, I am glad to say that I New York City has no Walmarts. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.


  24. Jeff Haller says:

    If this bothers you, get a life. It is a recording. So what? If you don’t like what you heard, then don’t buy it. The man is 70 years old. He earned the right to do whatever he wants. He has given more to opera than probably any performer in history, so you complainers are incredibly unappreciative and childish.

    • THANK YOU! There is a market for these singers who may not sing opera but are still enjoyable… and the cd’s fit in my car. Placido and Jose play with these young “Popera” and the young generation knowing that few will become real opera stars, but they can teach them better tecniques, etc. Thanks for speaking up!

      (BTW elitists need to stop trashing people when you don’t know what you are talking about.)

      • Sebastian Petit says:

        Thanks for making the assumption that people who think differently to you are elitist and don”t know what they’re talking about! Isn’t that the definition of snobbishness and elitism?!

        • Agreed. Also, I reject the assumption that operatic techniques are “better”; It would be more accurate to say that they’re “more appropriate”…for opera.

          • Sebastian Petit says:

            It makes me furious when people call me a snob for saying that Katherine Jenkins is an awful singer. Would it be snobbish to point out a bad lawyer or doctor was awful at their job? Singing is Jenkins’ job and she is bad at it.

  25. You know, it could honestly just be that Domingo really wants to record these songs with singers he admires and isn’t worrying about critical response.

  26. For the love of all things holy, you all need to (please!) relax and shut up. Domingo is free to do whatever he wants, he has earned the right. He is not inflicting anything on anyone. If you don’t like the CD, don’t buy it! If you don’t want to see him sing in stadiums or sing baritone rep, don’t buy a ticket. As for the question about his financial motivations for making the CD… its none of our business.

    • Reggie Benstein says:

      I don’t agree with this. Just as the artist markets, the audience (or potential audience) has every right in the world to their opinions and criticisms. If a fan believes an artist is selling out – then they have the right to voice their disappointment. He is a public figure asking for our hard-earned cash … and yes it is our business.

      And by the way, telling people to ‘relax’ and/or ‘shut up’ is rather rude.

  27. Saul Davis says:

    Good, well-written popular songs are nothing to sneer at. As for Domingo singing them, it is probably a waste of listening. But he has always been a consummate businessman.

  28. Humans make mistakes. Domingo, like the rest of us, is only human.

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