PLACIDO DOMINGO by Cornelius Schnauber


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 A peculiar mix of biography and analysis, focusing more on the noted tenor's vocal abilities as evinced in performance and recordings than on his life or personality. Schnauber is the German diction coach for the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, which may explain the disproportionate amount of space devoted to the German repertoire, hardly the singer's specialty. The author's involvement with the Music Center, for which Domingo has served as an artistic consultant since 1984, may also account for the emphasis on his work during the last decade. Though the late 1980s and '90s brought Domingo unparalleled commercial success and witnessed a number of superb performances, they also, as Schnauber notes, saw a slightly routine quality creep into some of Domingo's work, perhaps as a result of an increasingly crowded schedule. Despite his skewed perspective, the author makes some interesting points about the dark timbre of Domingo's voice, limited in range but warmly expressive thanks to finely honed technical skills. But this is discussed by Schnauber at a level of detail (``supraglottal cavities,'' etc.) that will make most readers' eyes glaze over. The author obviously admires Domingo's artistry, and he paints an appealing portrait of the 56-year-old Spanish-born tenor as a nice guy, but his nitpicking comparisons of various performances in the same role will interest only the truly obsessive. It would be unfair to blame translator Ray for the grindingly pedantic prose style, presumably a faithful equivalent of the German, but there's no excuse for such peculiar usages as ``interpretorial'' or ``inobtrusive.'' The brief biographical sections add little to what the tenor himself wrote in his autobiography (My First Forty Years, 1983); chapters on Domingo's work in video, folk music, and pop are similarly perfunctory. Definitely not for the casual fan, though serious opera lovers may be able to pluck some worthwhile insights from this plodding study. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 27th, 1997
ISBN: 1-55553-315-9
Page count: 259pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997