(Reuters) - Placido Domingo appeared at London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden late Thursday both as a tenor and in his new guise as a baritone.
Here are some key facts on Domingo:
— Domingo was born in Madrid on January 21, 1941, but left Spain when he was eight to join his parents in Mexico, where they led a “zarzuela” — Spanish operetta — company.
— Although as a child he wanted to be a bullfighter or soccer star, he was drawn into the family trade and made his debut as a zarzuela baritone at 16 while he completed his piano and musical theory studies at Mexico’s National Conservatory.
— He left Mexico in 1962 for 2-1/2 grueling years with Israel’s National Opera, singing 280 performances of 12 different roles.
— His big break came in 1968, when he was called in at 40 minutes’ notice to substitute for Italian tenor Franco Corelli opposite soprano Renata Tebaldi in Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. He made his debut at London’s Covent Garden as Cavaradossi in a production of Puccini’s “Tosca” in 1971.
— His repertoire - more than 120 different roles — includes almost all important parts in the Italian and French operas. Being constantly challenged by new roles, his ever expanding foray into the German repertoire includes Wagner’s “Parsifal,” “Lohengrin” and Siegmund in “Die Walkuere.”
— In the 2004/05 season he added role 121, singing Alfano’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” for the first time at the Metropolitan, and role 122, recording a complete Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde.”
— Best known as a tenor, Domingo decided at the age of 69 that some tenorial roles were becoming too taxing and in 2010 he took on the main baritone in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” at the Royal Opera House. He had sung the same part at Milan’s La Scala in April 2010 — his comeback after surgery to remove a malignant polyp from his colon.
— Later that year he also appeared in a film of “Rigoletto.” The actual performance took place over two days, so that each Act could unfold at the correct time of day, and in the places indicated in the libretto - just as Verdi indicated.
— Domingo has made over 100 opera recordings in music spanning the centuries from Mozart to Verdi and Puccini to Wagner to Ginastera.
— He outraged purists by recording an album of pop songs with American singer John Denver and a collection of tango classics with top Argentine musicians in Buenos Aires.
— He has been seen in 50 opera videos and at least three feature films of opera including a Tosca filmed in the actual Rome locations. That film was seen by 1 billion people in 117 countries.
— Domingo can also be seen conducting opera in various houses from the Met to Covent Garden, from the Vienna State Opera to Los Angeles’s Music Center.
— He has conducted symphonic concerts with the Berliner and Wiener Philharmoniker, the London and Chicago Symphony orchestras, and has made numerous recordings as a conductor.
— Domingo was music director of the Seville World’s Fair in 1992 and one of the founders of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera in 1984, remaining its music adviser and principal guest conductor until July 2000, when he became artistic director. In September 2010, he renewed his contract to 2013.
— Domingo has raised millions of dollars through benefit concerts on behalf of the victims of the 1985 Mexican earthquake, AIDS and such other disasters as the Armenian earthquake and mudslides in Acapulco, Mexico.