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At 65, Domingo's not ready for swan song

Legendary tenor won't name a retirement date
/ Source: Reuters

Placido Domingo is looking ahead to life after singing, but the Spanish tenor has no plans for an operatic swan song just yet.

One of the world’s most famous classical singers, the 65-year-old is singing his 121st operatic role in the form of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a relatively obscure work by Italian composer Franco Alfano.

Although the tenor recently said he had two to three years left of singing, after a rousing reception at London’s Covent Garden late on Monday he avoided naming a date.

“Nobody knows,” Domingo told Reuters in a backstage interview after the performance.

“When I feel like I feel tonight, I don’t have to worry for the time being,” he said, removing his giant stage nose for which the character of Cyrano is famous.

“I have been singing so many years it’s logical it’s going to be some time sooner rather than later (but) I’m not saying I want to leave. I don’t say when it will be the right moment.

“I have a lot of respect for the public and I have a lot of respect for myself, so I just want to sing as long as I will be believable in the characters and believable vocally.”

Giving up opera is notoriously hard to do.

Luciano Pavarotti, 70, gave his final opera performance in New York in 2004, but faced criticism for not bowing out earlier as his large frame and joint replacements impaired his mobility.

Domingo is leaner, but he recently had to cancel performances amid reports of an inflammation of the windpipe.

Critics were not totally convinced by his latest appearance.

“Fencing at full tilt while simultaneously singing your heart out is not the kindest way to treat yourself at the ripe old age of 65,” the Independent newspaper wrote on Tuesday.

But the review was more positive about his famous voice.

“As soon as he opens his mouth you know it’s him: his voice still has that marvellous freshness and focus,” it continued.

New roles aheadDomingo believes the part of Cyrano suits his age, given that the swashbuckling hero who agrees to woo the woman he loves on behalf of another man is no beauty.

“OK, he should be younger, like every opera he should be younger, but you can play it because after all he’s the loser, he’s not the handsome boy, so he has to die to win love.”

Domingo helped resurrect Cyrano from obscurity with this co-production with the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

It was a new departure for someone best known for the great roles of Wagner and Verdi, and Domingo has plans to experiment further with Tan Dun’s “The First Emperor” in New York in December and an operatic version of the film “Il Postino.”

That project is slated for 2009, by which time Domingo will be 68.

He also intends to continue directing opera companies in Washington and Los Angeles and holding young singer competitions.

Nearer on the horizon are three concerts in Germany that coincide with the soccer World Cup, although there are no plans to repeat “The Three Tenors” concert, which Domingo first sang with Pavarotti and Jose Carreras for the 1990 competition.

The resulting record went on to become the biggest selling classical album of all time at 20 million copies.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with The Three Tenors, (but) I have three concerts during the World Cup,” Domingo said.

When asked who he tipped to take the big prize, he replied: “You always think about the most popular ones like Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy ... But I hope it’s going to be someone who’s never won before. Spain have never won before so it would be a wonderful feeling.”