Why is it I prefer the voices of Placido Domingo and Jussi Bjorling over Pavarotti’s? Caruso was the greatest of them all. Jonas Kaufmann is a nice boy—very good looking, and more than passable though not as great as Bergonzi. You my blog readers shouldn’t care about any of this. There’s a world out there—a big scarified nasty place, lives short and brutish—Jesus, why should such punctilious amateur criticism mean a damn thing to you? Oh look at me this way: I’m giving you room to say what you like and don’t like and I hope you’ll join me.
I should say I grew up listening to opera. I had a shut in’s kind of childhood. I was either in the bomb shelter or the attic. And I listened to old recordings. That’s how it is with shut ins. When I was a college student I marveled at the improbable fact I was living in the age of both Domingo and Pavarotti. I heard them both. I also heard Jose Carreras, Alfredo Kraus—all at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. So there it is. I earned my opinions by being a fan. What I’m getting at is that over time I grew to feel that Luciano Pavarotti’s voice, as rich and soaring as it was, contained a strange quality, especially in the mid register—what I can only call a kind of “bleating” which I’ve never been able to un-hear, having heard it. He came to be known as “the King of the High C’s” and there’s no doubt Pavarotti could soar to high notes as assuredly as “the Great Caruso”—but it’s the middle range where much of what a tenor must produce and over time I came to appreciate the smoothness and control of Placido Domingo, who even today is my “go to” guy when I’m listening to opera recordings that aren’t vintage.
Why am I bothering you with this? I don’t know exactly save that I admire Placido Domingo tremendously and felt like writing it today on my blog. My favorite recording of La Boheme is with Domingo and Montserrat Caballe. If you’ve not heard it, download it. It’s probably even on YouTube. I’d be surprised if it isn’t. But the recording is really worth having.
I admit there are bigger issues to discuss today. The shooting of an unarmed deaf motorist has me all shook up. Bombings in Aleppo. Hospitals ablaze in Syria. How can anyone bother with opera?
Well, a shut in has to soothe himself. Herself. They-self.
Here, because you’ve read this far, is a lovely moment from La Traviata, Domingo with Teresa Stratis, another one of my faves: