Placido Domingo had not finished entering the stage of the National Auditorium when the audience exploded in applause. It was the welcome that the Madrid public has given the singer this Wednesday after a year and a half of absence on the Spanish stages due to the accusations of sexual harassment made against him by a score of women in the United States. More than three minutes of cheers and various compliments: “Bravo!”, “You are the greatest!”. The ovation was so intense that the rest of the artists who were going to come out to sing afterwards, including the soprano Ainhoa Arteta and the veteran dancer and concert castanet player Lucero Tena, came out of their dressing rooms to join in the applause, which made the artist will end with tears in his eyes. The emotion increased as the recital progressed, so that at the end it overflowed: five encores had to sing the tenor to calm the anxieties of the spectators.
Already at the entrance of the National Auditorium, the desire that those spectators had to reconnect with Domingo was breathed. An audience of all ages, but mostly female, including the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who declared: “It is a pride to have you among us. One of the best tenors and one of the greatest ambassadors that Spain has had. It is a pride to have him in Spain ”. The concert, organized by the Excelentia Foundation for the benefit of the Red Cross Responds to help the most vulnerable people affected by the pandemic, it had aroused much expectation since it was announced a month ago and just a few loose seats of the 1,620 put up for sale were left unsold, due to anticovid measures, of the 2,340 that the Symphonic Hall of the National Auditorium has, with prices that ranged between 55 and 175 euros.
The concert began with an instrumental piece, the prelude to the Carmen by Bizet, performed by the Santa Cecilia Classical Orchestra with Josep Caballé Domenech at the baton. And right after, Domingo came out to interpret Nemico della patria ?! (Enemy of the homeland), the main aria of the opera baritone Andréa Chénier, from Umberto Giordano. At the end, another ovation.
Later, more arias and duos by Verdi, Donizzeti, Fernández Caballero or Gerónimo Giménez sounded, on the voices of Ainhoa Arteta, María José Siri, Jorge de León, Virginia Tola, Nicholas Brownlee, Marina Monzó, Pablo Sainz Villegas, Domingo himself (he sang five of the 16 works that made up the program) and Lucero Tena’s castanets, which also unleashed an enthusiastic ovation from the audience.
The closing of the concert, as it seemed to come, was tremendous. Domingo sang what was planned in the program, an aria by The duo of the African, the best known zarzuela by Manuel Fernández Caballero. But at the end, the audience made it clear that this could not be the end. And the encores began to follow one another: five by him and another by Jorge de León. Domingo’s: the romance I fought my faith for the triumph, of the zarzuela Luisa Fernanda; an operetta piece The merry widow, with Ainhoa Arteta; the pasodoble The brunette in my song, Bolero Kiss Me a lot and the neapolitan song Non ti scordar di me. The atmosphere was a total party.
Domingo did not want to make any statement to the press in Madrid. When this concert was announced, he limited himself to divulging a brief message through his communication agency: “I am very happy to return to Madrid. It will be a great emotion for me to sing to my people. Music unites us and melts into the heart of the Red Cross Responde solidarity project ”. Ainhoa Arteta, who from the first moment came out in defense of the tenor after the accusations, also made a short statement after learning about his participation in the Madrid recital: “It is always a source of satisfaction to dedicate a special evening whose purpose is generosity. Singing with Plácido has always been a great pleasure and honor and I will be very happy there ”. The soprano will also sing in the next concert that the tenor will give in Spain, scheduled for August 18 within the Starlite festival in Marbella, described by the organizers as “a great party in her honor.”
The last time Domingo performed in Spain was in December 2019 at Les Arts de Valencia, when he participated in the opera Nabucco, where he embodied the king who gives name to this work by Verdi. This performance came shortly after the accusations were known. At first, Domingo described these harassment cases as false and, in different interviews and countries, affirmed that he had never abused anyone, but after the investigation of the US opera musicians union, which concluded that he had abused his power and harassed the complainants, apologized for “the pain” that could cause them and assumed “all responsibility” for their actions. The scandal, in the middle of the #MeToo campaign, caused his resignation as director of the Los Angeles Opera and the cancellation of most of the performances around the world that he had already signed. Domingo has not returned to work in the United States, although he has in other European countries.
The singer, who turned 80 last January, has spent almost the entire pandemic in Acapulco (Mexico). There he had to be hospitalized after catching COVID-19, from which he later recovered little by little at his family home. His wife also contracted the disease. A few months ago he returned to Europe, according to a person in charge of his press team.