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Placido Domingo receives top Spanish arts award

Spain’s government Friday awarded opera tenor Placido Domingo its Order of Arts and Letters for “his extraordinary artistic career.”

Domingo, who is to perform in Madrid on his 70th birthday this month, is “one of the great ambassadors of Spain and of its culture in the world,” the ministry of culture said in announcing the award.

The honour is “in recognition of his extraordinary artistic career as a singer and orchestra conductor, as well as for his international defence of Spanish music, in particular the zarzuela,” the traditional Spanish operetta, it said.

“One of the great tenors in history,” he has had “a 50-year career that is unparalled in the history of modern music.”

Domingo, well known to popular music audiences for his “Three Tenors” performances with Jose Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti, made his operatic debut in a leading role as Alfredo in Verdi’s “La Traviata” in Monterrery in Mexico nearly five decades ago.

The Grammy-winner’s repertoire encompasses 130 stage roles — a number unmatched by any other celebrated tenor in history.

The singer, who was born in Madrid but moved to Mexico as a child with his family, underwent surgery last March in the United States to remove a malignant cancer tumour in his colon.

On January 21, his 70th birthday, he is to perform the role of Oreste in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera “Iphigenie en Tauride” at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house.