Opera stars turn out, honour Placido Domingo at 70

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Celebrated Spanish tenor Placido Domingo said he hopes to keep singing for years to come, as international opera stars put on a gala show in Madrid to mark his 70th birthday.

The event late Friday at the Teatro Real opera house in Domingo's native city was just one of many tributes to the performer, known to popular music audiences for his "Three Tenors" performances with Jose Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti.

Around 20 of the world's leading opera singers flew in to perform some 15 arias, the Teatro Real, hosts of the event, said.

"I feel very happy, very lucky and very thankful for all the public has given me around the world, they gave so much encouragement," Domingo told reporters in the Spanish capital.

"To arrive at 70 singing is a great privilege for me and it is a great privilege to be able to make the public happy still," he added.

"I don't know how many more years I am going to be singing... but at the moment I still can do it," said Domingo, who underwent surgery last year to remove a cancerous polyp from his colon.

"Probably if I feel strong physically and I am believable on the stage, I would continue singing opera for a few years," he added, while stressing how tiring the preparation for operas can be, requiring "eight to 10 hours a day."

However his many fans were assured that "to sing concerts is easier... I might do (that) longer than opera," said Domingo, who is also director of the Washington National Opera and the Los Angeles Opera in the United States.

Domingo, and the rest of the audience, were unaware until the last minute exactly who had traveled to Madrid to perform.

The chorus of the Teatro Real opened the evening with excerpts from Richard Wagner's Tannhauser, which was followed by American soprano Deborah Polaski, who performed a scene from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.

German bass Rene Pape, Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta and Uruguyan baritone Erwin Shrott also appeared. The programme ended with Pla-ci-do, specially composed for the occasion by China's Tan Dun.

The audience was also treated to excerpts from Verdi, Puccini and Mozart.

Spanish mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza paid tribute to their guest of honour. "You have touched the souls of all of us," she told Domingo.

Domingo watched the evening's entertainment from the balcony, with his family, ahead of a much-anticipated turn in the spotlight with the other performers on stage at the end.

The gala was made more accessible thanks to a giant screen erected in the Plaza de Oriente outside and broadcasts in around 20 countries.

"To be in Madrid singing, with my family and friends, on such an important day for me is part of my birthday present," Domingo told a news conference earlier this month.

The tenor has been performing the role of Oreste in Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera "Iphigenie en Tauride" at the Teatro Real this month. The opera runs until January 27.

On Tuesday, he received the Spanish government's Order of Arts and Letters for "his extraordinary artistic career as a singer and orchestra conductor."

The Teatro Real has also offered people from around the world the chance to wish Domingo 'happy birthday' on its official web site.

Born in Madrid, he moved to Mexico as a child with his parents, who ran a company that performed zarzuela, the traditional Spanish operetta.

He made his operatic debut in a leading role as Alfredo in Verdi's "La Traviata" in Monterrery, Mexico nearly five decades ago.

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

© 2011 AFP

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