Placido Domingo is perhaps the greatest opera tenor of his generation — fans of Luciano Pavarotti may disagree — and he'll be guest of honor for Thursday's Opera Tampa concert and gala.
"His Otello was the greatest thing I ever saw,'' says Anton Coppola, the Opera Tampa conductor, speaking of Domingo's performance in the Verdi opera. "His complete immersion in the character was exemplary. He was a great actor. He didn't just stand and sing. To introduce him for the concert, I'm going to have the orchestra play an excerpt from Otello.''
Domingo won't be singing Thursday, though he is scheduled to conduct a number during the concert. He will be on hand to receive the Anton Coppola Excellence in the Arts Award.
In June, Domingo, 70, is stepping down as general director of Washington National Opera, a post he's held for 15 seasons. He plans to continue in the same position with Los Angeles Opera through 2013.
The big news for Domingo lately is that he has been singing baritone roles, most notably that of the title character in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. In a way, he has been a baritone for a while, having his tenor parts transposed down to accommodate his changing range.
"Domingo was never a high, high tenor,'' Coppola says. "He never sang Che gelida manina (Rodolfo's aria in La Boheme) in key. It was always a half a tone lower. He never sang any of the high Donizetti or Bellini roles.''
Domingo still maintains a busy performing schedule. Last week, he headlined a Valentine's Day concert with the New York Philharmonic. He also conducts, and was in the pit for last fall's LA Opera revival of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.
Thursday's concert at 7:30 p.m. will feature tenor James Valenti and soprano Angela Meade, both on the Metropolitan Opera roster, plus other singers, the Opera Tampa orchestra and chorus at Morsani Hall of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Coppola will share conducting duties with Domingo and another opera legend, baritone Sherill Milnes, artistic adviser to the company. $19.50-$89.50. Tickets to the gala, including a postconcert dinner on the stage of Ferguson Hall, are $275. (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; strazcenter.org.
Also this week, Coppola is giving a master class for singers open to the public at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Straz's Patel Conservatory. (813) 222-1002; operatampa.org.
'An epic in D'
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is always a big deal. Many a tome has been written on the composer and his "Grand Symphony, with solo and chorus entering in the finale on Schiller's ode, To Joy,'' but one of my favorite accounts is not by a musicologist or music critic but a biographer of U.S. presidents, Edmund Morris, author of books on Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt. Here's Morris, in his brief biography, Beethoven: The Universal Composer, imagining the 1824 premiere:
It began with "the most revolutionary sound in symphonic history: a long, hovering, almost inaudible bare fifth on A, seemingly static yet full of storm. High over this cloud layer, like the reflections of distant lightning, a series of broken fifths dropped pianissimo and very slowly. They repeated themselves, no louder but more often, while the hovering fifth prevented any sense of acceleration. Odd wind instruments joined the general drone on A (was the whole universe tuning up?), then unexpectedly and quite off the beat, a low bassoon sounded D. At once, still without any crescendo, the sense of space filling the hall gained an extra dimension. This was not a symphony in A, but an epic in D. Now the broken fifths began to proliferate wildly, the drone swelled to a roar, and a huge theme built of all the elements crashed down fortissimo. Beethoven's Ninth was under way, and for the rest of the century, symphonic composers would struggle in vain to write anything that sounded bigger.''
Stefan Sanderling conducts the Florida Orchestra, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and soloists — Jonita Lattimore, soprano; Frances Pappas, mezzo soprano; Steven Tharp, tenor; Richard Zeller, baritone — in the Ninth next weekend. Also on the agenda is Schoenberg's Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth). 8 p.m. Friday at Morsani Hall of the Straz Center, Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $20-$67, with student tickets $10. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286; floridaorchestra.org.
Listening, not speaking
The Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg will hold its second "Listening'' evening at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. "War and Love" will feature Britten's War Requiem with bookend pieces by Sarah Brightman. In December, the series made its debut with Gorecki's Symphony No. 3.
"All we ask is that you enter in silence, remain silent and exit in silence,'' says a release. "The music will begin following lighting of meditation candles.'' The church is at 719 Arlington Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg. Free.
Medics in 'Wonderland'
There apparently are changes afoot with Wonderland, the Frank Wildhorn musical that premiered at the Straz Center and begins previews March 21 at the Marquis Theatre in New York. Michael Riedel, the New York Post theater columnist, reports that producers have brought in a pair of "show doctors.'' Director Scott Ellis will restage the show, and playwright and singer-songwriter Rupert Holmes will rewrite it. The musical's creative team has struggled to come up with a coherent book, co-written by director Gregory Boyd and lyricist Jack Murphy.
Ellis' Broadway productions include the musical Curtains and the revival of the courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men. Holmes, known for his pop hit Escape (The Piña Colada Song), wrote the book, music and lyrics to the Tony Award-winning Drood and the book for Curtains.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.