Plácido Domingo Biography

Singer (1941–)
Plácido Domingo is a Spanish tenor and conductor best known for his powerful and versatile voice.


Known as "the King of Opera," Plácido Domingo is one of the most famous tenors of all time. He first studied piano and conducting before focusing on his vocal talents. Domingo began his career in Mexico and Israel before becoming a rising star in the opera world in the 1960s. In 1983, he won his first Grammy Award and appeared in his first film La Traviata. Domingo later joined forces with Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras to perform and record as "The Three Tenors." This trio enjoyed international success during the 1990s. Today Domingo continues to perform around the world.

Early Life and Career

Born on January 21, 1941, in Madrid, Spain, Plácido Domingo grew up in a musical family. Both of his parents were singers of zarzuela, or Spanish operettas, who toured with a troupe. Domingo moved with his parents to Mexico when he was eight. There his parents started up their own zarzuela group. According to some reports, Domingo made his first stage appearances in his parents' productions.

As a teenager, Domingo enrolled at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. He first wanted to be a conductor, but he later shifted his focus to voice. At 18, Domingo landed a bit part in a National Opera production. He gave his first performance as a tenor two years, playing Alfredo in La Traviata in Monterrey. Domingo, along with his second wife Marta, went on to join the Israel National Opera in the early 1960s. He stayed with the company for three seasons, tackling 12 different roles during his tenure.

Leading Opera Star

In the mid-1960s, Domingo made his New York debut with the New York City Opera. He later told the Los Angeles Times that these early appearances "were what really kicked off my international career." Before long, Domingo was also taking the stage at the Metropolitan Opera and at other leading opera houses around the world.

Domingo made another impressive debut in 1973 as a conductor for the New York City Opera's production of La Traviata. He soon added movie star to his list of credits, appearing as Alfredo in Franco Zeffirelli's 1983 film adaptation of La Traviata. Domingo won a Grammy Award that same year for best opera recording.

The following year, Domingo portrayed another legendary opera character on the big screen in Carmen (1984). He played Don José in the film. Domingo recorded more than just operatic works, however. That same year, he won a Grammy Award for best Latin pop performance for the album Always in My Heart.

Reuniting with Zeffirelli, Domingo appeared in Otello (1986). Perhaps more than any other role, he has been most closely associated with the title character in this opera based a tragedy by William Shakespeare. Domingo practically became a household name for his collaboration with two other opera stars in the 1990s. In 1990, he sang alongside Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras for the first time. The recording of that concert proved to be a big hit and earned the trio a Grammy Award for best classical vocal performance.

Four years later, the trio, nicknamed "the Three Tenors," performed together again in Los Angeles. This concert was another commercial smash as was the tour that followed later. In addition to performing, Domingo took on other challenges. He became the artistic director of the Washington National Opera in 1996 and stayed with the company until 2011. In 2003, Domingo became the general director of the Los Angeles Opera, a company that he had been associated for many years.

Recent Projects

Domingo has embraced the motto: "If I rest I rust." Now in his seventies, he shows no signs of slowing down. Domingo hasn't even let such health woes as colon cancer surgery in 2010 and a pulmonary embolism in 2013 force him into retirement. He has signed on for the 2015 production of Woody Allen's opera Gianna Schicchi to be staged in his hometown of Madrid. Continuing to record, Domingo released Encanto del Mar: Mediterranean Songs and Puccini: Manon Lescaut in 2014.

During his distinguished career, Domingo has taken on more than 140 operatic parts. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and an honorary British knighthood, both of which he received in 2002. In 2009, Domingo won the first Birgit Nilsson Prize, receiving $1 million in recognition of his musical achievements. He has also worked hard to help nurture the careers of other singers. In 1993, Domingo established Operalia, a yearly voice competition to discover new talents.

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