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Placido Domingo And Operalia Building A Future For Talent

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By Author: Barrett Wissman
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Placido Domingo is of course first and foremost a singer who has made his mark as one of the greatest artists of the last 50 years. He is known by audiences, young and old alike, across the world and maintains a blazing schedule of performances across the globe, week-after-week, year-after-year as a very youthful 70-something.

The Maestro doesn’t rest on his laurels giving endless farewell appearances and tours, but is an active proponent of new repertoire, constantly adding new roles to his list of over 140 with new commissions. He has been quoted as saying that “when I rest, I rust” when asked if he should be maintaining such a vigorous schedule. Maestro Domingo is also a conductor serves as an administrator in his role as General Director of the Los Angeles Opera and has won 12 Grammys, performed for millions as one of The Three Tenors and whose telecast of Tosca from Rome was viewed by more than a billion people across the globe.

The Sphinx Organization: Diversity and Fostering New Audiences - http://onforb.es/1pgh4uG

Two years ago, I had the fortune to work closely with Maestro Domingo in Seville ...
... in presenting his very first festival carrying his own name. Not only did it give me an insight into his uncanny ability to understand the delicate balance between pursuing artistic quality with knowing what audiences want, it gave me a sense of his fiercely-focused commitment to the future of the arts.

For Placido Domingo, music and arts education and giving opportunity to those who might not otherwise have the chance or platform to showcase their talent is perhaps the singlemost important objective of his life’s work outside of his achievements as a performer. For this reason, he founded Operalia in 1993: it has since become one of the most important institutions for discovering and launching the careers of the most promising young vocal talent in the world.

On Saturday evening, I attended the finals of Operalia at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. Each year, the competition screens around 1000 applicants from around the world which was narrowed down to the field of 40 contestants who made their way to Los Angeles for the event. The contestants’ expenses are fully paid for by Operalia including hotel, travel and per diem so the competition is open to any singer regardless of income or economic status. The competition’s track record is excellent in that many of today’s stars are alumni and winners from past competitions. It is truly a global event as the competition takes place in a different city each year (the last three years took place respectively in Moscow, Beijing and Verona).

Placido Domingo and Operalia Building a Future for Talent - http://onforb.es/1watgTw

The level of the talent this year was high and the winners certainly deserved candidates. Mario Chang, a tenor from Guatemala who won first prize, had a powerful and impressive delivery. Joshua Guerrero, a Los Angeles native, impressed with his musicality and the almost sentimental quality of his quickly-paced and old-fashioned vibrato. Amanda Woodbury, at the age of 26, took us through the emotional roller-coaster of Ophelia’s mad scene from Hamlet with the composure and bravura of a seasoned star.

Before Saturday, I had never attended the actual competition. I have however been to many competitions of all sorts and witnessed the stress and the nail-biting tension that pervades the atmosphere of most of these events, which is frankly counterproductive to anything requiring creativity or artistic expression. Operalia is different somehow. Because Maestro Domingo is omnipresent at the competition and he actually conducts the orchestra during all the performances at the finals, his spirit of generosity is evident. One can feel the reasons he has created and supported Operalia in the air.

I had the impression from speaking with several of the contestants that they all came away as winners and learned a great deal artistically and professionally from the experience. Placido Domingo gives them all a sense that he truly cares and that his main purpose is to nurture talent and make sure there is a home and a future not only for the artists of the future, but for the art form itself. Even at the gala dinner afterwards (events like these are normally stiff and staid affairs for me), the food and wine tasted better! Perhaps all of this is why so many of the contestants at Operalia have gone on to have such illustrious careers (unlike most of the other competitions out there today).

In a time when there is so much doom and gloom in the performing arts world, it is heartening to spend an evening with Placido Domingo at an event like Operalia. Maestro Domingo told me after the performances Saturday evening that the only reason he has dedicated so much time and effort to Operalia was to make sure that others might have the same opportunities he was so fortunate to have and that these possibilities should be open to everyone and anyone with talent irregardless of where they come from or what their economic reality might be. We would collectively be much better off if we had more stars and celebrity artists like Placido Domingo dedicating themselves to education and the future of the young and talented.

Bravo to Placido Domingo for this accomplishment. It may be the most important work he is doing.

Follow me on twitter at @Barrettwissman and visit www.barrettwissman.com and www.imgartists.com

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