Opera singing is traditionally a young man's game, but Plácido Domingo seems a long way off from retirement. At least that was the impression Saturday night at the Greek Theatre, where the great Spanish tenor, appearing in concert with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra under guest conductor Eugene Kohn, gave a performance notable for its energy, ebullience and sheer staying power.
Presented by Another Planet Entertainment in association with Cal Performances, and joined by sopranos Angel Joy Blue and Micaela Oeste, Domingo sang an engaging, nearly three-hour program of scenes, duets and trios drawn from opera, zarzuela, Broadway show tunes and popular songs.
Domingo, 72, has been one of opera's high achievers for more than four decades. Born in Madrid, he made his San Francisco Opera debut in 1969, as Rodolfo in Puccini's "La Boheme," and has gone on to sing more than 100 additional roles since then. He maintains parallel careers as a conductor and administrator, heading the Los Angeles and Washington National Operas. Over the years, he's established singing competitions and fostered hundreds of young artists. He shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
In opera roles, he's a passionate singer-actor; on the concert stage, he's an easygoing, charismatic star. Saturday's appearance found him in fine form. His voice, a powerfully shaped, burnished instrument, still sounds fit and flexible and his stage persona exudes warmth, humor and boundless enthusiasm.
With his first entrance, singing Siegmund's aria, "Wintersturme wichen dem Wonnemond" from Wagner's "Die Walküre," Domingo sounded ardent and expansive. He returned with "Nemico della patria," shading the beloved aria from Giordano's "Andrea Chenier" with beautiful tone.
Verdi was represented by two duets, one with each soprano. Blue joined Domingo in the dramatic "Udiste? ... Mira, di acerbe lagrime" from "Il Trovatore," her strong, soaring voice suggesting a sensational Leonora in the making. Oeste partnered with the tenor in "Pura siccome un angelo" from Verdi's "La Traviata." Here, Domingo sang with consummate mastery in the role of the elder Germont -- a persuasive demonstration of the baritone repertoire he's been exploring in recent years.
The lighter second half included selections by Lehar, Bernstein, and Johann Strauss Jr.; highlights included the Act I trio from the latter's "Die Fledermaus." Joined by Blue and Oeste, Domingo's lighthearted performance showed that his vocal skills -- and, for that matter, his dance moves -- haven't diminished. Hearing him sing Richard Rodgers' "Some Enchanted Evening" was an enveloping experience. So, too, were his traversals of the zarzuela selections, particularly Moreno-Torroba's "Amor, vida de mi vida."
In between, Blue and Oeste made fine contributions in assorted solos and duets. Blue was the stronger of the two, delivering Wagner's "Dich, teure Halle" with complete assurance. Oeste started the evening sounding a little wan in "Je veux vivre" from Gounod's "Romeo and Juliette," but rose to the occasion in a lilting "Lippen Schweigen" from Lehar's "The Merry Widow." The two sopranos came together charmingly in a witty, fast-paced "Anything You Can Do" from "Annie Get Your Gun."
For his part, Kohn gave the singers excellent support, eliciting characterful playing from the ensemble during the vocal selections and conducting crisp performances of orchestral works such as the Prelude to Wagner's "Meistersinger" and overtures to Verdi's "Un Giorno di Regno" and Bernstein's "Candide."
Still, it was Domingo's star power that carried the night. By program's end, the audience was on its feet. The encores, which included a seductive "Besame Mucho," a bracing "Granada," and a poignant "Non ti scordar" -- were the icing on a very sweet cake.