Three Tenors return, in drag for Domingo

September 29, 2008 9:00:25 AM PDT
Placido Domingo and Woody Allen didn't exactly sing a duet on the stage of the Met.But the two did dine together under the Metropolitan Opera spotlights Sunday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the tenor's debut here. Allen is fresh from making his own successful debut as an opera director at the Los Angeles Opera, where Domingo is general director.

And for one more night, The Three Tenors appeared again - as transvestites.

Three female singing stars spoofed the famed male trio that included Domingo, the late Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras. The surviving tenors joined several hundred guests for the onstage musical mirth before an empty auditorium.

Ripping off tuxedoes, sopranos Deborah Voigt and Patricia Racette and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham revealed shimmering gowns in which they delivered the aria "Nessun Dorma" that was a signature piece for The Three Tenors.

Domingo was shown in a video clip chatting with Miss Piggy - along with excerpts from his top-notch performances ranging from Verdi's "Otello" to Wagner's "Die Walkuere," which he's to sing this season at the Met.

Of Domingo's 126 career roles, he sang 45 at the Met since his debut on Sept. 28 in 1968. On that night, he drove himself from home in Teaneck, N.J., warming up in the car at the top of his lungs while a nearby motorist laughed. "I asked him, 'Where are you going?' - and he said, 'the Met.' And I said, 'Don't laugh - you are going to be hearing me."'

Minutes later, Domingo jumped in for an ill Franco Corelli as Maurizio in "Adriana Lecouvreur." He will repeat the role later this season.

"He has defined the art of the tenor, fusing drama and music into a higher art," said Met General Manager Peter Gelb.

By contrast, Allen told The Associated Press later, "I'm at the bottom left of opera."

The filmmaker directed Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" in Los Angeles, bringing hilarious earthiness to the story of an old man who dies and leaves his family searching for his will - hidden in a pot of pasta.

"I brought the low-life element to opera," Allen said. "It reeked from the streets."

While he's a newcomer to opera, Domingo is a veteran.

"Tonight has been emotional. I have been crying," said the 67-year-old tenor, his voice breaking as he glanced out at the 4,000-seat house he said looked "scary" at first, but now feels "sacred."

"Once, I was the youngest member in the roster of the opera," he said. "And today, I am the oldest. But we are still here."

Gelb said he and Domingo "have made artistic plans for him far into the future."