Plácido Domingo said Wednesday “the voice is like the most jealous woman in the world – treat her badly and you´ll end it.” On Friday night, the tenor gave his first ever concert in Costa Rica, at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, and not for one moment did he betray the lady.
Nor did Domingo, and co-stars of the night, soprano Iride Martínez and mezzo-soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera, lead astray the Tico audience, who sat in the stands and on chairs in the soccer field just north of San José under an almost full moon.
Though the open-air stadium lost a bit of the acoustics to the Tibás night sky, the sporting arena lent an unusual flavor to the event. Women sat in the stands, donning dresses and heels and picking at fried chicken in boxes sold like Cracker Jacks, to the great tunes of classical composers Bizet, Wagner and Rossini.
Costa Rica´s National Symphony Orchestra tuned up at 8:20 p.m. and, at the baton of conductor Eugene Kohn, launched into the “Hongrois Mars” march from the work “Damnation de Faust” by French composer Hector Berlioz, setting off a first-half colored largely by operas of France. Each singer´s opening solo was in French.
These included Venezuelan-Spanish singer Herrera´s rendering of the aria “Habanera” from Bizet´s “Carmen,” one of the most popular songs of the first half. She mastered the aria´s trademark chromatically descending notes, and reached into rich depths of her register with true style.
Set in Spain, Carmen foreshadowed a strongly Spanish second half of the program – not surprising considering Spanish singer Domingo´s latest recording “Pasión Española,” which last week won him his third Latin Grammy.
The crowd gave some of its most generous applause to Martínez, Costa Rica´s star soprano. Her nationality, though it helped, was not the only reason. Martínez gave each performance – solos such as Charles Gounod´s “Je veux vivre” and a duet, Pietro Mascagni´s “Suzel, buon dí,” in which she and Domingo seemed to utterly fall in love – with real expression and pouring with affection for the libretto and music.
With Domingo in the wings, a Martínez and Herrera duet produced the tenderest moment of the night. Their unwavering harmony on Léo Delibes´s “Flower Duet” was nothing short of heavenly.
That duet was off the playbill, just one in a drawn-out encore full of surprises. A huge climax came when a complete mariachis troupe stormed the stage to play a list of Latin American numbers with and without Domingo.
And Domingo gave a gift: a list of Costa Rican songs, including Jesús Bonilla´s Luna Liberiana (complete with real footage of the moon over Tibás displayed on screens on either side of the stage for added effect), that became sing-alongs for the audience and led to rapturous applause.
By the end of the show, after 11 p.m., many in the crowd undoubtedly wished that every day could be Domingo.
Holly Sonneland contributed to this review.