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THE '80s A Special Report : TASTE MAKERS : Presenting the big players and major ideas that--for better or worse--shaped the 1980s. This is Calendar's fifth annual Taste Makers report, expanded this time to cover the last 10 years in the following categories: Show Business Execs, Film Producers, Film Directors and Writers, Stage, TV, Music, Dance, Pop Music, Jazz, Comedy, Radio, Art and Restaurants. : MUSIC : PLACIDO DOMINGO

December 24, 1989|DANIEL CARIAGA

Just the way he had always predicted, Placido Domingo came into his own in the 1980s.

In this decade, the celebrated Spanish tenor: made his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera; continued to show the world his now-signature role in Verdi's "Otello"; raised big bucks for earthquake relief; made well-selling "crossover" recordings, as well as a steady stream of operatic and classical albums; sang in rock arenas and giant amphitheaters and was sued by impresarios; published an autobiography, titled "My First Forty Years," and made films, even including operatic ones.

No question that he has grown into one of opera's leading performers and creative forces.

Most important for Southern California, Domingo has served for five years as the major artistic consultant to Los Angeles Music Center Opera, and has sung four of his more important roles (in "Otello," "Boheme," "Contes d'Hoffmann" and "Tosca") for that Dorothy Chandler Pavilion-based company. In April he adds a fifth, Herman in Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades."

And Domingo has conducted eight Music Center Opera performances (of "Macbeth" and "Tosca"), preparing the way into the 1990s, a decade in which he has predicted more conducting than singing performances for himself--he turns 50 in January, 1991.

Since his operatic debut in 1959--he first sang in California in May, 1966, in a San Diego Opera "Faust"--Domingo has logged more than 2,000 performances worldwide.

He has not been timid about repertory--indeed, he has been bolder than his critics would like--but has learned to be cautious. Early-on problems when he essayed "Lohengrin" in the late 1960s taught him, he has said, to approach every new challenge as an experiment which can fail. Accordingly, as with Aeneas in Berlioz's "Troyens" at the Met in 1983, he has not hesitated to walk away from roles which do not work for him.

The Taste Makers project was edited by David Fox, assistant Sunday Calendar editor.

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