Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette was often critical of Placido Domingo during his years with the capital’s opera company. However when she criticized his conducting of Tosca a month ago, Domingo decided that enough was enough, and wrote a letter to her paper. On September 12, Midgette wrote;
All the performances were hampered, indeed sabotaged, by the conducting.”
Domingo’s response in yesterday’s edition reads as follows:
In more than 50 years of my career as a singer and nearly 40 as a conductor, I have accepted critics’ reviews, positive or negative, for what they are: personal opinions and points of view. But for the first time in my life, I am sending a letter to the editor of a newspaper, because your music critic Anne Midgette has crossed the line between reasonably objective criticism and what appears to be open animosity.
“I believe that during my 15 years with Washington National Opera, my colleagues have been able to observe my integrity as an artist and my love of and consideration toward all of them.
“Midgette’s statement that my conducting actually “sabotaged” WNO’s recent performances of Puccini’s “Tosca” is offensive and defamatory. An act of sabotage is a destructive act done on purpose. Her remark suggests not only that I “spoiled” the performances but that I did so intentionally. This is unconscionable.”
Midgette responded yesterday on her blog “since the word “defamatory” is strong language”, admitting that
I have certainly been critical of some of Mr Domingo’s forays into conducting. I am far from the only critic to feel that his conducting is not at the same top-flight international standard as his singing.
So she writes:
I found his performance on the opening night of “Tosca” dismaying. When I wrote the review, I didn’t even realize that Mr Domingo only came into town shortly before the dress rehearsal, and that the performance I heard was extremely under rehearsed; but this fact only confirms my sense that he could have done much, much better.
“I am surprised that Mr Domingo takes such exception to this review, since, as he himself has told me, an artist knows when he has done well or badly. I can’t believe he feels in his heart that this “Tosca” represented his finest hour.”
Poor Domingo. Although he loves singers and singing, many critics over the years have been tactful in their comments on the world’s favourite tenor’s second job: he’s not the world’s favourite conductor. But, like everything he does, he conducts with great passion and conviction. His thoughts probably echo those of Tosca herself:
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.