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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Domingo's return to 'theatre I love'
Three Tenors
Domingo, left, with the Three Tenors during the last World Cup
Placido Domingo looks forward to his return to London's Royal Opera House after a long absence.

Placido Domingo has had a special relationship with London's Royal Opera House since his celebrated performances there as Rodolfo in La Bohème in the early 1970s.

He returns this weekend for quite a different role in Tchaikovsky's The Queen Of Spades, based on the tragic novel by Alexander Pushkin.

The opera will also be relayed live on Tuesday evening to the public in the Covent Garden piazza and - for the first time - Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

Placido Domingo
Domingo has a classic "bel canto" voice
Domingo, who was born in Madrid in 1941 but grew up in Mexico described the Royal Opera House as "a theatre that I really love".

"In the last year before the closing of the house, I didn't do an opera here.

"Then I came and did the gala for the opening, but I haven't done a complete opera here for quite a few years now so I'm really looking forward to it," said the tenor.

It will also be a chance to work with old colleagues, such as conductor Valery Gergiev and baritone Sir Thomas Allen.

'Tradition'

"Well, I was in that famous Bohème 28 years ago with Thomas Allen - and it's still performing these days, that production.

"What I love about this house is that tradition, and when I seeing them still playing that Bohème that means something, you know."

In The Queen Of Spades Domingo plays the soldier Hermann, who is crazed with love for the aristocratic Lisa - and addicted to gambling.

"The role of Hermann I discovered years back, and I said 'This role I have to sing, one day'.

"And finally in 1998 I did at the Metropolitan with maestro Gergiev for the first time.

With José Carrera and Luciano Pavarotti as the Three Tenors
With José Carrera and Luciano Pavarotti as the Three Tenors
"It is different to most of the tenor roles that I have done in my career. It's not so much a charismatic role and romantic role like I've been used to.

"Tchaikovsky even makes the role better, because in Pushkin he's really horrible."

Domingo says he always tries to find a positive side to the character and make him a little better than he is.

"At least at the beginning he's [Hermann] really legitimately in love with Lisa, but the obstinacy about the gambling, that he wants to win and be somebody and marry her, drives him completely crazy.

"He's obstinate and he's completely lost, and he really provokes the death of Lisa and commits suicide."

It is a role that is as technically difficult as it is dramatically challenging.

'Phenomenal'

"It's one of the most difficult roles that I have ever attempted - it's really a challenge, but on the other hand when it comes out well it's a great satisfaction.

"For me this is the strongest opera of Tchaikovsky's, without any doubt. I prefer it to Eugene Onegin, Iolanta and so on. This opera is really phenomenal."

The production, directed by Francesca Zambello, includes audacious set designs.

"I haven't been directed by Francesca. She's a great director and I'm very happy about that."

Placido Domingo
Domingo started out as a pianist
"When I do an opera, when I do a role I love very much to do different productions - I think it's exciting to come from a very traditional production, like that I was doing in Washington, to something that's completely different.

"The ideas of Francesca are very strong and I won't say one production is better and one is worse, I think both have a lot that is interesting and that's the wonderful thing, the variety."

Variety has been the keynote of Domingo's career.

Once a budding pianist, he started singing as a baritone and has since become a world-famous tenor and conductor - while carving out a recording and film career.

'Satisfaction'

But his greatest motivation remains treading the boards.

"You have the possibility to record, to do TV, to make movies, but I think that when you live a character on the stage, this is the greatest satisfaction.

"You play a role from beginning to end, and that's a reality, every three or four nights you are in front of the public.

"That's the time of truth - no cutting, no editing, and what comes, comes."

Placido Domingo appears in The Queen Of Spades in the Royal Opera House on 15,18 and 21 June. The 18 June performance will be relayed live from 1900 BST to Covent Garden Piazza and Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

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