Placido Domingo Junior: I've never wanted to write for myself
Placido Domingo Junior is an extraordinary character: although he sings and composes, he doesn’t want to create songs for himself and although he feels at home everywhere, he can't stay anywhere longer than two weeks. Recently, he has also fallen in love with tango (although he is not Argentinean) and performed it on the Polish stage. He explains these strange paradoxes of his life in an interview for PRESTO.
Wojcich Pietrow: What is so special about tango that it attracts you so much? You made the album “Volver – Anima tango” and you are going to sing Argentinian pieces on stage on Tuesday. What then is so special about this music?
Placido Domingo Junior: It is a genre of music from Argentina that is very dear to me. And it’s fantastic music. Many great composers have made beautiful songs and my father did a record many years ago. I did a show in Rome 2 years ago in the “Auditorium – Parco della Musica” and it went so well that we decided to do a CD. It was not too professional – we just wanted to put together the songs of the city. We were very pleased with the product.
What expresses more? Tango which is danced or tango which is sung?
Well. There’re both a very extreme form of expression because dancing tango is extremely difficult – it’s a strong discipline – just like singing it. I don’t sing like an original tango singer, because I’m not from Argentina. If you go to Buenos Aires and you see how they sing it and dance it you’ll see it’s almost like a religion.
How does your Mexican soul cooperate with these Argentinian pieces? Is there really something in this music that only Argentinians could understand?
I hope not. Because I’m not. Like I say: many singers have sung tango, but it is a form that needs to be highly respected. We have seen from the very famous Latin pop-singers like Julio Iglesias to my father so many people singing tango and not everybody does it the way it’s being sung by Argentinian singers. What I try to bring to it is my own feeling with a sound of my voice and my own interpretation. It’s always nice to have variations of the style… but I would never say that I am a unique tango singer.
Do you know if they accept your version in Argentina?
I have no idea. I have never sung tango in Argentina yet. I don’t know how it would be accepted… hopefully well but if not I would like to definitely learn how to sing it.
You will perform Argentinan tango on a polish stage, you were born in Mexico and you are talking to me in English. Do all these tours to different countries, talking in different languages make you ask yourself sometimes: Who am I? Italian, Mexican, Spanish?
I have a very busy life. I lived in many… four… five… six countries. I speak in four… five languages. I was born in Mexico but I was raised in Spain, in Switzerland, in Italy and also England so I consider myself as a really international person. But my heart is probably Spanish.
Does it change through your life?
I have different periods. I spent 24 years in the United States – I lived in New York, Florida and California so obviously at the time I could have felt very North American. Since 2013 I’ve been in Europe so maybe I feel more European now. You change depending on what you’re exposed to and where you live. It’s inevitable.
During these tours, don’t you have a feeling of missing some place? For example: you are in Poland now – are you missing something or are you feeling “Oh! I’m at home”?
Basically I’m at home – that’s a wonderful thing about my life. I enjoy every city, every country. And whatever I can take from that country, and that life I totally accept and understand. But I’m a person that doesn’t like to stay put in one place, I like traveling a lot. Even if I was in the best country in the world maybe after ten days, 2 weeks I say: “OK, I have to go somewhere else”. I would just make up a plan and take a trip even if I don’t have to go to work. I would just say: “OK, I need to get out now”.
What is the difference between expressing your emotions through composing and through singing?
It is very different because as a composer you can stay up ‘til 4 o’clock in the morning. You are in your room. The problem with that is a very lonely work I think… You need to be lonely, to be alone – nobody sees you. When you sing you are completely facing the public, you need to be completely present, you need to smile and you need to perform. When you compose… you can do it in my pajamas. You can have a coffee there…
It’s funny – you can write a song about heartbreak in your pajamas.
Exactly. It’s a very private enterprise.
What gives you more satisfaction: creating a song or performing it?
It’s two very different things because I think singing is a faster satisfaction, because I sing, I do it and I hear the sound and it comes out. In composition sometimes you don’t hear the final recording or you don’t hear a singer singing it. I don’t think I get the same satisfaction.
“Not the same” means “worse” or just “different”?
Satisfaction is immediate in singing. In composing it’s a little bit longer – you have to repeat and you have to change. When you sing you have one chance and if it goes well – fine, if it doesn’t go well… fine.
How do you deal with the fact that someone else sings a song that you created and put feelings in it? You have a voice and all the things you need to perform it. When I write a song I can’t imagine giving it to somebody else because it is so “mine”.
For me it’s totally different because I don’t write for me. I don’t understand my voice I don’t want to write for me. I’ve never wanted to.
Because it’s a very technical thing for me I’d rather listen to a singer, listen to his style and his voice range and write for him.
Don’t you have a feeling that you understand those songs the best? Not someone else – you created them and only you fully understand them.
It could be… It should be like that but writing for myself it’s not something that I enjoy. It’s funny. I’ve only written one song that I actually sang. It was on the album “Amore Infinito” with the poems of Karol Wojtyła… But I wrote it for my father originally.
You often perform with your father. Did you get to know him better because of it?
Of course! It’s a very intimate moment. You go on stage. You are together. Sometimes you have 10 thousand people there and you are sharing that intimate moment. It helps me.
Does singing express something you cannot express in a normal talk?
Sure! When you sing and you say a phrase there’s a feeling that you could not say with 20 words. You cannot express it. It’s like a picture – sometimes you look at the photograph and it’s better than one hundred words.
We often connect artists who sing in a classical technique only with opera pieces. I know you sing songs of various genres but… do you have some guilty pleasures to listen or to sing?
To listen to – yeah. I like artists from Elton John to Sting, a lot of R&B, “Earth Wind and Fire”, Rod Stewart, David Bowie. I have a lot of jazz in my music collection. But I would never sing that type of music, I think mine is more like crossover.
What can we expect from you in the future? Maybe you have some projects in mind?
I wrote a musical about a vampire “Vlad, El musical” which I’m trying to produce in many countries. I write songs for solo singers and obviously I want to continue performing. So anything that has me involved in music I would loved to continue doing.
So I wish you doing it as long as possible. Thank you for a nice talk.
Polish version HERE