Plácido Domingo, whose full name is José Plácido Domingo Embil, moved from Madrid to Mexico with his parents who were both light opera singers when he was eight years old. His first job was as a musical arranger and he went on to study piano and conducting at the Mexican National Music Conservatory. His first singing role was in 1959 as a baritone in Rigoletto and later in the same year he sang as a tenor in La Traviata. However, musical success came in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1962 where he sang in 280 performances over two and a half years. In the fifties he was married for just a few months to a Mexican pianist with whom he had is first child. Since 1962 he has been married to his second wife the soprano Marta Ornelas.
His international singing career has been extraordinary. He has sung more than 120 roles in Italian, French, German, Spanish, English and Russian. He has opened the season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New Year on 21 occasions, four more than the previous record holder Enrico Caruso. Other records include receiving an hour-long ovation in Vienna for his role in La Bohème and having sung to an audience of 400,000 in the pouring rain in New York’s Central Park.
In 1985 the greatest earthquake to hit Mexico devastated part of the capital city and Plácido lost four close family members. He joined in the rescue efforts and over the following year performed charity concerts for earthquake victims. One of the biggest of these was in Los Angeles where he was joined by Frank Sinatra, Julie Andrews and John Denver. Amongst his many charitable acts, Domingo has given houses to families without resources in Mexico, especially after the damage caused by hurricane Pauline. Domingo has been given a number of distinguished awards in Mexico and a large statue of him has been erected in Mexico City.
He founded The Three Tenors with Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras in 1990, initially to raise money for the José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation. The group’s other purpose has been to bring operatic music to a wider audience. In more recent years, as well as concentrating on his conducting career, Plácido Domingo has made some inroads into the world of popular music working with Carlos Santana and Michael Bolton, amongst others. He was also the first Spaniard to work on The Simpsons, in an episode in which Homer Simpson becomes an opera star.