Plácido Domingo’s Fach…

What is a Fach? Well, it’s the type of voice a singer has, its colour and range. In other words, what I am asking is:

Is Plácido Domingo a tenor or a baritone?

Why am I asking this question? Because he sung recently Nabucco at Covent Garden and the role of Nabucco is for a baritone. And for the last few years Plácido has decided to move from a tenor to a baritone repertoire. Why? Maybe because his voice is darker (I don’t think so) or maybe he wants to take on new challenges, new roles.

I have to say his Simon Boccanegra (another baritone role) at Covent Garden was wonderful. That was two years ago. The acting and the charisma compensated for what we were not getting with the voice, the darker colours of a baritone’s voice. And I mean that no matter how much he tried, his voice still sounded like a tenor’s voice (hitting all the right notes, true).

Strange enough, when Plácido began his career he started out as a baritone (like Bergonzi) and then very quickly moved to the tenor’s field.

Many singers with age move to a lower Fach. Many lyric sopranos move to spinto roles or dramatic sopranos to mezzo roles. But this is a very individual matter, it depends on the voice and the colour.

For example Pavarotti had a wonderful lyric tenor voice, and waited years to tackle Verdi’s Otello (a dramatic tenor’s role) and when he did … well, there is a recording (Solti conducting). And funny enough, the same thing happened with Bergonzi, with similar results. The point being that the voice does not necessarily mature with age.


Let’s analyse this:

Finale Simon Boccanegra, ensemble for four voices, soprano, tenor, baritone, bass and chorus.


First we can listen to this from the Met, 1995

(Baritone) Simon Boccanegra: Vladimir Chernov

(Tenor) Gabriele Adorno: Plácido Domingo

(soprano) Amelia Grimaldi : Kiri Te Kanawa

(bass) Jacopo Fiesco: Robert Lloyd



Second from La Scala 2010

(Baritone) Simon Boccanegra: Plácido Domingo

(Tenor) Gabriele Adorno: Fabio Sartori

(soprano) Amelia Grimaldi : Anja Harteros

(bass) Jacopo Fiesco: Ferruccio Furlanetto



Verdi created this finale ensemble with a fine balance of voices and with the chorus in the background. But basically it’s a nice trio-quartet at times.

The compelling performance from La Scala has two tenor voices (Domingo and Sartori), the balance of a baritonal voice is missing. The dark baritone colour is not there to contrast with Fiesco’s (bass) deep replies.

Normally you would have a clearly differentiated trio of voices but here instead there is an additional tenor’s voice that muddies the tenor-soprano line

So going back to Plácido. Is he a baritone now?

Assurdo! Nonsense! Sciocchezza!