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Plácido Domingo: My Christmas 

CD Button With Menzel, Fischer, Wetsenra, Evancho, Niclo, Domingo, Jr. Sony Music Masterworks 8875117432

Recordings Domingo My Christmas Cover 1215

PLÁCIDO DOMINGO'S forays into lighter music are always satisfying, thanks to his genuine enthusiasm and charismatic presentation, along with the ever-handsome voice. Often it’s also because of his choice of duet partners from the international-pop-music world, with fresh sounds and phrasing that spark his musical interest, or instrumentalists that offer him a new palette of supporting timbres to play with.

For his newest Christmas recital, Domingo presents a mixture of well-known carols and classic songs along with some rarities and a new composition by Plácido Domingo, Jr., who also lends his voice to a duet of “White Christmas.” The more straightforward renditions, with Domingo père’s essentially classical timbre and phrasing on display, are particularly satisfying. He takes high notes—even if they aren’t particularly high—like a tenor, with exciting thrust and amplitude. The best track is “Astro del cielo,” which allows Domingo access to a ringing sound and sensual legato. (It’s a Puccini solfège, set to Angelo Meli’s popular Italian lyrics for “Silent Night” by Puccini scholar Michael Kaye and conductor Eugene Kohn.) Mozart’s “Ave verum corpus,” with Domingo backed by a large chorus, is similarly attractive.

For the lovely, minor-key “Guardian Angels,” penned by Harpo Marx and made famous by Mario Lanza, Tony Award-winning Idina Menzel holds her own against Domingo’s full-throated singing, with her cultivated and clean sound and powerful presentation. Although he is gracious as can be, Domingo overshadows most of the other female partners, especially the German Helene Fischer, whose breathy and groaning voice adds little to “What Child is This?” New Zealand’s Hayley Westenra sounds sugary and whiny in “Loving Christmas,” a new song by Domingo, Jr., while Jackie Evancho is hopelessly overshadowed in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu.”

Domingo offers a showcase to singers from the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo–Colburn–Stein Young Artists Program, but with its clumsy modulations and comic octave displacements, the arrangement of “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” hovers between humor and camp. And even with its lovely solo trumpet and humming chorus, “It Came upon the Midnight Clear” just sounds awkward in Domingo’s heavily accented pronunciation. 

“Silent Night” is attractive, with novel harmonizing, beautiful playing and an off-beat arrangement by YouTube-favorites The Piano Guys (Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson and Al van der Beek). Domingo floats the high notes in a spacious and relaxed performance that conveys everything you want in an easy-listening holiday carol from one of my favorite artists. —Judith Malafronte

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