For one of the last annual Grand Opera Festivals for opera in San Antonio’s golden era, the program for Faust in 1969 lists the title role as being sung by Plácido Domingo. It was the year after Domingo began his amazing career at the Metropolitan Opera. This year Plácido Domingo is celebrating his fiftieth anniversary at the Met. But did Plácido Domingo really sing Faust in San Antonio? This is in fact a bit of a mystery. An old program found by the librarian of the San Antonio Symphony has Domingo’s name crossed out and the name of John Alexander penciled in. OPERA San Antonio founder and Chairman Emeritus Mel Weingart says he is sure Domingo did not sing here, and offers the opinion that John Alexander actually had a voice better suited for the role than Domingo’s.
A search of the archives of the San Antonio Express News and the San Antonio Light for March 5, 1969 clears things up. The papers gave very little attention to Plácido Domingo. Apparently the opera festival was having a pervasive “tenor problem.” Pierre Fleta, singing in Lucia, had to cancel because of the flu. Bernabe Marti, singing in Il Travatore, almost cancelled but managed to go on after all. And Domingo? It turns out that Domingo cancelled because he was called to sing a lead role at the Metropolitan Opera. New York outranked San Antonio, and Domingo has gone on to sing there for 50 years. It would be pleasant to think our Faust on May 9 and 11 had a San Antonio precedent starring the great Plácido Domingo. But it is still good to think that this great opera was in fact heard here years ago. OPERA San Antonio thinks it is high time that we get to hear it again.
Please join us on May 9 and 11 at the Tobin Center.
(With thanks to Greg Vaught of the SA Symphony to Andy at the Texana desk of the San Antonio Public Library).
Document courtesy of the San Antonio Symphony