Then & Now with Placido Domingo

Placido Domingo, the internationally acclaimed opera singer and conductor, is also a partner in Richard Sandoval Restaurants, which features upscale Latin-Asian cuisine, a Saké and Shochu Lounge and La Biblioteca Tequila Library.


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Placido Domingo, the internationally acclaimed opera singer and conductor, was born in Madrid, Spain, and spent most of his childhood in Mexico. Possibly the best-known tenor in the world, Domingo is also a partner in Richard Sandoval Restaurants, including Zengo in New York, which features upscale Latin-Asian cuisine, a Saké and Shochu Lounge and La Biblioteca Tequila Library, with a list of 400 agave-based spirits.

Favorite beverage when I was 6: Horchata, a soft drink made from Chufa [a bunch grass with nut-like tubers aka tiger nut], which is very popular in Spain. I always remember when I left Spain one month before my 8th birthday that was the last drink I had, and also it was the first drink when I came back to Spain in 1965.

Favorite beverage now: Ribera del Duero red wine: Vega Sicilia, Pesquera, Protos, Alion—they are just perfect for my taste.

First wine experience: What I remember first was not wine but sidra—cider. We used to spend Christmas with a big family of Spanish friends, so it was probably Christmas Eve 1955, when I was 14.

Epiphany wine experience: I remember being at a wine tasting party given in San Francisco for the whole cast of “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci,” and by the end of the party Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, the great director, and I were the only two still standing.

Favorite dish when I was 6: Paella, of course! My mother’s and my aunt’s; my mother’s sister was like a second mother to my sister and to me. Everyday I am in Valencia I eat paella—sometimes I skip a day, paying attention to my weight. It is still a tradition to eat it at my son’s house in Los Angeles, when I have a free day.

Favorite or most memorable dish now: When I eat at my Pampano or Zengo restaurant I usually order the robalo [snook or sea bass, typically – eds.], which comes with a tortilla de maiz and frijoles refritos and a delicious red pepper and macerated onion sauce.

Favorite musical artist when I was 13: Jorge Negrete, the great Mexican popular singer and actor.

Favorite musical artist/genre now: I am amazed by the gifted young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who is now conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I love many of the Latin singers for the light music: Luis Miguel, Alessandro Fernandez, Marc Anthony, Lucero Thalia and Christina Aguilera.

Favorite toy when I was 6: My bicycle and my soccer ball. I rode the bicycle and played soccer on the street of Ibiza 34, where I was born in Madrid.

Favorite toy/gadget/tool now: The ones I use the most are the cellphone and the airplane.

Posters/decorations on my bedroom wall when I was 13: Soccer players. Real Madrid from Spain—di Stefano, Gento, Santamaria, Suarez.

Favorite painting or other home decoration now: “Los Musicos” by Rufino Tamayo and “La Niña del Rebozo” by Diego Rivera. I feel a simplicity and a very human feeling in La Niña del Rebozo, compared with all the big murals of Rivera. Tamayo’s abstract musicians are kind of avant garde.

What I wanted to be when I grew up: Either a soccer player or a bullfighter.

What I’d be if I weren’t an opera singer: I would want to have an important position either with FIFA (the international soccer commission) or with the international Olympics committee.

Ideal vacation when I was 12: Acapulco.

Ideal vacation now: Acapulco.

I had an emotional meltdown when I was 6, it was most likely over: I cannot recall having a meltdown.

If I was able to rant publicly on a given subject today, it would involve: Injustice and abuse.

What would my 16-year-old self think of who I am and what I’ve become? He would be very surprised.

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