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.

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.

Published on April 19, 2011

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