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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC



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An Enduring Voice

Marie Yanaka

Mar. 27, 2017

Spanish Opera singer Placido Domingo recently returned to Japan to sing and to speak of his empathy with its people.

The 76-year-old is one of the so-called Three Tenors along with José Carreras and the Luciano Pavarotti, who passed away 10 years ago.

Domingo has performed in Japan many times including in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, which earned him a lot of devoted fans in the country.

He has a voice known ‘round the world. The Spanish tenor sings in a rich lower register, expressing both the melody and the essence of the music. His repertoire includes Italian and German works, and more. After half a century of enchanting audiences across the globe, he has earned the title "the King of Opera."

"I started listening to my parents when I was little, my parents were singing and I have heard singing all my life, since I was a baby. I started to study music, and then I discovered I have a voice. I mean it, I think it’s a big privilege, to sing, to make music, and to make the people happy," Domingo says. "And this is the reason that I love it so much, and the reason I continue doing that."

Renée Fleming, an American singer called "the Greatest Soprano of the Day," joined Domingo on stage in Tokyo. They performed a variety of pieces, including arias and duets -- and the audience reveled in the recital. For most, it was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and hear the 2 of them together.

Domingo is no stranger to Japan, having held recitals and having appeared in operas here for more than 40 years.

"The Japanese public is, they really love music, they really love opera and the sensibility of the public is tremendous," Domingo says. "You see how much the culture and life of Japan is, I mean, there is not day of the year that you don’t have concerts -- opera companies, all kind of soloist, ballet, coming from around the world."

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami set off a crisis of confidence among performers in Japan. Many musicians from overseas cancelled performances but Domingo came to sing just one month after the disaster.

"This concert which is, of course, is made for you to try to find some moments of consolation," he said at the event.

Domingo chose the Japanese song "Furusato" for an encore. The song title means “hometown.” Domingo sang in Japanese, and invited the audience to join in.

"I know it’s a song and it’s very deep for Japanese people. The deepness of the music, it can help people so that we could be together in a moment," Domingo said at the time.

The disaster reminded him of the hardships he himself endured some 30 years ago, inspiring sympathy for people in Japan. Domingo spent many years in Mexico, and a serious earthquake there in 1985 killed some of his friends and relatives and injured others.

"I’m feeling the tragedy very close because I have 4 of relatives under the building," he told a reporter in Mexico, in the wake of that disaster.

Domingo himself took part in rescue efforts and held benefit concerts for a year. He learned that the grief of losing loved ones is not easily overcome.

"One cannot explain the pain that happens. And how many people they were in the same conditions that people has been now in Japan, 6 years ago," he says.

At the recent recital in Tokyo, he once again chose "Furusato" for the encore.

"As a child, I chased rabbits among its mountains, and fished for small carp in its streams. These memories still fill my mind. I cannot forget my childhood home," he sang, accompanied by Fleming.

"Six years ago, I cried and cried as he performed 'Furusato.' This time, I felt courage and kindness. He seemed to be telling us, "I'm concerned about you" and "I'm back again." I felt happy about it," one member of the audience says.

"Let’s try to say that whatever it happens in life, we should -- we have to continue. I hope where there is life, there is hope. So I hope that they recover. Hope and faith and continue with life, you know?" Domingo says.

Forty years into his career, he still sounds powerful -- and Domingo says he'll continue to inspire people with his performances as long as his voice allows him to.