October 6th, 2008 by ejalbright
Chaac, the Maya rain god, interrupted Saturday’s Placido Domingo Concert of the Thousand Columns at Chichen Itza, but could not stop it. And based on all reports, it was a wild success.
For Domingo, it was a return to where he received his professional start. He performed with his mother on stage in Merida in 1957. It was also an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the first modern superstar tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, who performed at Chichen in the 1990s.
The Spanish opera star sang a mixture of classical, Mexican and Yucatecan songs.
There were plenty of genuflects to Maya culture, beyond just the setting. The program opened with the Monumental Chorus of the Mayab, which performed a Maya-style song using traditional drums. Domingo was joined on stage by Armando Manzanero, perhaps Mexico’s greatest songwriter and also of Maya descent. One of their duets was performed in the local native language, Maya.
The rain forced Placido to skip his planned opening number, and instead jump right into a local favorite, “O Souverain” from Massenet’s Le Cid. No one seemed to mind the occasional sprinkles. More than 4,000 were in attendance.
The concert had a spectacular backdrop, the great pyramid El Castillo, which was brightly lid in colored lights. Pavarotti had performed in front of the Temple of Warriors, but this setting seemed more appropriate.
From a personal viewpoint, the highlight of the program was its closing number: “Peregrina.” The song was commissioned by the governor of Yucatan, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, for his American lover, Alma Reed, in 1923. The couple were to be married, but Carrillo Puerto was assassinated Jan. 3, 1924. It was appropriate the Domingo sang it at Chichen Itza, for it was Carrillo Puerto who ordered the highway built to the ancient city so that the world could see the pride of the Maya civilization.
Here are a couple of videos of the performance of “Peregrina.” The first was shot from the audience, the latter from backstage:
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