January 21, 1941
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Forever remembered by the majority of the public as one of the famous "Three Tenors," Plácido Domingo performed in more than 140 roles (and 3,600 performances) throughout his legendary, award-winning career. Born José Plácido Domingo Embil January 21, 1941, his parents (Plácido Domingo, Sr. and Pepita Embil) were both accomplished singers themselves as performers of zarzuela, the Spanish form of operetta. As a child, he even appeared along side them in small roles. At only 14 years of age (after learning the basics of musical theatre) Domingo studied briefly at the Mexican National Conservatory. However, after marrying at age 16 and fathering a son with Ana Maria Guerra Cue, he left the school to seek paying employment. He initially found it with several smaller projects, with his first big break coming in 1959 when he won the small role of Borsa in the National Opera's presentation of Verdi's "Rigoletto." Two years later, he earned his first lead tenor role, that of Alfredo in Verdi's "La Traviata" in Monterrey, Mexico. That same year, he made his American debut at the Dallas Civic Opera, performing as Arturo in "Lucia di Lammermoor." It was also during that time that he met the woman who became his second wife, soprano Marta Ornelas. Together, they both moved to Tel Aviv and performed in the Hebrew National Opera for three years (after which Marta surrendered her own career to support Domingo and eventually raise the couple's two sons). After leaving Tel Aviv, he received his breakthrough role in the world première of Alberto Ginastera's Don Rodrigo at the New York State Theater (now David Koch Theater). Soon after, opera houses from around the world all sought to book Domingo, leading to his numerous roles and appearances. Not content to be just a singer, however, Domingo also made his conductor debut during this era (1973) when he led the New York City Opera's "La Traviata." Although most-closely associated with Verdi's Otello (Domingo having appeared at La Scala in 1987 for the work's 100th anniversary) it would be his work with two other famous tenors that brought him the most crossover appeal of his entire career, as part of the "Three Tenors" with fellow Spaniard José Carreras and Italian Luciano Pavarotti. Once presented as rivals, the trio came to form a bond in the 1980s when Carreras was suffering with leukemia. Following his recovery, the trio formed an unprecedented partnership, selling millions of records and videos. In later years, Domingo turned his attention to the administrative side of his business, including becoming artistic director of the Washington National Opera (1996) and the Los Angeles Opera (2000). In addition, he conducted various performances at the Los Angeles Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Washington National Opera.