Opera stars in Athens in aid of Darfur children

The rich and distinctive voice of Placido Domingo is bound to captivate audiences at the Panathenaic Stadium this evening. Joined by British mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins and the ERT Greek Radio & TV Orchestra, the Spanish tenor will perform in aid of the children of the sorely tried region of Darfur, in a special concert organized by Medecins Sans Frontieres. «It is a great pleasure to be here after such a short time,» said Domingo, who last performed in Greece two years ago, at yesterday’s press conference. Despite the scorching temperature, the room was tightly packed with everyone highly appreciative of the cool air-conditioned atmosphere, as Domingo himself was quick to point out. «It is always a phenomenal experience to sing for such a warm audience,» he said, adding that the city’s beauty, tradition and history made it all an even more overwhelming experience. The highly distinguished tenor, one of the so-called «Three Tenors» (along with Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras), has made more than 100 recordings and has given more than 3,000 performances. Tonight, he aims to cater to all tastes, starting off with opera, moving on to musicals as well as his favorite zarzuelas, traditional mid-17th century Spanish compositions. «When you play at a big venue you have to please all kinds of public, you have to give everybody what they want.» «You cannot do music without passion. If you don’t feel it, you can’t convince the public. I love it more and more every day. I cannot stop, I have to wait for my passion to wear out, but I think my voice will wear out before,» said Domingo, adding that he could feel that passion in the voice of Jenkins, with whom he will be performing for the first time. «Ever since I started singing I have been dreaming of singing with Placido Domingo. To sing with him in Athens is a dream come true,» said Jenkins. The award-winning Welsh crossover mezzo-soprano may have started her career only two years ago, but has already given memorable live performances. She has released various albums, with 2004’s «Premiere» marking an almost unprecedented success. On his part, maestro Eugene Kohn, who has already accompanied Domingo in concerts in Greece on a number of occasions, praised the ERT Orchestra for its discipline and hard work. Domingo also talked about his recent decision to perform as a baritone. «I was not a natural tenor and I worked very hard day after day to adjust my voice and do all the operas that I did. Now my voice, which has always had a dark quality, is going back to its origins.» He pointed out that he remains a tenor and will only perform in Verdi’s opera «Simon Boccanegra» as a baritone. «The dedication of Medecins Sans Frontieres is extraordinary,» noted Domingo, adding that the public should know more about the organization. «The concert is important in itself, but to be involved in something like this makes me twice as happy to perform.» He did not hesitate to voice his pleasure at the meeting that took place between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss Darfur on Monday. He also commented on the tragedies of war, referring to the recent deaths of six Spanish soldiers from the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. «The children are the future of this world. It makes us think how much we are all responsible and that we should all do something. I believe that if there were no corruption in the world, everyone would be able to eat.» «We should remember that as of 2003, more than 300,000 people have been killed in the region of Darfur while 2.5 million have been left homeless,» said Christos Christou, vice president of the Medecins Sans Frontieres Greek branch. «Refugees do not dare leave the camps, even to seek food, for fear of rapes and violence and they are attacked even in the refugee camps. Ceasefire treaties are violated every day. As of July 2006, 12 NGO members have been killed and another eight remain missing. Attacks are carried out against our personnel as well,» said Christou, elaborating on the harrowing conditions prevailing in the western Sudan region. The organization works with both local and international volunteers to provide medical as well as other kinds of aid. «I want to point out that Placido Domingo spent an entire year in Mexico after the earthquakes, searching for relatives and friends,» said Greek baritone John Modenos, a longstanding friend of Domingo’s, referring to the devastating 1985 earthquake. «Not many artists do that.» For tickets: Nikos Xylouris music store (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.723.4567) or log on to

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