Every year more than 20,000 music lovers make their way to the Waldbühne – in the opinion of connoisseurs one of the world’s most beautiful open-air stages – for the end-of-season concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Their first concert was held here in 1984, and since then the orchestra has ended each season with a very special musical treat devoted to a particular theme: there has been an Italian Night under Claudio Abbado, an American Night under Sir Simon Rattle, a Russian Night under Seiji Ozawa and a French Night under Georges Prêtre. In 2001 Plácido Domingo joined this phalanx of conductors and made his debut with the orchestra, conducting the present Spanish Night.
By this date one of the world’s leading tenors had already proved that for him conducting was far more than a second job. He had in fact studied conducting in addition to singing and the piano at the Mexico City Conservatory. At the Waldbühne he impressed his audience with his musical credentials and lively temperament, while at the same time introducing his listeners to the first love of his musical life, the zarzuela, a kind of operetta rarely encountered outside the Spanish-speaking world. In excerpts from works by Pablo Luna, Amadeo Vives, Federico Moreno Torroba and José Serrano he was ably supported by the soprano Ana María Martínez, of whom the critic of the Berliner Zeitung wrote enthusiastically: “She turned couples into lovers and brought dreams of blissful happiness to the lonely. Many listeners closed their eyes and smiled beatifically.”
The violinist Sarah Chang then played Pablo de Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs and Carmen Fantasy, delighting her audience with her immaculate technique and imaginative playing. The rest of the programme was made up of works by non-Spanish composers such as Emmanuel Chabrier, Johann Strauß the Younger and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, all of whom were inspired by the music and culture of the Iberian peninsula, while the music of Latin America was represented by José Pablo Moncayo. And when the audience began to call on Domingo to sing for them during the encores, he lost no time in seizing the microphone and joining in the immortal song in praise of Berlin, Paul Lincke’s Berliner Luft.