- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

It isn't likely a host would expect a stellar turnout at a dinner set to start at 11 on a Monday night in Washington unless the president were the draw or a major movie star.
Or Placido Domingo.
"He's the only one who'd get me out this late," said Selwa S. (Lucky) Roosevelt, one of about 40 guests who attended the great one at Spanish Ambassador Javier Ruperez's residence Monday night after a performance of the Washington Opera's "Carmen" at the Kennedy Center.
It hardly mattered that Mr. Domingo didn't show up until nearly 11:30 p.m. and then made a "slow royal progress" (as Ina Ginsburg put it) through the stately rooms for another 20 minutes to talk about the production and introduce the cast, including sultry and voluptuous mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore (in the title role), tenor Richard Leech (Don Jose) and soprano Virginia Tola (Micaela).
Guests were delighted to hear that it makes no matter whether Mr. Domingo is conducting from the orchestra pit (as he did Monday) or singing the role of Don Jose from center stage. For him, "Carmen" always will be a learning experience as far as "the magic and genius" of Georges Bizet is concerned.
"He was French, not Spanish, but he wrote the most Spanish opera there ever was," Mr. Domingo said of the composer's set-in-Seville masterpiece before recalling a long list of Carmens with whom he has worked through the years Regina Resnick, Grace Bumbry, Marilyn Horne, Rosalind Elias, Olga Borodina and Denyce Graves among them.
It was close to midnight by the time Mr. Ruperez made his welcoming remarks. Of course, Mr. Domingo had to reply with a charming explanation of the nuances between a toreador (an average sort of bullfighter guy) and a torero ("a real star who belongs to the whole of humanity"). Just as Sen. Thad Cochran was heard to declare in front of the sealed-off dining room that "we need a lobbyist to open up these doors," they swung open to reveal a traditional late-night Spanish buffet with fish and meat specialties, pisto, tortilla de patatas, pimientos del piquillo and arroz con leche ("Placido's favorite dessert").
Mr. Domingo's wife, Carmen, was there, along with their two sons, Placidito, a conductor living in Tampa, Fla., and Alvaro, a documentary filmmaker living in New York City. Other guests included Alberto Vilar, the opera philanthropist, and Washington Opera President Robert H. Craft Jr. and his wife, Jamie.
Waiting for supper didn't bother Mrs. Craft, who wisely had opted for a nap earlier that day.
"Now I understand how the Spanish do it," she said.

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