Renee Fleming, Placido Domingo together in Los Angeles

Renee Fleming, Placido Domingo together in Los Angeles
Renee Fleming and Placido Domingo share a laugh on Thursday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In 1995, a rising young soprano named Renée Fleming sang her first opening night at the Metropolitan Opera in a production of Verdi's "Otello," with Plácido Domingo in the title role.

On Thursday, Fleming paid Domingo tribute for helping her with that big break. "So, thank you," she told the tenor at a Los Angeles Opera press conference at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.


The two opera superstars are in L.A. at the same time for two different productions -- Fleming will appear in André Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire" starting Sunday; Domingo in Massenet's "Thais," which begins Saturday.

In a brief interview backstage before the conference, Domingo said that he has been trying to lure Fleming back to L.A. since she sang in a 2006 production of "La Traviata."

"We've been trying to get Renée here for a long time. It was difficult. Her girls were in school. But now, they are grown up," the Spanish singer said. Domingo is the general director of L.A. Opera.

Domingo said he saw Fleming in "Streetcar" in London and was impressed by Previn's 1998 adaptation of the Tennessee Williams plays. Since Fleming appeared in a new semi-staged production last year at Carnegie Hall, he has been working to bring the opera to L.A. "The dates have been hell," he said.

Fleming, who was standing next to Domingo backstage, acknowledged that the role of Blanche DuBois is a demanding one, requiring her to be onstage for much of the opera's duration.

"An actress dramatizes the role in the play, but I have more than two octaves to work with," she said. "The music heightens the drama."

The two singers later charmed the journalists gathered in the main hall of the Dorothy Chandler.

Domingo said he will be performing soon in three operas for the first time -- Verdi's "Macbeth" in Berlin, Verdi's "Ernani" at the Met and Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" in Madrid.

The tenor added that he will also perform "Gianni Schicchi" at L.A. Opera, in a revival of the company's 2008 production directed by Woody Allen. A spokesman for the company said later that the revival will take place in a future season, but didn't offer specific dates.

Fleming said that when she first performed "Streetcar" in 1998, she was going through a difficult personal time and that actress Julie Harris, who had played Blanche on stage, gave her a good piece of advice. "She said that this role can get you through the day," said Fleming.

The soprano noted that this production of "Streetcar" features an abundance of shirtless male performers on stage, which prompted Domingo to joke that he failed the audition for the opera.

"I cannot stay onstage without my shirt," he said.