HATTIESBURG – So,
exactly how do you go about booking one of the most recognized singers
in the world? When you're dealing with the Michael Jordan of the
music world (or is Michael Jordan the Placido Domingo of the basketball
world?), it's not as simple as a routine phone call.
When The University of Southern Mississippi Symphony
Orchestra hosts Placido Domingo April 2 at the Mississippi Coast
Coliseum in Biloxi, it will culminate seven years of planning, prodding,
and sometimes -- as conductor Dr. Jay Dean will admit -- pleading.
Without a doubt, Dean's bid to bring Domingo to Southern
Miss has been a long and winding road. With 11 Grammy awards to
his credit, Domingo is one of the most heralded tenors in history,
and his touring schedule would make even Lance Armstrong wince.
For the last 45 years, since he was 16 years old,
Domingo has never stopped performing and traveling. He has performed
in ever major opera house in the world and has produced more than
It's little wonder friends of the pugnacious conductor
giggled politely when he first mentioned his intention of bringing
Domingo to South Mississippi, not usually considered an operatic
Dean said, "I started working on bringing him
to Mississippi back in 1998, so by the time he comes we will have
been working on it for seven years. For at least four of the years,
the response was basically, 'No.'"
The idea first came to Dean when he was working with
the Majesty of Spain exhibition in Jackson in the '90s.
"I thought, 'Who's the biggest performer from
Spain we could bring in?' and the answer, of course, was Placido
Domingo, who's from Madrid. He's the No. 1 performer in the world,
period," Dean said.
"We wanted to bring him then, but the answer
then was, 'No, no, no.' When the Majesty of Spain exhibit came and
went, I thought, 'There went our opportunity.'"
Although the "stars weren't aligned at that point,"
Dean said he was not about to give up so easily.
Because he'd had success landing other celebrity performers,
such as violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Dean assumed
with the proper persuasion, he could convince Domingo's agent to
book his superstar client with Southern Miss. But as Dean knew full
well, the mere dropping of names would do no good where Domingo
was concerned: Comparing the world's most famous tenor to the aforementioned
luminaries is like comparing apples to octaves.
"In Domingo's world, these other performers--Yo-Yo
Ma and Perlman--while they are great and he has ample respect for
them, they are minor players," Dean said.
Undaunted, Dean flew to New York City. Turning on
his Southern charm, Dean met with Domingo's agent, and the two soon
discovered they had mutual friends in the business. About two hours
after the meeting, Dean got the phone call he'd been dreaming of.
"His agent called and said he had a few dates available."
With Domingo on board, Dean had to secure a sponsorship,
which took another six months. "We approached the Beau Rivage
because we felt they would be an able partner in producing such
a world-class event. Also, we wanted to present this concert in
a large venue, so more people would have a chance to see this wonderful
performer," Dean said.
The goals of the event are twofold, according to Dean.
In addition to presenting a world-class musical experience, Southern
Miss hopes to create another endowment for the USM Foundation.
"If we sell out (the concert), we will raise
a substantial amount of money to create a new endowment that will
be from the Beau Rivage. That money would be used for scholarships
and other musical necessities," he said.
Ticket sales for the Domingo concert have been brisk,
and Dean expects things to heat up even more as the event gets closer.
Marketed heavily from Texas to Florida, the event will also draw
opera lovers from the rest of the country.
Dean said he knows of patrons who will be flying in
from as far away as Las Vegas and New Mexico. "We'll have people
from at least 10 different states attending this event. We're the
only university in the world producing something like this. It's
the concert event of a lifetime."
For ticket information, call (601) 261-1310.