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Placido Domingo at Vienna’s MG Sound for Arturo Sandoval “Ultimate Duets”

Opera superstar Placido Domingo travelled to MG Sound recording studios in Vienna with producer Gregg Field to complete his contribution to Arturo Sandoval’s “Ultimate Duets” album, released on May 18.

This landmark album contains an unparalleled mix of collaborations with legends and new generation voices from the worlds of Pop, Jazz, Classical and Latin music including: Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams & Ariana Grande, Celia Cruz, Josh Groban, Juan Luis Guerra, Alejandro Sanz, Prince Royce, David Bisbal, and on his very final recording, Al Jarreau. A special interpretation of ABBA’s “Andante, Andante” brought Anni-Fria Lyngstad out of retirement after 35 years.

Multi-Grammy winner and 2010 “Producer of the Year” Gregg Field explains, “The genesis of the album is that after having worked with Arturo on two very successful previous albums, we were searching for something to take it even further. We picked a variety of artists and one of their bigger hits, and then we re-imagined it with Arturo as a duet, so it’s actually instrumental/vocal duets.” 

Trumpeter, pianist and composer Sandoval has won ten Grammy Awards and been nominated nineteen times; he has also received six Billboard Awards and one Emmy Award. In 2013, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The “Ultimate Duets” project began in 2015 and has taken Sandoval and Field to recording studios all over the world. Placido Domingo decided that he wanted to do “Granada.” “But rather than record it in the way that it’s traditionally been done as a pops orchestra treatment,” Field continues, “he came up with the idea to throw all that out, and start as a core with flamenco musicians. For his track, Placido is joined by virtuoso guitarist Vicente Amigo, who Pat Metheny says is the greatest living guitar player.”

Field explains the genesis of the “Granada” recording. “We originally set the framework for the arrangement using L.A. studio musicians and then flew to New York to record Placido’s vocal. He sang everything except the last note, a G, which was on the high side for a baritone singer. We did two or three passes of the song, and he kept stopping and not singing the last note. He said, ‘Gregg, I’m so sorry, but I have to sing at The Met tomorrow night, and If I give you that note, it could make things a little difficult for me.'” 

Domingo’s next opportunity to finish the track was before a performance in Madrid, where he met again with Sandoval and Field, who recalls, “Placido got to the last note and he didn’t sing it. He said, ‘Gregg, it’s my 75th birthday. I’m singing 15 songs tomorrow night at the Real Madrid soccer stadium for 71,000 people. I promise I’ll give you the G, but can we do it later?” Field, of course, obliged.

As the album deadline loomed, Domingo and Field finally rendezvoused in Vienna at MG Sound, Austria’s leading recording studio. Field recalls suggesting, “Placido, what do you think? Why don’t we start at the end?” Domingo laughed and said, “Don’t worry, Gregg, I’m going to sing it all again. I don’t have to sing for another week.”

The opera star spent the next two and a half hours basically “crafting the entire vocal,” says Field. “He knocked out 5 Gs at the end, and each one was as good as the next, and he was very happy. It’s an incredible vocal — in a league of its own. It was the most difficult track on the entire album, just because of the logistics, and we were basically reinventing the wheel bringing the greatest opera star into the flamenco world.”

After recording Domingo’s vocal in New York City and Madrid, Field concludes, “Honestly, I think the sound we got at MG was my favorite of the three. There was a little bit of a sparkle that we got in Vienna, and I’m glad, because Placido not only wanted to get that elusive G, but to sing the entire vocal again.”

See video highlights of the recording of “Ultimate Duets” and order here:

See Arturo Sandoval’a full tour schedule here: 

About MG Sound

MG Sound is Austria’s leading recording studio complex, located in the historic center of old Vienna. The MG engineering and production team has expertise in major pop and classical projects, as well as sophisticated multimedia, film scoring and commercial work. Nearby are some of Europe’s finest hotels, restaurants and concert halls.