Domingo has been in the limelight for so long—he celebrates his 40th anniversary with the Met this year—that it seems he's always been with us. But even though he grew up in a musical family—his parents ran a small company specializing in the Spanish form of operetta known as zarzuela—opera wasn't his first love. First there was soccer, which Domingo thought of pursuing as a goalie. Then came the movies and the chance to be the next ranchera film star—abandoned when he met his self-imposed opera deadline.
Domingo began as a baritone. Then, at the advice of a colleague, he switched to tenor and quickly became noted for his performances in "Tosca," "Otello," and other works. In the early 1970s he began a conducting career and soon made forays into popular music. But he didn't become a superstar until the 1990s, when he teamed up with Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras to form the Three Tenors. With Pavarotti's death and Carreras's career in decline, Domingo is easily the biggest name in opera.
He's taken advantage of his fame to encourage up-and-coming singers and to introduce opera to young audiences. He founded Operalia—an annual competition for young performers—and runs youth programs at the Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles operas. "We're worried [about attracting young people to the opera]," he says, "and we are doing something about it."
Domingo has also been involved in raising money to help victims of natural disasters in Mexico and Peru, and he is currently a spokesperson for, among other things, Hear the World, an initiative which focuses on hearing loss.