NEW YORK - Placido Domingo, one of opera’s most popular superstars, went back to his roots late Friday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the now defunct New York Company that launched his career.

Since its first performance in 1944 the beloved New York City Opera launched the careers of thousands of singers - none more glittering than that of the Spanish tenor - and pioneered a unique platform for American opera.

It was affectionately dubbed the “People’s Opera” for its commitment to staging affordable productions and reaching a wide audience. Legions of fans wept when it was forced to close for lack of funds in October. But seven decades to the day since its first performance, the chorus, orchestra and company stars reunited Friday in its original neo-Moorish home, the New York City Center, to fete its legacy. And bringing a hefty dose of star power was the 73-year-old Domingo, who has thrilled the world with a career lasting for more than half a century. He mesmerized the audience with his performance of “Nemico della Patria” from Umberto Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier,” and transformed the orchestra by conducting the overture to Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino.” Praised by Newsweek as “the King of Opera” and still ravishingly handsome, Domingo left the hall ringing with rapturous applause. Female violinists blushed as he delivered a liberal dose of hand kissing. It was an astonishing act of generosity from a man who otherwise commands eye-watering fees, and a shot in the arm for City Opera luminaries who say talks are underway to revive the company.

“There are people out there who want to see this flame kept alive and they want to see the phoenix rise,” Cori Ellison, former City Opera dramaturg, told AFP. “There have begun to be some concrete conversations. It’s far from a done deal but I will say at this point it’s more than just people saying ‘oh we wish City Opera would come back,’” she added. Domingo made his New York debut in a City production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” in 1965.