Placido Domingo Sounds Off for the Hearing Impaired

This week Placido Domingo is teaming up with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

But the man who has been called "the king of opera" and "the greatest operatic artist of modern times" is not singing or conducting with the renowned orchestra.

The 65-year-old Maestro is joining forces for another one of his favorite things -- lending a hand to young people.

Domingo and the philharmonic will join the Swiss hearing-device manufacturer Phonak to establish a not-for-profit foundation to help the hearing impaired, particularly young people in developing countries, and give them the opportunity to enjoy the sounds around them.

"It could be just the sound of water in a river, just the crying of a child, the laughing of a child, the voice of people we love. … Not to be able to listen is a problem," Domingo said. "If we can help, I am ready to go out of my way to … speak loud with my voice."

The Hear the World Foundation, based in Zurich, Switzerland, will begin operations in January with an initial budget of about $400,000.

It will focus on both education and delivering the latest in hearing-aid technologies to those in need.

Hearing aids will be delivered to poor children in the Central American jungle; hearing-challenged teens in sub-Saharan Africa will be able to attend class with children who hear; and youngsters in remote parts of East Asia will be tested for the first time.

Career Aspirations at Retirement Age

On "Exclusiva," ABC News Now's Hispanic news program, Domingo discussed his passion for young people, in particular getting a new generation of opera artists on stage and a younger audience to watch them.

The Washington National Opera, which Domingo directs, is even reaching out to young people by releasing a YouTube video of its October Welcome to Opera concert.

It was posted on YouTube, Google Video and Yahoo Video. (

"I am enthusiastic about young people," he said. "In Washington, we have also what we call Generation O -- people in their 30s and 40s who will be the new trustees and board members of the company."

To offset Domingo's graying audience, the Generation O program also aims to increase the attendance of new opera-goers with reduced ticket prices and special events.

"We have to be closer to the young people, to create new artists and a new public and offer concerts for the children," Domingo said.

That's why the Washington National Opera's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, under the leadership of Domingo, began.

It supports talented young opera singers, coach-accompanists, and, for the first time last season, directors and conductors (

The program also organizes a renowned international competition.

"I remember that even from a young age, I hoped that one day I would help to path the way for young artists, and I have been doing it with a competition that I have for 15 years already called Operalia."

"Most of the young opera singers around the world have been winners or participants of the competition," Domingo said. "I am very proud to help build this new generation."

Another untapped opera market Domingo acknowledges is the roughly 40 million Hispanics in the United States.

He says he has a plan to draw some in with zarzuela, or Spanish operetta, by making concerts more affordable.

"Educate and make it more affordable," Domingo said. "There is the public that doesn't know the opera, and then there is the one that cannot afford it. Both are important."

At the Los Angeles Opera, the other company that Domingo directs, a performance of the romantic zarzuela "Luisa Fernanda" by Federico Moreno Torroba will be free to the public.

"An anonymous gift has allowed us to bring people who can't afford the performance to come and see it," Domingo said. "Opera is expensive because it has so much going on. But this allows us to bring it to more people."

And he hopes more young people.

Domingo's eyes light up when he talks about the future, whether it's young artists, new opera audiences, or the young people around the world who are expected to get the latest in hearing-aid technology through Domingo's Hear the World.

He's the perfect ambassador for the new foundation.