Plácido Domingo has made a triumphant return to the stage after undergoing surgery for colon cancer last month.

Appearing at Milan’s La Scala, his performance in the title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra drew a 14-minute ovation from the notoriously opinionated crowd, prompting the singer – during what he described to the Associated Press as ‘a very emotional’ evening – to express his delight at being ‘back in front of an audience’.

But as Domingo himself observed, ‘La Scala is always La Scala’, and a vocal minority of hecklers also made their feelings known. Whether the boos were directed at Domingo himself or, as some have suggested, at conductor Daniel Barenboim is unclear, but the two embraced warmly during the curtain calls which continued even after the departure of most of the audience.

It was an evening of firsts, marking not only Domingo’s return to the stage but also resuming his first role as a baritone (which he first sang at New York's Met in October last year) – a departure that British audiences will be able to judge for themselves when Simon Boccanegra comes to London's Covent Garden in June.

Despite juggling roles this season in both his tenor and baritone registers, something the singer acknowledges is ‘not easy’, Domingo says that he still remains a tenor, and will appear as such in the world premiere of Daniel Catan’s opera Il Postino in Los Angeles later this year.