Dedicated To Jose Carreras

Published: 30th January 2012
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An article about Jose Carreras, one of the loveliest voices to come out of the opera world and also a member of the now legendary “3 Tenors”.

Josep Maria Carreras i Coll (AKA Jose Carreras) is a tenor, who in all frankness I had not heard of till the world cup “Italia 90” when he performed with Pavarotti and Domingo. This a concert which was held in Rome at the same time the world cup was being played which perhaps is the reason Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti become known as the football tenors. As for the concert, it was truly a spectacular event with the Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti performing many well known opera arias like “Nesun Dorma” and “E Lucevan Le Stelle” with some perhaps classic popular songs like “O Sole Mio”, “Ochi Chorne”, “Ritorna A Sorrento” “Cielito Lindo” and many others from all over the world. The concert being a way for the three of them to expose opera to a bigger audience as well as perform some perhaps lighter music.

As for the concert, it basically was intended or at least originally; as a way for Carreras’s friends (Domingo and Pavarotti) to welcome him back to opera. Carreras in fact having just returned to opera after having been treated successfully for leukemia. This concert also serving as a way to raise funds for Leukemia. The concert in Rome would became a huge commercial success, perhaps more so than anybody could have ever anticipated. As the CD which came as a result of this concert went on to become the best selling in the history of classical music.

As for Carreras what I did not notice about him was that apart from being shorter than Domingo and Pavarotti (though not a lot) was the he had good looks about him as well as bearing a striking resemblance to the American actor; Billy Crystal. Voice wise, I can also say that I was impressed with Carreras and though he definitely did not have one of the strongest voices I had ever heard in opera; he did have a very nice way of singing high notes. This being most important for “belle canto” which is required for operas by composers as Donizetti, Rossini, Puccini and early Verdi.

Carreras in this concert performed some pieces on his own, some with Domingo, some with Pavarotti and some with both of them in a way which truly caught their three great styles and as they came together to bring something truly wonderful to old songs like “O Sole Mio”. It being Carreras’s voice which along with the other two stood out so nicely yet at the same time blended in perfectly when the harmonies of their voices came together as one. Carreras also showing a pleasant personality in these concerts as he and Pavarotti and Domingo seemed to be the best of friends in what was a great atmosphere of mutual admiration.

After the concert in Rome, I started following Carreras’s career more carefully. “La Boheme” being an opera which he impressed me in the part of Rodolfo. This being ideal for his style of lyrical singing or at least in my opinion. Carreras also having something about him which made it easy for me to see him as the modest yet romantic poet living in poverty though a millionaire in his heart and dreams. Carreras’s performance being of such merit that it would in part inspire my book “New York’s Opera Society” which as a matter of fact contains a few chapters describing his performance as Rodolfo in Puccini’s “La Boheme”.

Carreras definitely impressed me in La Boheme but perhaps his greats role or at least in my opinion; was as Don Jose in Bizet’s “Carmen”. This being one I could feel suited not only his voice but to a large extent his Spanish personality though the character of Don Jose is said to come from Navarra while Carreras is a native of Barcelona. This a city which he is most proud of as it was with great showmanship that he performed alongside Caballe and Domingo in the opening ceremony of the Barcelona 92 Olympic Games. This being a truly extravagant gala event which was put on in the typical grand Catalonian style to remind me of when they held the inauguration of the 82 world cup.

By the time of USA 94, Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti had became very well known not only in the opera world but just about everywhere for singing together yet not so much as individual singers but as a group which lead to the creation of the name “The Three Tenors”. This being the name they performed as in Los Angeles just a few days before the final of USA 94. The Three Tenors (as they were official being called) went on to give another dazzling concert though on this occasion they added more popular songs from Broadway musicals as well as Hollywood films. One of these songs being “My Way” which provided a most sentimental moment in the concert when Frank Sinatra stood up in acknowledgment. Frank Sinatra’s joy at hearing the song he was so famous for being apparent as he stood up to a tremendous ovation yet this was followed by “Singing In The Rain” which made Gene Kelly (sitting next to Sinatra) take a bow with equal enthusiasm from the crowd.

A truly wonderful night it was as the concert was seen through out the world with such notables as Schwarzenegger in the audience to show their appreciation for not only opera but the voice talents of these wonderful tenors. The concert in Los Angeles would proof to be another great commercial success which not only would be released on DVD and CD but would also prompt a stadium tour of the US to revival any rock star. These concerts perhaps not having the sound quality opera fans are used to since they were performed outdoors yet did bring opera to whole new audiences even if some of their material was far from opera.

It was after US 94 that I moved to Poland where I continued following not only opera but Carreras’s career. It being in Poland where I purchased a DVD of Carreras performing alongside the great New Zealand soprano; Kiri Te Kanawa in Bernstein’s “Westside Story”. Carreras’s voice having a lovely quality about it as he sang the part of Tony though in all truth; this was something his voice brought to every character he played.

It was the following year however that Carreras would again team up with Domingo and perhaps not so expectedly with Natalie Cole for a Christmas album. Carreras, Domingo and Cole interpreting the classics of the season in Vienna alongside the world renowned Vienna Children’s Choir in a performance which delightfully captured the joy of these songs and the season. Carreras performing Spanish Christmas classics such as “La Virgen Lava Panales” in a CD which really brightened up not only my Christmas season but my wife’s as well.

This being something Carreras and I had in common in both of us having relationships with Polish ladies. Carreras, in fact being involved in a romance with a woman from Poland which perhaps was the reason he chose to perform in Warsaw alongside Edyta Gorniak (well known local Polish singer) in December of 1997.

Carreras would go on to perform once again with Domingo and Pavarotti in both France 98 and Japan/South Korea 2002 as the Three Tenors. The France 98 concert seeing The Three Tenors change conductors. It being James Levine to replace Zubin Mehta for another delightful concert with The Three Tenors performing Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” in honor of being in France. This a most pleasant touch they added to their concerts of singing songs of the country they performed in such as “Waltzing Matilda” in their Australian concert.

Domingo had performed many Christmas concerts in Vienna in a series of concerts with Steven Mercurio yet it was in 2000 that he, Carreras and Pavarotti gave a Christmas performance as The Three Tenors. This being the concert in which Carreras sings the song the Polish Christmas carol “Dormi, O Bambino” which he in fact does sing in Polish; perhaps inspired by his Polish girlfriend. All of which making this DVD one of the greatest celebrations of Christmas. As it takes songs dedicated to this great holiday from all over the world which allows us to see that they all have the same spirit about them while maintaining something from their country of origin.

As for Jose Carreras, I must say that I am a great fan of his and though he and I have never met; he did have a meal in my favorite Italian restaurant in Warsaw. This being San Lorenzo where perhaps some day he may return and it might be my good fortune to meet him.

In conclusion, I would say that Carreras is without room for doubt one of the greats tenors who ever lived and though his voice is not of the strength of Pavarotti or Domingo or even Jerusalem; he does have a lovely tone to his voice which is ideal for belle canto. Carreras being a singer with a beautiful way of phrasing when he sings such roles as Alfredo in La Traviata. Carreras also being a singer, who I remember once performing with Pavarotti and Domingo; just one day after having had a fever of 40 degrees. This something which was mentioned by Pavarotti during the concert and allowed us to see the total professional he is.

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