The date and circumstances of this recital may provoke some
trepidation on the part of prospective buyers but the result
is actually a gratifying experience. These 'comeback concerts'
are from the period immediately after Jose Carreras recovered
from leukaemia and the terrible difficulties of treating that
cancer. The effects of his treatment actually bore remarkably
little effect on his singing on the evidence of these recordings:
the sound is warm, his phrasing is distinguished by its stylishness.
We can enjoy his clear diction and the sound itself is an unusually
emotive one. His singing is an improvement on that in evidence
at different times during 1985-1987. The voice is a little better
integrated: much of Nessun Dorma is very accomplished.
The song and Romantic (Bellini, Rossini) repertoire here is
better suited to his skills; just compare his strained records
of Manon Lescaut for Decca or La Forza del Destino
for DG. He is not fighting to be heard over a huge orchestra
as he must for The Three Tenors concerts. The most striking
quality here is the enthusiasm of his singing.
There is some shading in his singing although this is a little
lacking in the Barcelona Arc de Triomfe celebration which was
his return to public performance. Given the huge crowds this
is still a surprisingly tasteful and stylish performance and
the recorded sound is satisfying: clear and neither bass shy
nor too fierce a treble. Carreras's performance in Nessun
Dorma is, with the exception of the last phrases which strain
him, an improvement on his live version in the complete recording
of Turandot with Lorin Maazel from 1983. His use of the
words, as if telling a story, is vivid and his phrasing makes
use of many dynamic shades. His smooth, joined-up legato phrasing
in 'L' emigrant' is notably solid and although his delivery
in this recital can sound a little curt the results are often
His audience was in a jubilant mood at the return of their hero
and Carreras himself appears to be in high spirits: the nature
of the concerts was far more favourable for this singer than
his Three Tenors' performances only two years later. There he
sounded as if he was trying to make the voice sound more powerful
and loud than it was by nature: this had the negative effect
of robbing his singing of the charm which is one of his main
assets. Even in the Barcelona Arc de Triomfe concert he is not
forcing the tone too much for volume.
For years critics had raised concerns about the repertoire that
Carreras was singing and even had qualms about the manner in
which he sang them. Technical issues which had been presenting
themselves from about the late seventies were, however, actually
little altered from the period before the leukaemia. He is inclined
to be a little too emphatic and loud at times, the high notes
can be a struggle, the timbre can be a little dry and the soft
singing can sound a bit detached and threadbare. For all that,
he delivers a rich sound used with a sort of genius at times.
All caution is thrown to the wind in 'Jo et presentia com la
mar' which gives a good indication of his strengths.
The extra energy of the happy occasion means that Carreras’s
'No puede ser', although emphatic and quite hard-driven at the
end, does not sound quite as strained as he might in the future.
The middle section of the song is surprisingly intimate given
the scale of the event. His singing of Spanish is, as ever,
a particular joy. He savours the distinct sounds of that language
and generates a good deal of excitement. He is perhaps not as
'neat' as notable singers such as Giacomo (Jaume) Aragall or
Alfredo Kraus but his vibrant voice carries its own charisma.
'Canticel' by the Catalan composer Eduard Toldrà receives
a suitably emotive performance before a home crowd.
The next recital from Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona is
a more traditional affair with Carreras in exceptionally fine
form for this period in his career. He makes a remarkably vivid
Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. This reminds
you that his voice is a dark but lyric instrument rather than
the sort of spinto, 'pushed', sound really needed for Andrea
Chenier, Alvaro (Forza del Destino) or Calaf (Turandot).
His plaintive sound is effective here and he obvious considers
this Romeo a cousin of the Romantic Edgardo in Donizetti's Lucia
di Lammermoor. Capuleti with a tenor Romeo is quite
scarce on records: Giacomo Aragall made a wonderful recording
with the young Renata Scotto and Luciano Pavarotti in the 1960s.
However, it is unlikely we shall see many other modern tenor
versions of this aria or the role complete since it is not historically
authentic: it was originally written for a mezzo-soprano. Personally
I enjoyed the tenor version very much with the vigour of the
adolescent protagonist well caught in this extract.
There are live recordings of Carreras singing this aria in 1972
and the contrasts are interesting: here the performance is slower,
more thoughtful, rather more effortful, but more individual
and focused that the earlier version which is, all the same,
vocally resplendent and beguiling. In 1972 he was singing with
a confident bravura not quite matched, I think, in these 1988
concerts. However, the 1988 Liceu recital is among the best
of Carreras’s late recordings - they balance passion and
vocal consistency to an extent unfortunately not very common
in Carreras' records thereafter: The Three Tenors included.
Perhaps the high notes of I Puritani and La Sonnambula
would have never really been within his compass. One might dream,
all the same, of what a singer with Carreras's particular skills
might have made of that music.
This recording of the scene from I Capuleti e I Montecchi
and Carreras' recording of L'Elisir d'amore with Scimone
on Philips back in 1985 makes one regret that he did not record
more of this repertoire: Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and perhaps
rarities like Cherubini. Having said that, Carreras's voice
sounds weighty so his contemporaneous excursions as Eleazar
(La Juive), Samson (Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila)
and Donizetti's Poliuto are not so surprising. The colour
of his voice is so much darker than when he made his debut in
the early 1970s. Unfortunately these roles demanded more secure
high notes than Carreras could consistently muster.
The trio of Vaga lunaga, che inargenti, Gia il sole
dal gange and Per la gloria d'adorarvi as well as
Malia in the Arc de Triomfe concert bring him into direct
comparison with Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007). Pavarotti also
recorded a DVD of these songs in Barcelona in 1988. He then
went on to record them again around ten years later for Decca.
Pavarotti is the much more consistent vocalist with an even
steadier high register. His legato singing is very proficient
if a little less imaginative than that of Carreras. Pavarotti's
clean and bright sound is unique but Carreras, despite some
issues, is able to colour his phrases with a little more delicacy.
Pavarotti was not helped in his later recording of Gia il
sole dal gange by a rather fast tempo and this lends his
performance a slightly hectoring quality missing from the Carreras
which is a little slower. That said, the older singer provides
a tighter flourish at the end. Pavarotti's Per la gloria
d'adorarvi by contrast benefits from a slightly more sprightly
tempo. Carreras's version loses momentum a little much for my
taste. Also the soft singing of Carreras requires some gear
The concert at Peralda is less consistently successful. For
instance in L’heure exquise the song does not gel,
instead we have a lot of effects which don’t quite mesh
including soft singing that sounds rather white and threadbare.
Although Carreras was a fine Werther and Don José (Carmen)
he does not make the French language come alive as he can with
Italian or especially Catalan. For this repertoire one would
ideally want a singer with a better joined-up voice with access
to easy high notes. Le manoir de Rosamonde is much more
extrovert than it is with Gérard Souzay or Paul Groves.
Carerras captures some of the anger and sadness of the song
although recorded in close-up but his voice sounds overly strident.
Damunt de tu, només les flors suffers from the
lack of an orchestra. Carreras is in better form but this cannot
compare with Giacomo Aragall’s version with Orquesta Simfónica
de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya conducted by Salvador Brotons.
There is some clapping and audience noise at times but generally
we can hear the songs without interruption. The sound is very
vivid in Barcelona and Vienna and is quite good at capturing
the emotion of the different evenings. I find the Peralda concert
less appealing: the sound has too much echo for my taste. Cutting
out a great deal of applause means that the records can be enjoyed
without it all getting too grating on repeated listening. The
sound of the Vienna recording of Granada is lovely: it
is probably the best version by Carreras with this one happily
bringing together the tenor in fine form, good recorded sound
and a terrific sense of atmosphere. The arrangement is far from
the worst around.
The booklet is straightforward and most of the details are correct
but there are unfortunately no texts.
Fans of Carreras will not need any persuasion that this CD is
for them. Other listeners might enjoy this disc as it shows
the singer in decent form in a generally enjoyable programme.
It’s much better than one might expect under the circumstances
and on the evidence of his subsequent records. I would not necessarily
suggest this as an introduction to José Carreras. Come
to this after you have heard some of his excellent 1970s recordings
especially Tosca with Montserrat Caballé and Colin
Davis (Philips), his Rossini Otello (Philips), his part
in Verdi’s Macbeth with Riccardo Muti (EMI) or
his Verdi Simon Boccanegra with Claudio Abbado (DG).
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Ich liebe dich [3:26]
Francesco P. TOSTI (1846-1916)
Eduardo TOLDRÁ (1895-1962)
Traditional El cant dels ocells [2:40]
Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Jo et pressentia com la mar from “El combat del somni”
[1:58]; Damunt de tu, només les flors [4:38]
Pablo SOROZABAL (1897-1988)
No puede ser from “La taberna del Puerto” [3:15]
Amadeo VIVES (1871-1932)
[erroneously given as ‘Jaume Vives’ in CD cover
and booklet] L’emigrant [3:33]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Nessun dorma from “Turandot” [3:20]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Ecco la tomba…Deh’tu bell’anima* from “I
Capuleti e I Montecchi” [6:13]; Vaga luna, che inargenti*
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Già il sole dal gange* [2:24]
Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
Per la gloria d’adorarvi* [3:59]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Oh come il fosco…Quell’alme pupille* from “Lapietra
del paragone” [7:25]
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)
L’heure exquise [3:07]
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
Le memoir de Rosamonde [2:59]
Joaqúin TURINA (1882-1949)
Nunca olvida [2:27]
Fernando OBRADORS (1897-1945)
Del Cabello más sutil [2:05]
Agustín LARA (1897-1970)