Fri, Nov 16, 2007 - Page 13 News List

'Romantic Young Brother' comes to town

By Bradley Winterton  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER


On the day of a performance he never eats spicy food, avoids cold drinks and, most important of all, keeps clear of air-conditioning in all possible circumstances.

So said Jose Carreras last week in exclusive comments to Taipei Times in advance of his Taiwan tour, which begins on Sunday.

He also said that, though he's been here several times before, this time he'll be performing in cities new to him, and he's excited by the prospect. He'll be giving one concert each in Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung and Taipei.

Carreras came to fame beyond the world of classical music via the Three Tenors concerts, beginning in 1990. Of these, it could be said that Pavarotti was the "Old Showman," Domingo, the "Father Figure" and Carreras, the "Romantic Young Brother." (He was 11 years younger than Pavarotti and is five years younger than Domingo). This, fundamentally, is why his Taipei concert is being held this time, not in the 2,000-seat National Concert Hall, but in the Taipei Arena, which has a maximum capacity of 15,000.

When I asked Carreras last week if, following the death of Pavarotti, there would be any more Three Tenors concerts with a different line-up, he replied that these were now historical events and could never be repeated.

Barcelona-born Carreras became celebrated in the operatic world during the 1970s. His lyrical tenor voice combined strength with a remarkable sweetness, and he was soon singing opposite such famous names as Montserrat Caballe, Teresa Berganza, Mirella Freni and Agnes Baltsa, and alongside Joan Pons, Leo Nucci, Ingvar Wixell and Piero Cappuccilli.

But it appears that he's never sung in a Wagner opera - his Italian-style tenor voice isn't made for those kind of titanic roles. And this, perhaps, represents a problem. If you have a lyric tenor voice, then you play romantic young lovers. So what do you do when you're 61, as Carreras is now?

Performance notes

What: Jose Carreras

When and Where: Sunday at the Kaohsiung Cultural Center's Chih-Teh Hall (高雄市立文化中心至德堂), 67 Wufu 1st Rd, Kaohsiung City (高雄市五福一路67號); Tuesday at the Tainan Municipal Cultural Center Performance Hall(台南市立文化中心演藝廳), 332, Chunghua E Rd Sec 3, Tainan City (台南市中華東路三段332號); Thursday at Taichung's National Chung Hsing University Huisun Auditorium (台中中興大學惠蓀堂座位圖), 250 Kuokuang Road, Taichung (台中市國光路250號); and Nov. 24 at Taipei Arena (台北小巨蛋), 2, Nanjing E Rd Sec 4, Taipei(台北市南京東路四段2號)

Tickets: From NT$1,200 to NT$6,000 (NT$800 to NT$6,000 in Taipei)

On the Net:

The answer seems to be "You sing Neapolitan folk songs." These are certainly going to make a major showing in his Taiwan concerts next week. And they're beautiful things, the sort of music Andrea Bocelli has become associated with, and Bocelli is someone whose strengths don't include opera (his 2003 recording of Tosca with Fiorenza Cedolins was a rare embarrassment).

Carreras, by contrast, has a long career as a major operatic star behind him. He has, for example, recorded a total of 18 complete operas. His 1988 recording for a film of La Boheme with Barbara Hendricks may not be widely celebrated but it's among the very best versions of this much-recorded work. (Because of the onset of leukemia, Carreras was unable to appear in the film itself, and someone else mimed the role to Carreras' voice).

One of Carreras' most recent appearances in an opera premiere was in 1999. Then he sang the leading role with the Washington State Opera in Sly, a work by Wolf-Ferrari dating from 1927 based on the Prologue to Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Carreras had earlier sung the part in Zurich in what was essentially the rediscovery of a long-neglected opera. It went on to be mounted by the Metropolitan Opera, and was recorded by the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona in 2001 (still its only modern recording). That recording was conducted by Carreras' nephew, David Gimenez. It was highly praised, and it is Gimenez who will be conducting next week's Taiwan concerts. The orchestra will be the Kaohsiung City Symphony Orchestra.

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