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Recordings

José Carreras Collection
30 Mar 2007

José Carreras Collection

A classic Seinfeld episode revolved around a brush with the “third” of the Three Tenors - the one whom no one could quite put a name to.

José Carreras Collection

José Carreras - Vienna Comeback Recital, 1988 (101 401)
José Carreras - La Grande Notte a Verona 1988 (101 403)
José Carreras - A Bolshoi Opera Night, 1989 (101 409)
José Carreras & Montserrat Caballé (101 413)
José Carreras - Salzburg Recital, 1989 (101 411)
José Carreras - Misa Crolla, 1990 (101 405)

ArtHaus Musik 101 417 [6DVDs]

$92.99  Click to buy

That would have been, of course, José Carreras, and ironically enough, he was the very reason for the “Three Tenors,” an event at least partly built around the celebration of the singer’s return to health after a frightening bout with leukemia.

Beloved before his illness for his handsome persona and beautiful timbre, with his survival Carreras meant even more to his core audience. As an acknowledgement of that devotion, ArtHaus Musik has boxed 6 DVDs as the “José Carreras Collection.” Many of his fans will have these titles in earlier media incarnations, but they may not be able to resist the call of the attractive packaging.

Before going into a few specifics about each title, a gentle declaration must come first - purely as singing, much of what Carreras produces in these concert appearances cannot match the standard he set for himself before the onset of his illness. In the middle range, some reminder of his appeal comes through. Too often he seems to force the tone, and if he lightens it too much, a wavery effect results. The top, unsurprisingly, fares poorest - often hoarse, sometimes painfully so. It is a tribute to the bond Carreras formed with audiences that he still manages to captivate them, and they give of their love unstintingly.

The ovation that greets Carreras in The Vienna Comeback has to touch one’s heart. He chose a fairly challenging program, in French, Spanish, and Italian, even ending the encores in Swedish for Grieg’s “Jeg elkser dig.” That was in September 1988. About a year later in Salzburg he offered a recital with some of the same selections, but the balance had shifted to somewhat lighter fare - more Tosti, some Guastivino, Halffter. Nonetheless, the top is as troublesome as ever. The ecstatic audience couldn‘t care less, insisting on the requisite 5 encores from the tenor.

Carreras only appears once in La Grande Notte a Verona, singing his crowd-pleasing “Granada.” The rest of the program is a gala affair of very variable vocal contributions and amusing reminders of late 1980s ABBA-influenced hairstyles, male or female. In 1990, Carreras sang a short program of 5 songs and then a “modern” mass setting called “Misa Criolla” from composer Ariel Ramirez. Lightly scored and sweetly melodic, this insubstantial piece poses no great challenge for Carreras, and able to relax, he delivers a pleasant performance.

The strangest of the 6 DVDs is A Bolshoi Opera Night. According to the booklet and credits, Carreras was a sponsor of this gala charity evening, but not only does he not sing, he does not even appear on stage (unless your reviewer blinked and missed him). Another hit-and-miss affair, as a gala this Bolshoi evening will appeal most to those with a fondness for stars near the end of their careers (Bergonzi, Kraus) and Gorbachev-era Soviet opera stars.

The most pleasing of the six CDs finds Carreras with the woman who in some sense discovered him, Montserrat Caballé. Singing solos and some duets, neither singer can be claimed to be in the best of voice, but their sheer joy in each other’s presence adds much more than a few tight high notes can subtract.

Perhaps as an even greater tribute to this fine tenor, a company can release some the filmed work of his from before his illness, when his voice was at its memorable best. The “José Carreras Collection” is for the most devoted fans.

Chris Mullins

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