Literaturnaya Gazeta #39 (5805) 27 September - 3 October 2000

Jose Carreras received us in the Kremlin

Alexander Kolesnikov

Jose Carreras fifth visit in Moscow is a special event. The musical sense of his vocal evening was inevitably touched by some attendant details: sad, historical and socio-psychological, so to speak. The legendary Spanish tenor gave a charity concert to support families of lost sailors of the submarine Kursk. Black stage, dim light and red coloring, general severity of design pointed to a special direction of the evening. This was a fully conscious, not a marketeering action of a person, who endured bone marrow transplantation in 1987, returned to the stage a year later and founded his Leukemia foundation to help sick people. This is the way many prominent musicians act. Carreras compatriot and tutor Montserrat Caballe more than once sang in Moscow on a similar occasion. At the same time the audience was highly motivated by participation with one of the three tenors, so that there was not a single seat left in the six thousand seat hall - neither for 200, nor for 10 000 rubles. However, motives are not important in the present instance, whether it is thirst for the beautiful or prestige reasons. What matters is Carreras himself. Not one of the three, but one of the world opera legends of the 20th century.

Does his present form correspond to the legend? Oh, yes. His artistic activity seems to have approached a period when culture is a decisive force. It was his musical culture, and not thrilling top notes or wild passion of youth that guaranteed impressive professional dignity. He sang thrifty, according to his limits, but he really sang! It was a selfless appearance of a soloist, and not dividends out of name. Both he and Caballe are examples of extraordinary courage. Does nature make experiments with them? First it gives them voice, then inflicts terrible physical disasters, makes them face death and overcome almost insuperable difficulties.

Popular Spanish and Neapolitan song classics and academic performance fused together produced an effect of something so very familiar, that the first bars of introduction drowned in waves of applause. However, later his inexpressible, complex, almost incredible intonation took us away from recognition, and after all those Marechiaras, Seaport Taverns and Return to Sorrento made us ask What was that just now? Also, an unfamiliar Carreras appeared for a moment: Ive never heard him sing Franz Lehar in concerts or recordings before. Together with the soprano Elena Kononenko he sang Lippen Schweigen.., the duet from Merry Widow, always called great in the literature about Lehar. Lips are silent, violins whisper... The violins indeed whispered, the light faded, and Carreras immersed us in Lehars melancholy, hidden passions and maybe his own memories (two years ago he participated in Lehars gala in Bad Ischl near Salzburg).

After the announced program there was another one: the audience demanded encores. He sang and sang: five, six, seven. The curtain started falling, the hall was lightened, but people still wanted more. They called him back, and he sang again, disregarding calculations and self-restraint. The Kremlin admired Carreras, nobody thought about prestige. Both those in the stalls and in the balcony, with cell phones and without them, felt the same.

Translation Maria Kozlova


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