TV Kultura

Naobum ("At Random", a talk show with popular artists lead by Nika Strizhak)

Nika Strizhak - First of all on behalf of our program I would like to thank you for your attention. I remember the concert in 1995. It took place right here in front of Europa Hotel in the Big Philharmonic Hall, it was a brilliant concert. Remember, those big screens, thousands of people listened to you outside. You often said that emotions were the most important in music. But you will admit that true music can also give physical pleasure.

JC - Well, music is something that can arrive to a person in two different ways in my opinion. One is through the intellect, and the other one through emotion, which is physical too. There can be very passionate emotion with any music, rhythm, heavy metal, rock or something like this, which I respect and sometimes like. But even the most poetic type of music can give you physical pleasure.

NS - There should be emotions in music, I agree. But you know that professionals, especially singers, during performance look after vocal technique very precisely. It is a great and serious work. How do you combine warm heart and cold brain? If it's not a secret, of course.

JC - No. I've always believed and always said that there is something inside us that inspires us to make music, or in my case to sing. It is what we call soul, the most intimate part of the person. It generates emotions, feelings and influences our vocal instrument. And brain selects, kind of filters everything. Brain is absolutely necessary, fundamental, but it is the soul that originates everything, and without soul there is no reason in it.

NS - Is the control of this unique instrument more difficult, than, for example, to exploration of space?

JC (laughs) - No. I think it's the matter of being born for this. It's some kind of talent or instinct, intuition that some people have and some other don't. Like talent for drawing. I can make a drawing (if at all) in a very primitive way, and some people are able to draw beautifully from childhood. Instinct for music, singing, is born with a person. Therefore if this instinct is there, you develop it; you study, concentrate, you are determinate. When you have the base, it's not that difficult (short smile). Music helps us in difficult situations, when everything in life is not going the way we would like, when we are sad, when we have problems in our family. There is always the right type of music that gives us spiritual support. I think that music gives us many different emotions and feelings. In a way it helps us always.

NS - Are there some types of art or professionals you envy?

JC - Anything. The only thing I'm a little good at, just a little, is writing. But drawing, painting, sculpture, playing instruments... I play the piano very bad. The only thing I do - I write sometimes. Like everybody else in the world I sometimes have a mystic...

NS - Oh, you are a poet?

JC - No. No. No... We all have such mystic moments in life. I try to express my feelings on a piece of paper. And for the first two hours I think it's a beautiful masterpiece, but next day I think it's ridiculous, throw it away... till the next time. I am not at all talented for that, but I love to do it, which is even more important.

NS - So, we may some day see a book of your poems?

JC (laughs) - I don't think so. A book of poems or something like this from myself - no - because I am not good enough, let's face it.

NS - On your latest two disks Passion an Pure Passion you take music not written for voice, Chopin's nocturnes or Rachmaninov's 2nd concert for example, and sing it. Are there some opera roles written for other voices that you would like to steal for yourself?

JC (smiles) - I do this because I love these pieces. I heard them when I was a child, or a young boy, and I always wanted to sing together with this music. That's why I put lyrics to these masterpieces, as you said. Chopin, Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Rodrigo and so on. Of course there are still some more pieces you can choose from this tremendous repertory. But I think I've already done what was my dream - in a way, no? - to sing this music. I don't think I'm going to do more of this. Many singers did this, even Caruso, I am not discovering anything. They also play on instruments pieces written by the composer for voice. Nobody says anything.

NS - You said in an interview that you loved Tchaikovski's music, but some of his melodies were too light for you. What did you mean?

JC - I mean that there are limits in my voice. Certain types of music are not the right tessiture or rhythm, I have not the right elasticity in the voice. It may be good for an instrument, but not for my type of voice. It would be way better for a soprano. Of course we all are facing limits. Sometimes even if you love a piece, a music, you have to put it aside because, as the English say, it's not your cup of tea.

NS - You know, Mr. Carreras, I've never heard you sing arias from Russian operas in Russian. Do you have this kind of experience? How do you feel with Russian?

JC (seriously) - Well, I have to admit that I've never had endurance to learn an opera in Russian, and I regret, because the Russian repertory has so many masterpieces. Recently I've heard Mr. Domingo sing Pique Dame. I admire him, the way he did it, and I even admire him more for endurance and determination he had to learn this very long and demanding role in Russian. And once again, he is somebody born to sing, somebody who has a tremendous vocation. As I said, all my admiration for Mr. Domingo. When I hear, for example, Lenski's aria from Eugene Onegin I always think: why am I not singing this? Maybe I didn't have the occasion to learn Russian at least good enough not to be ridiculous singing in your language. But I still have time (smiles).

NS - We know that your repertory includes over 60 operas, tenor roles, and hundreds of concert pieces. Do you sing serious music written by contemporary composers? How do you feel about this music? Both Verdi and Mozart have been contemporary composers at their time.

JC - We need contemporary composers and contemporary music. I've even sung some contemporary operas. One of them was Balada's Cristobal Colon, specially written on the occasion of 500 years of discovery of America. Although I am not specialized in this, I think it's important, because music has to progress. Of course we will live for the rest of our days with the classics: Tchaikovski, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, Mozart, Beethoven, etc., but we need new fresh music as well. I think contemporary composers need a lot of support. At certain times, let's face it, they don't receive it.

NS - Today is birthday of the distinguished Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. I remember one recording where he played Bach's fugues. He seemed not to notice anything around him. It was as though he was speaking either with Bach himself, or with God Himself. Have you experienced such moments of revelation?

JC - I think the important job has been done by composers, and thanks to those wonderful masterpieces we can come close to this kind of, if I may say in a very casual way, "nirvana" of interpretation. Composers present things to us in a golden tray. So if you have the right intuition or instinct for what you are trying to say with your singing, sometimes you can get close to what you said.

NS - I'd like to show you this coin. You are familiar with it, I think. It is a 25 pesetas piece, issued in 1992 in Barcelona on the occasion of Olympic games, with a hole, that one may wear it on a chain or string... Well, this coin has been my lucky charm for many years. Do you have talismans, and what do you think about them? JC Not really. No. I.. NS You don't believe in them?

JC I do believe. I respect people who have talismans, but I have no specific talisman with me. I think my talisman is in my head and in my heart. All memories of the people I love, all wonderful moments my life has brought me. I respect your talisman, I think it's wonderful, but so far I don't have one. NS What was the craziest compliment you ever got? JC The craziest? I don't know. It's hard to say. We artists all get compliments, and we like this. But crazy.. I don't know.. I really don't know how to answer.

NS - I heard you were going to act in a film about Enrico Caruso, play this great singer. Did this ever happen?

JC - No. You know, sometimes everything is prepared, the budget is approved, but for a reason the project does not come off. This happens every day: projects boiling, but for a reason they don't take place.

NS - Your admirers know that when you were six years old your parents took you to the cinema to watch The Great Caruso with Mario Lanza, and this film inspired you to sing, to fall in love with opera. Your story may be repeated. There may be a little boy who comes to your concert today, or sees you on TV, and feels like singing. Let's imagine he sees us now. What would you tell him?

JC - To believe, if he has this instinct, passion for music, to believe and fight for this. If he has a talent, if he has a voice, not to give up, be confident, because nothing will make him more happy than doing what he really feels like, what he has been born for.

NS - Your life is like the one of any star: managers, producers, press secretaries, schedule set months, even years ahead. What would you say if I now suggest you to leave all these people here in the hotel and take a walk through Petersburg incognito?

JC - I should deceive people waiting for me for press (conferences), meetings, rehearsals, all the professional activity that goes together with concerts and performances. But coming from you, I would love to (accept this proposal).

NS - Thank you, Mr. Carreras, for this interview. I hope we will hear you here in St. Petersburg many more times.

JC - Thank you.

Translation and transcription Maria Kozlova



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