Festival Magazin 29 July 2002
Text: Peter Martin
The Tenor of Humanity
Josй Carreras returns to Salzburg. The tenor who still dreams with admiration about his work with Herbert von Karajan, conquered death. He now dedicates himself intensely to the Josй Carreras Leukemia Foundation, whose goal is to make this terrible illness curable.
Josй Carreras: In Salzburg I will think about Herbert von Karajan very much. For me he was the greatest conductor.
"July 21, 1988. A wonderful day - my day. I will sing again, tonight, in my beloved Barcelona. What is behind is a nightmare. Only a year ago the most terrible period in my life began, but this already seems to be far away: the outburst of illness, months of treatment. I overcame this. I live. More wonderful though is that I can sing again. My day. The day over which I rejoiced most of all. The day when I want to tell the opera world: Look here, I am back, I am again among you who liveЕ" This is how Josй Carreras describes the day of his comeback in his biography "Singing from the Soul". The year before he fell ill with leukemia. Chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation in Seattle with Prof. Thomas saved his life. During these painful months Carreras had only one thought: "I will survive, I will win. Even if my chance is 5 percent I will struggle." Even in these hard months he knew: "When I am well again, I will sing again."
For this reason he endured painful treatment without anaesthetic, for this reason the chemotherapy had to be applied very directed. He who witnessed this concert will never forget it. 250 000 people came to celebrate their Josйp - Josй in Catalan. He wished he could say "thank you" to each of them. For thousands of letters, for thousands of prayers for his recovery. "This experience, where one has very much time to meditate, made my notion about God greater."
Millions for charity
Here he stood under the arch of triumph, small, still very frail, but already strong again. The crowd's cry covered him like a wave. Just one gesture from him - and it was quiet. He only said Gracias - and started to sing. To the point of exhaustion, when he sang with his last strength the aria "Nessun dorma" and the world famous "Vincerт, vincerт" - "I will win!" He had won. That day he realized that he wants to help other people, he must. Josй Carreras founded the Josй Carreras Leukemia Foundation.
Since then Josй Carreras gives charity concerts, collects donations. Every year in Germany before Christmas the "Josй Carreras Gala" enjoys great success. In 2001 over 12 million DM were donated!† "I cannot tell how happy I am," Carreras says. "Helping others became my most important task."
The "tenor of humanity" regularly visits hospitals with leukemia sections, encourages patients as a symbol of hope. "If I could do it, you also can." "Some day, he says, I may completely dedicate myself to the leukemia foundation. It is my most important task, I am ready to give all my strength to it." Jose Carreras is considered healed; he receives no treatment, only regular check-ups. Of course late consequences of chemotherapy make themselves felt. Carreras does not speak about it. His life is disciplined, and he is grateful that he can sing. Because singing is his life. The public feels that. Every concert Carreras gives the best he is capable of. This is how he describes his goal: "If I were in the audience, I would like the singer to reach me with his singing and evoke all kinds of feelings and emotions. That is it. The logical sequence for me as a tenor is: heart, brain, voice. In other words, the hearts dictates me, so to speak, what I want to express. It gives the listener all I have inside me, really. Only feelings coming from the heart must be the motor, nothing more. Only then the brain, the technique, takes action. This whole process I can best express with the words "singing from the soul".
Bearer of hope
Since his recovery there have been many celebrations, awards, honorary doctor titles, orders. But what Jose Carreras is especially proud of is the fact that many leukemia hospitals bear his name. In Munich, Berlin, Leipzig, Barcelona, to name a few. When he recently inaugurated the "Jose Carreras Tagesklinik" in Munich in the framework of his German tour, he spoke with patients and members of their families. That afternoon I realized what a great figure, what a bearer of hope this man is. He is hot pathetic, the behavior of a hero or a guru is alien to his nature. He is the man who knows what suffering is. His message is though "There is always hope, you only must believe!"
The success of the Tree tenors was also possible thanks to Carreras. He suggested arranging a benefit concert for the football championship in Rome. His colleagues Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo agreed, and the "3 Tenors" were born. A world success. Sold out stadiums and squares, 45 million CDs sold. "I am 100 percent for this kind of performances," Carreras says. "We called attention of milliards of people to the music we love so much."
"Sly" was a great success
Beside concerts all over the world Carreras rarely participated in big opera performances. For example, he helped Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's "Sly" to break through. The live recording of the performance at Liceo became the best selling classical album of the year. His crossover recordings such as "Passion" and "Around the world" were also a success. Over a million CDs of "Passion" were sold. A great success in our time. The star tenor recorded recently with the Ensemble Wien a CD of songs, which he will also sing in Salzburg at the Great Festival Hall.
Carreras honors Karajan
The comeback to Salzburg means very much to him. Herbert von Karajan was his "light figure". "For me he was the greatest conductor I have worked with. He had magic power. He literally carried us singers in his arms through the concert. His radiation, his aura was breathtaking. Unspeakable. When I enter the Festival Hall I will first of all think about Karajan. I will look up and ask him to be with me this evening..."
1988, Vienna Staatsoper. Jose Carreras' comeback to his favorite opera house, his favorite public. Over 25 000 ticket orders, while the hall could seat only 2200 people. "To come back after a forced pause to a place where you have performed a hundred times, where you celebrated great success, is an unforgettable, emotional experience. The first step on the stage makes you feel something extraordinary is going to happen. The public feels the same, and this interaction results in what is called a great evening. "Thank you, Jose, thank you!" the people cried. "We love you!" There was encore after encore. I was totally exhausted, but overjoyed...! I even did not complain when the next morning a telephone call got me sleepyhead up too early. I say this not only because it was Karajan, who saw the concert on TV and wanted to congratulate meЕ"
English translation © Maria Kozlova
"21. Juli 1988. Ein
wunderbarer Tag - mein Tag. Heute werde ich wieder singen, heute abend in
meinem geliebten Barcelona. Was hinter mir liegt, ist ein Alptraum. Vor einem
Jahr war es erst, daя die grausamste Periode meines Lebens begonnen hatte,
aber alles scheint† schon ewig lange
zurьckzuliegen, der Ausbruch der Krankheit, die monatelange Behandlung. Ich
habe es ьberstanden ich lebe. Viel schцner noch - ich kann wieder singen.
Mein Tag. Der Tag, auf den ich mich gefreut habe wie auf nichts anderes. Der
Tag, an dem ich der Opernwelt sagen will: Seht her, ich bin† zurьckgekommen, ich bin wieder unter euch
Lebenden...". So beschreibt† Josй
Carreras in seiner Biographie "Singen mit der Seele" den Tag seines
Comebacks. Ein Jahr davor war er an Leukдmie erkrankt. Chemotherapie und eine
Knochenmarkstransplantation† bei Prof.
Thomas in Seattle retteten ihm das Leben. Wдhrend all dieser schmerzhaften
Monate hatte Carreras dennoch immer nur einen Gedanken: