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José Carreras turns 75 and sees himself in the finals

Old age fatigue? Not at all. It was still “moving” for him to go on stage, he said after a performance in Seville, where he received an ovation. But he is “three quarters of a century old”. That makes you wonder. “Maybe I should be more with my grandchildren”.

The tried-and-tested man who beat leukemia at the height of his career knows that “even the most wonderful things in life have to end at some point”. But for now, retirement and grandchildren have to wait a little longer. Just six days after the private birthday party, Carreras is giving a Christmas concert in Andorra on December 11th. This is followed by performances in Leipzig for his Leukemia Foundation on December 16 and a Bulgaria concert six days before Christmas. So there is still a lot to do for the policeman’s son, who as a toddler in Mama’s barber shop delighted customers with his voice and received a few coins for it.

Born in Barcelona in 1947, little José was already enthusiastic about the opera at the age of six, after he and his father had seen the film “The Great Caruso” with Mario Lanza in the cinema. At school he trilled operatic pieces, which is why classmates called him “Rigoletto”, based on the Giuseppe Verdi opera.

Although they had little knowledge of music, the parents encouraged their son’s talent and sent him to the conservatory. The “child prodigy” first appeared on the radio and was only eleven years young when it made its debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

From then on it went up rapidly. The plans to become a chemist were shelved shortly after commencing his studies, as he was already earning a good living as a singer at that time. The Catalan compatriot Montserrat Caballé, who at that time was already considered the best soprano in the world, recognized his talent and became a mentor. Just like the Austrian star conductor Herbert von Karajan, with whom Carreras was to work closely for decades.

The world was soon at the Spaniard’s feet. In the mid-1970s, the slender tenor with the shy smile delighted audiences in the Metropolitan Opera of New York, in London’s Covent Garden and not least in the Vienna State Opera. In 1977 he and Karajan roused the audience as Rodolfo in Puccini’s “La Boheme” for 35 minutes to a storm of applause.

Carreras fascinated with the special timbre, the soulful expressiveness and the vulnerability of his voice, with his extraordinary command of the dramatic register. His personal charisma did the rest. Carreras said that Karajan once said to him: “Do you know why you are so successful? Because every opera goer believes that you are singing for them alone. “

But at the peak of success, the shock came in the summer of 1987: Carreras had blood cancer. The career seemed to be over, and worse still: the chances of survival were considered slim. After a bone marrow transplant, however, he was able to overcome the disease. In 1988 he set up the Carreras Foundation to fund the fight against leukemia. The goal: “Leukemia must become curable. Always and with everyone. “

Carreras, meanwhile, is convinced that the illness also made him stronger. “I think a person who has such tough moments in his life becomes more mature and has different views and priorities,” said the man whose mother died of cancer when he was only 17 years ago. After the leukemia, Carreras actually set several career milestones. Around 1990, when the Verdi and Puccini interpreter became known to a wide audience overnight as “The Three Tenors” through an appearance at the 1990 World Cup in Rome with Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo.

Many critics complain that Carrera’s voice has been a shadow of itself for many years. That may be true and is not denied by the always modest Spaniard. And yet the mature Carreras is still able to charm with its charm. Reason enough for a couple of finals.

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