The problem I have with Opera, if you can call it a problem, is that I’m not fluent in Spanish, Russian, or Italian, the languages commonly used in operatic material. So I slid the first C.D in The José Carreras Collection into the player, with a mixture of trepidation, and interest, as after all, it’s not every day you get to review a legend. Labelled as one of the worlds ‘best loved tenors’ and formally part of the global hit that was the ‘Three Tenors’, this is one man and one voice to be reckoned with.
The Jose Carreras Collection has been released to celebrate a lifetime of achievement in the classical/opera world, which will also be marked with an Outstanding Contribution To Music Award at the Classical Brits on May 14th. This first C.D is a mix of songs from well known operas such as La Bohème and Tosca, and some classical pieces which includes a concerto by Rachmaninov. The first thing I would say is that when listening to José Carreras you certainly know about it, such is the power behind the great mans voice. He’s a Tenor that can fill any space with a pure and emotive voice, and while like me, some may not understand exactly what he’s singing about, it’s still possible to feel the mood and emotion in each song. The melody and music varies, shifting between frantic and upbeat, and a softer more haunting tone. It came as no surprise that José Carreras is a man that can move effortlessly between the two. The string arrangements are excellent, and often sweep you up in a fairytale like sensation. I can easily imagine ballet dancers performing to some of the tracks, like Granada (track two). This isn’t just a recording, it’s a performance, that’s almost as good as being at the concert itself. Also on the C.D are excellent duets with fellow tenor Placido Domingo, Eva Lind and Barbara Hendricks, and some traditional Spanish/Neopolitan songs.
C.D Two, for me, is much easier to relate to, as a collection of recognisable songs, mainly in English. Many of these songs have appeared in movies or operatic films, and you immediately sense a cinematic quality about them. I enjoyed the presence of the Ambrosian singers on some of the tracks, whose refreshing harmonies added a lot to the overall feel of the songs. One of the standout moments for me was definitely ‘Born Free’. I’ve always liked the song, and thought the arrangement and vocal here were both beautiful. Other songs I recognised such as ‘Over The Rainbow’, and ‘The Way We Were’ were equally emotive. It’s always good to hear something different, and ‘A Place Far Far Away’ is certainly that. As a Kazakstani folk song it has an interesting blend of Oriental and Russian influences, definitely one to listen out for. As an operatic novice I can appreciate the quality of both C.D’S, but prefer the softer touch given to these traditional songs. They are easy to listen to, and likely to appeal to a broader range of people.
José Carreras exudes a certain Spanish charm, which I can see and hear in all the recordings and T.V appearances I have come across. Whilst at times his supreme power can be, well a little overpowering for my tastes, this C.D has opened my eyes further to a music genre, which to be fair, I wouldn’t have explored myself. I am sure all his fans will enjoy this collection of songs, a well deserved celebration of a great career.
To find out more about José Carreras, and the other recordings he’s released throughout his career visit www.warnerclassicsandjazz.com.