talk of june 2nd 1984 in the Volkstheater; Host: Dr. Volkmar Parschalk
| English translation © Sabine Bischof
Carreras is known world-wide as an opera tenor. But on his new record he
also sings "Memories", a song from the musical Cats. Is there prepared a
change from an opera star to a musical star?
|I have several
reasons to sing this music. First of all I like it, many people like it,
and many people sing it. This is the main reason. And it is relaxing for
me to sing that. And there is a third reason. Maybe it is possible, in this
way, if someone begins to be interested in the artist Carreras, to win this
one for an opera, for serious music.
a film project with José Carreras in the role of a pop singer could
have been a reason for this trip into the light music.
right, the plan exists. It is a film with Ivo Pogorelich and Bo Derek. She
doesn't sing of course, she can do very well without that. And he is a classical
pianist. I play a pop singer, and there is arising a love story between
Bo Derek and me, and I will be persuaded that I should become an opera singer.
Bo is presumably able to persuade every man to do everything. That is planned
and certain for ninety per cent.
is said to have been playing an important part for the choice of career
of José Carreras. One says, the boy José Maria has become an
opera fan by means of a Mario Lanza film.
is true. Many people know that I began to be interested in music because
I have seen the Caruso film with Mario Lanza. I was six back then and have
started to sing this songs myself after that. In my childish way "La Danza"
by Rossini, "La donna è mobile" and so on. My parents discovered
my gift and sent me to the music academy. There I should study music. But
right from the beginning I had the intention to become a singer. From this
time on, when I came to the music academy in Barcelona, I always have sung.
One day I got a call from the opera in Barcelona, if I would be in the position
to take on a boys part in an opera by de Falla. I have said yes. It is true
that it was a very, very difficult part, above all musical very difficult,
but it was my first real contact with the world of music.
doesn't happen very often that boy soprano stars later, after the breaking
of the voice, have a voice.
|As a child
I never was a soprano but an alto, und this is very strange. Normally a
child soprano or a boy soprano develops into a baritone or bass voice and
contrary an alto or mezzo into a tenor. I never have had problems during
the breaking of my voice, because I have sung on all the time. If you stop
singing it is dangerous. Then suddenly something isn't right with the voice,
you have difficulties. But I have sung all the time, and so it developed
naturally. Long time I had no problems with the high tones at all. Then
suddenly it wasn't that easy any more to sing high tones, and that's final
beginning of the career of José Carreras are existinig different
versions; in any case Montserrat Caballé is involved in it. One time
it is said José Carreras has together with her first sung the Flavio
in "Norma" and she became aware of the young tenor, who was outdoing the
main tenor. An other version says his first appearance in Barcelona has
been in "Lucrezia Borgia" as well with Montserrat Caballé.
of them are true. My very first appearance was Flavio in "Norma" with Montserrat
Caballé. That was her first Norma then in january 1970. But my first
real appearance, in my opinion my official debut, was again in Barcelona,
at the same year but the next season, in december 1970.
great primadonna really able to help, did she really influence the career?
influence was not only that she said: "Yes, there is a tenor with whom I
would like to sing", she wasn't just helping me commercial – this was important
too, this aspect – but much more important to me was the moral support.
Montserrat Caballé has already been the number one on opera stage
at this time. And if there is someone who has that caliber, who stands there
so great and believes in the gift and the career of a young man, then this
is a tremendous support for him, gives him a lot of strength.
times in the past ten, fifteen years Montserrat Caballé and José
Carreras had been partners on stage. Nevertheless there is a big age difference
between the both of them – he the radiant young tenor, she the yet more
motherly figure ...
|Yes, in normal
life that sure would be correct, but on stage Montserrat is a complete different
personality, with incredible engagement in every role she is playing and
from Montserrat Caballé there also was a singing teacher in Barcelona
decisive for the career.
|Yes, I think
every singer needs someone he can have confidence in. And I trust in this
man, always did and still do today. I can call him at any time, when ever
it is necessary, when ever I have the feeling to need him. Then I even don't
have to sing to him at all. It's not just a question of the high tones then,
but I discuss my problems with him, and he helps me. And I am very lucky
to have him. Our relation is actually like this, that he never has told
me, this you have to do and that you have to do, but he tells me what I
have to avoid, what I should not do, and counts otherwise on my instinct
and my talent. And I think this is really important, to have a singing teacher
who is not stubborn and forces a specific method on someone.
in "La Bohème" has been one of the roles Carreras has been identified
with for a long time. Then maybe also Nemorino in "Elisir d'amore", Alfredo
in "La Traviata"; the lyrical, the melancholy lovers. Meanwhile José
Carreras has for a long time replied differently, he has sung Radames, Manrico,
and now Don José in "Carmen". So he is advanced to the dramatic roles.
Has it been the outward appearance that seemed to predestine him for these
|Well, I think,
from my voice I am und remain a lyric tevor; I am absolutly not a dramatic
tenor. And as far as my outward appearance is concerned, I also tend towards
the romantic characters like Rodolfo or Nemorino. This parts I really sing
often. In addition I also sing Chenier, Don José, Manrico, Kalaf.
But I think with a voice – and it is true that this voice is a lyric voice,
but it is more deeper tinged – if I accentuate in the right way and emphasize
the pronunciation and the words, I can do this. I am able to sing lirico-spinto
parts, although I am no lirico-spinto, that is to say no tenor for the roles
between different tenor types. I am and I remain a lyric tenor. But with
a certain instinct for this parts I also can sing them, in my own way.
first appearance 1970 in Barcelona José Carreras has conquered all
the opera houses in the world very quickly, almost the same year or the
next two years all the great opera houses up to the Met. London of course,
the Scala. Not quite so lucky course took his first appearance at the Vienna
State Opera as Duke in "Rigoletto".
|Yes, at the
beginning it went well, but then in the final act suddenly the voice failed
– that happens only two or three times in the course of a career. And at
my Vienna debut of all debuts it was that way. That was very sad, but the
audience reacted really fantastic. And for a long time after I was afraid
of coming to Vienna, of sining the Rodolfo or Cavaradossi here. Time and
again I had the memory of this unfortunate Rigoletto at the beginning. But
then I came back and Vienna to me became – I don't want to say my favorite
opera house, that would be to easy, but in any case it is a house where
I really feel at home, more than in most of the others.
at the Vienna State Opera at present – premature retire of Lorin Maazel,
Egon Seefehlner will come back for two years, from 1986 Claus Helmut Drese
as new director – must be a little irritating for the artists.
|I always had
very good relations to Maazel, as director of the State Opera and as conductor,
and I think our "Turandot" is the best proof for that. To me he always acted
as a gentleman. And I admire him as a conductor. I always have had good
relations to Prof. Seefehlner. And – I am a real lucky man – I also get
along very well with Drese from Zürich, after all I sang there very
often. So what else I could ask for? But one thing is completely obvious
to me: I am not singing for the director but for the audience.
in Vienna is known as exceptionally cruel. There sure is a more objective
audience, such as in London or in New York. Here in Vienna, if a tone one
time goes wrong or something is not hundred per cent, at once there is a
booing. A specific characteristic of the Viennese?
|I think you
can't generalize this. The Vienneses are a very generous audience, a very
sincere, genuine feeling audience. If there are four or five fools, you
can't equate them with Vienna. In my opinion they are plainly sick people.
Unfortunately we live in a world – don't be afraid, I am not going to be
philosophical – in a world of force and terrorism. And there are also terrorist
in opera. Indeed it is right, that people at the Met – I don't want to say
are more loyal, but things are taken easier. But what an artist really likes,
that is the enthusiasm, like it is given here in Vienna.
in "Rigoletto" has in any case not become one of your favorite roles.
|Well, I remember
some years ago, if it happened I had a contract somewhere and I felt tempted
by another intresting job, my manager has told me: "No problem at all: Go
there, sing the Duke in "Rigoletto" and you are rid of the engagement!"
again to have to sing the well-known tenor parts of the opera literature
– isn't it also a fact one likes to study rarities . And is it possible
to sing this rarities somewhere?
|I think I
have proved that I like to sing such things, like to sing it very much,
specially Verdi rarities. And I have made many recordings, also by Rossini.
That is very interesting and I think this is also an important role of an
artist, the documentation he has to create for the audience. Rarities are
certainly not part of the repertoire at each opera house, but it is always
interesting to make a new production. And I like to do such new productions
on certain conditions – if there is an excellent cunductor or an excellent
director, if I have the feeling that I can learn something. With a Karajan,
a Strehler or Zeffirelli, a Abbado I am willing to rehearse even for three
months, if it is necessary. What I dislike are mediocre people who spend
two months with teaching you in which scene you have to put the right or
left foot forward or who ignore the music or the concerns of theater. But
to say it once again: I am always willing to work hard and rehearse a lot,
if I have the feeling, it is convenient. If not, I prefer to sing somewhere
a performance, arrive the evening before and leave the next day, or I sing
the question about opera direction. Hilda Zadek, one of the great prima
donnas of the Vienna State Opera, has said, well this modern directions,
that so often would be rejected by the audience, such as Hans Neufelds production
of "Aida" in Frankfurt or his production of "Forza del destino" in Berlin,
they are at least something to think about, one would think about the opera.
At first one would be angry, but one thinks for weeks of this performance.
It gives to the opera, which is an antiquated art, a new impulse, if there
are such directions, such productions.
|In case we
are talking about modern theater and you mention "Aida" in Frankfurt as
an example, I must say that I do not just think this to be ridiculous, but
an insult of Verdi. This is not real theater, there is someone who wants
to become famous quickly, come hell or high water, even with bad things.
What do I understand by modern theater? What is pointing to the future?
I want to give an example with the Ponnelle-"Carmen" in Zürich. This
is modern theater! This way we have to go on. Anything else is a scandal.
The next time someone will present Othello as a blond hero and the Desdemona
of this would be the refusal to join in such a production?
|Yes! I can
mention a colleague, for instance, whom I adore very much and who is not
only a great singer, but also a good friend of mine, Piero Cappuccilli.
He recently left a production of "Rigoletto" in Firenze, because they wanted
him there to appear as a clown, and he has refused to do that. A scandal
was sorrounding it, but I think he was absolutely right! For what is against
the music and against the opinion of the audience, is simply bad. That's
only something for snobs.
von Karajan means a big challenge. He has employed José Carreras
for the first time at the Verdi-Requiem in Salzburg, then in "Don Carlos",
and he then has wished him as Radames for "Aida". And all the people have
said: "For Heavens sake, Carreras will sing the Radames and ruin his voice
with it completely. But Radames was challenge for a really new way in the
career, the conquest of a new type of roles: Manrico, Kalaf, Don José
|Yes, you are
presumably right. I have done things with Karajan, I wouldn't do with any
other conductor, for instance the Radames in Salzburg. And I want to say
the following about this. Of course it is important to work with Karajan.
But the importance is not only that it is good for the career, that you
are established, as soon as you have worked with him. This is only a commercial
aspect. Over and above that it is a privilege on the artistic side, a big
honor to work with him. Because he forces you to give your best, he forces
you, to make an all-out effort. And when I sing conducted by him, I also
learn, how I sing this roles elsewhere, if I not sing under his conduction.
I'm learning something for my whole career, because I know, that what I
do with him is hundred per cent right. And even the new things with Karajan,
"Carmen" in Salzburg or 1986 "Don Carlos", these are sure highlights of
my career in the next few years. And there is something in addition. If
I have sung a role with Karajan and then there comes another conductor and
asks me: "Why do you do it this way, why do you sing it like this and not
another way" und I answer to him: "I did it this way with Karajan" anyway
he has nothing else to reply, and I can do exactly what I think to be right.
tenor-heaven at present there are three tenors: Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras.
Each of the three sings nearly the same parts. A burdening for the relation
to each other?
to Pavarotti is really excellent, he was always exceedingly amiable to me.
We are very good friends, often play cards with each other, he often has
cooked for me – incidentally really excellent. I have seen him here in Vienna
in "Aida", there he was really outstanding! He is an artist who pursues
his way and doesn't care what the others do or say. As far as Placido is
concerned, we had very good relations too. But it happened here in Vienna,
in connection with the gala concert, as you will remember, that it came
to a break, but it passed again. We came together again, he explained the
situation to me from his point of view. I listened to him, have talked to
him about it and explained my point of view to him. And since then we have
a very good and warm relation and are good friends. And I think like this
it is quite right. Apart from this after all we are both spaniards, and
we have to stick together. I bear a big admiration for him and think him
to be one of the greatest artists in our time.
compel the behaviour of one of these three tenors the other two to a similar
behaviour to keep their popularity and commercial value. So, if Luciano
Pavarotti shoots a movie, then José Carreras and Placido Domingo
have to shoot a movie too; if Placido Domingo sings pop, Pavarotti and Carreras
have to put a pop record on the market; and if one of them is more frequently
on TV the other one tries to appear on TV too.
|No, I think
this is an impression maybe some opera-goers may have but it absolutely
doesn't agree with reality. I think it's all the same to Luciano what Domingo
and me are doing, and to me and Domingo it's just the same. I think each
of us knows exactly what he wants. We have hundreds of offers. We could
sing 360 days in a year and over and above that make 20 recordings. And
in case Domingo publishes some pop record and I enjoy it to publish one
too, or if Pavarotti appears in a film and Domingo then also appears in
a film, the one is playing tennis and the other one really has to play tennis
too, it has not to do with the fact that we want to compete with each other.
Of course there is the market, and of course there are the record companies
which insist on it that we do everything, and sometimes the one of us is
the first, then follows the other one, and then finally comes the third.
Another time it is reversed. But I think we don't do this because of a serious
competitive mentality but more relaxed and don't feel as competitors.
opera towards lieder recitals. Is this nicer, more strenuous, more satisfactory
than to sing an opera part?
|It is a complete
different way to present oneself to the audience. At the opera you stand
on stage, you have an orchestra, you have the colleagues. You interprete
a role on stage with make-up and so on. In a recital it is completely different.
You stand on the podium all alone with the piano. You wear your tails and
nevertheless you feel naked, but then you are at the mercy of the audience
in a positive way. And there is something else. Each song has it's own character,
it has to be interpreted in a peculiar way, in a certain intonation, in
a certain nuance. That requires no end of concentration. And you must be
able to share and understand the most different stylistic eras, from the
17. century up to the modern times. I think all of this is another proof
for the professionality of an artist.
Carreras once has said in an interview, and that was said to each ones astonishment,
the word is the most important to him. Meant the interpretation of the word.
At lieder recitals it depends very particularly on finding the appropriate
interpretation for the word. Means that, for a singer who doesn't speak
the german language the german repertoire is completely impossible for recitals?
|If I learn
german one day, and I defenitely intend to do this, without doubt I want
to make this too. With all respect to my colleagues, I don't understand
those of them who are willing to sing in a language they don't understand.
It is not necessary to be perfect, but you have to know the meaning of what
you sing. This is the reason why I do not touch the german repertoire. But
one day – and I will be able to speak german one day, here I commit myself
you might say, I tie myself down here -, when the time comes for me of course
I want to exhaust this wonderful potential, the german songs, and over and
above that maybe some time also a german opera. Wagner, maybe "Lohengrin",
really why not?
José – at present the best, most convincing role of José Carreras.
Is this the result of intensive rehearsal work with Jean Pierre Ponnelle
for his Zürich production – even if another one has sung the Don José
at the premiere?
|I have rehearsed
with Ponnelle himself and then I have sung in his production in Zürich.
The Don José is a very special role for me. I think him to be a quite
naive man, who believes till the end everything will turn out alright. He
is naive, as I have said, and is not at all the gladiator, as which some
play him. And he is in love with someone the first time in his life. This
Carmen is a such overwhelming personality, that she takes possession of
him completely and he is really going to be powerless. I think in a way
he is a weak man. Violent but weak.
man José Carreras has got a family in Barcelona – a daughter and
a son. He is together with his son a soccers fan, supporter of the FC Barcelona,
the son adores Diego Maradona. But how much time is left for the private
man José Carreras, if the artist Carreras permanent travels around
all over the world ...
|If you ask
me for my private life, I have to say I am a completely normal man. I love,
like most other people too, my kids, and when ever I am free for 24 hours
I fly to Barcelona to see them. Otherwise I am permanent in contact with
them, telephonic and in other ways. And as far as Barcelona is concerned,
the soccers club, funnily enough I am a member, and they really give me
a lot of headaches and a lot of pains sometimes. That is like it is with
Rapid – it is true that we are the best, but we never win the championship.
To come back to private life and job: I seriously try to bring job and private
life into accord. But this often is impossible. I love my job. I love to
sing, and I have the opportunity to do this, at the greatest houses in the
world, in presence of the best audience, with the most outstanding colleagues,
with the best conductors. That's a big, worthwhile job, and it is in conflict
with my private life. I always say to myself, yes, the next 15 years maybe
I still will sing, then I will have the time to enjoy my private live. And
so I concentrate on what I have to do now.
we are back again at the artist José Carreras and what he plans for
the next time.
concerns Austria first of all we have the Don José In Salzburg, then
in Vienna the "Bohème", which is my favorite role after all. Then
I will sing in "Traviata" with Gruberova and Cappucilli, and besides there
are one or two "Turandot"-performances. In addition there is of course Salzburg
again with "Carmen" and "Carlos". As far as the later plans are concerned,
namely for the time after 1986, there is a number of new productions, I
maybe may say this here, as it were in the family circle. I am planning
two new roles in french operas, one is Massenet, the other one Gounod. And
what concerns new roles, there isn't much left. At the 40. birthday 1987
I want to make the Canio in Barcelona for the first time. Then, in two or
three years, "Manon Lescaut". But as said before, there are really just
a few more repertoire roles, except the rarities we have already spoken
about. And you must not forget that I have sung quite a number of new roles
in the last year for the first time – "Romeo et Juliette" in Barcelona,
Kalaf here in Vienna and "Trobadore" in London. I think I can give myself
a year of rest now very well ...