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The Essential José Carreras
CD 1:
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
La traviata:
1. Libiamo [2:57]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867–1948)
2. Ma dunque è amore? … Amor ti vieta [2:44]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
3. Dammi i colori… Recondita armonia [4:12]
4. E lucevan le stelle [3:18]
5. O dolci mani [1:44]
6. Non piengere, Liù [2:24]
7. Nessun dorma [3:15]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)
8. Tu sei commosso!... [3:31]
9. D’un’alma troppo fervida [1:59]
10. Ah! fuggi! da morte … [3:31]
11. Fia vero! ... Di! [1:37]
Andrea Chenier:
12. Un dì all’azzurro spazio [4:22]
13. Come un bel dì di maggio [7:00]
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
14. Orchestral introduction … [2:28]
15. Il faut nous séparer … [1:59]
16. Mais vous ne savez rien de moi … [3:36]
17. Rêve! Extase! [3:31]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863–1945)
Cavalleria rusticana:
18. Tu qui, Santuzza? … [9:41]
19. La tua Santuzza [2:19]
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
20. V’est toi! C’est moi … [4:22]
21. Mais moi, Carmen, je t’aime encore [4:53]
CD 2:
Richard RODGERS (1902–1979)
South Pacific:
1. Some enchanted evening [3:15]
2. Twin soliloquies: This is how it feels [1:47]
3. This nearly was mine [3:45]
4. Finale ultimo: Dites-moi … Some enchanted evening [4:15]
Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
5. T’estimo (I love Thee) [2:38]
Federico MOMPOU (1893–1987)
6. Damunt de tu, només les flors (Above you, nothing but flowers) [4:02]
Trad. (arr. Joan Casas)
7. Els contrabandists (The smugglers) [2:18]
Eduard TOLDRÀ (1895–1962)
8. Festeig (Courtship) [2:57]
9. A l’ombra dell lledoner (In the shadow of the nettle tree) [4:19]
10. Canço de passer cantant (Pass by singing) [2:45]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)
11. La ricordanza (Recollection) [5:45]
12. Malinconia, ninfa gentile (Melancholy, gentle nymph) [1:58]
13. Vaga luna (Lovely moon) [3:19]
14. Per pietà, bell’idol mio (In pity, my fair idol) [2:36]
15. Il fervido desiderio (Ardent desire) [2:42]
16. Dolente imagine di Fille mia (Sad image of my Phyllis) [3:30]
Fermin Maria ALVAREZ (1833–1898)
17. Pregarìa (El cant de l’anima a la verge) [4:24]
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
18. Wiegenlied (Cradle song) [4:10]
José FELICIANO (b. 1945)
19. Feliz navidad [2:58]
José Carreras (tenor)
Agnes Baltsa (mezzo) (CD 1 tr. 1 & 14-21), other soloists incl. Katia Ricciarelli, Kiri Te Kanawa, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti; Martin Katz (piano) (CD 2 tr. 11-16); orchestras conducted by Placido Domingo, Giuseppe Patané, Michael Tilson Thomas, Lorin Maazel and others
rec. 1983 – 1999
SONY CLASSICAL 88697214412 [76:19 + 65:03]


Experience Classicsonline

To be honest “The Essential José Carreras” is to be found elsewhere. By 1983, when the earliest recordings on this compilation were made, his originally beautiful lyric tenor had already started to deteriorate. There was a harder, coarser tone at forte and above and much more strain than before. His lyrical qualities can still be enjoyed in his honeyed mezza-voce singing, which he employs skilfully and elegantly. Try the opening of E lucevan le stelle and O dolci mani (CD 1 tr. 4-5). There is a lot of sensitive phrasing throughout the two discs, paired with his deep involvement and dramatic intensity. In many ways his career came as a latter day parallel to that of Giuseppe Di Stefano. Both were the possessors of extremely beautiful voices, cut out for singing bel canto roles and the lighter Verdi and Puccini roles. Both chose to tackle heavier roles far too early and the effects in the case of Carreras can be heard here. The results are not bad but considering how much better they could have been if he had chosen repertoire more discriminatingly they can be dispiriting.

Among the better items are the arias from Turandot, which are also the earliest recordings. There he still has some youthful sap in the voice. He sings with a great deal of sensitivity in the excerpts from South Pacific, better I would say than in West Side Story that he recorded a couple of years earlier for DG, also with Kiri Te Kanawa and with Bernstein conducting. Principally, though, it is the wrong voice since the role was conceived for a bass and the original Emile de Becque was Ezio Pinza no less. He also sings with feeling in some of the Spanish songs on CD 2, especially those by Catalan composer Eduard Toldrà. The Bellini songs, with stylish piano accompaniments by Martin Katz, also have something to offer, not least La ricordanza, which is a reworking of the soprano aria Qui la voce from I puritani. Unfortunately he too often indulges in shouting towards the end and that is a recurring feature of his singing but in general he is fairly stylish in these songs. Hearing Grieg’s Jeg elsker dig (I Love Thee), sung in Spanish and with an orchestral arrangement by Carreras himself, is more a matter of curiosity but he sings it wholeheartedly and with feeling. 

In the operatic excerpts on CD we hear some impressive singing from his partners: Eva Marton’s big-voiced Fedora, and an involved and nuanced Katia Ricciarelli in Poliuto and Agnes Baltsa is splendid as Charlotte in Werther, Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana and truly formidable as Carmen. Here Carreras is also at his dramatic best but he is preferable on the complete recording of the opera on DG with Karajan conducting and Baltsa again his Carmen. The excerpts from Werther involve a continuous scene from the orchestral interlude – well conducted by Domingo – to the end of act 1. It is always good to have longer scenes like this instead of isolated arias but in some instances I must question the producer’s choice. Why, for instance, continue the track with Recondita armonia another full minute with the Sacristan’s mutterings? And why, in Andrea Chenier, continue for several minutes after Come un bel di di maggio; we hear nothing from Chenier – he has already left the stage – but a dialogue with Gérard and Schmidt and later Maddalena? It is supposed to be a portrait of Carreras, isn’t it? On the other hand the aria In dì all’azzurro spazio, according to the track-list, is supposed to be preceded by Colpito qui m’avete ov’io geloso, where Chenier actually sings, but here it is omitted. A bit slip-shod, isn’t it? 

The final tracks on CD 2 are a couple of excerpts from a concert in Vienna in December 1999 with The Three Tenors but we hear more of Domingo and Pavarotti than Carreras. 

Fans of Carreras should disregard anything negative I have said so far but others are advised to sample before buying. People should be aware that “The Essential José Carreras” is to be found in the Philips catalogue of the 1970s supplemented by a selection of items in the DG and EMI catalogues of the late 1970s and early 1980s. There are no texts and no comments on the music. The sound is variable and there are some clumsy cuts in excerpts from complete operas. 

Göran Forsling 



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