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José Carreras: The Vienna Comeback 
Jules MASSENET: Ouvre tes yeux bleus
Reynaldo HAHN: L’heure exquise
Gabriel FAURE: Après un rêve
Joaquín TURINA: Nunca olvida, Los dos miedos
Tata NACHO: Tengo Nostalgia de ti, Intima
Giacomo PUCCINI: Sole e amore, Terra e mare, Menti all’avviso 
Franz LISZT: I vidi in terra angelici costume, Benedetto sia ’l giorno, Pace non trovo
Francesco Paolo TOSTI: Apri, Non t’amo più, A vucchella, L’ultima canzone
Encores:
Salvatore CARDILLO: Catari
Agustìn LARA: Granada
Rodolfo FALVO: Dicitencello vuie
Francesco CILEA: È la solita storia (Lamento di Frederico, from L’Arlesiana)
Edvard GRIEG: Jeg elsker Dig
José Carreras (tenor)
Vincenzo Scalera (piano)
rec. live concert. 16 September 1988, Opernhaus am Ring, Vienna
Picture: 4.3; Sound: PCM Stereo
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD 101 401 [120:00]
 


In July 1987 at the age of 40, José Carreras was diagnosed as suffering from leukaemia. After months of treatment for this life-threatening illness Carreras returned to public performing a year later, raising funds for the Carreras Leukaemia Foundation at a gala concert before an audience of 13,000 at the arena in Verona in August 1988. This was followed by the recital presented on this DVD, a memorable evening at the Vienna State Opera at which the seating capacity was increased to 2,600 and which thousands more followed on huge video screens, and further millions through broadcast on radio and television.
 
Song repertoire was always something close to Carreras’ heart, and the programme of 17 songs and five encores is no easy recital of well-known blockbusters. French ‘mélodies’ open the programme, represented by Massenet, Hahn and Fauré. Turina and Nacho are of course composers from the singer's own homeland, and the first half is concluded with three ‘canzoni’ by Puccini, whose catalogue of songs number little more than a dozen or so titles. After the interval, the Petrarch Sonnets of Liszt form the artistic centrepiece of the recital, and this was the first occasion at which Carreras sang these works in concert. Paulo Tosti’s songs give Carreras the opportunity to tease with some romantic seductiveness, and with the encores by Cardillo and Falvo this theme is continued, separated by Agustin Lara’s Granada which Carreras virtually made his musical calling card. The final operatic showstopper is Francesco Cilèa’s È la solita storia from L’Arlesiana, and Carreras bids farewell to his audience – some of whom have already started leaving – with Grieg’s I love you sung in Catalan.
 
While there is no denying this concert’s significance, it has to be said that the 1980s picture quality is now showing its age considerably, with the kind of blurriness which makes you wonder if you’ve forgotten to put on your glasses. The sound is marked as stereo, but hardly counts as such, with Carreras’ voice forward in the balance and the piano struggling to make a significant contribution at times. Carreras understandably reserves his energy for the high points, holding much in restraint, but maintaining subtlety and nuance in the quieter moments. There are some rather hard and slightly forced sounding moments in the more lyrical repertoire of the first half, but, old favourites aside, the drama of the Liszt sees Carreras at his best on the night, his expressive Italian stamping its authority on these rhapsodic works.      
              
The song text can be switched on screen, so students can sing along. Unfortunately this takes the form of a rather brutal white-out of the picture each time some text comes up, rather than the karaoke subtitles for which I’d been hoping.
 
Taking all of the circumstances into consideration this is a stunning recital, showing how the great man can hold an audience enthralled, even when a significant portion are seated on the stage behind him. Carreras’ career after his return to performing included the ‘Three Tenors’ concerts, which were initiated as fundraisers. Such a return to form after having been given only a 1 in 10 chance of survival only a year earlier has to be an inspiration to us all, and leaving aside the technically challenged vintage of this DVD it will always be a worthwhile document, representing a great artist’s will to survive and carry on creating.
 
Dominy Clements    
 

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