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José Carreras - A Celebration
CD 1 [75:32]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
1. Che gelida manina (La bohčme) [4:47]
2. Recondita armonia (Tosca) [3:36]
3. E lucevan le stelle (Tosca) [4:11]
4. Donna non vidi mai (Manon Lescaut) [2:26]
5. Nessun dorma (Turandot) [2:58]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)
6. Una furtiva lagrima (L’elisir d’amore) [4:50]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
7. Forse la soglia attinse (Un ballo in maschera) [5:36]
8. Parmi veder le lagrime (Rigoletto) [5:28]
9. Come rugiada al crespite  (Ernani) [4:59]
10. Di quella pira (Il trovatore) [3:14]
11. La pia maternal mano (La battaglia di Legnano) [3:46]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858 – 1919)
12.Vesti la giubba (Pagliacci) [3:45]
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
13. La fleur que tu m’avais jetée (Carmen) [4:21]
Jules MASSENET (1842 – 1912)
14. Je ne sais si je veille (Werther) [4:01]
Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)
15. Dein ist mein ganzes Herz (Das Land des Lächelns) [3:46]
Jean Paul Égide MARTINI (1741 – 1816)
16. Plaisir d’amour [3:14]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
17. Ombra mai fu (Serse) [3:36]
18. Lascia ch’io pianga (Rinaldo) [3:09]
Giuseppe GIORDANI (1753 – 1798)
19. Caro mio ben [2:31]
CD 2 [75:47]
Ariel RAMIREZ (b. 1921)
1. Kyrie (Misa Criolla) [3:49]
Paolo TOSTI (1846 – 1916)
2. ’A vucchella [2:57]
3. La serenata [3:07]
4. Marechiare [3:01]
5. Malia [3:19]
6. L’ultima canzone [4:35]
7. Ideale [3:35]
8. Non t’amo piů [5:06]
9. Good-bye [4:18]
10. Mattinata [2:14]
Eduardo Di CAPUA (1864 – 1917)
11. O sole mio [3:18]
Salvatore CARDILLO (1874 – 1947)
12. Core ‘ngrato [3:12]
Luigi DENZA (1846 – 1922)
13. Funiculě, funicula [2:29]
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1875 – 1937)
14. Torna a Surriento [4:26]
Augustin LARA (1900 – 1969)
15. Granada [3:58]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)
16. La danza [2:06]
Augustin LARA
17. You belong to my heart [2:49]
Guy d’HARDELOT (1858 – 1936)
18. Because [2:27]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918 – 1990)
19. Tonight (West Side Story) [2:35]
Nicholas BRODSZKY (1905 – 1958)
20. Be my love [3:21]
21. Because you’re mine [3:49]
Andrew LLOYD WEBBER (b. 1948)
22. Memory (Cats) [4:18]
José Carreras (tenor); Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Sir Colin Davis (CD 1 tr. 1-3, 10, 14); London Symphony Orchestra/Jesús López Cobos (CD 1 tr. 4, 5, 12); Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai di Torino/Claudio Scimone (CD 1 tr. 6); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Roberto Benzi (CD 1 tr. 7); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jesús López Cobos (CD 1 tr. 8, 9); ORF Symphony Orchestra/Lamberto Gardelli (CD 1 tr. 11); Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan (CD 1 tr. 13); English Chamber Orchestra/Roberto Benzi (CD 1 tr. 15; CD 2 tr. 15, 20), Vjekoslav Sutej (CD 1 tr. 16-19), Edoardo Müller (CD 2 tr. 2-9, 11-14), Enrique Garcia Asensio (CD 2 tr. 10, 16-18); Robert Farnon and his Orchestra (CD 2 tr. 19, 21, 22); Ensemble incl Ariel Ramirez (piano & harpsichord) (CD 2 tr. 1)
No recording dates. Published 1976 – 1993. This compilation previously issued 1999
UCJ 4781879 [75:32 + 75:47]


Experience Classicsonline

A little over a year ago I reviewed a double CD from Sony Classical entitled ‘The Essential José Carreras’. My verdict on this was that the essential Carreras was to be found elsewhere, more specifically in the Philips catalogue where he recorded throughout the 1970s and even after that, His Sony years started around 1983 when his voice was already in decline. Here now come two well-filled CDs with extracts from the Philips catalogue. Those who want some representative examples of the essential José Carreras are advised to start here. ‘A Celebration’ is the title but what is celebrated is not clear and the biographical notes give no clues. Since it was issued originally in 1999 it might be in recognition of his thirty years as an opera singer – he made his debut in Bellini’s Norma in 1970. It might also be to mark a decade since his return to the operatic stage in 1989 after fighting leukaemia for two years.

But let us not ponder too much on this. Instead we can confidently dive into this collection, starting at the beginning of CD 1. The Bohčme aria finds him at his best with big, generous tone, sensitive phrasing, brilliance up on high and with the whole-hearted involvement that always was his hallmark. In the two Tosca arias, recorded three years earlier, he is in even more glorious form. I still remember a guest appearance on the Stockholm Opera at about this time, with Ricciarelli and Wixell, which I heard on the radio. After the ecstatic ovations that followed his E lucevan le stele, he reprised it, singing the whole aria at a magical pianissimo. It is certainly magical here too with superb breath control – definitely one of his best recordings. The remaining two Puccini arias are from a recital disc made in 1980. Listening very closely it is possible to detect a marginal deterioration – but very marginal. His Nessun dorma is still horse-lengths ahead of his later essays on complete recordings.

A forward leap of another five years takes us to Una furtive lagrima from a complete L’elisir d’amore. There is also here a lot of impassioned and sensitive phrasing but the tone is beginning to show signs of tear and wear. But he ends the aria with some wonderful pianissimo phrases.

He recorded Un ballo in maschera complete under Colin Davis with Caballé and Wixell but this recording of Gustavus’s aria is from an earlier recital, contemporaneous with the Tosca excerpts. As there he is at his youthful best with glorious tone and honeyed pianissimos, challenging and even surpassing his friends from The Three Tenors. The similarity with Giuseppe Di Stefano is striking - the beauty of the voice and the technique is even better. He never recorded Rigoletto complete and I don’t know how often he sang the Duke of Mantua on stage but his reading of the second act aria is unnecessarily unvaried.

Ernani is a role for a tenore robusto and in my collection no one can quite challenge Mario Del Monaco, which I reluctantly admit. His brazen dark voice with seemingly unlimited supply of decibels is so primitively thrilling. Carreras, trying to out-sing his older colleague, barely reaches him to the waist. On the other hand he is a more successful Manrico than I remembered.

From the early 1970s Philips recorded a series of early Verdi operas, several of which had never been recorded before, not even by Cetra. Lamberto Gardelli was the conductor and Carreras soon became involved in the project, taking part in five of the sets. The first one was Verdi’s second opera, Un giorno di regno, which I believe was Carreras’s first complete opera. There he wasn’t quite fully fledged, though the potential was obvious. The aria from La battaglia di Legnano shows him at the height of his powers and it’s a pity the compilers didn’t include more of these rarities. They could have shunned some of the popular items at the end of CD 1. There was also a fine Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini’s Otello which could have been included.

He recorded Pagliacci for EMI under Riccardo Muti at much the same time as the recital disc disc with Vesti la giubba and both readings are heart-rending. With Karajan he recorded for DG a second Tosca and Carmen. His Flower Song is nuanced and dramatically well considered but his tone is rather hoarse and pinched. The final notes are magical, however.

The aria from Werther is too strained for my taste but it is still an honourable reading and the complete recording is one of the top contenders with Frederica von Stade a marvellous Charlotte. Lehár’s Dein ist mein ganzes Herz is sensitive – and his German is OK – but he mars it with a beefy final note.

The items from 1993 are less interesting though they are sung with feeling.

If I remember correctly he recorded a number of discs for the Spanish company Ensayo, which were later licensed to Philips. I bought a four-LP box and a separate LP in the 1980s, all of them with popular songs and zarzuela arias. The Tosti songs belonged to this batch. I would have preferred a few titles from his collection of Spanish songs instead of the English language items at the end of CD 2. All in all however this is an attractive collection. Singers like Tito Schipa, Beniamino Gigli and Carlo Bergonzi, even Pavarotti in the 1970s, have invested these popular songs with more finesse. I was surprised at Franco Corelli’s sensitivity in similar repertoire when I reviewed a box with his EMI recordings not long ago (see review) but Carreras is well worth hearing. Readers who want some representative examples of the essential José Carreras are advised to start here.

Göran Forsling 



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