Described as having one of the most beautiful voices of the century, Carreras was born in Barcelona (that cultural mecca) – his name in Catalan is Josep. He speaks of a ‘carefree’ childhood, though for his parents with their three children it can’t have been easy to bring them up in the years after the Civil War. His father lost his job – he was a teacher but had fought on the side of the Republicans. Briefly the family emigrated to Argentina to find a new life, but without success and returned home, his father getting work as a traffic policemen and his mother opening a small hair-dressing shop.
Jose was always singing. Perhaps in desperation, his mother arranged for him to have piano lessons and then at the age of eight he began to attend singing classes at the local conservatory, going there after school each day. Soon he was singing professionally, including the role of the naughty child in the second act of La Boheme. When his voice broke he had lessons again and was heard by Montserrat Caballe who asked him to sing with her in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, becoming his friend and mentor, singing in many performances with him.
By the age of 28 he had already sung in 24 different operas, his open romantic voice and good looks distinguishing him from his rivals.
In 1987 tragedy struck. He was diagnosed with acute leukaemia and was given a one in ten chance of survival. But after extensive and painful therapy, he recovered and returned to his career, singing less operas but giving more recitals and concert performances. He set up a Foundation for leukaemia sufferers in which he has remained closely involved. The first Three Tenors concert was given to raise money for the Foundation.
And what of that famous trinity and their rolling road-show? I heard them in 2003 in what was then claimed to be the last of their extravaganzas (but there is already talk of another!).
It was a great evening. Carreras is often described as ‘the other one’, but not for me. Compared to the heroic voice of Domingo and the thrilling if rather shallow sound of Pavarotti, his pure and passionate lyric tenor is unique and should be allowed to remain so …it’s time I found the disc and listened again to Caballe’s Flora and Carreras’ Cavaradossi!