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José Carreras: Pavarotti was a good friend, and a great poker player
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José Carreras: Pavarotti was a good friend, and a great poker player

As one of the world’s opera grandees, the Spanish tenor José Carreras shares his true feelings about surviving from cancer, singing in the shower, and being “frenemy” with Pavarotti.

Back in 1987, what was the first thing that came to your mind  when the doctor said you only had 10 percent chance of survival?

– I will fight and will win that hard battle.

What were your priorities before being diagnosed with leukemia?

– My career and my family… I consider myself very fortunate that I can do what I love most – singing. And I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to perform in the greatest opera houses, with the greatest colleagues and conductors.

What have you learned from cancer?

– To enjoy each minute of your life!

How the illness enlarged your life?

– After such a big experience, you see the life from a totally different perspective – which you’ve never recognised before. On the other hand, I am still the same guy with same interests – and my deep love for football especially the FC Barcelona!

 

Plácido Domingo, from left, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1994. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Plácido Domingo, from left, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1994. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

By your musical collaboration with two other great world tenors, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, known worldwide as The Three Tenors, you achieved an almost rock star status. How did you come up with “The Three Tenor”s idea?

– The organising committee of the Football World Championships 1990 had the wish to do a classic concert in Rome. And I said spontaneously – why not we, three tenors, do that? (Smiles…) We know each other, we respect each other and we all had been blessed enough having a great career… Yes, it was so simple! (Smiles, again…)

Were you just really good friends or a “frenemy”, actually?

– Of course, there was a competition each time we went on stage. This is normal. At the same time, we had been really good friends. I can tell you that we had a lot of fun backstage!

Pavarotti named you top of all great musicians and considered you as his younger brother. What was your favourite moment with him?

– We had so many fantastic moments that I could not point out only one! I miss Luciano a lot! He was such a great guy, an outstanding artist. He had a lot of humour – and on the top of that, he was a great poker player! He, also, was really good at making Turkey sandwiches!

“I did several mistakes, for sure – but let me keep them as a secret.”

Do you ever sing in the shower?

I never do bathroom singing. I have a respect for my passion. But, most opera singers do that. Do you know why? Because the acoustic is really really good! Scientifically proven.

You, also, have a deep passion for FC Barcelona.

– When I am in Barcelona – which is unfortunately not too often – and when there is a home game you will find me certainly in the stadium! I am a crazy football fan!

You have a large family; two grown-up children, five grandchildren, and your second wife’s three children. Do you enjoy being a grandfather?

– More than anything! Having a grandson could be the best thing to happen. More than having kids! I enjoy a lot having all around me when I am at home.

What are your greatest mistakes?

I did several mistakes, for sure, like everyone did – but let me keep them as a secret.

Any regrets?

I regret that I had not enough time for my children when they were kids. And I regret that my beloved mother died too early.  – (Revised, and re-edited from an interview by Ali Tufan Koc)

Cover photo credit: Carreras performs in Shanghai in 2011 / Courtesy of José Carreras 

 


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