Josep Carreras honored with the highest distinction of the Parliament of Catalonia in the tercentenary of 1714

On last Tuesday afternoon, 6:30 pm, Josep Carreras was awarded with the the Medal of Honor, gold category, the highest distinction of the Parliament of Catalonia: he had been elected unanimously by the Parliament, both for his relevant career abd for his civic action of deep social impact, carried out through his leukemia foundation. With his talent and his vital testimony, Josep Carreras universally projects the values ​​of effort, excellence and solidarity.

In the presence of the President of the Parliament, Mrs. Núria de Gispert, and of the President of the Government, Mr. Artur Mas, further authorities, and the family of the tenor, this was to be the first of institutional acts celebrating the Catalan National Day, 11 September: a very meaningful and emotional ceremony, broadcast live from the Catalan television channel 3/24, and that we can watch again from the Parliament website.

FULL VIDEO(Click here to watch it)


In the first part of the ceremony, there were two laudatory speech for the awarded person, pointing out all the aspects that make him deserving of such recognition by the Parliament of his country: the artistic, civic, and especially the human ones.

The first who spoke was Ciril Rozman, Professor Emeritus of University of Barcelona, former vice president of the Carreras Foundatuon, his doctor and a great friend of his. Professor Rozman primarily stressed Josep Carreras' merits derived from the great achievements of the foundation, founded in 1988, later followed by three branches in Germany, Switzerland and the United States; the creation of the REDMO, the Spanish Registry of Bone Marrow Donors; the apartments located by the major hospitals, to host patients who do not come from Barcelona during their treatment; the financing to various hospitals for the renewal of installations for the intensive treatment; the creation, together with the Catalan Government, of the  Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, which occurred in 2010.
Sure not to be influenced by the accection sprung from over a quarter of century friendship, the eminent Professor of Medicine, who was born in the Slovenian capital, finally stood out the human qualities of the tenor, who firstly defined 'clever': in support of this assertion, he made the example of his ability at memorizing the exact dates, even a few months before, of future commitments of his agenda, usually including several ones spread over five years; or, as a joke, his total confidence in his medical criteria. More concretely, he focused on his elegance, his exquisite way of interacting with people of all social strata, but especially on his sensitivity to the suffering of patients, hence his great generosity.In fact, someone else might forget all other patients suffering from the same disease he had suffered from: on the contrary, not only he raises funds through benefit concerts, but also devotes several hours for the proper functioning of his foundation, and to visit patients all over the world. Rozman concluded by showing full awareness of Josep Carreras' feelings as Catalan, and of how much, for this reason, such recognition could make him happy: he finally asked to share his joy and to to congratulate him with all his heart.
An extraordinary and extraordinarily loyal portrait made by Ciril Rozman, which was later followed by the one of journalist Xavier Bosch, moderator of the TV3 program L'Àgora and, not least, director of the documentary 'La Fleur'.
As a supplement of what had already been said in the first "gloss", Bosch focused on the human qualities of Josep Carreras in the profession. He started by quoting a phrase of Herbert von Karajan, perhaps the best compliment our tenor has received in his career: "I had to wait 74 years to hear the Don José as I had always dreamed of." Going through the key moments of his artistic career, the journalist emphasized the aspects of his personality that always accompanied him: the obsession, sinc the movie "The great Caruso", played by the charismatic tenor Mario Lanza, which made him sure that he would become an opera singer; discipline and relentless dedication, which allowed him to become a tenor and who made his debut very young at the Liceu, alongside the already divine Montserrat Caballé, and then at the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden in London, the Met, and Teatro alla Scala, under the protection of a n exceptional godfather, Giuseppe Di Stefano, his idol since ever and forever, and author of the phrase "Tieni duro" (Stay strong). This is an advice that accompanied him throughout his life, along with the last words that his mother, Antonia Coll, addressed him before being taken away by cancer: "Fight for what you believe", "You were born to sing", "Do not sing too hard works for your voice.". Prematurely passed away, his mother continued to be a constant presence in his life, as the voice of his conscience and his last thought before going onstage.
Xavier Bosch reported also that, before the ceremony, he turned to Carreras a journalist's typical question, asking him to choose the three greatest nights of his professional life, and that Carreras chose his debuts at La Scala, in Salzburg with Karajan, and the his comeback recital at the Arc de Triomf, after a year of darkness because of leukemia. Xavier Bosch attended that recital: since it was his birthday as well, and that is why he considers the experience of his comeback to life and to singing, and hearing from him a sentence like "This is the happiest night of my life and the I owe it to you (the public)", as one of the most special gifts he had ever received.
In conclusion, he identified the reasons why, according to him, Josep Carreras' voice is so much adored around the world: without being a critic nor an expert, he defined him an extraordinary singer, a "non-standard" in the full sense of the expression, because he knows how to communicate emotions. Because not only it's the beauty of a charming, bright and sincere tenor voice, but especially it's for his phrasing, for his way of saying, for his ability to seduce with the delicacy of a lover, like when he sings a high note pianissimo to give full expression to the gentle sweetheart. Because he also knows how to persuade with the passion of the hero, with intrepid accents and a stamp from the solar, captivating tymbre. Because, as Josep Carreras often says, the most important thing is not to be number one, but unique ... and he actually is. Finally, Bosch expressed his convinction that, should Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Gounod or Giordano had been able to listen to his interpretations of their characters, they probably would have responded like Karajan did, saying that they had been waiting a lifetime to hear them as they had dreamed of.

After that, Josep Carreras received the Medal of Honor by the President of Parliament, Núria de Gispert, with the sincere ovation by all people ther, and the speech of the awarded tenor. 

Foto: EFE (
In the first part of his speech, Josep Carreras talked about the small miracle provided by his profession, the communion of emotions between artist and audience, simultaneous vibration of the most sensitive fibers of our soul: he said that opera characters actually reflect our strengths and weaknesses: we identify in them and their stories, even though they may seem alien, sometimes they run alongside our own ones, as we were the protagonists. This enrich our spirit. Yet, it is surprising how deeply the words of the librettists, the sounds, the melodies of the composers touch us so deeply: therefore, building up a career, night after night, with such fictitious but full of life stories, together with the warm recognition of the public, is and was a great privilege for him.
On the other hand, there are other shows of esteem for a lifetime achievements: these are distinctions offered by institutions, universities and artistic antities, affectionate rewards for values ​​which are very often underestimated, such as discipline, perseverance and continuity. As we all know, Carreras has received so many, and in so many parts of the world: according to him, this proves the fact that people are alike almost everywhere, in their way of thinking, in valueing identical dispositions of the soul. Opposite to this philosophy, the intolerants of the world who, unfortunately, and as we know, are still so many.
At this point, he referred to the recognition by the Parliament, honored and happy because all that came from home: the custodians of political power in his country, heirs of one of the most democratic and ancient traditions in Europe were those who enhanced his artistic and civic merits. They are the ones who make him feel bound by a thousand year history, in which the vast majority of Catalans and their representatives have struggled and still struggle to build a free, prosperous and just society. The tenor emphasized that the Catalans are not closed people, as claimed by those who really are like that: a prove for that is an important Catalan juridic corpus titled Consolat de Mar, which is devoted to establish peaceful relations with the stranger caming from far away, and not tu submit the closest neighbour. However, despite there are good people everywhere, Josep Carreras thinks that Catalan people have a peculiar scale of values​​, even though neither unique nor exclusive. He likes the shared vision about them: the Catalans give value to entrepreneurship and creativity, to personal merit distinction rather than inherited prestige or belonging to a caste; they love the industry, his perseverance and cunning trade; they do not expect the state to solve all their problems; they are famous for dancing, singing, for building the Palau de la Música, the Liceu, to mutually help each other in case of sickness, to defend small shops from commercial giants. It is for this reason that it is even more gratifying  a recognition from those who share your same values, from those who see the world in the same way you do. However, according to him, Catalans have defects as well: the most serious is that they do not need rivals undermining their economic interests, language and culture; when they are not together are very weak; and other character features, such as the so called rajolí prim, which neutralize their brand.
For professional reasons and musical studies, Carreras came into contact with different cultures, and took part to both large-scale and local events, both in times of peace and conflict, commemorative of major events or disasters, he met leader worthy of admiration, and others not so much.
Even the opera - he continued - offers several paradigmatic examples of virtues and intolerance: in fact, as much in reality as in fiction, we find Cavaradossis, the Othellos, the Romeos and Juliets, Tonies and Marias of West Side Story, victims of the intolerance of the Scarpias, the Yagos, or clans that, for jealousy or envy, want to destroy the contrary and impose their domain on the alien personality. This led him to understand that the most important source of peace and prosperity is something as simple as the live and let live: in this regard, the tenor is convinced that the deputies make the rules in accordance to this motto, but appealed to them, as representatives of the Catalan people, in order for them to do what is necessary so that the others may live, and even let them live. With a clear but peaceful political allusions, he claimed the democratic nature of the referendum scheduled on  9 November 2014, by saying that Catalans are adult people who can make their own decisions alone.
With reference to his achievements, Carreras states that they are the result of his determination and effort, but added that he would have not been able to run a career like that without the love, friendship and professionalism of a lot of people. This is the time when our tenor addressed a thought to the important people in his life, starting from his parents at the times after the Civil War: his father, Josep, victim of retaliation for being a teacher of the Republican Government, though his reduced salary of Police officer, rented his first piano, and had the courage to think that his son could have become a professional singer; Antonia, his mother, whom he fondly defined "an extraordinary person", gave him some advice he still follows, and his grandfather Salvadó gave him the first record player. He said, therefore, that the trust of his family in his chance has been almost "reckless", and that the more time passes, the more he misses them, the more would like to have them still by his side, in such moments.
In addition to family, he mentioned his teachers of singing and music: charming Magda Prunera and Juan Ruax, who taught him how to communicate his emotions and find out his own authenticity, making sacrifices to spend with him more time. The, it's time for colleagues and friends, Montserrat Caballé and Jaume Aragall... but he knew that his list could go on forever. Despite such difficult times for Barcelona, people were brave as to support the development of a young man who wished to imitate the great tenors of that age: to all of them, and to the public of the Liceu that has always welcomed him in an extraordinary way, he expressed his gratitude.
Out of the country, he could not forget the support of the great conductors and musical directors of the most prestigious opera houses and music festivals, that have allowed him to experience his passion: a very, very special mention to Herbert von Karajan, who had such a strong influence in his career; colleagues, in many cases, a constant source of stimulation and friendship; professionals in science and medicine that helped him to overcome a severe leukemia: another special mention to Professor Rozman, which was much more than his doctor, rather a moral reference, such as a mirror in which he reflected, looking for solutions to the challenges he had to face once he was cured. Facing such difficult situations, he is used to be asking himself "Què faria el Profe?" (What would the Prof. do?). Along with Rozman, gratitude is addressed to physicians who contributed in the creation of the foundation, to the team of all its branches, who are solidly committed to this cause, and to the Catalan Government, for its role in the establishment of the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute.
In this final part of his speech, Josep Carreras began talking about his parents, to later turn to other people he loves above all, as his closest friends and family: brothers, children and grandchildren. In the first place, he turned to his friends, those of long standing and those who followed, always there for an advice in times of trouble: he underlined the importance of their friendship, as a treasure, which allows him to always feel like a son of the Carrer Galileu, in the district of Sants. Later, he turned to his brothers and sister, playmates and almost fatherly figures due to the untimely death of his mother, real examples to follow: together with their spouses, they have always been by his side in the most important moments of his career and life; their phone calls from miles away asking for a concert, always comfort. They are at the core of his heart, and without their support he would have not been able to do what he did. His children, Albert and Júlia, are wonderful, grown healthy in body and spirit, which their mother Mercè has significantly contributed to. They knew how to carry on besides the absence of a father totally absorbed by his profession, and managed emotions when they got to know about his illness. They are the main nest he comes back to, and their health, their well-being and that of their child are his top priority, like that of any happy grandfather.
Finally, he stressed again his gratitude for the prestigious distinction from the Parliament of his country, hoping to remain faithful to the principles that have made him worthy of their confidence and that of the Catalans.

Then, the floor is given to President of the Parlament, Núria de Gispert, and the President of the Government, Artur Mas.
Specifically, the President Mas wanted to emphasize the undeniable fact that if Josep Carreras receives such high distinction of Parliament is because, for a long time, he gave a lot in turn. In contrast to others who enjoy a lot of fame, he is not selfish or self-centered at all, but generous and humble instead. Generous in the profession, as actually we do not known with certainty whether Carreras received more from the world of music or given more to it; generous and sensitive towards people, through the activity of his foundation. Concrete witnesses of such generosity are, on the one hand, lovers of beauty, music and singing, on the other hand, those young parents of children with leukemia, who thanks to the Carreras Foundation, overcame the darkest moments and saw the light again.
However, his generosity to his country, as Mas pointed out, has always been well manifest: Carreras has never missed an opportunity to claim his identity as Catalan, with courage and commitment, which is why Artur Mas hopes for the existence of lots of Josep Carreras, lots of people like him, up to the current situation. Then referred back to the concepts of "Stay strong" previously mentioned by Xavier Bosch and the "Live and let live" suggested by Josep Carreras, respectively associated with the determination and the right attitude that the country must have in such transcendent moments: in both cases - he stated - Josep Carreras proves to be exemplary.

The ceremony ended with a performance by the Chamber Choir of the Conservatory of the Liceu.
As the misic of Amadeu Vives' L' Emigrant, Josep Carreras unexpectedly joined the chorir offered an authentic and emotional version of such emblematic song. You can watch the video here. After that, all people, standing, joined the choir in singing the Catalan National Anthem, Els Segadors.

Foto: Parlament de Catalunya (Job Vermeulen).2014
As the President Mas rethorically asked before, is it a coincidence or not, that Josep Carreras has received this very high distinction of Parliament exactly in the tercentenary of 1714, event commemorated every year on 11 September with the celebration of the Catalan National Day? Is it or not another coincidence that in 1988, such a meaningful year to him, Catalonia celebrated its first one thousand anniversary? However, what is really certain is his artistic and human generosity, and his love for his country. His most loyal admirers from around the world, we are (or should be) perfectly aware of his identity. A proof for that is the multitude of senyeres, Catalan flags, among the audience, in the boxes of the greatest opera houses and concert halls in which he usually performs: in most cases, they are shown by Japanese fans, and that means that such awareness has reached even Japan. Another proof, let me tell it without any arrogance, is this blog which, still a few days before its sixth anniversary, has always been proudly named after JOSEP Carreras.