"La Scala in delirio per Carreras", still after 40 years from his debut there with Un Ballo in Maschera

"La Scala went wild for Carreras": on one occasion, an article in the Italian press reported this very title. Last night, July 30, 2015, forty years after his debut at the Teatro alla Scala with a historical representation of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, the situation was the same.

© Blog Josep Carreras
The thunderous ovation and the excited cries of "welcome back" that welcomed the tenor as he first joined the stage were just one proof: even before he started singing, La Scala was making him a thrilling tribute imbued with that kind of affection, gratitude and nostalgia of a glorious past that only one of the brightest stars in the history of opera can deserve in Milan.
A deep emotion was already there in our eyes, and especially Josep Carreras' look, who seemed not to expect such a warm, enormous welcome from the very first moment. In our memory were flowing his memorable portraits of Riccardo, Don Carlo, Alvaro, Chénier and Don Jose, and not least his Loris and his Stiffelio: due to such dear, indelible and nostalgic memories, the Teatro alla Scala did not need to wait for the first songs or the end of the concert to honour him with such devotion. Another triumph was not necessary to fire up the public, but once again this wonderful tenor did not fail in his responsibilities, overcoming even the best expectations. Simply amazing.

© Blog Josep Carreras
On this occasion, Josep Carreras had decided to offer a program based on a type of repertoire suitable to him, not too rigorous, putting together the songs he loves most, therefore authors like Scarlatti, Tosti and Puccini, but also Costa, Gustavino, Nacho, Rendine, Valente, Vives and Grieg.
He was accompanied by his talented pianist, Maestro Lorenzo Bavaj, and the string quartet of the Teatro alla Scala made by Maestri Francesco Manara, Daniele Pascoletti, Simonide Braconi and Massimo Polidori, whose presence gave additional originality to the recital. In facts, Leoncavallo's Valse Coquette and the Intermezzo from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, respectively in the first and second part, were particularly appreciated because of the refinement of the arrangement. The string quartet also performed Puccini's Crisantemi, and then Elgar's Salut d'amour together with Lorenzo Bavaj.

© Blog Josep Carreras
Carreras beautifully started with a solemn rendition of Scarlatti's O cessate di piagarmi, for sure something more challenging than any piece just to warm up the voice. Such a great opening was matched by the enthusiastic thunder of the audience, which they repeated over again throughout the whole concert, sometimes even overlapping with the first notes of many songs, a sign that such choices were extremely appreciated. Carreras was able to reciprocate such generosity keeping a very high intensity throughout the official program, and went even further in the endless sequence of songs with a final crescendo.
To report some titles that were more successful than others seems an impossible task, because though the program was assorted and varied, this huge artist was able to handle masterfully the different atmospheres giving the same, high dose of passion, from Secreto to Terra e Mare, da Sole e Amore that always reminds us the third act of La Bohème to the irresistible languor of Íntima, passing through Catalonia, with a more poignant L'emigrant and the irresistible T'estimo, and through Naples with successful pair made of Passione and Vurria.
To make it even more explicit, he gave his very best and perhaps even more, and the audience of the Teatro alla Scala acknowledged it and rewarded him with a long series of standing ovations that brought him several times back on stage to sing seven (!) encores.

© Blog Josep Carreras
After the sweetest opening with 'A Vucchella, with such exquisite mezza voce masterly controlled, he sang his unparalleled Core n'grato: his rendtion was absolutely overwhelming, and the audience went wild. Forced by the circumstances to add one song after the other, Carreras was also picking flowers, emblematic photos, cards and other gifts from the audience in the first rows, and in general he kindly responded to the affection and gratitude expressed in many different languages, Japanese and Russian included. Some of the most common expressions were "You're fantastic" or "You are legend." After that, he followed with  Vierno, Un'ombra alas Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto, and still on the Neapolitan wake he insisted with  passionate Dicitencello Vuje, Torna a Surriento and Me so 'mbriacato 'e sole. Still, the insatiable audience was asking for the eighth encore.
© Blog Josep Carreras

Once again after forty years, the La Scala audience bowed in front of Josep Carreras, because even though (pointless to say) his voice lacks the freshness, the elasticity and the range of that young prodigy who portrayed Riccardo of Un Ballo in Maschera wearing with pride and emotion the costume of his idol, Pippo Di Stefano, he still preserves a beautiful burnished timbre, the sophistication of a passionate phrasing, as exemplary and fascinating diction, an extraordinary interpretative sensibility, and an unlimited class that make him the emblem of a musical and verbal expression, of a way of singing music and words that, sadly, today no longer exists.
Listening to him last night, many people had tears in their eyes, dreaming of a regretted operatic era which ended long ago. And those who, like me, did not have the privilege of experiencing that time, had tears in their eyes as well, because we could see him triumph again and deservedly in the temple of opera par excellence, overwhelmed by an enormous affection that left him almost incredulous and visibly moved.
© Blog Josep Carreras
E proprio quando si pensava che avesse dato tutto sé stesso, al termine del concerto ha ricevuto uno ad uno coloro che tra la folla scatenata lo attendevano alla porta degli artisti, concedendosi per autografi e fotografie, riservando a ciascuno la squisita gentilezza che lo contraddistingue.
Una vera festa, una serata che rimarrà scolpita nella memoria del Teatro alla Scala, di Josep Carreras e di tutti quelli che grazie a lui si sono emozionati chi per la prima volta, chi per dieci, venti, quarant'anni.

And just when you thought he could not give any more, at the end of the concert he received one by one those of the shuddering crowd waiting for him outside the stage door, for autographs and photos, so much kind as usual.
A true feast, an evening that will remain engraved in the memory of the Teatro alla Scala, of Josep Carreras, and all those who have felt touched by his artistry for the first time, for ten, twenty, forty years.



  1. Beautiful review! Like you, I never had the opportunity to see him perform in his prime on the operatic stage, but being at La Scala last Thursday was truly a dream come true!


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