INTERVIEW - Josep Carreras: "Politics is what has disappointed me most" (El Suplement, Catalunya Ràdio)

Last Saturday, 20 October, Catalunya Ràdio dedicated a part of the program El Suplement to Josep Carreras by broadcasting an interview, which had been recorded a few days before at the headquarter of his Foundation in Barcelona. After the interview, the Homes Clàssics (Albert Galceran and Pedro Pardo) joined the program (listen to it here) and provided their opinion on such unique artist, by making comparisons among arias excerpts by other tenors .

Roger Escapa and Josep Carreras. Photo kindly provided by El Suplement de Catalunya Radio.
Listen to the original interview (in Catalan)

Short VIDEO excerpt

First of all, journalist and presenter Roger Escapa asks Josep Carreras how he is doing and how he keeps dealing with such a question, which in his case is not just a matter of education, of course. He says that he is very grateful for people still worrying about him, but very happy to say that he is fine.

This is a perfect occasion for him to recall the bad diagnosis he received in Paris, 1987, while he was recording the film La Bohème, and how he faced it: firstly asking himself "Why me?", and then struggling for his opportunity of survival with determination, and the support of his family, closer friends and doctors. In particular, he is asked to talk about the intimate conversation he had with his older brother, Albert, in that occasion. Without going into details, he explains that that conversation had to do with those kind of things brothers normally don't tell show to each other explicitly, and which probably wouldn't have ever happened otherwise. It is important for him to remark that his brother is a wonderful man, a father, a brother to him, someone who has always been there for him.

Josep Carreras got ill 31 years ago, and got to know much later that he had a 10% chance of survival.  Of course he isn't a doctor nor a scientist, but as President of his Foundation, which operates to find a cure and improve life quality, he daily follows this activity and can affirm that today 80% of children heal (leukaemia typically affects children and adolescents), and 40-50% of adult patients survive too. Life quality has improved as well. Carreras says that luckily that, 30 years after being diagnosed, he just does blood tests twice a year, as any person of his age should do. His leukaemia has had no consequences.

Then, Roger Escapa recalls the recent opening of the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute (Institut de Recerca contra la Leucèmia Josep Carreras) and the role of Dr Manel Esteller as new director, a first level Catalan scientist with an excellent curriculum as remarked by Carreras. He won an international contest and was selected as best candidate. He will officially join the IJC on 2 January 2019, but according to Carreras Dr Esteller might have already started working on this project.

A completely different topic is how Josep Carreras got to know opera and realised he could make a profession out of it. About that, he recalls when he watched The great Caruso at the cinema with his parents and, completely fascinated by Mario Lanza's charisma he started singing the same songs he had heard in the film. This made his parents realise that he might have a certain talent for music and singing, and that he should study music, firstly with a private teacher, Mrs Prunera, and then at the Conservatory in Barcelona. At least, if he hadn't had the chance to have a career as a singer, he would have certainly had knowledge in music.

On 8 January 1970, Josep Carreras made his debut as adult in Bellini's Norma. He sang a secondary role, while Montserrat Caballé sang Norma for the first time ever. As he recalls it, he stresses once more Caballé's influence at the beginning of his career, as she really believed in his voice and talent, and he has been and will be grateful forever to her.
He says that she was a lovely lady, very sensitive and generous, she always wanted to help who needed it. Besides that, he briefly mentions her "Diva" moments, very short ones, which slightly differ from his own ones as (joking) he is a "DivO" (O in Italian is a masculine marker). Divos are impulsive too, but in general opera singers are exposed to a high level of tension.

Time to explain how the Three Tenors were born. As he has explained many times, he had himself the idea. Instead of a real marathon of opera singer, on occasion of the World Cup in Rome he suggested a concert with the three most popular tenors of that time, who happened to be Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and himself. They immediately agreed about what each had to sing, and respected each other. The difference (both vocal and physical) among them perfectly worked and, according to Carreras, is what attracted most the audience, in particular those who were not familiar with such musical genre.

If music has never disappointed him, after a few second deeply thinking about, he states that politics is what has disappointed him most, and that Catalonia is paying for what has happened in the latest years and because of the "two Spains", and it currently isn't strong enough to overcome this situation. At the moment he can't see a solution, a great future for Catalonia. In addition, he says that he has never been tempted by dealing with politics, as he thinks he doesn't have the due capabilities to be a politician. Finally, he says that if ever Catalonia happens to be independent, his grandchildren might live that moment, but that unfortunately he won't live long enough.

You can't talk about Catalonia without a connection to Barça, which he defines as "Catalonia's spiritual army" by quoting Vázquez Montalbán. He has been a supporter since he was a little boy, and he attended the first match with his father at the stadium when he was 8. The situation can depend on several factor, such as players, coach, management. According to him, Barça has the best player ever, management is fine as well as its coach, as the team won both Liga and Copa del Rey. Nevertheless, he doesn't totally like this current Barça, but this doesn't have anything to do with his support, which will be never missing.
He recalls a few occasions in which he threw a slipper against the TV, as sometimes he gets angry with referees, but he recognises he is just a supporter who is not in the position to replace professional referees or seriously criticize some of their decisions.

Now he is 71, and before going on stage he always thinks of his mother and hopes to be up to the audience's expectations. Then, he mentions his upcoming concerts in Asia, Belarus, Germany, Italy and Hungary, and said that now he spends much more time at home than he used to do in the 70's or 80's. when he could stay only 4 or 5 weeks, due to the fact that he used to perform even 120 times per year. However, he says that sacrifices and discipline were worth, as this is the best profession in the world for him, even though he missed a lot of time with family and friends.
He still enjoys performing a lot, and he is going to keep on singing as long as he can and the audience accepts him. For sure, a couple of years more, and then he will stop and fully dedicate to his Foundation.
He still can't imagine the details of his final performance, as they depend on where it will take place. Anyway, he hopes it will be a concert close to his hometown (not an opera as an artist has to be aware of what he can do), and he would love everybody to be there.