Josep Carreras still triumphs in Verona with his "Gala di San Silvestro" at the Teatro Filarmonico

The first post of 2022 is dedicated to Josep Carreras' Gala Concert at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona on New Year's Eve

The title of the event, Gala di San Silvestro con José Carreras, totally conveys the kind of privilege the city of Verona had, despite the incredibly hard times we are experiencing. 

After a two-year struggle against the Corona pandemic and all its limitations, the chance to end 2021 by admiring once again such a unique artist like Josep Carreras on stage actually gave us real hope for the future. A gift beyond words for all those who could attend. 

Cecilia Gasdia, Artistic Director of the Arena di Verona Opera Festival, had invited her friend and colleague to perform at the traditional Gala di San Silvestro when they met in Viterbo on the occasion of the Premio Fausto Ricci Opera Singing Competition, as she was part of the jury Josep Carreras presided. 

As reported on the program, Carreras made his debut at the Teatro Filarmonico back in 1976, and performed again in 1977 and 1998, not to mention all his memorable performances at the Arena di Verona since his debut in 1984. This concert marked his comeback after 23 years.

On this occasion, the legendary tenor shared the stage with young sopranos Karen Gardeazabal and Laura Esposito, the latter replaced Federica Vitali at the last moment. David Giménez conducted the Fondazione Arena di Verona Orchestra and Choir, and the A.Li.Ve, Children's Choir

Laura Esposito (Facebook)

The evolution of the pandemic didn't dissuade opera lovers from welcoming back one of their most beloved artists to recall a glorious time for opera that definitely belongs to the past. A huge, compliant queue outside the theatre about an hour before the beginning. The hall was almost full, and the stage was beautifully decorated according to the Christmas spirit and organized with all due safety measures. 

The program was extremely rich and varied. It mostly included Opera, Operetta, Spanish Zarzuela, Neapolitan songs, and Christmas carols. The concert structure originally consisted of two parts. Despite this, there was no intermission.


The Ouverture from Die Fledermaus marked the beginning of the last evening of 2021. Conducted by Maestro David Giménez, the Orchestra of the Arena di Verona Foundation played a beautiful version of it and immediately set the right atmosphere. 

When the tenor came in, he received an enthusiastic ovation and several bravos. The audience was overwhelmed by nostalgia and devotion, and Josep Carreras deeply shares these feelings each time he has the chance to perform back on stage, as he is well aware that the end is getting closer.

Blog Josep Carreras

He opened with traditional Adeste Fideles, accompanied by the children of the A.Li.Ve Choir. After that, he paid tribute to his homeland with T'estimo (Catalan version of Jeg elsker Dig) by Edvard Grieg, and Les neus de les muntanyes (L'avi Castellet, originally for baritone) from zarzuela Cançó d'amor i de guerra, where his mezza voce was really remarkable.

Since the very first pieces, the 75-year old tenor actually impressed those who might have had some doubts about the current condition of his voice. Despite his age, he proved that the beauty of his phrasing is intact, and the passion and sincerity of his singing still touch our hearts like no other opera singer of today can possibly do. 

Blog Josep Carreras

He continued with a song he enjoys singing a lot during the Christmas season, The little drummer boy,  in a duet-version with Karen Gardeazabal and the A.Li.Ve Choir

After that, Carreras closed the first half with The impossible dream from The Man of La Mancha and paved the way for the most intense part of the concert. 

Blog Josep Carreras

In fact, with Serenata sincera and El día que me quieras we finally got to the very heart of the evening because of the beauty of their melodies and exquisite delicacy. In Gardel's tango, the Catalan tenor even provided the Argentinian pronunciation of the lyrics, such a nice detail for those who could notice it. 

Then, he sang the famous duet from Lehár's The Merry Widow with Italian soprano Laura Esposito, and inflame the audience with his fortissimo at the end. 

Josep Carreras dedicated the last part of the program to one of his forte, Neapolitan songs. Vurria, Passione, and Core 'ngrato were like a thunderous explosion of passion. In particular, Vurria and Core 'ngrato were extraordinary examples of the variety of phrasing an opera singer should aim to in order to guarantee a valuable interpretation. Hitting the note is not enough, you need to communicate feelings, and Carreras remains one of the very best at it. 

Right before the legendary tenor from Barcelona overwhelmed his audience with his version of Core 'ngrato, the Arena di Verona Foundation Orchestra played Šostakovič's Waltz no.2 under the baton of David Giménez who gave one more example of his communicative conducting style (VIDEO).

Besides the already mentioned duet with Carreras, Mexican soprano Karen Gardeazabal mostly sang with Operetta and Zarzuela. More particularly, she started with Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß from Lehár's Giuditta and Las carceleras from Chapí's Las hijas del Zebedeo, where she gave evidence of her sensuality and charisma

The richness of her voice could be appreciated also in the duets with her Italian colleague; in the second part of the concert, they delighted the audience with the Flower duet from Delibes' Lakmé, Viens Mallika... Dôme épais le jasmin, originally for mezzo-soprano and soprano. She successfully sang the mezzo role.

As mentioned above, Laura Esposito replaced Federica Vitali who was indisposed. Though she joined the stage in the first part to sing traditional Kum Ba Yah together with the Children, she definitely was more of a protagonist during the second half of the concert thanks to her beautiful, bright timbre and musicality

Laura Esposito and Josep Carreras (YouTube)

In addition to the already mentioned duets with Karen Gardeazabal (Flower Duet) and Josep Carreras (Tace il labbro), she sang Vilja's aria, also from Lehár's The Merry Widow, accompanied by the Fondazione Arena di Verona Choir. offered. Her rendition was musically beautiful. Also, she is very young and has plenty of time and potential to refine interpretation as well.

During the encores, she sang the famous Barcarolle from Les Contes d'Hoffmann with Karen Gardeazabal. Even though it should be performed by a soprano and mezzo-soprano like the Flower Duet from Lakmé, this one did not work so well as roles were reversed. Esposito's voice sounded much more in the higher range. Nevertheless, she really did a good job for a last-minute replacement.

David Giménez, Karen Gardeazabal, Josep Carreras and Laura Esposito

In addition to the official program, the artists offered five encores together with the Arena Choir

Carreras sang White Christmas and I'll be home for Christmas, and later joined her partners on a joint version of Stille Nacht in three languages: Spanish, Italian, and German. However, the Brindisi from La Traviata was an absolute must less than two hours before New Year. This whipped the audience up into a frenzy of joy and excitement. 

Once again, he triumphed at the Teatro Filarmonico, but most of all he brought us immense joy.

People asked for more, but it was time for everyone to celebrate. Happy New Year, dear Friends!