We talk to the 71-year-old about his farewell tour, inspiring a generation and the progression of the UAE’s cultural scene
José Carreras on his career, The Three Tenors and his retirement plans
Ever since the José Carreras announced his retirement from the opera world last year, the celebrated Spanish tenor has been busy with a global farewell tour that has seen him perform at both Dubai Opera and Oman’s Royal Opera House Muscat. We spoke to Carreras in Moscow recently, where the maestro shed light on his retirement plans and gave us his thoughts on the UAE’s cultural scene.
You are currently in the middle of a long farewell world tour. What are the reasons for you deciding to call it a day?
One is age. We are not getting younger. On the contrary. And I’ve already been singing professionally for almost 50 years. So I thought, sooner or later I have to stop. I hope that I can go on for another couple of years, and then will come the moment that I have to take my scores and go home.
How do you look after your voice as you get older, especially considering how busy your touring calendar is?
First of all, the real help comes from God. But also, you have to be aware that you need to be disciplined. You need to do the things that you know are correct for you, and to have enthusiasm for what you are doing. And, of course, you have to love your profession.
In retirement, do you envisage writing a memoir of your career highlights and challenges?
I don’t know. I would like to have the right thing to say to young people first. What could I say? Well, you need to be sure that your profession is the most wonderful in the world. And then you need to have discipline and put in the effort, study and try to be in the best shape possible.
How do you spend your days off of the stage?
Well, I live in Barcelona, which is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I enjoy reading, listening to music. I enjoy being with my grandchildren, and I enjoy going to football games, the cinema, theatre, museums; the things everybody does.
In addition to your solo career, your work as part of The Three Tenors (with Plácido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti) is also celebrated. How do you view the legacy of the trio?
We opened the minds and the hearts of people not familiar with opera. And through our concerts, they had the opportunity to get to know better what kind of music, singing, art opera is. People are probably more aware [of the genre now] and even more hungry to listen to it and enjoy it.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Jose Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation and how it has developed over the years?
We are one more organisation in the world that is trying to research leukaemia. This is a common effort from people all over the world. And we, in particular, are doing a good job. I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but this work is never enough. We all have to work harder until we get to the day where a cure for the disease can be found. And we are on that track. We also opened a new institute in Barcelona and there are already 150 researchers working for the purpose of curing leukaemia.
Is there any kind of music that fans might be surprised to discover that you like?
Well, I’ve always thought there is music for every situation. For every moment. I don’t just listen to symphonic music. For instance, one of my idols has always been Frank Sinatra and I love listening to him.
You have played in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. How do you think the cultural scene has developed in the country over the years?
Well, I have to say that what I realise is that this area, particularly Abu Dhabi, is developing. And whenever culture and arts gain ground, it brings a new-found importance to society. So that’s why we, as classical music artists, have already come to Abu Dhabi a couple of times. I enjoyed it very much and was thrilled that we could sing for what I consider a virgin audience in a way. And this is a wonderful privilege.
What message would you like to give to Abu Dhabi fans who have been following your progress throughout your career?
Keep expressing interest in art, music and in opera. With this concentration of culture, and with music, your life is going to be better. You will also have a much better spiritual life.