Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa | Eugene, OR United States | 11/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These four concerts, each on its own DVD, form a monument to the human spirit. It's a wonder that Carreras survived leukemia. (It killed my own father.) Just for him to walk on the stage is a triumph. That he could walk on the stage and sing as well as he does is a miracle.
The first concert is a gala concert at the Arena in Verona to benefit the foundation Carreras established after his bout with leukemia. It begins with a rousing and nicely acted rendition of "Largo al factotum" by Leo Nucci and ends with a joyful Carreras bringing down the house with "Granada" and the most ringing high note of the evening. In between those two numbers, Ghena Dimitrova, Peter Dvorsky, Sona Ghazarian, Giacomo Aragall, Ruggiero Raimondi, Elena Obraztsova, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Natalia Troitskaya, Luca Canonici, Montserrat Caballe, Samuel Ramey, Aprile Millo, Vincenzo La Scola, Mara Zampieri, Rene Kollo, Silvano Carroli, Eva Marton, Juan Pons, Antonio Ordonez, Ileana Cotrubas each sing an aria.
No one sings flat, no one cracks or misses a note that I noticed, and no one sings shrill. The only technical flaw I noticed was that Obratzsova and the orchestra seemed out of sync through most of her otherwise thrilling aria. Some sang better than others, of course. For instance, Aragall sings here a rather nothing aria from Adriana Leucouveur, which gives no hint of the greatness he demonstrates in his recording of Massenet's Esclarmonde with Sutherland, which in my opinion is one of the greatest opera recordings of all time. Also, a couple of the ladies (notably Sona Ghazarian) wear really unbecoming gowns that made me wish that women would wear more uniform evening attire. All of these are very minor quibbles.
The highlights are many. Besides its opening and closing numbers, I especially liked Millo's superb "Pace, pace mio Dio," Rene Kollo's "In fernen Land," which is better than in his recording of Lohengrin with von Karajan (the orchestra stood after this one, their clear favorite), and my personal favorite, Furlanetto's "La calumnia." There were many other fine performances, as well, and different people will certainly have different favorites.
Carreras' first solo concert after leukemia was held in the Vienna State Opera House. It was superb.
He began the evening with three French songs followed by four songs in Spanish. But the heart of the program was a series of songs by Puccini, Liszt (sung in Italian) and Tosti. All were excellent.
Vincenzo Scalera was an excellent accompanist, worth listening to and watching in his own right.
The audience was so sold-out that choral risers on stage were filled with yet more audience. And the audience was appreciative. In fact, my only real quibble is the wish that the film editors had removed more of the applause.
And so there were 5 encores. The first, "Catari" by Salvatore Cardillo, was unbelievably good, the best in the program, ringing with triumph. It didn't look as if they had planned it, because the accompanist played it without music after a conference with Carreras. The fourth encore, an aria from Cilea's L'Arlesiana (the only operatic aria of the evening), appeared to be an audience request--it looked like a lady in the audience handed up the music. The final encore was a song by Grieg.
Carreras sounded just a touch "punchy" during the last four encores, but he still sang well. I was astounded at how well his energy remained throughout the program in general.
The Great Festival House in Salzburg was the setting for this very fine concert.
I'll warn you that although the overall quality of Carreras' singing is very high, the sound quality is not as good in this DVD as in the others. The low notes and quieter passages are harder to hear. It is not so bad that I'm going to take a star off for it, however.
The concert began with three Baroque pieces (Stradella's "Pieta Signore" was particularly good). Two songs by Massenet followed, both of which were finer than the same or similar pieces in the previous concert. Then came the heart of the program: five songs by Tosti and a bunch of Spanish songs, all of which were excellent.
Martin Katz--who incidentally was also Marilyn Horne's accompanist--was excellent.
There were five encores. Although titled differently, the first encore is the same song in both this concert and the previous one. (On a personal note, Leoncavallo's "Mattinata" is a song I have also sung back in my singing days. It was a thrill to hear it again...and much better sung than I ever managed.)
Carreras' energy was more even throughout this program than in the previous one, which is not surprising, given that he had an extra year to recuperate.
Montserrat Caballe teamed with Carreras at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow for this very fine joint concert. The accompanist, Miguel Zanetti did a fine job.
Caballe and Carreras alternated songs/arias with a few duets, with included the Brindisi from Traviata. Caballe sang arias by Vivaldi, Puccini, Bellini and Rossini, and a number of Spanish songs. "Elegia eterna" by Granados and the aria from Tancredi were especially good. Carreras sang Spanish and Italian songs plus a couple of bel canto and Baroque pieces. Except for the couple of times Caballe squeaked exiting an ending top note (which were more endearing than annoying), the entire evening was excellent.
I came away from watching each of these concerts feeling really good. Definitely recommended.