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José Carreras: 1946—: Opera Singer

Appeared In Boy Soprano Role

At age seven Carreras saw the film The Great Caruso, starring American opera star Mario Lanza as the legendary Italian tenor. Although Carreras's parents had little interest in music, they knew something unusual was happening when their seven-year-old learned to sing all of the operatic arias heard in the film. They enrolled Carreras in the Barcelona Conservatory and took him to see a performance of Verdi's Aida at Barcelona's Teatro del Liceo. Within three years Carreras was appearing at the same theater in a boy soprano role in Manuel de Falla's opera El retablo de Maese Pedro—a role usually left to adult female singers because of its difficulty. After his voice broke and his talents remained undiminished, he devoted himself more and more intensely to opera. On his twenty-first birthday, he resolved to make opera singing his career.

Many of Carreras's vocal classes were with non-professional singers, and the International Dictionary of Opera described him as "largely self-taught." But Carreras found something of a mentor in the great Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé when he appeared opposite her in a 1970 production of Donizetti's opera Lucrezia Borgia in Barcelona. Caballé's brother and manager, Carlos, guided the young tenor's career onto a sharp upward track, and Carreras made his Italian debut in 1971 as Rodolfo in Puccini's La bohème. The following year he performed the same role at the New York City Opera, and a three-year contract resulted. Carreras learned 11 new roles in 16 months, and scaled the twin pinnacles of the opera world with performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera and Milan, Italy's La Scala in 1974 and 1975, respectively.

At a Glance . . .

Born Josep Carreras on December 5, 1946, in Barcelona, Spain; son of Josep María (a teacher and traffic policeman) and María Antonia (a hairdresser) Carreras; divorced; children: Alberto, Julia. Education: Graduated from Barcelona Conserva-tory, 1962; studied voice at University of Barcelona.

Career: Made operatic debut at Liceo Theater, Barcelona, 1970-71 season; made Italian debut in Parma in Puccini's La bohème, 1971; made U.S. debut with New York City Opera in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, 1972; made Metropolitan Opera debut in Puccini's Tosca, 1974; made La Scala Opera House debut, Milan, Italy, in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, 1975; founded Josep Carreras International Leukemia Foundation; formed the Three Tenors, with Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, 1990; musical director, Barcelona Summer Olympics, 1992; appeared in Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's Sly, Washington (DC) Opera, 1999; released numerous solo crossover classical albums, including Around the World, 2002.

Selected awards: Grammy award, Best Classical Vocal Performance, 1990, for The Three Tenors; Albert Schweitzer Music Award, 1996.

Addresses: Label—Warner Classics/Atlantic Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, 27th Floor, New York, NY 10104. Agent—William Morris Agency, c/o Dick Allen, 151 S. El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2775.

For the next decade, the pieces of a top-notch operatic career seemed to fall in place for Carreras. His singing seemed to combine power, interpretation, and charisma in equal measure. "As I've often said, when you're a tenor you must start singing in the heart, move up to the head, then let it out through the voice," he told the UNESCO Courier. He seemed equally at home on the operatic stage, in solo concert performances and, after the early 1980s, in semi-popular crossover music. He recorded an album of romantic ballads, Love Is … for the Philips label in 1983, and his 1985 starring role in the musical West Side Story, although criticized by some operatic purists, was a commercially strong outing.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyJosé Carreras: 1946—: Opera Singer Biography - Appeared In Boy Soprano Role, Diagnosed With Leukemia, Three Tenors Became Popular Phenomenon