Monday, March 9, 2009

ArtsBuzz: Ailing Carreras calls off recital in the middle

Tenor Jose Carreras.

By Greg Stepanich

WEST PALM BEACH -- By the time Jose Carreras lifted his right hand and motioned for pianist Lorenzo Bavaj to stop playing earlier tonight, the audience at the Kravis Center knew what was coming.

Carreras, a member of the legendary Three Tenors now on a solo recital swing here in South Florida, had clearly been suffering from what appeared to be a chest cold during the first six songs of his first half, and by the time the seventh was barely under way, he'd had enough.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the respect you have shown us tonight," Carreras said after stopping in the middle of D'oreneta, a song by the Catalan composer Enric Morera (1865-1942). "But I don't think you are going to enjoy this. I'm certainly not enjoying myself.

"I promise to come back as soon as I can to sing for you," he said, taking a bow, as the audience in Dreyfoos Hall gave the ailing Spaniard, who coughed repeatedly during his concert of about 40 minutes, a standing ovation.

The cancellation raises questions about whether Carreras, 62, will be able to sing a recital planned for Friday at Miami's Arsht Center. Both the Kravis and Arsht programs contain a selection of lighter art and salon songs, including Neapolitan and Catalan pieces. Recitals of semi-classical fare like this have been standard issue for not just for Carreras, but for generations of other tenors before him.

Carreras is to be joined in his Arsht Center concert by Miami soprano Elizabeth Caballero, who is appearing next month as the Countess Almaviva in the Florida Grand Opera production of Le Nozze di Figaro.

Carreras actually began his recital in decent form with Mercadante's Lu cardillo, a situation that continued into Mario Costa's Luna nova (during which a potted plant on the stage fell over, eliciting audience giggles). But the tenor began to cough noticeably during the following Costa song, Era de Maggio, and appeared to be struggling to get enough breath as he sang.

After a pause, the recital resumed with a three-song set by F. Paolo Tosti, and the problems persisted. He was unable to sing the second chorus of the first selection, Segreto, letting Bavaj play it instead. He recovered some vocal stamina for the next two Tosti songs, delivering Ideale with smooth phrasing and a lovely, dramatic ending, and making a good pass through the familiar Marechiare, though a loss of wind power was evident.

Still, Carreras' technique was helpful here: No notes cracked, and his intonation was solid. There was another pause, then the program called for two Catalan songs: the Morera and Roso - Pei teu amor, by Josep Ribas (1899-1962). Carreras had sung only a couple phrases of D'oreneta before signaling that the recital would not continue.

It's impossible to judge how well Carreras is singing these days given the cold he was suffering tonight. Still, it appears his voice retains its ability to thrill an audience, and it will be worth seeing him again to hear him in healthy bloom.

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