Jose Carreras: You Ask The Questions

Can opera be made more popular? And can you cook a decent paella?
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Born in 1946, José Carreras began his career singing in his mother's hairdressing salon in Barcelona. By the time he was 11, he was on stage at the Gran Teatro del Liceo, and by 28 he had starred in 24 operas in Europe and North America. Following his recovery from acute leukaemia, he set up the José Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation. In 1990 his friends Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo agreed to sing in concert with him to raise money for the foundation, and the phenomenal success of the Three Tenors began. He continues to tour internationally and to sing at festivals.

Born in 1946, José Carreras began his career singing in his mother's hairdressing salon in Barcelona. By the time he was 11, he was on stage at the Gran Teatro del Liceo, and by 28 he had starred in 24 operas in Europe and North America. Following his recovery from acute leukaemia, he set up the José Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation. In 1990 his friends Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo agreed to sing in concert with him to raise money for the foundation, and the phenomenal success of the Three Tenors began. He continues to tour internationally and to sing at festivals.

With which character from an opera do you identify most strongly?
CAMILA JORDANO, MADRID

Mostly, due to my type of voice and my physique, I have played romantic roles - like Rodolpho in La Boheme or Don Jose in Carmen.

I'm a terrible singer. My wife has forbidden me to sing - even in the shower. Is there anything I can do to improve my voice?
JAMES ANDERSON, PORTSMOUTH

I'm afraid no. You need at least a certain instinct or intuition.

I'm new to opera, where should I start?
MELANIE MURRELL, LONDON

I would not recommend going straight into something like Wagner at the beginning. I think people new to opera should listen to the most popular work, like Tosca or La Boheme by Puccini. There's also Verdi's Rigoletto or La Traviata, or Mozart's The Magic Flute, of course. The music has a tremendous specific weight, but it's easier for a newcomer to understand. It's much less dense than, say, the Russian repertoire.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions? Would you like, for instance, to sing at Glyndebourne?
GREG CHERNOFF, DOVER

I never had the chance to sing at Glyndebourne, but I know that it's a beautiful place and the audiences love it for so many different reasons. I think that in every artist's career there are challenges and new things just around the corner all the time. There are still things I would like to do. For instance, I have never sung in the opera house in Venice - La Fenice - and now it has finally re-opened I hope I'll be able to sing there.

While you were receiving treatment for leukaemia, were you ever worried you might lose your voice?
NELSON MASAWI, VIA EMAIL

Let me be very open. At that point I was fighting for my life. The voice and the career and the singing were, for the first time in my life, secondary. After the illness I got my health back and was able to sing again, so I consider myself a very fortunate man.

You started your career singing in Spain. How do audiences there compare with the rest of the world?
TIM STAMPER, SALISBURY

Every audience around the world is different, of course. There is a certain difference of culture and of personality. And there are also different idiosyncracies. This can often be reflected in the audience reaction. But people around the world react with the same warmth, respect and enthusiasm to an artist when they like him.

I hear you're a big football fan. Who would you have on a fantasy opera singers' football team?
JOHN YARADUA, VIA EMAIL

Caruso, di Stefano and Corelli. They are good in their field so they should be good on the football pitch too. This is an ideal tenors football team.

What can the operatic world do to make opera more popular?
DEWEY TANNER, CARDIFF

It should be on television more. Opera is an incredibly good subject for television. In the last 30 years, it has become much better known by a wider audience, so it would be great on TV.

What would you like to be played at your funeral?
JANINA BONN, MUNICH

"I Can't Get No Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. Or maybe the Britney Spears version. Why not?

Can you cook a decent paella?
CHRISTINE EMEKA, MAIDSTONE

No! Paella is something very difficult to make. Even the best cooks struggle to make a good paella. I have only eaten a good paella three times. Always in Spain.

When I went to see you, 80 per cent of the audience were lovestruck women. Do they send you fan mail? What's the strangest thing they've ever sent?
RICHARD HOUSTON, OXFORD

I receive at least 50 pullovers every year, all of them made by hand. Some of them are five sizes too big and some of them are too small. But I appreciate the effort. Even in Spain we need pullovers. I also have a fantastic collection of cardigans.

How do you prepare for a performance?
REBECCA CURLING, DONCASTER

I think that over the years you learn what is good and what is not. There are certain foods, certain disciplines to observe: not talking too much, trying to sleep as many hours as possible, doing a little exercise.

I read that you've been singing since you were a little boy. Did your family ever get fed up and make you sing in the shed?
GITA PATEL, NORTHAMPTON

No! But I did spend a lot of time in the bathroom. I always had the support and encouragement of my family, although they're weren't clever enough to make me sing at family events.

I hear you're a big Barcelona FC fan. Did you ever do the half-time entertainment?
LUCY SHARMA, BELFAST

No, not yet, but you never know! But I did sing at the Barcelona stadium on the 100th anniversary of the club. It was free for all the members, that's 130,000 at the moment, making it the biggest sports club in the world. We are better than Chelsea.

In the days of the Tenors, were the stories about ego clashes true?
JENNY CASHIN, NEWCASTLE

Well, the public and the media have lots of fantasy and lots of imagination. But seriously, we have a tremendous respect and admiration for each other, and we have a great friendship. The proof of that is that we have been doing this for many years. There is competition between us, we always want to do the best we can on stage, but there are only positive feelings between us.

José Carreras will be performing with Hayley Westenra at Hampton Court Palace Festival on 17 June. For tickets and information visit www.hamptoncourtfestival.com or call 0870 890 0147

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