Spanish tenor raises pitch for China concerts

Sergi Carreras has recently fulfilled his longtime dream to perform in China.
PHOTO: China Daily

Sergi Carreras recalls his uncle, Jose Carreras, returning to Barcelona from his first visit to China in 1998 after attending the debut edition of the Beijing Music Festival. The Spanish tenor was excited about what he had experienced in the country, his nephew says.

Since then Jose Carreras has performed in China several times and has enjoyed wide popularity among audiences here.

The Three Tenors, a high-profile series of classical music concerts that started in Rome in 1990, saw Jose Carreras and his partners Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo perform at the Forbidden City in Beijing in 2001.

"He talked a lot about Chinese culture and the warm feedback from the audiences. I ... dreamed about coming to perform in the country someday," says Sergi Carreras, who is also an operatic tenor.

On Friday, Sergi Carreras, 46, fulfilled his longtime wish by giving his first concert in China at Beijing's Poly Theater.

He collaborated with Chinese soprano You Hongfei and Chinese-German soprano Sarah Zhai Strauss in recital.

During pre-show rehearsals with the symphony orchestra of the China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater, he projected an image similar to that of his uncle onstageļ¼leaning forward, arms outstretched and voice soaring while uttering the lyrics.

Entitled Inspiration, the recital brought classical opera pieces and folk songs of Spain and Italy as well as three Chinese songs, including You, the theme song of a 12-episode TV documentary in 1998 on the life of late Chinese premier Zhou Enlai to mark the 100th anniversary of the leader's birth.

Jose Carreras also wrote to the Chinese audiences, saying, he was glad for the concerts in China, and mentioned by name artists such as You, Strauss and his "beloved" Sergi Carreras as making a difference here.

"My uncle is very happy about my first performance in China. He is the artistic director of the concert, helping me choose songs, especially the Chinese songs, some of which he has performed in China," says Sergi Carreras.

He says singing in Chinese is quite a challenge since he knew nothing about the language. To prepare for the recital, he invited his friend Strauss to correct his pronunciations.

"I listened to traditional Chinese operas but I knew nothing about the contemporary works," he says.

During the past two decades, the tenor has performed leading roles in operatic works, such as Tosca, La Boheme and Carmen. He also has leading roles in several zarzuela in Spain, which is the country's own style of operetta.

He says that music is a natural influence from his family. He went for his first opera at age 7, singing the classical pieces at home with his mother playing on the piano later.

After his debut recital, Sergi Carreras plans to do more in China, such as launching contests to choose young Chinese and help them develop their talents in Europe.

"The concert is just the beginning," he says.

"It's like a continuation of my family tradition with China. Twenty years ago, my uncle brought many classical Western opera pieces to China and now I want to take beautiful Chinese songs and young Chinese musicians to Europe," he adds.