JOSE CARRERAS, like his proud hometown of Barcelona, is experiencing renewed attention these days.
Considered one of the three top tenors in the world, along with household names Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, Mr. Carreras made a spectacular comeback after a one-year hiatus from his singing career.
Over 1.5 billion viewers watched "Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti in Concert," which was televised from the outdoor stage at Caracalla, Rome, in July 1990. As a result of the popularity of the three tenors together, many public television stations have been airing Carrerras programs such as "Spanish Stars of Opera: A Gala in Seville," "Jose Carreras - A Life Story," and "Silent Night with Jose Carreras" - in some cases even grouping them together on the same evening.
Returning to the concert stage after a struggle with cancer, Carreras was most recently in the public eye during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics in Barcelona. Not only was Carreras the music director of these spectacles, he also sang with the resounding passion that has become his hallmark.
At the opening ceremonies, Carreras' voice accompanied a field replete with dancers performing the most familiar of all Catalan folk dances. Proud of his region, Carreras's nationalism was paralleled by the fact that the flag of Catalonia was carried at the Olympics in addition to the flag of Spain, a visible symbol that Catalonia is now considered an autonomous region and its language - which is different from Spanish - recognized as the nation's second official language.
Carreras spends as much time as possible in this region where he made his debut in 1970 at Barcelona's opera house. Olympics viewers were treated to snippets of information and views of the beauty of this land and its people between sports events.
After singing with Montserrat Caballe at the opening ceremonies, Carreras returned to the Olympic stage to close the games with an inspiring song about peace among all people. In between, Carreras-the-man shed Carreras-the-tenor to view the sports, especially soccer matches. "I go as much as I can to the games. My team is, of course, Barcelona, because I'm born in Barcelona."
This spring, Carreras made a tour of the United States, with a benefit concert in Detroit for his Foundation for the Fight Against Leukemia. Carreras explains his concern: "This is something I have, we say in Spain, between my eyes." In four years his foundation has raised $10 million.
CARRERAS attributes his own recovery to three things: "The wave of support from people all over the world, the love of my family, and God." In an interview following the final concert of his US tour, he says, "With so many people counting on me, I felt I just couldn't disappoint them."
Speaking carefully but with warmth and ease, Carreras relates how his belief in a higher source illumines his singing. "What originates everything are the emotions, the feelings, what we call soul. Then the brain commands these feelings to the voice. The voice is just the vehicle, it's the very last step in the chain."
Singing, he says, is the greatest joy in his life. He has maintained a tireless schedule from the day of his victorious return to performing at the Arch of Triumph in Barcelona, in July 1988, to the world premiere of the opera "Cristobal Colon," which had been postponed for Carreras until the fall of 1989. Produced to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's landing, Carreras says of the production at the Liceo in Barcelona, "We made operatic history."
Carreras has always made certain to balance the exigencies of being one of the most sought-after singers in the world. His first offstage commitment, he says, is spending time with his children. "I think it is also a must." His son, aged 19, is studying law and his daughter, aged 13, has her father "crazy in love with her, like any father with his daughter."
Carreras says he enjoys reading and listening to music during what little spare time he allows himself. "This is not to say that because I am a professional musician I must only be listening to Verdi or Bizet or Mozart. I like also light music and pop music in the right moment."
Carreras makes no pretenses, no attempt to keep himself on a pedestal. At the same time, he retains a dignity, a proclivity to privacy that sets him apart, without making him untouchable. In the softness of his speaking tone can be seen some small part of his personal side.
"I have a wonderful shelter which is my family. I have a wonderful relationship with my brother and sister; this makes me feel that I know always where I belong.
He says, "I think that I'm basically the same person, the same man with my limitations, and of course certain good things as well."
Reflecting on the growth spurred by his illness, Carreras says: "If a man becomes more mature due to certain episodes in his life, it gives him the opportunity to look at life in a much more deep way. I believe the artist and the man work parallel, with the same feelings, the same soul, the same sensitivity. Maybe as an artist I'm a bit more deep now."
Carreras highly values his singing career as an avenue for personal expression. "In certain professions, you can love your profession, you can do it in a very professional way and do it wonderfully, but you do not have this possibility to communicate with others - I express myself singing, and I think this is a real luxury." -PATHNAME- /usr/local/etc/httpd/plweb/DBGROUPS/paper/database/tape/92/sep/day30/30141.