Jose Carreras Lends Charm To Both Opera And Pop Tunes

A recent concert at Radio City Music Hall served as a reminder of his versatility

JOSE CARRERAS. Tribute to Mario Lanza.

ONE of the highlights in singer Mario Lanza's career was his concert tour in tribute to his hero, Enrico Caruso. Now, one of his successors, tenor Jose Carreras, has continued the tradition, releasing ``Be My Love,'' an album tribute to Lanza and embarking on a tour that features music associated with that great singer.

Carreras, in addition to his appreciation of Lanza's music, might have another reason to feel a special identification. Lanza died in 1959, under mysterious circumstances, at the age of 38. Carreras has had his own troubles and was forced to halt his singing career after he became seriously ill in 1987. He has since recovered and resumed his fabulously successful career - his collaboration with Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, ``The Three Tenors,'' is one of the most successful classical recordings and videos in history.

As part of his tour, Carreras recently played a sold-out date at New York's Radio City Music Hall to an enthralled and packed house.

Performing arias from operas and operettas, Italian love songs, as well as several popular songs, the Spanish singer reaffirmed his place as one of the great tenors of our time, as well as one of the most popular.

Carreras successfully makes the crossover to a more general audience. To this end, he began his performance with Richard Rodgers's ``With a Song in My Heart,'' and concluded with ``Be My Love,'' a song composed for Lanza for the film ``The Toast of New Orleans.''

Unlike other opera singers who attempt popular music, Carreras doesn't overwhelm the material with his voice.

His suitably light touch affirms the simple lyricism of the music, and his versions of such chestnuts as ``Because You're Mine'' exuded elegance and charm.

Carreras's well-chosen operatic selections, including ``Va, pensiero'' from Verdi's ``Nabucco,'' and ``Una furtiva lagrima'' from Donizetti's ``L'Elisir d'Amore,'' displayed the singer in fine form, with a firm tone and little apparent strain.

As is common in such recitals, he left the stage after every few selections, leaving the World Festival Orchestra, under the direction of Enrique Ricci, to perform various classical pieces.

The orchestra, while adequate, was less than world class, but wonderful support was provided by a huge chorus - the Wayne (N.J.) Valley High School Choir.

Highlighting the show was the extended encore (it lasted almost as long as the show proper), in which Carreras sang what seemed like a dozen classic arias and, to the biggest delight of the audience, the lone Spanish song, ``Granada.''

Opera purists may decry Carreras's attempts at crossover popularity, but the fact remains that this charismatic tenor is introducing audiences to music they might not otherwise hear. In this regard, his ``Tribute to Mario Lanza'' was a resounding success.

Carreras will sing in a ``Three Tenors'' sequel in a few months, and he will perform a series of West Coast concert dates this summer.

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