The rise and dissolution of The Three Tenors

Manila is lucky to have heard the three tenors who are no doubt the opera icons of the century.

Placido Domingo sang Cavaradossi (Tosca) at the CCP in 1979 and Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras debuted in the Philippines at the PICC in March and November 1994, respectively.

The three were well received with Pavarotti providing the pre-concert drama when he cancelled because of bad cold and reset it two days later.

With his good looks and equally passionate singing, Carreras was the ultimate winner.

The big drama of Carreras’ life was that he was fighting leukemia.

The idea of the Three Tenors concert was conceived by Italian producer Mario Dradi in 1990 in Rome to raise money for Carreras’s foundation, the José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation. For Domingo and Pavarotti, it was their way of welcoming Carreras back into the world of opera after undergoing successful treatment for leukemia.

The rest of course is music history for the three tenors.

The Three Tenors: Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras

In 2007, Pavarotti died at age 71 leaving the remaining two tenors pursuing their individual singing careers.

Ten years after Pavarotti’s death, Carreras and Domingo will pay tribute to Pavarotti 10 years after his death. The homage concert will take place at the Arena di Verona on Sept. 6.

This year, Carreras announced a series of farewell concerts announced in Australia.

Filipino conductor Julian Quirit conducted in Australia Pavarotti and Carreras. Qurit was the first concertmaster of the Philippine Philharmonic.

Like it not, the Carreras farewell concerts will signal the complete dissolution of the Three Tenors collaboration.

The Three Tenors concert phenomenon would have observed its 27th anniversary this year when it debuted with a performance at the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome on July 7, 1990.

They were accompanied by the orchestras of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma under the baton of Zubin Mehta who had Cecile Licad as his soloist in the latter’s New York Philharmonic debut in 1981.

In his recent face book posting, Carreras noted that on March 1, 1997, the Three Tenors gave their only concert in Australia at Cricket Ground in Melbourne, exactly 20 years ago, this year.

It may be noted that the Three Tenors success led to world-wide imitations with Manila having its unlikely Three Tenors in the persons of former Marikina mayor and MMDA chief Bayani Fernando, former senator Joey Lina and the late general Angelo Reyes.

Carreras, Pavarotti and Domingo just before the 1998 World Cup, wherein they performed a concert under the Eiffel Tower in Paris during the tournament.

Real tenors soon joined the fray with Nolyn Cabahug, Lemuel de la Cruz and Robert Sena. Three Baritones series soon followed with the late singers Elmo Makil, Gamaliel Viray, and Emmanuel Gregorio.

Studies in vocal durability are the remaining two tenors who remained active in the world-wide opera and concert circuit.

At age 76, Domingo is active as concert soloist and conductor and singing baritone roles in Simon Boccanegra, Rigoletto and Traviata (as Germont), and Nabucco, among others. He is in the recent Met productions of The Enchanted Island. Before 2013 ended, Domingo has sung 144 different roles. His motto as seen in his face book: to rest is to rust.

At age 70 Carreras will sing his last on the concert stage. Earlier, he sang his new opera, El Juez - Los niños perdidos (The Judge - Lost children).  The world premiere took place at the Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao on April 26, 2014 with him in the title role.

Two Filipino pianists – Rowena Arrieta and Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz – are prizewinners of the Jose Iturbi piano competitions named after pianist Iturbi who was the conductor  when Carreras debuted in a Barcelona opera house as El Trujiman and narrator in the De Falla  Master Peter Puppet show.

A son of a traffic policeman and a hairdresser, Carreras told this writer during his 1994 Manila visit that he was inspired to take up singing when at the age of around 6 or 7; his family watched a film called The Great Caruso starring Mario Lanza. “At that time, I was instantly fascinated by the personality and charisma of Lanza. I think that film had a tremendous impact on me because from that moment on, I was obsessed with becoming a singer.”

Pangasinan congresswoman Rosemarie Arenas with Luciano Pavarotti during his 1994 Manila debut

The only member of the Three Tenors who has moved on, Pavarotti sang in Manila in 1994 and created a stir when the late former senator Blas Ople said the lowest ticket price (P3,000) for the concert was already the equivalent of the monthly pay of a government janitor. Other ticket prices ranged from P15,000 to P25,000.

The organizers were Bert Nievera and his wife, with Rosemarie Arenas as the concert executive producer.

During his first and last presscon in Manila, Pavarotti told this writer he was just retracing the footsteps of his teacher, Arrigo Pola, who sang in Manila in the mid-50s with notably with soprano Remedios Bosch Jimenez, also known as the mother of impresario and arts patron and now Pangasinan congresswoman, Rosemarie “Baby” Arenas.

When this writer told him that other great Italian tenors like Ferrucio Tagliavini and Franco Corelli had already sang in Manila before him, Pavarotti replied, “Tagliavini and Corelli are the greatest tenors of all time and if I am able to do at least half of what they have achieved in their time, I would be very happy.”

Asked by newshen Jullie Yap Daza if he considered himself the world’s greatest tenor, Pavarotti replied with a firm “no.” “But if you insist, what can I do.”

Topics: Placido Domingo , Luciano Pavarotti , Jose Carrera
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