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366. The Three Tenors

Heo, Won-jun 기자2017.05.13 14:00:27

          Jose Carreras, one of the three most famous tenors in the world alongside Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, arrived in Korea for his final world tour. The tour ‘A Life in Music’ expresses gratitude to worldwide audiences who have shown great affection and support for him over the years. “Retirement? I have been singing for 47 years as of today. I am already nostalgic thinking about the day I will retire. But it has to be a happy day, not a sad day," said Carreras. With the retirement of the youngest member, Jose Carreras, just a few years away, we look back on the history of the Three Tenors and how they influenced the world, in this article.


History of the Three Tenors

          Before we go into the details of the Three Tenors, there is an interesting story involving Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo. They were born in two different regions in Spain;, Carreras is from Catalonia and Domingo is from Madrid. Because Catalonia is fighting for its autonomy from Madrid, there was a huge rivalry between them. There was even a contract saying that one would perform only if the other was not invited. In 1987, Carreras was diagnosed with leukemia and suffered a lot. He looked for various ways to cure his disease, such as bone marrow transplants and blood transfusions, but they did not work. After his visit to the United States for treatment purposes, he spent all his money due to the high cost of the travel and medical treatment. When he was about to give up, he discovered a foundation in Madrid, which supported leukemia patients. Thanks to the support from the foundation, Carreras overcame leukemia and came back on stage.

            After he became healthy, he attempted to join the foundation. While reading the bylaws, Carreras found that Domingo was the founder and leading contributor of the foundation. He knew that Domingo made this foundation to help Carreras to get over leukemia and kept it secret not to hurt Carreras’ pride. Carreras was so moved that he interrupted Domingo’s concert. Carreras knelt and asked him forgiveness and thanked him in front of all the audience members. Domingo gave him a big hug and it was the start of their friendship and the defeat of regionalism. In an interview with Domingo about why he helped his rival despite the regionalism, he gave a short impressive answer, “We cannot afford to lose a voice like that.”

          After Jose Carreras fully returned to normal life, he founded the Jose Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation, which gives financial support to leukemia research and the registration of bone marrow donors. In 1990, in Rome, a concert was held by the Jose Carreras International Leukemia Foundation to raise money. There was also another reason for this concert, since it was Pavarotti’s and Domingo’s way to welcome Carreras back into the world after overcoming leukemia. This concert was the beginning of the Three Tenors. They started their collaboration at the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome on the eve of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final and sang at the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles to coincide with the final match of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Following the big success of the two concerts, they started a world tour concert. They performed total 24 concerts before Luciano Pavarotti announced his retirement.


Influences and Criticism

          The success of the Three Tenors was applauded by many for introducing opera to a wider range of audience. The recording of their debut concert became the best-selling classical album of all time and this stimulated the whole classical music market. In addition, the Three Tenors created a hugely lucrative subgenre, which is ‘popera’. The success of the Three Tenors led to various imitations, such as the Irish Tenors, the Ten Tenors, the Three Sopranos and so on.
          However, there is criticism of the Three Tenors. First, the Three Tenors gathered together and made profits through concerts and albums. For this reason, there are critics who argue that they are too commercial. Alberto Mattioli, the author of ‘Big Pavarotti’, strongly criticized the Three Tenors. He described the concert as the most vulgar and inelegant shows that have ever been played. Martin Bernheimer, an American music critic, compared the Three Tenors’ concert to a circus show.


          There are various points of views on the Three Tenors, but it is true that many people are moved by the Three Tenors and still enjoy listening to their albums. That is why the world will miss the harmonious melody of the Three Tenors.

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