Arts fest scores top opera talent

In the world of opera, it seems that age is no barrier to performing. At least, this is the case for the 67-year-old Spanish tenor José Carreras, one of the Three Tenors who still perseveres in performing on stage despite his age and physical collapse in the late 1980s.

To Chinese audiences, Carreras is a familiar artist, thanks to his increasing exposure in China in the recent decade, together with the development of the country's opera and audiences' appreciation taste of it.

And now, with this year's Meet in Beijing Arts Festival kicking off this Saturday, Carreras will meet Chinese audiences again as the opening performer of Asia's largest spring art event.

Lasting from April 27 to May 30, the festival now has become a cultural brand for Beijing. This year, more than 60 performing troupes from 20 countries will attend the festival to present 50 theater performances and 100 outdoor concerts in public spaces - musicians from countries including Russia, Cuba and Poland are set to perform in places such as Chaoyang Park or Tongzhou Canal Park. There will also be a series of art exhibitions.

And as usual for the 13-year-old festival, each year the opening performance is given only by those who have an international reputation. This year, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of establishing official ties between China and Spain, the festival invites Carreras who will present his solo concert on the opening day at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

"Since I first came to China in 1998, I can't remember how many times I've been here, almost one time per year," said Carreras at a news conference in Beijing on April 23, "and those increasing experiences here enable me to feel Chinese audiences' increasing enthusiasm and understanding of Western and classical music."

'Velvet voice'

Since winning the "Voice of Verdi" singing contest in Italy in 1971, Carreras has been acclaimed in his opera career for possessing a "velvet voice," which best interprets those works of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) who along with Richard Wagner, is one of the two most influential operatic composers of the 19th century.

And to present the best of his performance in Beijing this time, Carreras brings his company conductor David Giménez, who has cooperated with the tenor for 19 years and has conducted world leading symphony orchestras including Wiener Philharmoniker (in Vienna) and the London Symphony Orchestra.

"He has many improvisational plays on stage which amazes audiences from time to time," said Giménez about his long-time partner at the news conference.

While most audiences no longer expect Carreras to be able to hit a high-C note, the more mellow tone in his voice perhaps now allows him to better present those expressive and lyric librettos.

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