The Three Tenors
The Three Tenors were a popular operatic singing group during the 1990s and early 2000s, consisting of Spaniards Plácido Domingo and José Carreras and the Italian Luciano Pavarotti. The trio began their collaboration with a performance at the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy on 7 July 1990, the eve of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final. Zubin Mehta conducted the orchestra of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the orchestra of Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. The recording of this debut concert became the best-selling classical album of all time and led to additional performances and live albums. Around 1.3 billion viewers worldwide watched their second televised performance four years later at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. They last performed together at an arena in Columbus, Ohio on 28 September 2003.
Italian producer Mario Dradi conceived the idea of the first concert in 1990 in Rome. It was held to raise money for Carreras's foundation, the José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation. It was also for his friends Domingo and Pavarotti a way to welcome Carreras back into the world of opera after his successful treatment for leukemia.
The three subsequently sang together in concerts produced by Hungarian Tibor Rudas and other producers, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to coincide the final match of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, at the Champ de Mars under the Eiffel Tower during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and in Yokohama for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. They also toured other cities around the world, usually performing in stadiums or similar large arenas to huge audiences. Nearly 50,000 people attended their 1994 concert at Dodger Stadium.
Following the big success of the 1990 and 1994 concerts, The Three Tenors opened a world tour of concerts during 1996-1997 period. In 1996 they performed at Kasumigaoka Stadium in Tokyo, at Wembley Stadium in London, at Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna, at Giants Stadium outside of New York, at Ullevi Stadium in Goteborg, at Olympic Stadium in Munich, at Rheinstadion in Düsseldorf and at BC Place in Vancouver on New Year's Eve. In 1997 concerts followed at Cricket Ground in Melbourne, at Skydome in Toronto, at Pro Player Stadium in Miami and at Camp Nou in Barcelona. The tour was scheduled to end in Houston with a final concert which was eventually canceled due to very low ticket sales. Outside of their 1996-1997 world tour, The Three Tenors also performed two benefit concerts—one in Pavarotti's hometown Modena in the summer of 1997 and one in Domingo's home town Madrid in the following winter—in order to raise money for the rebuilding of the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and for the Queen Sofia Foundation.
A second series of concerts outside of the FIFA World cup events held again in 1999 including cities like Tokyo, Pretoria and Detroit followed by a Christmas concert in Vienna in December the same year. In 2000 the Three Tenors toured again performing live in San Jose, California, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Sao Paulo. However, the production had to cancel two planned concerts for this tour; one in Hamburg on 16 June due to difficulties in finding a suitable orchestra and conductor, and another one in Albany, New York on 22 July due to poor ticket sales. The later one was replaced by the Brazilian concert in Sao Paulo.  One more benefit concert was given by The Three Tenors in December 2000 in Chicago to donate the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. In 2001 two more concerts was given in Asia one in Seoul and one in Beijing inside the walls of the Forbidden City. Finally in 2003 they performed in Bath at the Royal Crescent and later in September the same year they gave their last Three Tenors' concert, which took place at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. A Three Tenors reunion concert was scheduled to take place on 4 June 2005 at the Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, Mexico, but because of Pavarotti's health problems, he was replaced by Mexican pop singer Alejandro Fernández.
The concerts were a huge commercial success, and were accompanied by a series of best-selling recordings, including Carreras-Domingo-Pavarotti: The Three Tenors In Concert (which holds the Guinness World Record for the best-selling classical music album), The Three Tenors in Concert 1994, The Three Tenors: Paris 1998, The Three Tenors Christmas, and The Best of The Three Tenors. Zubin Mehta conducted the performances in 1990 and 1994. The Paris concert was conducted by James Levine.
The Three Tenors repertoire ranged from opera to Broadway to Neapolitan songs and pop hits. The group's signature songs included "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's opera Turandot, usually sung by Pavarotti, and the ballad "O Sole Mio", which all three tenors typically sang together.
For their initial appearance together in Rome in 1990, Carreras, Domingo, and Pavarotti agreed to accept relatively small flat fees for the recording rights to their concert, which they then donated to charity. Their album unexpectedly reaped millions in profits for Decca Records, causing some resentment on the part of the tenors who officially received no royalty payments. As reported in the press, Domingo suspected that the record company paid Pavarotti on the side, in order to keep one of their top contracted artists content. Pavarotti denied this, insisting: "We got nothing." Years later his former agent and manager Herbert Breslin wrote that Pavarotti had indeed secretly received 1.5 million dollars that the other two tenors, who were not under contract to Decca, did not receive. For subsequent concerts and recordings, the singers were much more careful in assuring financially advantageous contractual terms for themselves.
The Three Tenors phenomenon was applauded by many for introducing opera to a wider audience, but some opera purists rebuked them, saying opera was not music for the masses. Some[who?] critics believed that the presentation of opera in stadiums such as Wembley, with heavy amps, contributes little to the understanding and appreciation of opera as a Gesamtkunstwerk (complete art work) as Wagner conceived it. Domingo responded to critics in a 1998 interview: "The purists, they say this is not opera. Of course it's not opera, it doesn't pretend to be an opera. It's a concert in which we sing some opera, we sing some songs, we do some zarzuela, then we do a medley of songs...We respect very much when people criticise it. That's fine. They shouldn't come...But they should leave the people who are coming and are happy."
Other critics complained that the tenors performed for excessive financial remuneration, rather than art. On their first worldwide tour, each tenor received around one million dollars per concert—unheard of for classical musicians. In a joint interview with his colleagues, Pavarotti responded to complaints about their incomes: "We make the money we deserve. We're not forcing someone to pay us." Domingo added about the world of opera: "I am giving 17 performances in 25 days. Ask me how much I get for that...For 30 years we have given in blood the best of our lives and our careers. You think we don't deserve money?" Carreras, for his part, stressed how little they made compared to many athletes, pop singers, and movie stars.
The success of the Three Tenors led to antitrust action by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission against Warner Bros. and Vivendi Universal. It found that they had conspired not to advertise or discount the albums of the Rome concert (released by PolyGram, later taken over by Vivendi) and of the Los Angeles concert (released by Warner Bros.) in order to protect sales of the jointly released album of the 1998 Paris concert.
The Three Tenors also encountered trouble with the German government. The group lost a court case over whether they legally had to pay the lower classical music royalty payment rates under Germany law or higher fees reserved for popular music. In addition, the German government accused the tenors of owing large back-taxes. Their concert organizer and promoter, Matthias Hoffmann, who was in charge of their taxes at the time, was sentenced to jail time for his role in the alleged tax evasion.
The success of the Three Tenors formula led to various imitations, such as the Irish Tenors, Tenor Australis, The Canadian Tenors, the Ten Tenors, Three Tenors and a Soprano, the Three Sopranos, Three Mo' Tenors, Les Contre-Ténors (Andreas Scholl, Dominique Visse, Pascal Bertin), the 2012 "China's Three Tenors" tour (Wei Song, Dai Yuqiang, and Warren Mok), The 3 Chinese Tenors (Australia), Il Divo and Yiddish and Canadian Anglican trios of religious singers both called the Three Cantors. In 2000, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton and Danny Aiello starred in the motion picture comedy OFF-KEY, loosely inspired by the Three Tenors. Stephin Merritt, Dudley Klute, and LD Beghtol have acted occasionally under the name The Three Terrors. The Brazilian samba singers Moreira da Silva, Bezerra and Dicró produced in 1995 the album "Bezerra, Moreira e Dicró - Os 3 Malandros in Concert", portraying a satirical imitation as the three "malandros", Portuguese slang for bohemian rascals. Another satirical Three Terrors, produced in June 2010, by Latma features singers who resemble Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Bashar Assad singing joyfully about using terrorism to conquer the world "from Tennessee to Teheran."
In popular culture
Throughout the Seinfeld episode "The Doll", José Carreras is repeatedly referred to as "the other guy", while the names of Domingo and Pavarotti are easily recalled. In The Simpsons episode "Homer of Seville", Homer becomes an opera star and gives advice to Plácido Domingo, while referring to him as his "third favorite" of the Three Tenors. The Animaniacs cartoon Three Tenors and You're Out featured the trio performing at Dodger Stadium. The Canadian sketch comedy series Royal Canadian Air Farce parodied The Three Tenors in a sketch. In the Frasier episode "The Perfect Guy" Frasier attempts to impress Dr. Clint Webber by referring to an old friendship he had with Carreras but it backfires when Clint reveals Carreras is his godfather. In the original Japanese version of the anime series Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's the main antagonists, the three emperors of Yliaster, are called Plácido, Luciano and José in reference to The Three Tenors.
Live concert albums (also released on VHS and DVD):
- The Three Tenors in Concert
- The Three Tenors in Concert 1994
- The Three Tenors in Concert - Paris 1998
- The Three Tenor Christmas. 2000 Sony
List of concerts
|1||Rome, Italy||Baths of Caracalla||1990 FIFA World Cup||Zubin Mehta||7 July 1990|
|2||Monte Carlo, Monaco||Opéra de Monte-Carlo||Benefit concert||Zubin Mehta||9 June 1994|
|3||Los Angeles, United States||Dodger Stadium||1994 FIFA World Cup||Zubin Mehta||16 July 1994|
|4||Tokyo, Japan||Kasumigaoka Stadium||World Tour||James Levine||29 June 1996|
|5||London, United Kingdom||Wembley Stadium||World Tour||James Levine||6 July 1996|
|6||Vienna, Austria||Ernst Happel Stadion||World Tour||James Levine||13 July 1996|
|7||New Jersey, United States||Giants Stadium||World Tour||James Levine||20 July 1996|
|8||Goteborg, Sweden||Ullevi Stadium||World Tour||James Levine||26 July 1996|
|9||Munich, Germany||Olympic Stadium||World Tour||James Levine||3 August 1996|
|10||Düsseldorf, Germany||Rheinstadion||World Tour||James Levine||24 August 1996|
|11||Vancouver, Canada||BC Place||World Tour||James Levine||31 December 1996|
|12||Toronto, Canada||Skydome||World Tour||James Levine||4 January 1997|
|13||Melbourne, Australia||Melbourne Cricket Ground||World Tour||Marco Armiliato||1 March 1997|
|14||Miami, United States||Pro Player Stadium||World Tour||James Levine||8 March 1997|
|15||Modena, Italy||Stadio Alberto Braglia||Benefit concert||James Levine||17 June 1997|
|16||Barcelona, Spain||Camp Nou||World Tour||James Levine||13 July 1997|
|17||Madrid, Spain||Teatro Real||Benefit concert||Marco Armiliato||8 January 1998|
|18||Paris, France||Champ de Mars||1998 FIFA World Cup||James Levine||10 July 1998|
|19||Tokyo, Japan||Tokyo Dome||World Tour||James Levine||9 January 1999|
|20||Pretoria, South Africa||Union Buildings||World Tour||Marco Armiliato||18 April 1999|
|21||Detroit, United States||Tiger Stadium||World Tour||James Levine||17 July 1999|
|22||Vienna, Austria||Konzerthaus||Christmas concert||Steven Mercurio||23 December 1999|
|23||San Jose, United States||San Jose Arena||World Tour||Marco Armiliato||29 December 1999|
|24||Las Vegas, United States||Mandalay Bay||World Tour||Marco Armiliato||22 April 2000|
|25||Washington, D.C., United States||MCI Center||World Tour||James Levine||7 May 2000|
|26||Cleveland, United States||Browns Stadium||World Tour||Marco Armiliato||25 June 2000|
|27||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Estádio do Morumbi||World Tour||Marco Armiliato||22 July 2000|
|28||Chicago, United States||United Center||Benefit concert||János Ács||17 December 2000|
|29||Seoul, Republic of Korea||Jamsil Olympic Stadium||World Tour||János Ács||22 June 2001|
|30||Beijing, People's Republic of China||Forbidden City||World Tour||János Ács||23 June 2001|
|31||Yokohama, Japan||Yokohama Arena||2002 FIFA World Cup||János Ács||27 June 2002|
|32||Saint Paul, United States||Xcel Energy Center||World Tour||János Ács||16 December 2002|
|33||Bath, United Kingdom||Royal Crescent||World Tour||János Ács||7 August 2003|
|34||Columbus, United States||Schottenstein Center||World Tour||János Ács||28 September 2003|
- David B. Knight (1 January 2006). Landscapes in Music: Space, Place, And Time in the World's Great Music. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 193–. ISBN 978-0-7425-4116-0. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
Luciano Pavorotti, Plácido Domingo, and José Carreras or, as they are popularly called, the "Three Tenors," attracted worldwide attention during the 1990 World Cup when six thousand people filled the Roman Baths of Caracalla ...
- Gareth Malone (28 April 2011). Music for the People: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Classical Music. HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-00-739618-4. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
The association with football must have helped it, but achieving a Guinness world record for best-selling classical music with the Three Tenors in Concert CD shows that a great tune, well sung, has mass appeal even if it is classical.
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- Leon Żurawicki (2 September 2010). Neuromarketing: Exploring the Brain of the Consumer. Springer. pp. 209–. ISBN 978-3-540-77829-5. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
Such was the case of the Three Tenors. When Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo thought of welcoming their leukemia surviving friend and operatic rival – Jose ́ Carreras – they came up with the idea of a huge ...
- Emmis Communications (December 2000). Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications. pp. 46–. ISSN 0279-0483. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
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Accompanied by the Orchestre de Paris, Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti were heard by an estimated 150,000 ... music, synthetic image and laser concert on the Champs-de- Mars in front of a rather bigger audience than the three tenors had ...
- Peter Wynter Bee (October 2007). People of the Day 2. People of the Day Limited. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-0-9548110-1-3. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
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The Three Tenors' tour begins on June 29 at the Kasumigaoka National Stadium in Tokyo, then on July 6, it is Wembley Stadium in London, scene of Pavarotti's solo triumph a decade ago. Vienna Prater Stadium follows on July 1 3, the New ...
- Ng, David (16 July 2014). "A look back at the Three Tenors concert at Dodger Stadium". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
One of the most popular and lucrative franchises in classical-music history, the Three Tenors was a cultural phenomenon, inspiring adoration among fans and disdain from music purists who regarded the enterprise as a shameless money grab...In the article, [music critic Martin Bernheimer] criticized the promotional hype surrounding the event and accused the tenors of trivializing their art form.
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- THREE TENORS TO PERFORM BENEFIT CONCERT FOR KING JUAN CARLOS' 60TH BIRTHDAY. PRNewswire. December 1997. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
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On occasion, each of the three would accompany a popular singing star on a CD, such as the collaboration of John Denver and Plácido Domingo. But these ... in front of a world-class orchestra led by a star conductor like James Levine or Zubin Mehta that "The Three Tenors" were born. ... Performances in Athens, Paris, and New York resulted in platinum CD sales, gold VHS sales, licensing fees for HBO ...
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No, the name of this piece is not "O Solo Mio."The correct title means "Oh, my sun." The Three Tenors always got ecstatic cheers when they sang this famous Italian song, and as "It's Now Or Never," the song was a hit for Elvis ...
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Is it something of a paradox that while price structures within opera houses increase opera's élitism and make it less accessible to the masses, phenomena like the Three Tenors and Opera in the Park actually take it to a wider audience?
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