Jose Carreras today (Image: Getty Images)
The black tails, dress shirt and white tie have been replaced by a smart wool jacket and slacks, but there is no mistaking the posture, as ramrod straight and proud as the night Jose Carreras stood alongside the other Three Tenors for their very first concert together. On that balmy night in Rome, on the eve of the 1990World Cup final, Carreras, Placido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti closed their debut concert with Nessun Dorma, an aria unknown to non-opera fans which instantly captivated a global audience. The recording of the Three Tenors' concert became the bestselling classical album of all time and Domingo, Pavarotti and Carreras became superstars.
Now, seated in his air conditioned office in Barcelona on an unseasonably warm February day, Carreras is announcing the end of a career spanning nearly 50 years.
"I know that I cannot sing like I did when I was 40 years old," he says in his heavily-accented but fluent English. "I cannot compete with younger singers and while I can sing with dignity then I will."
His facial expressions belie the breeziness of the press release announcing his farewell tour in London later this year - it has clearly been an agonising decision to retire.
"I don't want to become a torero [bullfighter], retiring every year," he says, adding: "I am 72 already although I know I don't look older than 71.
Carreras underwent 11 months of gruelling treatment involving chemotherapy (Image: Getty Images)
"No, seriously, I think it's time. I still have that desire to get on stage and perform. But I realise every time I get on the stage I am getting closer to the end."
Carreras has chosen his office as the interview venue to ensure maximum publicity for the Jose Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation which he founded after he was cured of the disease in 1988.
At the time, he was given only a 10 percent chance of survival. Decades on, medical advances - some of them paid for by his foundation - mean that 85 percent of children and 60 per cent of adults survive Leukaemia.
But Carreras won't be satisfied until it is 100 percent. "I had the possibility to go back to my life, to my singing, I have to try to give back for some of the many wonderful things I received since then," he says.
Carreras with second wife Jutta (Image: Getty Images)
Carreras underwent 11 months of gruelling treatment involving chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a bone marrow transplant.
The diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic Leukaemia came in the middle of filming La Boheme in Paris.
"It was shocking," he recalls. "You go to the hospital for a check-up and they say: 'I am afraid you have to stay,' and I said: 'No, I cannot stay, they are waiting for me to perform. I have to go'."
At the time, Carreras was married to Mercedes, mother of his children, Alberto and Julia. "I was very lucky because I was in the hands of a wonderful medical team," he says, "and I had the right support that comes with the affection of people, but of course there were moments when I could not see clearly what would happen to me.
Three Tenors concert: Carreras, centre, with Domingo, left, and Pavarotti (Image: Getty Images)
"In weak or difficult moments, with this drip you carry and the catheter in and you look in the mirror and say: 'Okay, I die, fine'. But what about my children? "I would not have the wonderful pleasure to see how they grow, to see how they develop so this was a real resurge of strength for me."
The "right support" might also refer to his mistress at the time, Jutta Jager, an Austrian former air hostess.
Strict instructions were issued ahead of this interview not to Carreras with second ask