Jose Carreras and Marilyn Horne brought their entirely separate roadshows to Wolf Trap on Monday for a candied program of opera, Broadway and Neapoliton song.
For the Spanish tenor, the packed event was a warm-up to what can only be billed as "Three Tenors II" this weekend in Los Angeles, a rematch of his 1990 World Cup-related concert with Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. That affair has sold more cassettes, CDs, videos, and public broadcasting memberships than any classical music or opera.
For Ms. Horne, Monday's performance helped signal a late-career shift in her priorities from opera to Broadway, where the American mezzo-soprano's wide-ranging bronzed tone, intelligent phrasing and clear diction bring unexpected, if sometimes odd, pleasure.
The two mismatched stars wisely avoided singing together for most of the evening. They even brought separate conductors, both second-rate.
What did unite the singers -- and led them to donate their services -- was the goal of fighting leukemia. Mr. Carreras was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 1987, and Ms. Horne's father died of leukemia. Benefitting from the concert were the Jose Carreras International Leukemia Foundation, the Marrow Foundation and the Wolf Trap Foundation.
By his recent standards, Mr. Carreras was in good voice, seemingly at ease before Washington's black-tie audience in the pavilion, and buoyed by vocal enthusiasts on the lawn.
"Vieni sul mar" and Tosti's "Une baisee," Mr. Carreras' staples, drew the kind of tonal light and shade that established him as a force in the 1970s. In contrast, Tosti's "Marechiare" and Gastaldon's "Musica proibita" felt rather overdriven at the program's opening.
Ms. Horne's artistry shone in novel approaches to Richard Rodgers' "Bewitched" and Gershwin's "The Man I Love," both darker and slower than usual. Bernstein's "Somewhere," a somber but magical fit for this singer, suffered the distraction of Horne's fly-swatting.
The one scheduled duet by the two stars, "All I Ask of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera," proved an embarrassment all around, misdirected of idiom and ugly of tone.
And far below form was the National Symphony Orchestra, its players doubtless unimpressed by the fussy, flashy conduction of Enrique Ricci, for Mr. Carreras, and unexcited by Broadway maestro Donald Pippin, for Ms. Horne.