Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director



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Cover up -- with whatever you have.  Let's stop the spread!




How Cura is dealing with Covid 19


Baking Bread


 Growing out his beard....




Retrospective - 2003





(also 2005)


















Note:  This is a machine-based translation.  We offer it only a a general guide but it should not be considered definitive.

Two Recitals by Cura


The tenor is also conductor


 Gazzetta di Parma

Elena Formica

25 May 2003

 Recitals by José Cura, tonight and next Tuesday, at the Teatro Verdi in Busseto


Verdi, his land, his music. And José Cura. This promises dreams come true. So how can you not buy a ticket?

The famous Argentinean tenor will interpret eight arias from Trovatore, Ernani, Corsaro, Luisa Miller, Simon Boccanegra, Un ballo in maschera, Macbeth, La forza del destino, and will mount the podium of the Orchestra Toscanini to conduct symphonies and preludes that will open the doors to the beautiful world of the “Bear” (Verdi’s definition of himself). We will see performances of the symphonies of Nabucco and I Vespri Siciliani, Alzira and Luisa Miller; also the wonderful overture to La forza del destino; and the preludes from Un ballo in maschera, I masnadieri, Macbeth.

José Cura – conductor? Nothing new on the international front. Since 2001 this versatile artist has in fact been principal guest conductor of Sinfonia Varsovia, a title inherited directly from the late Lord Yehudi Menuhin; very recently the same appointment has been conferred on him by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bulgaria. [sic] Singer and baton: a Cura divided into two parts? No, a José regained. This is what the tenor said when asked Friday by the press at Palazzo Marchi, the new home of the Foundation Toscanini, about the origins of his strong wish to conduct.

“I started in music as a conductor,” explains Cura, “and it was only much later, more than 15 years later in fact, that I launched my professional singing career. With the Sinfonia Varsovia I have already done symphonic concerts, among them Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, Beethoven’s Ninth, and I Pini di Roma by Respighi. With the very same orchestra I have also recorded Aurora and Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony; and I have just finished work on a live recording of Beethoven’s Ninth. With the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bulgaria, on the other hand, I will concentrate on Tchaikovsky in particular. In Budapest, I will perform Liszt’s Messa Solenne, and maybe this piece, which is very rarely performed, will be recorded live and available on CD.”

But José Cura’s projects certainly do not stop there; he always strives to achieve both an alternation and symbiosis of opera and conducting, as was apparent in his triumphant concert at Vienna’s Konzerthaus [last November], where the tenor interpreted some arias from his latest album and then conducted Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. In Busseto, although a purely Verdian program, the audience will witness something similar: Cura singing, Cura conducting, and Cura speaking, or rather, reciting the monologue of Don Alvaro, taken from the original play by Angel Perez de Saavedra, Don Alvaro o la fuerza del sino.

Everything, and always more: this is also where Cura’s appeal lies, and he would still reject – we are sure – potential complaints, innocent and ignorant as they may be, about the mere idea of excessive energy, even when crowned by success. Because in reality we find ourselves face to face with a man who affirms, “In my life I have never been unprepared and lacking: I have always acted, knowing that I have the means to confront what I want. I am a singer and conductor who, before stepping on the rostrum, studied the flute, the violin and the piano, in order to get a real idea and precise knowledge of the rapport between individual instruments in the orchestra and orchestral complexity. Directing, for example, also appeals to me, and I have received numerous proposals in that respect. I gained experience in that field as a very young man in Argentina. However, I will restrain myself for the time being, it’s not the right moment for me to get involved in this, because I want to be prepared in various ways, I would like to know very well the new technology in computerized lighting, and I would never want to present myself in the theater – as is the case with certain directors – being the patron of one single cause, one single technique, one single idea among the many that make a true professional.” This tenor, who is Otello, Samson, Canio (an enormous number of people around the world identify him with these roles), we come to realize, is above all José Cura. Knowledge or instinct? Art or cleverness? In opera, truth is theater. And life is a mystery. José Cura, in a high-wire performer’s manner, continues his tightrope walk.


Note:  This is a machine-based translation.  We offer it only a a general guide but it should not be considered definitive.


José Cura: High Notes and Unruliness

Gazzetta di Parma


May 2003

 That José Cura has the formula to send the audience into raptures was all too clear the other night in the small Verdi Theater in Busseto, literally dominated by enthusiasm. An uncommon formula, moreover, that can be traced back to the voracious restlessness which, like a kind of horror vacui, pushes the Argentinean tenor to occupy multiple roles, not only alternating on the podium with a "trusted substitute maestro," in this case Tulio Gagliardo, but also as an entertainer, with a truly unstoppable extroversion mimicry, whether shaking hands with the concert master of the orchestra "Toscanini," offering applause to an instrumentalist distinguished in a "solo" or recalling episodes of his life, all without ever neglecting the actor's satisfaction, going so far as to recite, before singing the famous romance, the monologue of Don Alvaro from the text by the Duke of Rivas from which the libretto for La forza del destino was derived.

It was clear from the beginning that the now hackneyed "Martini & Rossi" scheme had been jumped when Cura appeared on the stage from the dark background, with the evocative accompaniment of the orchestra, presenting himself as Manrico, the daring "troubadour," with impetuous, sharp tones which then, to varying degrees, accompanied the rest of extensive Verdian journey designed by the program.

A journey driven by an urgency of overflowing musicality, recognizable through the imprint impressed on the various symphonic proposals where the strength was inevitably discounted by the weight of an evident unruliness. The same [dichotomy] surfaced tangibly on the specific ground of vocality, where the moments of lift-off, in which the sheen showed in all its exhilarating quality in the surge towards the high notes, appeared as sudden lightening, luminous and really seductive, in a mostly cloudy sky, comtrasted with the lack of control that often engulfed the recitative in a sort of dark mumbling, or intubated the sounds of the medium-low registers. In short, listening was accompanied by a gradual sense of regret for the many things that were lost and that could have been saved with greater control, like that which seemed more reasonably to guide the aria from Macbeth, one of the most authentic episodes in the overheated evening. But you know, talent is not easily controlled and Cura will probably always be attracted to new challenges, just as those he has faced in the past years, with perhaps too much bravado, heedless of the natural limits that the repertoire dictates.










Note:  This is a machine-based translation.  We offer it only a a general guide but it should not be considered definitive.


“Be Yourself!”


Radiant individuality, Latin lightness, beautiful, mature voice: José Cura, the world famous tenor, deservedly considered the fourth tenor. Following an opera house gala evening and two solo concerts, we are once more welcoming the tenor king to our country as the guest of honor at this New Year's festival. On this occasion, he gave an exclusive interview to our magazine from London, where he was on a promotional campaign for his latest CD, Aurora.

- Do you feel it was more of a professional or emotional decision to accept the invitation to the Budapest New Year's Eve Opera Ball?

José Cura:  Why shouldn't I take the job when I have a beautiful, memorable professional and public relationship with Hungary, Budapest?

- Do you often perform on New Year's Eve?

José Cura:  This is the first time.  Although I have received many invitations to attend opera balls so far, I have rejected them all until now.  I have always thought I would rather like to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year with family and friends. But you know, there’s always a first time in life, and they invited me so nicely that I said to myself, “you can’t refuse.” After all, the Hungarian audience is very grateful and passionate.

- There is no doubt that the visibility and prestige of such an event will be highlighted by the presence of a singer as well-known and well-liked like you.

José Cura:   Visibility and prestige doesn’t mean much to me.  To spend a beautiful evening together, to bring joy, experience, fun to people, that’s what motivates me.  I have nothing to do with snobbery.  I’m not particularly attracted to socializing, balls, parties.  However, it should be noted that there have always been, and will always be snobby people who do not participate in similar events simply for the love of music.

-  You are the most celebrated tenor in recent years, yet you are also at home as a conductor and composer.  You also use your popularity for noble purposes, including humanitarian relief operations.  In this colorful palette, what is the biggest challenge for José Cura today?

José Cura:   To touch the heart of the audience, to address the audience, always the audience. To give them a lasting experience in this unhappy world full of wars, intolerance, misunderstanding. The greatest challenge of all time is this! If we can only forget the pains of this cruel world for an evening, for the duration of a concert or an opera performance, our existence is no longer in vain. People need pure emotions, the cohesive power of music, more than ever.

-  You suggest a philosophy of an “intact soul in an intact body.” How much of this has to do with starting your career as a bodybuilder, as a bodybuilder champion in Argentina?

José Cura:   That is a mere fabrication, the figment of the tabloids!  I have never been a body building champion, in Argentina or anywhere else. I just loved it and I still love sports to this day. I tend to classify bodybuilding as a hobby, just like rugby, horseback riding and football.

- So this mystery has been revealed. Do you have any other secrets?

José Cura:   Of course there are!  But I don’t share my privacy with the press. There is a healthy limit to how far I go, and beyond that I live in my own world, with my joys, my chance to be completely out of the public eye.

- As a family father of three, I assume you are intensely preoccupied with the issue of parental responsibility.

José Cura:   First and foremost, we must take responsibility for ourselves, to be aware of ourselves, in order to give others, even our children, something of ourselves, from our own example. The best advice I can give anyone, is to "Be Yourself!" One of the biggest mistakes of today's age is that everyone wants to be seen as someone else, following some kind of false ideal, a targeted role model. We live in the age of clone people, photocopies. Many people follow false patterns instead of trying to be themselves. It is a sad, depressing phenomenon that the "here and now" command of short-term success is misleading young people who, in the absence of proper self-knowledge and self-esteem, easily fall into the trap of tinsel brilliance.

- Who would you mention as an example, who had the greatest influence on you?

José Cura:   I never had ideals to follow. On the other hand, I have been influenced by a lot of so-called anonymous people by their essence, their radiance.

- Finally, what your plans are for the future?

José Cura:   The perspective for me is to focus on performing tasks close to my heart and body. To aim for a kind of perfection, completeness in what I do, be it singing, concerts, opera performances, conducting. My future is nourished by my present, my past. From wonderful possibilities like Otello, singing was one of the biggest challenges. I also set the highest standards for my work as a conductor, debuting with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. For me, every task ahead is tantamount to pleasing myself and others. I couldn't imagine a greater perspective!



Budapest - August 2003









Press Conference  at Grand Hotel, Margeret Island, 18 August 2003
























With or Without a Tailcoat



Miklós Fáy

19 August 2003

 José Cura: The good thing is that the audience doesn’t see the work, but the result


Just got off the plane. Tired, but polite. Sits cross-legged in the leather armchair, wears a black shirt, jeans and comfortable shoes. Only his operatic beard reminds one of his profession, otherwise nobody could tell that he is a tenor. He is a too healthy phenomenon for it.

Do you know that according to some opera fans José Cura is not really a serious singer? 

José Cura:  I have heard that, but I don’t believe real opera fans think this way, only the conservatives. They believe that somebody who has a good time on stage, who laughs and is in a good mood, cannot be a serious musician. If someone sings, first of all, he should suffer, break into cold perspiration before high notes, and generally behave in a way as if he was in a funeral. Nonsense. 

So you are the new generation on the operatic stage? 

José Cura:  I don’t know, I have never thought about it. I am just this sort of person and I have always been so. I don’t want to change just to accommodate the taste of others. However, I understand and perfectly accept that my approach to classical music does not appeal to certain people.  On the other hand, others very satisfied with me. This is life: you do not have to appeal to everyone. 

Wouldn’t this be the aim? 

José Cura:  One who appeals to everyone cannot be original. One who appeals to nobody probably does not do good work. But if there are people who hate you and others who really love you, the situation cannot be wrong. 

I understand that you do not want to change, but the world has changed around you. How can you preserve your old self? Because it is certain that Domingo does not dress as you do. 

José Cura:  Domingo, Pavarotti. With all due respect to them they are legendary singers. But Plácido or Pavarotti are of the same age as my father, so it is natural that they think in a different way. Had my father come with me this time, he is sure to have travelled in a suit and tie. Not because he is old-fashioned, but because he would feel right to do so. 

True, but opera is the entertainment of rather the older generation. 

José Cura:  That is a misunderstanding spread by those who go to the opera. Listening to classical music is good, independent of age. 

Do you never perform in a dress-suit? 

José Cura:  I do if the situation or the occasion so requires. But I cannot do so always because then I would not be myself, and it would immediately be noticed. And then I would not be able to say what I wanted because hypocrisy and (honest) communication are incompatible. 

Nevertheless, sometimes you are obliged to play at yourself.  Let’s say you are bound by contract to sing Don Carlos five times while you don’t feel like doing it at all… 

José Cura:  The stage is a totally different thing. You step into a role and are transformed. You may not be in good form, but it cannot be seen in the acting.  You cannot make jokes as a tragic hero. 

Sometimes you can. When as Otello you touched Desdemona’s breast in the duet.

José Cura:  That was not a joke, but an accident. And it did not happen during a performance but during a full rehearsal. I tried to solve the situation, but it is not the same as if I had been deliberately making jokes. 

You are an extremely diligent person. It is at least your fourth time in Hungary, and I imagine how much you may travel around the world if even this little country could be included among your performance dates so many times. 

José Cura:  Nobody can reach this far in this profession if they are not diligent. I have been doing this work for twenty-five years. I stepped on stage as a professional singer for the first time in 1968, I have conducted since 1976. And I have been working without stopping since then. I am currently learning four symphonies and two operas at the same time. 

Still you are considered an easy-going guy. Doesn’t it disturb you? 

José Cura:  No, I am rather happy about it. It is good if the audience does not see the work but its result. When the ballet-dancer leaps and his every muscle is tense and during that he is only smiling, the audience says that it is easy for him since he can fly. But in reality he cannot. 

Why don’t you show a bit that you are making efforts? You could do that. 

José Cura:  Because the task of the artist is to entertain the audience. If they see that I am a nervous wreck before each high note, hoping that nothing goes wrong, they would not have a good time.  They would panic with me. 

And if your voice really falters? 

José Cura:  It doesn’t matter. It is a very human thing.  It happens to everyone. 

All right, but if as a singer you are not afraid of a goose, then what do you fear? 

José Cura:  I fear a lot of things. But I am not going to tell them now.





José Cura performs in Hungary


19 August 2003

Few know that the golden-throated singer was once a professional bodybuilder

If one thinks of Argentines, the name Gabriela Sabatini or Maradona comes to mind first. Yet Argentina’s brightest star is not an athlete but still a world star.  Concerts by tenor José Cura always take place in front of a full house, so it is likely that the auditorium of the Margaret Island Outdoor Stage will also be full.

The world-famous tenor will perform in front of the Hungarian audience on Wednesday evening. After the singer's press conference, he told Aktív that although he was the most proud of Otello's roles so far, he never really managed to identify with that character. José’s beautiful arias are known to everyone, by the way, but few know that the golden-throated singer used to be a professional bodybuilder.

“Of course, I didn’t finish bodybuilding, but my job no longer leaves time for me to do the sport competitively. I definitely try to train as much as I can to stay fit.”



Note:  This is a machine-based translation.  We offer it only a a general guide but it should not be considered definitive.


José Cura on Margaret Island


22 August 2003


August 20, 2003

Margaret Island Outdoor Stage

With Márta Szilfai (soprano) and the Failoni Orchestra

Conducted by Tulio Gagliardo



For those of you who wish to read a detailed analysis of the program selection in the Margaret Island of José Cura on August 20, I'm afraid I have no good news for you. I cannot perform such ambitious commitments right now: this concert cannot be the subject of classical music analysis in the strict sense of the word, because it was not primarily such a concert, but rather a kind of gala evening.

This is an infinitely likeable young man, a very good singer from faraway Argentina, who has turned up in many world-famous opera houses and whose popularity nearly rivals that of the Three Tenors (nowadays the Hungarian papers refer to him as the fourth tenor and not without reason).  He enters the stage, with his simple, direct, yet disarming manners, and in a moment he captures even the most hardened man, who has come to the concert only because of the wife’s urgings—I’m sure there were a good number of such spectators.

Our tenor sings a series of Puccini arias, some of them well ("Tra voi belle ..." from Manon Lescaut) and some less well ("Addio fiorito asil" from Butterfly), a duet from Tosca with a tired but still suggestive voice with Márta Szilfai ...

Then, of course, he also conducts “Bacchanalia” from Samson et Dalila, “Intermezzo” from Manon Lescaut, paralyzes a line with the children sitting next to him at his special request, teases the technical staff. Serious things are also discussed: as a kind gesture, he praises the activities of the International Pető Institute. During the break, he watches the fireworks lying on the ground and perhaps even enjoys it. Like a big kid.

And then he sings again: an excerpt from La gioconda, plus “Nessun dorma” (as a buzzing, pop-concert-like sound, his voice soaring), and the famous tenor aria from the opera Aurora, by the Argentinian composer Panizza, born in 1908, which is also the national anthem of his country.  His partners (apart from Szilfai, the Failoni Orchestra and the conductor Tulio Gagliardo) all serve him and, in this capacity, perform their duties to a high standard.

In closing, Libiamo (what else) is performed, our hero pours champagne and toasts with happiness.  You feel good.  He’s having a good time. 

José Cura, the celebrated star of Covent Garden and Scala in Milan gave a celebratory concert on the Open Air Stage on the Margaret Island. The fact that this evening was not primarily about classical music (well, of course, a little bit about classical music), but rather about promoting it and I doubt anyone cared. The attempt to save classical music was successful, and the patient—at least for the time being—survived.



Note:  This is a machine-based translation.  We offer it only a a general guide but it should not be considered definitive.


The Cura Circus


Marco Schicker

August 2003



A visit to star tenor José Cura’s concert on the Margaret Island in Budapest as a hopeless attempt to escape from the Hungarian national day on August 20


The author's pretended intellectual snobbery not to appear at the annual Stephansbrimborium followed by a fiery romp on the banks of the Danube, but to go to the open-air stage in the middle of Margaret Island for a classical concert, was doubtfully rewarded, for he got into a circus performance with opera excerpts. It was a magnificent show, nothing was saved: one hundred musicians, two hundred spotlights, three hundred microphones, five thousand watts. Three dozen children on the front stage, several of them in wheelchairs. Turkey red carpets, good mood, laughing crowds


[José Cura] is currently one of the best opera singers the world and still has the greater part of his development ahead of him. His voice is bursting with baritone power and shiny metallic heights. His trademark however, has become the Cura piano that connoisseurs admire and make many women completely foolish, as well as his cool appearance and flirtatious appearance. Cura sang two arias and, together with a very old soprano, a scene from Tosca, then  alone from Manon Lescaut, from Gioconda etc., in the second part also Argentine compositions, which we knew he loved, and in the end, inevitably waving champagne glass “Nessun dorma” and the “Libiamo” from Traviata, da capo.

The whole program would have resulted in one and a half hours of the finest vocal enjoyment, but was drawn out to more than three hours by all sorts of antics, technical glitches, contrived conversations, and, at 9:00 p.m., by fireworks. The biggest annoyance was the technology. The augmentation needed in such an arena was turned up so excessively that only strenuous self-suggestion could laboriously maintain the impression of a live experience. There are much more subtle ways to do this. There are much more subtle options for this. But no matter where Cura stood, whether he jumped, turned, sang with his back to the audience, did somersaults, he always sounded the same: loud and pure, like at a pop concert – The Cura Circus.

One can hardly argue against the ulterior motive of all these magics—namely to lead many people to classical music, i.e. to trick it out, in which one deceives to encircle the receptive newcomer with the harp sounds of the true and beautiful. Only one survived. The talent, the voice, the art of José Cura are so great, so extraordinary that any distraction unnecessarily suppresses them, even criminally damages them. Why does an excellent tenor still have to act as an entertainer, conférencier, moderator, conductor, announcer to make his performance stand out and in doing so to come dangerously close to the quite unjustly famous contemporaries, for whom that gaudy look is inevitable to conceal artistic impotence.

Anyone who has come to know Cura's art knows how unnecessary this sort of show is.

So if we turn again to the unbeatable argument that these means must be necessary for us to extend the circle of classical lovers, it should also be mentioned that classical music is not just any kind of music but "classical music" always has to do with class; the distinguishing criterion is not the beat, the instrumentation and standing out from other [forms of music] by offering ‘better’ shows but in understanding how to act by itself.  The quality, the training, the care, the standards make the difference. And that is exactly what we want to see at a concert.

Could this be boring for newcomers? Not with artists like José Cura.  This is, of course, not a complaint against the support of the world-famous Petö Institute, which takes care of the rehabilitation of handicapped children in a uniquely successful procedure.  But in addition to this appreciation, minutes after minutes passed with unnecessary talks with the sound engineer, the interpreter, and even in conversation with himself ("A journalist once asked me ...").  The fact that the maestro then also gave the audience a firework display and sang an Argentine (!) Hymn put a pathetic crown on the whole thing and finally moved us to tears. Nobody noticed that mine were running out of desperation.  They are all equally wet.




Articles / Interview / Press (Early)










José Cura

E Machado

Bomb, Winter 2000


I had never been to an opening at the Metropolitan Opera. It seemed surreal to me: A Fellini movie played out on the Upper West Side. Money, money and more money. The opera began . . . beautiful music . . .more money. Then Mr. Cura walked on. Something recognizable at last. He walked like a bull in a china shop. He seemed Latino and Italian all at once – a movie star who sings. A fast-rising tenor with an exceptional voice and an innate acting ability, Cura is what’s known among cognoscenti as a serious musician. The Argentinian tenor began voice lessons at 12 and made his conducting debut at 15 in an open-air choral concert in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina. Cura wanted to be a composer or conductor but it was his voice that won him a scholarship at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. Today his repertoire includes over 30 operas, including Carmen at the San Francisco Opera; Otello in Madrid; and Cavelleria Rusticana at the Metropolitan Opera, and Samson et Dalila at the Washington Opera. When we met for this interview, we spoke in Spanish. He is a friendly, charismatic man. His wife sat nearby. Then I said, "better switch to English." So here goes . . .


Eduardo Machado: I went to see opening night of the opera and I enjoyed it a great deal. You are a wonderful actor, as well. I wonder what made you decide to do opera?

José Cura: I love what I do, but because I also love other aspects of performing, the music itself, the conducting, teaching, I couldn’t say which is my priority. I mean, in the list of what I love about opera, singing is a complement but not the only thing. But because the laws of opera are what they are, the demands of being a tenor are more important than those other demands. So what I’ve tried to do is to sing as an actor, and to do music as a full musician instead of just singing.


EM: Not only to be a voice.

JC: Yes. Somebody who is used to theatre, like you, would say, "Oh, he is an opera singer but he is acting, he is believing what he is doing." That is what makes the difference.


EM: That’s what made the difference for me. It wasn’t static. I have a bit of a hard time with opera, being from the theatre. José, when people interview me, they ask, "Why theatre?" In opera you cater to a certain kind of audience that isn’t as wide as a salsa audience, which I am sure you could sing. And so I am asking you: Why opera?

JC: It’s like asking a tall athlete, Why basketball and not marathon running? It’s about analyzing your own aptitude so that you can be one of the firsts in your world, rather than being number 20 in another world. The point is, I feel that opera could be done in a different way, and that is exactly the way that you appreciated it the other night.


EM: How much more different would you like to see opera?

JC: I apply all these things to every opera I do. Some reviewers are modern and intelligent, but, unfortunately, there are the ones who stick to what they are used to and say, "Don’t you dare touch." Some reviewers say I’m not such a good singer after all, and that I’m using my acting ability to cover the fact.


EM: They can’t accept that you can be good at both things.

JC: Well . . .


EM: I was taken by the fact that you were so free – in theatre this never happens – within a framework that has already been set up for you by Mr. Zeffirelli. What’s that like? How do you find freedom within that strong framework?

JC: Well, having worked with Franco in the past – even though he was not here – knowing the man, I know he would be happy that somebody is using his own thoughts to create a different atmosphere than what he originally interpreted. He’s not the kind of man to say, "You have to follow the lines."


EM: I worked for him once, I sang "Guantanamera" for the movie The Champ, but I was very young.

JC: His usual way of working is, "Listen, I would like you to enter from this door and exit from the other door. At a certain point I would like you to go to this chair and touch this flower. Show me what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, and I’ll tell you how it looks." A big director would never tell and artist, "Now raise a finger. Now close you eyes." You build together; you know what I am talking about because this is what you do. So my interpreting was not dangerous. This set looks like Sicily. Some may say that it is old-fashioned, but if you’ve ever been in Sicily, it’s just like that. So you can behave within the set the way you would behave as an ordinary man in ordinary Sicily. That makes things easy. If you were to have an ultramodern set where things were moving or happening, you’d have to be in a certain place at a certain moment or you’d get killed, or you’d seem out of place. But in this set you can enjoy an almost natural space because it is complete . . .


EM: World.

JC: It is natural: the church, the stairs, the door . . .


EM: You also conduct. How do you feel when you are being conducted by someone else?

JC: It is the same feeling for actors who also direct movies. When you are in front of the camera it is one thing, and when you are behind the camera it is another. If you are open and flexible enough, you can capitalize on both worlds and make them one, and then you become extremely rich as an artist. When you are in front of the camera, the fact of knowing what the people behind the camera are seeing . . .


EM: It’s the same thing.

JC: It’s the same thing. I know exactly what the conductor is trying to obtain because I can understand every single thing that is happening there – instead of being carried up and down like a puppet.


EM: You strike me as someone who is the opposite of a puppet.

JC: Maybe that is what upsets people, because I am not . . .


EM: A traditionalist.

JC: No, then can’t put me in a box and say, "Hey, tenor, stand up here in front and sing," which is like saying, "Just sing and shut up."


EM: Which, in this country, is something they do – they don’t understand a person having more that one discipline.

JC: Over the last two years, I’ve been devoting myself to photography. I love it. Dealing with photography helps you understand the way the light works when you are on stage – not only knowing how the music is working, but knowing how the light is working on you, and the effect it is producing. It opens a whole new world.


EM: I have a lot of friends who are Broadway singers; they spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about their voices. Do you worry about that? How do you take care of it?

JC: Well, actually, I don’t take care of it at all.


EM: No?

JC: When I say that, I don’t want to sound negligent, what I am saying is that I try to lead a normal life. Of course, if I have a performance I won’t go out barefoot in the snow and challenge destiny, but I’m not a slave to my voice. I eat when I am hungry, and sleep when I am tired, and wash when I am dirty like anybody else. The day of the performance I will try to sleep as much as I can because, as you know, you are in the theatre two hours before the performance and then you stay two hours after the performance getting rid of the makeup and normally, when everybody else is in bed, you are in the middle of your day. So I try to sleep during the day to be rested in the evening; but apart form that, no, nothing special. I’m not a scarf tenor.


EM: America, being a very egocentric country, has made a great deal of the fact that you are going to be at the Met. Is the Met the center of opera, I wonder? What does it really mean for you to debut at the Met?

JC: This is a very interesting question, and I’m going to give you a dangerous answer. There are two ways of seeing the Met. It is the most important theatre in the United States, and saying that, you are almost acknowledging that it is the most important theatre on the American continent. Teatro Colon used to be a great theatre but now, apart from the building, because of the economical situation it is not the great thing that is used to be. Chile, Brazil and Mexico have wonderful houses but they can’t make them work in as efficient a way as they do at the Met, just because they don’t have the money. So, leaving that aside, it is an obvious conclusion that the Met is the greatest opera house on the American continent. After that you have San Francisco, and Chicago, and you have theatres that are pushing very hard like Washington. But the Met is the Met. That doesn’t mean that the Met is more important than Covent Garden or Vienna of La Scala. There are several, five or six, but theatres that are the pinnacles you have to reach – you have to perform there. But the Met is not the only big theatre in the world. I personally suffer the extreme measures of security inside the Met.


EM: This city has become very extreme.

JC: Yes, very extreme in everything. For an artist it is very aggressive. The stage, in our souls and in our innocence, is a place of fantasy. I am an artist, the stage is my place, but to reach the stage I have to ask permission . . .


EM: It’s like that in every American theatre.

JC: I’m not blaming them; they are doing their job of securing the theatre. It’s not their fault that this is a hard country and they have to take care. The fact is that the way of working, the way of being, the way of everyday living in this country is a bit too aggressive. It is this energy that pushes and makes a lot of good things happen. But sometimes, this strength turns into aggression and you have to create defenses against your own idiosyncrasies. Apart from that, artistically the Met is great: the orchestra, the chorus, and the atmosphere. When you are on stage, you can feel the positive energy. It’s not like some other theatres where everyone wants you to break a leg – literally.


EM: In this country, opera is not perceived as an art form – neither is the theatre – for everyday people. But opera is perceived as completely not for everyday people, because of what it costs. At this point in my life, I have begun to think about it. That’s why I just made a movie, because I wanted more people to see what I do. Do you think about that?

JC: I am not an expert in this. The Met, for example, is an enterprise unto itself. They produce their own money through sponsors and tickets sales. They make their own decisions and administrate their own incomes. Not every house is in such a privileged situation. Maybe because of that, the tickets must be more expensive. But I feel that all over the world, slowly, while still having the old, nice, black tie gala evening, we are starting to have lots of other performances that are open to everybody, where tickets are not much more expensive than a cinema ticket. Opera is the most expensive of the live arts to produce. You have at least 100 singers in the chorus, at least 90 musicians in the pit, another 50 to 60 moving everything; I mean you don’t do Aida without moving less than 300 people around. That’s the main stone in the bag. And it doesn’t look like there’s a solution to that. Where there’s a chorus there’s a chorus, you have to have the chorus. And if you are part of the chorus you want to be paid, etcetera . . . the money has to come from somewhere. Some people say that the great burdens of the theatre are the fees of the great artists. Only one or two great artists get a big fee in a production, everybody else is part of the house establishment.


EM: I’ll ask you another political question. Opera seems to be the most open place for people who are Latin, it seems that there is no prejudice having to do with nationality, color, or anything like that.

JC: In opera, the voice is the first thing. That doesn’t mean that the voice should be the most beautiful or the biggest voice in the world, but you need to produce a certain kind of sound to be there on the stage. Then, some directors desire a white, blond performer for a character who is supposed to be blond and white. Maybe if you had a soprano of color playing that part it would seem bizarre – speaking from the "libretto" point of view. But I think that things are now more open in that sense. You don’t have the limitation that you would have in cinema, where, if the character is supposed to be blond, you wouldn’t cast a black woman. Of course, if the character is supposes to be a black person, you won’t be able to cast a blond woman. And, if you are supposed to be Superman, you cannot be fat. Cinema is what it is. Opera is a little more flexible. But the influence of cinema is starting to come into opera, and more and more directors’ want people who can look the character. The first thing you need is a voice, but you must try to have all the other things too. However, creating a character is about believing: If you are performing in the role of a Latin lover, and you aren’t that good looking, you can be a seducer all the same. It’s about trying to deliver the proper energy. It doesn’t have to only be the way you look, that energy can occupy your being if you "believe" in it.


EM: Right, right.

JC: You know, in opera, you go on stage and if your performance is wrong, it is wrong, there’s no way to come back. If you crack a note, you crack a note. It’s like theatre, if you forget the text; there is nothing you can do. This kind of pressure, together with the pressure of health (colds and coughing) tends to be catalyzed, in lots of cases, through eating. A lot of the folklore of the overweight opera singer . . . I have colleagues and friends who are not really thin, they know they need to change for health reasons too, and are making big efforts to lose weight. I had a wonderful surprise yesterday evening. In ’97 I sang with a soprano who was really very overweight. I saw her yesterday and she was another woman; she had lost 20 kilos. And she was feeling good, more secure and more confident on stage. I don’t want to be misunderstood here, I don’t know if in the future I’m going to be fat, or lose my hair, or have a belly – but, it isn’t about that. It is about trying to make the instrument you use for working as good as your nature and you genetics allow you to.


EM: What inspires you?

JC: In what sense?


EM: Artistically.

JC: Commitment. There is nothing more frustrating for me than being on stage interacting with a colleague who is not committed. If you are an actor that is the main thing. An actor is delivering energy and information continuously. And you need someone in front of you, apart from the audience, who will be able to take that energy, filter it and give it back to your colleague. It’s ping-pong. When you send energy to somebody and receive nothing in exchange, after half an hour on stage, you are exhausted, because you are doing all the work. You are projecting and somebody is sucking all of your energy, and what is worse, the audience is receiving nothing because there’s a wall.


EM: What would you like to sing next? What are you going to sing next?

JC: Well, my next opera is Otello. That’s really an opera I love because it has allowed me to create a very deep character. I’ve received heavy criticism from the opera guys for my Otello.


EM. Already. <Laughter>

JC: And great compliments from theater people. I’m happy for that because I want to create the Otello I feel. Otello is not a monk. This is a man who used to be a hero, who used to be a general, who used to be this and that, and now is just a piece of nothing breaking into pieces of nothingness. That’s the Otello I feel. Of course when I played it like this for the first time all the opera buffs said: Oh there’s not enough sound, there’s not enough ‘noise’ there. And all the theater buffs said: Oh, what great acting. The next challenge is to try to fill the gap in between and make everybody happy.


EM: Where are you singing Otello next?

JC: In Madrid, in Palermo, and in Washington next March…


EM: Any anecdotes?

JC: Yeah. When I sang it for the first time—there is this moment on stage when the alarm goes off; he has just been making love to his wife. So my interpretation was, he hears the alarm, grabs his trousers and goes on—half naked. That’s what you’d do in real life. I went out in my trousers, holding them up, and I was nailed. Everybody said that I was trying to show my pectorals.


EM: (laughter) Maybe this time you should come out nude.

JC: No more, I think. I’m getting fat, too, you know?




More than a tenor


November 1997

Nick Kimberley


A new tenor’s in town and he dares to launch his first solo recital with “Nessun dorma.” But the Argentinian José Cura demonstrates that young tenors today have to have brains as well as beautiful voices.

Composers, they say, don’t understand singers’ needs, singers don’t understand what composers want, and conductors simply go their own way.  Perhaps José Cura is the man to effect some kind of rapprochement between the three camps to singing after he had got a thorough grounding in the arts and crafts of both composing and conducting.  Nor does he consider that he has put composing and conducting behind him: “I’m still a conductor,” he says, “and for the last five years, I’ve been working on composing an oratorio, Ecce homo.  It’s about the last hours of Jesus’s life, but I haven’t written a note in two years: I’ve had other things to do.  I’d call my compositional language ‘post-romanticism’, but enriched by my stage experience.  I don’t care to be restricted to one style.  We’ve passed through perfect tonality to neurotic atonality.  Now we’re putting them all together, placing the notes at the service of expression, whatever the style.  And as a singer, it’s important that I also put my knowledge as a musical technician at the service of the expression in what I’m singing.”

Cura’s decision to concentrate on singing was based on the reality of musical life in his native Argentina.  “It’s difficult to survive as a composer or conductor anywhere in the world, but it was that much harder a decade ago in Argentina.  I realized that the quality of my voice and the repertoire that I could sing would probably enable me to earn my living as a singer.  Then in 1991 I came to Europe, thinking I was ready to be a professional singer.  I soon found out that I wasn’t.  I spent a couple of years in Italy in the incubator, giving concerts, taking small roles, developing my technique and, most important, my sense of style.  Then in 1993, the opera house in Trieste wanted to stage Antonio Bibalo’s Miss Julie.  They couldn’t find a tenor: the opera’s based on Strindberg, so it’s difficult to sing and difficult to act.  Someone mentioned that they knew a lyric-dramatic tenor who could act: why didn’t they try him?  That was me, and it was a big success.  Then I did Janacek’s The Makropulos Affair in Turin, which marked the real explosion in my career.”

If it’s the voice that is now attracting attention, Cura acknowledges lessons learnt acquiring what are, for now his subsidiary skills.  “When I conducted, I used to say that I never wanted to be a singer, because singers are hysterical human beings, always worrying about having a cold or a fever.  But people suggested that I study a bit of singing.  The voice is so important today, that even if I wasn’t going to be a singer, knowing about singing would be important to my future as a conductor.  Now that I’m a singer and sometimes have to work with conductors who know nothing about singing, I understand why people wanted me to study singing.”

The conductor on Cura’s solo debut recording (of Puccini arias) certainly knows about singing: Placido Domingo.  The two met when Cura won the International Placido Domingo Competition in 1994.  Cura is not too concerned about being labeled “the new Domingo”.  “When you’re an ‘unknown’, people’s instant reaction is to compare, Domingo was compared to Bjorling; Carreras to di Stefano.  But all those singers are unique.  Placido is a good conductor, even it he’s not a Muti or an Abbado.  He’s a singer who conducts, which you can’t say about Muti or Abbado.  The danger is that instead of me singing Puccini in my way, I would be singing Puccini the way Domingo used to.  But Placido’s not stupid.  I said, ‘I want to sing these things the way I want to sing then.’  And he said, ‘That’s absolutely fair, even if I’ve sung these phrases differently.  Do it your way.  I’ll follow you.’”

For Cura, doing it his way meant according each aria its dramatic due.  “When I’m recording, I forget about where I am, I try to be the character.  If I have to cry, I cry, if I have to sob, I sob, and if I have to crack, I crack.  The listener must take it or leave it.  I was listening to the playback, there was a sob here, a crack there, and the technical team said, ‘Do you want to leave those in?’ I said, ‘He’s suffering, he’s crying.  That’s how you should sound.’  I’m sure many people will love it, because there’s emotion there.  But it’s the law of the jungle that others will say, ‘That’s not clean, it’s technically at fault.’  People should understand that if it’s not ‘perfect’, it’s not a mistake: that how I wanted it.” 

For those of us who can feast on a good tenor voice as if there were no tomorrow, this is (to put it crudely) the goods.  But of course the question is: just how crude is it?  Such answer as the first track provides is not reassuring.  A peculiarity of the programme is that it goes backwards.  It starts with Turandot and recedes along a strict chronological line to Le Villi.  That of itself is an attractive idea, but it means that the terminus is a long and somewhat inconclusive excerpt, while the starting-point is “Nessun Dorma!”.  We all know what that means these days, and it looks suspiciously like making a bid for the market if not for the kingdom.

And it is not endearingly sung.  A dark, rather throaty, a big and uncharming voice reiterates the famous command.  As it takes the high As we realize (if we have not done so already) that this is special, rising easily and thrillingly out of the baritonal middle register.  Of anybody in recent times, Franco Bonisolli is the tenor who comes to mind for comparison in this respect, and as though to confirm the association Cura holds his high B (“vincero”) for the maximum length compatible with holding on to the succeeding A for even longer.  But he is a man with surprises in store.  “Non piangere, Lui!” begins quietly and is thoughtfully phrased.  Gianni Schnicchi, in the next track, brings something quite different, an incisive, energetic style, a clean-cut tone.  Luigi’s music in Il tobarro suits him perfectly as later does Dick Johnson’s in La Fanciulla del West.  In between are two short solos from La rondine, and just as one is meditating reproachfully along the lines of “And to think this was first sung by Tito Schipa!”, behold, all turns to lightness and intimacy.  Rather similarly in the Tosca arias, “Recondita armonia” is stolid, almost routine (though at least the first and last phrases are duly moderated), but then “E lucevan le stelle” becomes the real expression of a man facing the prospect of imminent execution, and writing a poem.

So, we have here, in this 34-year-old record-debutant, a thrilling voice, an individual timbre, an unpredictable art.  His ‘face’ wears too much of a scowl, though that can soften too.  He does not give the impression of thinking about the person he is nominally addressing, but this is a solo recital and perhaps it would be different in a complete opera.  He is accompanied here with uncommon sympathy by a conductor who, we do not need to be reminded, has a good deal more experience of singing that has the singer himself.  How his individuality would respond to a Muti or Gardiner we will have to see.  He has, apparently, two more discs in preparation.  One thing is certain: we who eat tenor have two feast-days set aside.



José Cura: A Star Tenor Steps out of the Wings

Wall Street Journal

30 October 1997

Matthew Gureswitsch

“The dogs are barking, Sancho.  That means we’re getting somewhere.”  José Cura, the new tenor from Argentina, is quoting “Don Quixote.”  At first sight, you might not peg him for much of a reader, but Mr. Cura is full of surprises.  An athletic 6-foot-plus, a devoted husband and a father of three, he moves like the martial-arts instructor he used to be.  In Hollywood, where the compliment means something, producers tell him he looks like a movie star (think Andy Garcia – a big Andy Garcia).  While certain of his best-paid colleagues scarcely read music, Mr. Cura’s training includes classical guitar, conducting, and composition.  He has penned, among other things, an ambitious requiem (as yet unperformed), dedicated to the victims of the Falklands War.  Singing now keeps him too busy to write, but it has not altered his sense of who he is.  “I’m a musician by vocation,” he declares, “a tenor by accident.”

No, he’s not another nice lyric, like the personable French-Sicilian Roberto Alagna, but a Latin-style heavyweight – a lirico spinto.  His timbre is dark, somber, even forbidding.  There is metal in the high notes.  His is not an instrument for bantering trifles.  As an actor, he hates “useless gestures,” which has brought him some brickbats in Italy, where audiences like to see more overt emotion, but praise in England, where they appreciate understatement.  (Besides, Mr. Cura doesn’t mind pointing out the British really know theatre.)

The Piedmontese capital of Torino was crackling with anticipation in May when Mr. Cura, at the comparatively tender age of 34, took on Verdi’s Otello, the most daunting tenor part in Italian opera.  In most respects, the show was an instant replay from the Easter Festival in Salzburg, a deluxe affair featuring the Berlin Philharmonic in the pit, led by Claudio Abbado.  The only new face was Mr. Cura, taking over from Placido Domingo, the reigning Otello for two decades.  Raising the stakes just that much higher, Italian national television was broadcasting the premiere live. 

Otello is a killing part, and Mr. Cura doubts that he will return to it soon.  But he was ready.  From the commander’s first clarion cry of triumph to the suicide’s last broken phrases, the tenor never faltered.  The love duet, shared with the radiant Desdemona of Barbara Frittoli, has seldom sounded at once so romantic and so swirling with danger.  Along the way, Otello’s eavesdropping brought a shocking epiphany of self-loathing.  The murder of Desdemona, accompanied by an embrace, was even more devastating that usual: an act of love too far gone to mend except in a double death.

An audience that had moved mountains to get tickets cheered the production to the rafters, reserving the loudest hurrahs for the hero.  Among the throng that waited for more than an hour at the stage door to pay their respects stood a frail, top-hatted old man in opera cape and white scarf.  Verdi’s ghost?  The idea did not seem far-fetched.

Immediately, fans started asking whether the telecast would be issued on home video, a question rumored to hinge chiefly on the royalty demands of the Berlin Philharmonic.  The issue loomed especially large in view of Mr. Cura’s surprisingly short discography.  In this age of instant recordings, there was nothing out there for consumers to take home – nothing, that is, but Puccini’s early and obscure Le Villi (on Nuova Era), a sort of operatic Giselle.

“You have to earn the right to make an album,” Mr. Cura remarked around this time last year.  He was in California for back-to-back debuts, chalking up triumphs in Los Angeles as the Roman general Pollione, two-timing seducer of Druid priestesses in Norma, and in San Francisco as the masochistic mama’s boy Don José in Carmen.  “It’s presumptuous – how do you pronounce that word? – presumptuous to think everybody is waiting.”  Still, he thought he might do a Puccini CD before too long, Puccini being something of a specialty of his.  In 1996, he had headlined a three-hour “Puccini Spectacular” in Australia, playing to sold-out stadiums in Sydney and Melbourne.  Big chunks from La Bohème, Madame Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West, Turandot.  Trucks of scenery, trunks of costumes.  Cast of hundreds.  Four leading sopranos.  One tenor.

The debut disk, recorded by Erato a month after the Torino Otello, went on sale this week, and Puccini it is. Beginning with “Nessun Dorma,” it includes every remotely excerptable tenor solo in the Puccini canon, whether it is technically an “aria” or not.  While every day it seems, recording companies are pushing another wannabe, proudly presenting material by a half dozen or more composers, all of which end up sounding depressingly the same, Mr. Cura does the opposite, finding specificity in selections that might at first glance seem too much of a piece.

His hushed tenderness in the farewell to the world from Tosca sounds entirely unlike the yearning dignity in another such farewell from Fanciulla del West.  The carefree playboy in Manon Lescaut (not perhaps, Mr. Cura’s strongest suit) sounds nothing like the carefree playboy of Madame Butterfly.  And despair, Mr. Cura shows us, come in countless shadings.  (It is not only the heroines whom Puccini tortures.)






   José Cura (official)

May 28  

Dear all, here's the announcement and links of my first year of concerts with the Hungarian Radio Art Groups as their Principal Guest Artist:

 April 21, 2020 Leoncavallo: Pagliacci – concert version at Müpa – Palace of Arts, Bartók Béla National Concert Hall, Budapest, Hungary (This is the third concert of the Romantic Portraits Concert Series)…/…/Romantikus-portrek-III-2019/20






José Cura Facebook PR.

José Cura Web Site.




Find Cura on Wikipedia!

José Cura on Wikipedia.  

Want to know more about José Cura?  Check out his Wikipedia page (click on the photo and find out such neat things as.....

  • Full name:  José Luis Victor Cura Gómez
  • First starring role:  Bibalo's Signorina Julia, Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste, Italy, 1993
  • First performance in US:  Giordano's Fedora, Chicago Lyric, USA, 1994



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