Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director

 

 

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We are having computer problems....again.

This time, we had a hard drive crash and burn and while everything is backed up, there is one exception:  the data and photos we are working on for our Sunday updates, which don't get backed up until the following week.  This week, we were working on Samson et Dalila in NYC in 2005--all of the files we had touched are now residing in cyber netherland.

So we lost everything we were working on and don't have time to reconstruct.  Instead, we are offering a retrospective from the past and hope to have everything under control by next week.

Computers:  can't live with them, can't live without them.  Sigh.

 
 
 

 

 

Retrospective 2009

 

 


 

 

Bravo,
Cura!

 

 

2009

Retrospective

 

 


January 2009

January

12, 14, 17, 20, 23

Turandot

Royal Opera House

London

January

18

Masterclass

British Youth Opera

London

January

30

Symphonic concert

Teatro Comunale

Bologna

 

Carpe Diem!

Seen and Heard

Jim Pritchard

8 January 2009

The biography on the tenor’s own informative web site JoseCura.com,  begins by saying how he is ‘World-famous for his intense and original interpretations of opera characters, notably Verdi's Otello and Saint-Saëns' Samson, as well as for his unconventional and innovative concert performances, José Cura is the first artist to have sung and conducted simultaneously (both in concert and on recordings) and the first to combine singing with symphonic works in a “half and half” concert format. He also made operatic history when he first conducted Cavalleria rusticana and then stepped on stage after intermission to sing Canio in Pagliacci at the Hamburg Opera in 2003.’

This might already seem enough for one person - star tenor and conductor - but add to this that he is also a composer, an opera director, set designer and photographer and the mind begins to boggle. Then do not forget he is also visiting professor of voice at the Royal Academy of Music in London as well as being associated with the British Youth Opera and New Devon Opera and in fact you begin to wonder what the person is like behind these achievements and commitments. So during his rehearsals for his first Calaf at Covent Garden in their revival of
Turandot it was wonderful to meet such an out-going, self-effacing, humorous and knowledgeable person. Our talk ranged from José Cura’s earliest memories to his future plans and dwelt on those moments that otherwise have been highlights of his career and the 46 years of his life so far.

How did his career in music begin?

That I don’t know and we cannot even ask my father who died about a year ago now. I remember he used to say to me ‘Ok you want to be a musician well that’s fine … but what are you going to do for work?’

I do not recall many years of my life when I have not been on stage. I began when I was about 12 and that’s 33 years now so my memories of being on stage are more than my memories off. I sang only as an amateur – chorus singer, pop music, spirituals in octets, some jazz singing and other things like that. It was a way of expressing myself that I did in parallel to my studies at the Conservatoire in Buenos Aires and that was in composing and conducting. For some reason I don’t recall why that was my vocation; all I remember is when I was 15 I said to my father ‘I want to be a conductor’. Fate is what moves you to one thing or another and when I had almost finished my studies one of my teachers said to me that I had better start learning how to sing properly. I wondered why as I did not want to be a singer. He said that it is the same way that understanding all the instruments I could play, such as violin, flute and trombone, helps with being a good conductor so by studying singing I could become an even better one. So I started to learn proper singing and not just the ‘poppy’ singing I was doing and one thing lead to another and here I am.

I wondered what made him move to Europe in 1991.

For me I find everything comes because of some reason and at that time in Argentina we were at the end of a military dictatorship and it was the first years of the new democracy and to live in my country then was really an adventure. We had a child and I had four jobs and my wife had two jobs and even then we did not have enough money at the end of the each month. We took the risk and decided to go to Europe to see what might happen for me. If nothing happens then we could always come back. Of course we didn’t have the money to buy the tickets so we sold out little apartment and I remember that they gave me for it what I am now getting for one night’s fee as a first tenor – so life is funny in a way – but it was a very tiny apartment of course and not that my fee is so big! (Laughs) We came first to Verona and we’d met someone on the plane coming over who helped us so we started to pull a few strings, worked in restaurants and hospitals, managed to cope and eventually it happened for me.

His first Calaf was in Verona in 2003; it is an open-air auditorium that he has sung in a number of times over the years and I asked what it was like for him to sing there.

It is an amazing place to sing when you sing out,  though it is in the intimate moments when you feel the handicap of the place because you have to sing loud. You do not shout but must be loud, so no matter what you want to say you lose the subtleties. There is no problem with the big moments such as with the ‘vinceròs’ and things like that and you can feel the 16,000 people roaring at the end of the aria;  so then it is an amazing feeling.

Why had it taken him a while to sing Calaf which along with Dick Johnson, Otello, Samson and others has now become one of his signature roles?

Yes it was 15 years after my international career began and it was always because I refused to sing such a one-dimensional character but then of course I surrendered because of the incredible beauty of the music. The next step was to find something in his personality for me – not necessarily positive because he has a lot of negative sides – so I can sing that and it is a change from the usual hero on stage and therefore a nice challenge.

Calaf is not really interesting, in the sense of the psychological analysis of his character and his development through the opera. He is the same character from the beginning to the end. He knows he is going to win her, he’s arrogant and a bastard in every sense. He does not care about love and actually he does not mention the word throughout the whole libretto : he talks about power, about domination, about money and so could be any of our politicians nowadays!

In this revival I have added, because that is part of my style, more physicality to the role particularly in the last duet. That last duet is almost a Freudian moment of possession and Turandot surrenders to him not only psychologically but sexually. So we are trying to do a bit more here in a stylised way and I am lucky that I also have a very athletic soprano. Iréne Theorin, though of course we cannot have sex on stage but we try to picture that and this is the main addition to the staging we have done.

Had he any views on the various completions of the ending of Turandot?

I’ve sung two alternative endings. One is the original Alfano ending which is even tougher harmonically with a more evolved musical style that is closer to Schoenberg and similar composers – remember Alfano lived in that period too. The traditional one that we do here is the second Alfano version, a little more rounded in the corners, not Puccini of course but more acceptable according to the previous music heard in the opera.

I have also done the ending without the last duet when there is the death of Liu and the curtains close and that is the end. If that happens your character is less of a bastard and it is more biographical because of what happened to Puccini. Everyone knows that Liu is the alter ego of the Manfredi girl and Turandot is the alter ego of Elvira, Puccini’s wife, and that’s just what Puccini did when Doria Manfredi committed suicide:  he just went to Brussels to die and so more or less ended his life in Turandot. So if we carry on and do the traditional ending,  then we have a really disgusting character who only 10 bars on from killing the only person he really loved,  turns around and continues his social climbing - someone who would sell his own mother to achieve what he wants.

He has sung Calaf in 2007 in Shanghai and I asked what it had been like to perform Turandot in China.

I remember doing a press conference and saying ‘I’m coming to China to tell the Chinese how to be Chinese’. But of course Calaf in the plot to the opera is a foreigner himself so that helps and is not so bad. Also the production was not like the one we are doing now where we try to be authentic. Here that is okay because maybe apart from some Chinese in the audience no one will know what mistakes we are making and if some things are not Chinese but occidental. In China everybody would notice what was wrong,  so it was a very modern production and very wise in the sense that my character was somebody travelling through time and arriving in an old China -  and being modern himself he  set about convincing everyone to drop their old traditions and to move forward into the modern world. So the message was very interesting and they reacted well.

We sang in a gigantic auditorium though the acoustics were very good. China certainly knows more about our music than we know about theirs and if only because of that,  they deserve our respect though the thing I remember most – which is shocking for us – is that they eat during the performance. When I asked about this they said it was what they do every day and nobody saw a problem with it. So if you can cope with the fact that you might raise your head during an aria and see someone eating in the first row because it is normal for them to do so,  then the rest is fine.

I asked now Calaf compares to some of the other roles he has become famous for.

Well there is nobody so one-dimensional though Pinkerton, for instance, is an even worse character for me. Despite it happening in another time period Pinkerton with his paedophilia and sexual tourism is much worse than Calaf’s greediness. Another famous bastard, a big one Italian style, is the Duke in Rigoletto and another who is one but is also a great character to portray is Stiffelio. He is a hypocrite and someone who proclaims peace and love and yet can hate to the point of wanting to kill his wife. It is a case of ‘do what I say not what I do.’ Stiffelio is very interesting psychologically and that is something I like;  it was my debut role here at Covent Garden in 1995.

I wondered what his thoughts then, were on Otello.

Otello is a very complicated issue because if you do just what is written and forget the centuries of tradition,  then Otello is the bastard of all the bastards. He is the biggest because he is somebody who was a Muslim who became a Christian for political convenience and he is now engaged in killing Muslims himself. He is a professional killer and there is nothing heroic or noble in his behaviour. In the context of modern fundamentalism this is a problem. Otello is a very complicated character and now after singing the role for a number of years,  I am getting more and more to the point where,  apart from the ending when he is a little bit pitiful, l for the rest of the time I make him very disgusting which is not always what traditional people want to see in this opera. They come to see the poor black guy who has been cheated and who suffers and forget all the other things that must be dealt with also.

I have done Otello in some weird situations and once in Zürich was in a spaceship where I was Captain Kirk and Iago was Mr Spock,  but in that production you could ignore the ridiculous surroundings and it was very well acted. I was lucky to have tremendous colleagues including Ruggero Raimondi and Daniela Dessì and so we were able altogether to create a great atmosphere with the thing to make it one of my most daring Otellos.

He has a lot of options for things to keep him busy; conducting, composing, set design, directing, teaching not forgetting the singing,  so I wondered how he balances his working life.

Well I don’t think I balance it at all and I just do not stop. My day starts at 7 in the morning and finishes at midnight but it is never a chore and is great fun. To distract myself from the singing day,  I can sit down and draw some sketches for a production I want to do and that is a good thing. Doing one thing all the time would end up suffocating me, but I have 3, 4, 5 things I might be working on and that for me creates a real distraction, and is a good thing.

In  2007 I enjoyed creating my show La commedia è finita in Croatia and there is information about it on my website and I have not long ago directed Un ballo in maschera in Cologne, I was the director and set designer for that, and it was good. I didn’t sing in that of course but sometimes I will sing, sometimes not, so in 2010 when I am directing a new Samson et Delilah in Karlsruhe for the opening of the season I will be designing that and singing in some of the performances. So it is all part of the same thing and its not that I do one thing one day and something entirely different the next: here one thing is enriching the other. Of course it is a lot of work and needs a lot of energy. I am glad God gave me this body and my energy and I know it is not something everybody could cope with because it really can be exhausting.

I asked if he had a particularly style when he directs.

My way of directing is the same way I am when on stage. My concentration is on the acting technique and really understanding the subtext of what we are doing. This has been the feature of my career as I believe people come to the opera house to see good acting. If you want to hear  good singing these days you can stay at home and put on a CD but if you come to the theatre you want to see good acting and if they do not get it,  we will lose our public. There   is no way they are just coming to listen as in previous times when there was no other way to hear music.

How had all his work with young performers come to be centred in England?

It’s amazing how everything is happening in Great Britain. They all asked and I love to do it. I am a father of three and my eldest son is living and studying in London and is a young, up-and-coming actor but more than that it is the responsibility of my generation to nurture the new generations. So in a humble way I try to pass on my experience and my training and to draw them into my little revolution of trying to be a believable actor,  even if it means sacrificing a sound to an overall result. My contribution is purely artistical and I give as much time as I can. It is great to be involved with three English organisations - something as an Argentinian I never expected. (Laughs)

My theory is when I give a masterclass,  the people attending will already be young professionals with a high level of education. I will not be teaching them singing as I cannot in a few hours or even one or two weeks teach somebody how to sing. The only thing is if I hear something dangerous or ugly,  then I can give them some advice about how to try another way and tell them to discuss it with their teacher. In the short term it is possible to do more damage than help. I get them to discover their characters and to discover their psychology and understand why the voice on a certain note should sound a certain way to convey the meaning of the text and what that character feels in that moment.

I am pleased to say that in 99% of the cases, by putting aside complicated technical issues,  almost without realising it they will sing better. They often say ‘I’ve never sung this aria so easily’. They may have worried before about the aria but now they have the psychology of the character and trust the composer,  so the job is done.

Did he himself have a mentor?

For me my biggest mentor is my own wife who next year will have been with me 30 years. That is a lot of patience for someone married to somebody like me. Other people along the way gave me help but I never had a sort of godfather throughout my career because I repeat the only one who has been there from the beginning -  in the good times, in the bad times and the more-or-less times  - was my wife.

I referred to his published book of photographs and asked if he still has time for both photography and composing.

My hobby is to take photos and I never thought about doing a book,  but there was a Swiss editor who had seen some of my pictures and said could we do a book of them. My reaction was ‘I don’t think people need a book of photographs by Cura’ but he persuaded me and he was right because they are good pictures and I am pleased I can give the opportunity to people to try and see what I see. It’s selling pretty well.

I don’t compose big things any more because I do not have the time and any way I will have the rest of my life to write music: orchestration particularly,  takes a huge amount of time. What I do a lot now is to write song cycles because that takes less time. Last year in Italy I had the première of my song cycle based on Pablo Neruda’s poems and it was a great success. I was very pleased because I was worried. When you are a singer,  people can complain but ultimately the responsibility for the music is not yours but when you sing your own compositions it is tricky. You  are not sure what is going to happen as it is a very risky thing to do. Now in January 2009,  I will record this cycle of seven songs and parallel with the recording will release the vocal piano scores.

The last big thing I wrote was a Requiem for the victims of the Falklands War in 1984 when I was about 22. One day I might rewrite it completely or I may even leave it like it is with its innocent naivety of someone young.

Will he be back to Covent Garden soon and what is he most looking forward to in his busy schedule

This is my last signed contract here now with Turandot and I hope we can discuss other things for the future,  but if not I’ve been singing here since understudying Carreras in 1994 and making my debut in 1995 so in 2009 that will be 15 years and that is a lot of time.

In February I will go to Bologna to conduct La Rondine and this is something very new and we are still discussing it now. It is because Italy has it own financial difficulties and the opera is suffering and they have had to reschedule the whole season. Two big productions in February have been cancelled and because I was going to be there at the end of January for masterclasses they have asked me if I wanted to continue the masterclasses with performances of La Rondine done with students and I like this idea very much. It is not confirmed yet and I’ll have to work like hell since rehearsals would start in a couple of weeks now and I am still to open the score – or even receive it. Although it is always traumatic for a theatre to cancel productions due to lack of money, to substitute this with something using young people is a daring thing and takes a lot of courage.

In March I’m also particularly looking forward to my return to the Metropolitan Opera,  simply because my debut there in 1999 was in Cavalleria rusticana when Domingo sang Pagliacci.  Now I’m going back to do them both myself and that will be exactly 10 years after I first sang there.

I think I look forward to everything, everyday – it’s my way … carpe diem!

 


 

 

 

Turandot

at

ROH

 

 

ROH Turandot, Dec08 - Jan08, starring José Cura and Iréne Theorin

ROH Turandot, Dec08 - Jan08, starring José Cura and Iréne Theorin

     

ROH Turandot, Dec08 - Jan08, starring José Cura and Iréne Theorin ROH Turandot, Dec08 - Jan08, starring José Cura and Iréne Theorin

 

 

Calaf – Turandot

The handsome Prince of Tartary who turns up in medieval Peking and takes up the challenge of wooing Princess Turandot.  He proves extremely adept at solving a series of terrible riddles, thus winning Turandot’s hand in marriage.  Determined to melt her icy heart too, he sets a cringe-making riddle of his own and assures himself a place in operatic (and sporting) history by launching into ‘Nessun dorma.’

José Cura on Calaf….

“Calaf is an arrogant bastard.  He wouldn’t care about selling his own father in order to achieve his goal, which is to have a new kingdom.  He talks about women, about power, about kingdom…and it’s clear that whether he loves Turandot—and God knows if he does or not—is just a secondary matter.  The real thing for him is that he is a prince, he’s lost his kingdom and he wants a new one.  He’s very one-dimensional.  From beginning to end, he knows he’s going to win as he’s the wonder boy—there’s no psychological development such as moments of failing inspiration or doubt.

“Nessun dorma itself is a cynical aria.  All Calaf is doing here is issuing a challenge:  “No one sleep.  Go out and try to find my name, because I know no one’s going to—tomorrow I’m going to have both Turandot and her kingdom.  So, do yourself a favor.  Go out and eat, get drunk or whatever, because tomorrow things around here are going to be different.”  ---   José Cura on Turandot BBC magazine April 2009

 

 

 

ROH Turandot, Dec08 - Jan08, starring José Cura and Iréne Theorin                           ROH Turandot, Dec08 - Jan08, starring José Cura and Iréne Theorin

 

 

 

Personal Review

Turandot in London

Part I

 By Kira and Deb

 In which Kira sets the stage for Turandot at Covent Garden and Deb spends too much time trying to find underlying meaning….

Setting the Stage:  The Royal Opera shoe-horned the spectacle that is Turandot onto its stage with a certain amount of elegance, a certain amount of invention, and a certain amount of compromise. The stage was rimmed by a three-story dark structure that allowed the chorus to stack vertically, an economical solution to handling the large number of voices necessary for this chorus-rich score while still allowing sufficient space for action.  In Act I, five large, stylized heads with flowing red ribbons were strategically hung from the second level, representing Turandot’s most recent victims; normal sized skulls appeared briefly in Act II when Ping, Pang, and Pong engaged in a bizarre game of  toss;  Act III ended with the still intact corpse of Liu being wheeled across the stage as the otherwise happy couple canoodle.  

Turandot, the executioner and the Prince of Persia were wheeled in and out in act 1, the huge moon signaling the imminent execution slowly descended to earth and bisected the stage in response to the chorus’ pleas, the gong conveniently appeared at precisely the right moment, and at appropriate times the emperor descended from or ascended to the heavens in a blaze of gloriously golden light. In Act II, a series of low rising wooden ramps crisscrossed the stage, allowing the actors to pass each other and pose in slightly elevated stance during the riddle scene. In Act III, a small gazebo became a stage-within-a-stage, the focal plane for Nessun dorma, Liu’s suicide, and ultimately, the reconciled couple.

The curtain was up pre-opera, with three long red banners flowing from the back of the stage to its lip, possibly symbolizing the river of blood that flows from Turandot; however, since they were ripped down with the first note, quickly balled up by the dancers and went missing until they reappeared with the final notes, any real impact they may have had thematically was lost. The other two acts opened conventionally.

 

ROH Turandot with José Cura - dancers during CC

 

The executioner was dressed much like a jolly green giant, complete with oversized muscles and fiercely masked face and thick soled shoes to make him appear even bigger. The sword sharpener was a red hog-face character who perched atop a dragon-shaped cart. The Prince of Persia, who appeared to be about 12 years old, was hidden behind a full face mask and under a large turban.

Ping, Pang, and Pong wore garish outfits that easily set them apart for all others; they also sported garish make-up, perhaps to symbolize court members were always masked, but then at times they also donned real masks over their fake masks: what is reality when reality itself doesn't exit? The trio seemed clown-like in their actions and manners, sometime serpentine in their moves, often simian as they climbed around the stage—these three served (as usual) as comic relief even when they were not speaking but unfortunately seemed to have no central core that brought cohesion to their antics.

Knives and sabres were seen in the plenty, especially in Act I when the dancers hailed the impending decapitation of the Prince of Persia with a frenzy of mock duals and carefully choreographed moves in praise of the instruments of death.  The photo with Calaf standing with swords at his neck represents both the power of the sword and its appeal.  At one point Calaf pulls his weapon and defends himself in a skilful display of martial accuracy; in Act III, Liu uses the executioner’s sword to sever her own head; and at the end of the opera Calaf pulls his knife to slice his own neck if the final answer doesn’t vindicate him.

Timur was finely attired in rich royal purple, his robe intricately detailed.  His face was funereal white, his hair and beard wispy. Although he walked with a staff, in general it served as a prop for other characters, as when Calaf used it to hit the gong or thugs used it to beat Timur. This Timur was passive to the point of being catatonic, his pleas to his son lacking any color or emotion, a thoroughly bland performance not even enlivened with what should have been his big dramatic moments following Liu’s death. Liu was dressed in sunlight, a brilliant speck of hope among all the dark and dreary colors around her.   

 

ROH Turandot with José Cura

 

Calaf began the opera in a brilliant blue quilt jacket over black pants and turquoise and beige knee high boots. In Act III, his top changed to silky red brocade. Calaf’s hair was pulled back into a ponytail; long sideburns framed his face. The stark white make-up and heavy eye make-up was so severe it drained the character of vitality and made Calaf look much older than he should have been.  It also undermined the line in Act II in which Turandot states Calaf is turning pale with fear.  

Turandot wore white in Act I as she was wheeled through the crowd and again in Act III; she wore red in Act II, apparently an intent to keep the color scheme outlined in the libretto:  white for funerals (in Act I, for the Prince of Persia; in Act III, for her own or Calaf’s), red for festivities.  In the Act II riddle scene, she is dressed in red in early celebration of her win over Calaf, just as Calaf in turn is dressed in red in Act III to celebrate his ultimate victory. Turandot, also in pale face paint, periodically wears a mask-the only character that switches with regularity between mask and no mask as she struggles to break free of the past. 

For some reasonTurandot disappears to the back of the stage at the end and removes her top coat and crown, returning to her prince in a plain white gown.  While understanding that this symbolizes the change love has brought to Turandot but his action disrupted the flow and seemed to add little to the finale and does present a jarring interruption--and certainly the purity of white was inappropriate considering Turandot's misguided and bloodied past.

Controversy:  Cura attacked Nessun dorma as a warrior who is intent on besting his foe in this final battle. It is confident, almost cocky, and he takes it at breakneck speed:  it is not his nature to rest comfortably when there is a victory to win.  There is little of romance in the rendition:  this is about a challenge and about winning and any notion of love is a distraction. Cura’s Calaf, the prince without a home, the man without a country, the warrior already defeated, sings Nessun dorma as an announcement of victory—it is only the aria and the dark of night that stands in his way;  dawn means victory.  It’s an interesting switch on the traditional story, and one which clearly demonstrates Cura intellectual approach into his character’s development.  It also underlies his approach to final conquest, when his Calaf goes back on the promise he had given in Act II not to take Turandot by force.

Director Andrei Serban’s (and Cura’s) solution to thawing Turandot in the difficult third act is to rip off her mask and rape her. While understanding this approach may work as a masculine solution to a complex problem, it seems problematic in examining Puccini’s previous works, in the text leading up to the denouement, in Liu’s suicide, or in the hints he left behind about his intended resolution of this opera.  In interviews, Cura has indicated he considers Calaf to be a cold-hearted gambler who is willing to sacrifice both his father and Liu to ‘win’ and that the rape of Turandot is in keeping with such a character and the music. Perhaps, but such a reading denies several grace notes made by Calaf beginning even before the opera starts, when he once-upon-a-time smiled at Liu.  His relief and happiness at the reunion with his father seems genuine, as does his gratitude toward the slave girl for helping his father. He takes the time to respond to Liu plea not to risk his life for Turandot and singles her out again later in that act when he pauses for a moment just before striking the gong.  Although almost always played with a passive prince, the Act III torture scene is notable for the several warnings Calaf calls out in response to Liu’s cries and in this production, not only does Calaf break free of his guards to catch Liu after her suicide, but he mourns with his father and continues to mourn as the pair are led off stage.  The inconsistencies between word, music, and deed lent a slightly schizophrenic feeling to the evening, especially during the abrupt resolution in Act III. 

 

 

 Compelling, well-thought out and well-executed performance of Puccini’s fantasy opera, with José Cura a stand-out in the role of Calaf

Synopsis:  While Turandot is clearly an opera based on the inevitability of losing one’s head figuratively, the story begins with an execution in which a young prince loses his head literally.

Princess Turandot, daughter of the emperor, has fixated on the details of the death of one of her ancestors, Princess Lo-u-Ling, who had been raped and murdered centuries earlier. With the vision of masculine violence against the feminine as her only guide, Turandot developed an unreasonable fear of intimacy and the resulting loss of self that comes with such a union. To forestall that loss, she has issued a decree that no man may possess her unless he bests her in a trial by intellect. If he fails, he loses his life; if, however, he succeeds his reward is Turandot, mind and body. Sadly, the physical reconciliation that should come in Act III is the work of a different composer, since Puccini died before completing the opera.  The resulting discord between the sophisticated psychological battle in the first two acts and the bruising and rushed resolution of Franco Alfano in the last act gives the opera a slightly schizophrenic feel that can only be overcome with a strong cast and careful, thoughtful planning.   

But Puccini did set the story beautifully: the eternal female avenger, Turandot, is balanced by eternal female love, Liù. Final reconciliation can come only through self-sacrifice:  a woman must willingly die to expiate the sins of the man; love must die so love can live. Calaf also serves exquisite purpose:  just as love must die, so must man submit so man can win.  It is a brilliant framework set to hold some of the greatest music of opera, and it is likely that had Puccini lived he would have found the perfect resolution to thaw his ice princess through the redemptive power of love.  

It is important to note that when Turandot accepts his challenge, Calaf has already won a significant victory.  All other princes have been put to death in the dark of night.  His death, whichever death it will be, will be in the full light of day.  Cold night has already been vanquished;  Turandot will no longer be shielded by darkness.  A second victory is his as well, for having giving Turandot the puzzle, he ensures she will be up all night thinking only of him, an interesting and psychologically apt way to imprint himself upon her:  by keeping his image and his words forefront in Turandot’s mind, Calaf also begins the process of placing himself forefront in her heart.

 

 

 ROH Turandot with José Cura - curtain Call

 

             

 

 

 

           

 

 

Riddle me this, Riddle me that:  OK, not a riddle.  What's up with the rape at the end of Turandot?  It violates everything the opera is about, everything Puccini stood for, every impulse presented in all his previous operas.  

Of Turandot’s resolution, Puccini wrote:  “It must be a great duet. These two almost superhuman beings descend through love to the level of mankind, and this love must at the end take possession of the whole stage in a great orchestral peroration.”  Indeed, it seems from his sketches he was struggling to find a way to translate Liù’s sacrifice and Calaf’s first kiss into motivation for humanizing Turandot.  He wrote he was searching for “the characteristic, lovely, unusual melody” to convey this change. Unfortunately, the master died before he was able to construct that melody but his plans were clear: love would serve as the vehicle for redemption.  There is nothing in his notes that would indicate Turandot’s love would be secured by violent assault.

Even without the Puccini ending, however, we do know how he treated violence toward women in previous works, Tosca and Fanciulla del west.  In Tosca, the lead character is so repulsed by the idea of sexual submission that she kills the man who imposes himself on her and the hero, Cavaradossi, applauds her action; in Fanciulla, Minnie fights off the sheriff and pulls a gun to keep herself safe. It is clear Puccini understood the sensibilities that most women instinctively feel: rape is abhorrent and never the proper solution.  If that is true, then how did we get to a place where the entire opera revolves around that violent act?

Puccini apparently left behind 36 pages of notes and sketches in which he roughed out his solution to the problem he created with his Ice Princess; in those notes, there is a psychological levelling that allows Turandot to submit to Calaf while still maintaining her power and position; in short, Puccini had in mind an ending in which Turandot, who had spent her life fighting against the tyranny of the male, gains her freedom by surrendering to a man she truly loves--and a man worthy of that love.  For whatever reason, Alfano elected to ignore Puccini’s notes and score a moment of violence between Calaf and Turandot; indeed, he even composed a return to the idea of torture.  According to the paper Tonal Psychology in Puccini's Turandot by Jonathan Christian Petty and Marshall Tuttle,

Alfano's choice to ignore [Puccini’s] sketch has resulted in a tonal scheme which is neither suggestive of the healing Puccini intuited nor logical within the tonal realm he so painstakingly created.  In some respects Alfano's solution to this compositional problem create effects which are actually disintegrative of the dramatic development.  For instance, the kiss takes place over an eight measure E pedal, the same E pedal used for Liù's torture.  Whereas Puccini had apparently moved from the idea that Turandot would resist the kiss to the idea that she would instantly surrender, Alfano composes as if the entire episode expressed torture. As a tonal representation of reversed sexual sadism such a construction could perhaps be supported, but it is entirely irrelevant to the music that follows.  In essence, Alfano does not seem to have viewed the kiss as a moment of healing, but rather as a moment of sexual abuse, and it is in large part due to these eight measures that the rest of the duet comes off as incoherent and unbelievable. It appears that Puccini's solution would have been the opposite of what we have become accustomed to hearing, and a symmetry seems to have been building between acts I and III.  As night falls in Act I Calaf embraces Turandot, as day breaks at the end Turandot embraces Calaf – both these events being tonally encoded in the shifting relationships between the tones Eb and D in their various occurrences as keys, chords and notes within chords.  A cyclical effect seems to have been emerging in Puccini's conception.

Puccini's profundity is overwhelmed by Alfano's misplaced bombastic masculine victory in the war between the sexes.  After all, in this opera it is Turandot, the repressed female figure, who is domineering, abusive and violent.  Calaf heals her not through the exercise of a greater force, but rather through an act of loving submission, the role traditionally assigned to the female protagonist.

In short, then, any violence is in the music of Alfano, and it is his violence to the operatic vision of Puccini that makes the rape so jarring and out of place.  It is a misreading and one that distort and disturbs the flow and essence of the piece.  To eliminate the rape as the cause of Turandot's sudden change of mind and heart might do harm to Alfano and make director's seek better ways to change Turandot, but it would do far greater justice to Puccini’s genius.

 

ROH Turandot, Dec08 - Jan08, starring José Cura and Iréne Theorin

 

 


 

Turandot in Covent Garden

It may not be very subtle, but this is a gloriously on-message show

The Times

December 27, 2008

 Neil Fisher

That’s probably about as far as subtleties go in this show, but who can argue with a production as gloriously on-message as Andrei Serban’s classic staging? Here are outsized severed heads spilling silken blood from their mouths, masked grotesques wielding torture implements and a faceless, brown-smocked chorus whose calls for the executioner are much more convincing than their pleas for clemency. Stylised the violence may be, but this is a theatre of cruelty in which only an action man such as José Cura’s Calaf can possibly prosper.

Rather than some milksop princeling, Cura plays the part very much as if Andy McNab had stumbled into imperial Peking: that he’s the reason no one’s getting any sleep (Nessun dorma) is clearly a source of macho pride rather than a cue for a moonlit serenade. Pair his lusty but still nuanced tenor with Connell’s Turandot and the result is a visceral battle of wills.

 

Turandot

4-5 stars

Music OMH

Keith McDonnell

I can't remember the last time such a wonderfully musical Turandot graced the Covent Garden stage.


 José Cura as Calaf was on top form, producing some spine-tingling sounds and it was a pleasure that he actually sang 'Nessun Dorma' as if it meant something; his sensitive use of vibrato and understanding of the text puts many other tenors to shame and whether displaying his husky baritonal-tenor voice at mezza voce or full throttle, the results were thrilling.

 

 

 

PAYING COURT TO PUCCINI GENIUS

 

Daily Express

Neil Norman

TURANDOT

OUR VERDICT: 4/5

Argentinian tenor Jose Cura gradually rises to the occasion as Prince Calaf, underpowered to begin with and gaining confidence in much the same way as he did in La Fanciulla Del West. By the time he approaches Nessun Dorma, he is at full stretch.

 

 

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Turandot (Royal Opera)

The Teenage Theater Critic

José Cura is an ideal bit of casting as Calaf, the handsome, young "Unknown Prince". A rich sounding tenor with the range to pull off "Nessun Dorma" but the good sense to try and inject drama into everything. It might be an air that is commonly song like a battle victory celebration but the words are suggesting anything but and Cura was more than good enough to make it bitter sweet. 

This is a stunning production and a very solid cast. Cura was on top form and whilst I have my reservations about Connell, under the circumstances it was a very fine performance. Thrillingly sung in places, easy on the eye and it's not exactly a score to complain about. A great night out.

 

 

Turandot, Puccini, Royal Opera House, London

(Rated 4/ 5 )

Independent

By Edward Seckerson
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

How ironic that the one Puccini opera left unfinished at his death should end (or so it was deemed by those responsible for the finishing touches) with what has become the greatest of his hits – “Nessun dorma”. ..

It was a good night, too, for José Cura, well suited to the craggy heroics of Calaf, dark and strong in the middle voice and wholehearted in that aria. And Svetla Vassileva’s Liu, generous of voice and well-practised in the floated diminuendo-crescendos that characterise the role, traditionally upstaged everyone, even in death. Conductor Nicola Luisotti had the sweep and swoon and shimmer of a score that makes love and death almost indistinguishable.

 

Puccini: Turandot

Musical Criticism

Hugo Shirley

The Italian conductor, soon to take the helm at the San Fancisco Opera, is clearly not one to wallow in the luxurious colours of Puccini's japonaiserie; from his stern, tense account of the opening he kept the music flowing, pushing each act towards an inevitable conclusion. 'Nessun dorma' itself, powerfully sung by José Cura, was shorn of superfluous sentimentality and Luisotti pushed through without affording the audience a chance to break the momentum with their applause.

As Calaf, Cura was in fine fettle yet seemed in the first act to struggle to find the most powerful place for his voice to sit. The dark, baritone timbre at times weighed him down, affecting his intonation ... He warmed up throughout the evening, though, and was outstanding in a heartfelt but never indulgent account of his big aria. He still has a tendency towards an almost casual manner of delivery that can result in a petulance to his characterisation, yet he remains one of only a handful of tenors with a voice that can deliver visceral thrills.

 

 

Out of the shadow

Evening Standard 

Barry Millington 

Tuesday, 23 December 2008  

Spectacular as ever: Turandot

Any tenor tackling Nessun Dorma has the colossal shadow of Pavarotti bearing down on him. José Cura need not fear the comparison. He was once touted as the Fourth Tenor and he certainly has the heft and supreme confidence a successful Calaf needs.

As he scaled the heights of Nessun Dorma, his voice, enriched by an impeccably controlled vibrato, was, like the stars of the text, “trembling with love and hope”. Yet it was also rock-solid, more so than the flimsy oriental structure whose pillars he was clutching.

Andrei Serban’s 24-year-old production, revived by Jeremy Sutcliffe, is as spectacular as ever and a serviceable vehicle for singing of this quality.

 

The Royal Opera – Turandot
 

Musical Source

Alexander Campbell   

Monday, December 22, 2008

José Cura is certainly not immune to the temptation of milking this moment, unleashing his longest long note at the ending. Calaf is not the most engaging of heroes; indeed his single-minded pursuit of Turandot at the expense of the more sympathetic Liù makes him decidedly unappealing. Cura’s voice is not perfectly schooled but it has an appealing baritonal timbre and even if he’s occasionally cavalier with note values he does know how to hold a stage. […]

 

 

Turandot

SEEN AND HEARD OPERA REVIEW
Jim Pritchard

Cura’s was a subdued unshowy performance befitting with his perception of Calaf as something of an emotionless ‘bastard’ willing to let Liù die so that he can continue to climb the social ladder. His voice is not lyrical but has a burnished baritonal middle and solid top and the culmination of his performance was an assuredly ardent, if somewhat strangely reflective, ‘Nessun dorma’.
 

 


 

February 2009

February

7, 10, 13

Stiffelio

Staatsoper

Wien

February

17, 19, 21, 22, 26, 27

La rondine (Conductor)

Teatro Comunale

Bologna

February

20

Tosca (Gala)

Staatstheater

Wiesbaden

February

25, 28

Carmen

Staatsoper

Wien

 

 

My Dream Role - Don Giovanni

 

 

Interview, 02/2009

José Cura loves the Vienna State Opera, "because one enters into a relationship with the audience much like a marriage." Nevertheless, he still has many wishes for the house that he will present to the next management: premieres of Otello and Samson et Dalila for example - or Don Giovanni...

Renate Wagner

Der Neue Merker



Mr. Cura, we have again seen performances of “Stiffelio" with you in the lead role. One has the impression that this rarely performed Verdi opera is personally very important to you.

I sang the role for the first time in London in 1995, and in 14 years it has developed naturally, not just technically. If you sing Rudolf for such a long time, then one moves naturally away from the figure as a young poet. But in Stiffelio, as in Otello or Canio, one can only grow into it. 14 years ago, I had to pretend to be as old as Stiffelio, a man in his fifties, adding silver strands to my hair because I did not look old enough. Today I try to pull out the real silver...

You are 46, so it is probably not too bad yet ...

Basically it is about something else. There are two reasons why people go to the opera - or in general, two ways to approach opera. Some may simply want beautiful music - that's absolutely fine. Others want a truly thrilling theatrical experience. And that is it that makes me interested in a role. In general, one can say that Stiffelio gives nothing to the tenor, and if one considers that the soprano has several arias and the baritone and enormous scene, that may be correct. As a tenor one works hard singing all the time but remains somewhat in the background, the audience not even given the opportunity for applause so one remains unrewarded. But nevertheless, for me it a great role compared to others where one sings his arias and maybe has nothing interesting to play. I love complex characters. And when you consider the last act of "Stiffelio", the battle between him and Lina on the divorce, this is the purest Ibsen! It was ultra-modern and almost shocking for a Verdi audience. And perfect for me. I'm not gladly the hero or the romantic Beau, but love a difficult role. I sing Stiffelio wherever I can. In 2004 there was an interesting presentation in Zurich – at the beginning director Cesare Lievi and I did not quite come together, but it ended up being a very good effort. And in 2010 I sing Stiffelio at the Met, in a Giancarlo del Monaco production. 

 Speaking of dramatic roles: you sing Don José this year at the Staatsoper after Cavaradossi and Stiffelio.

Yes, and for me it is almost a premiere, because I sang the role here only once, 1998, more than ten years ago, and then only two performances with Agnes Baltsa. Vesselina Kasarova is now my partner, whom I know from Zurich, although I have never performed on stage with her.  I look forward to it, because she is a real stage animal.   

Between the Vienna Stiffelio and the Vienna Don José, you are travelling to Bologna to conduct some performances of ‘La Rondine’.  Is conducting a hobby or a career?

If a pianist like Barenboim or a cellist like Rostropovich conducts, no one thinks anything of it but if a singer conducts everyone is immediately suspicious.  I started my studies with the intentions of becoming a conductor and composer.  I also became a tenor and it would be senseless not to pursue this career, especially when one has brought it something:  a man spends so many years fighting to become a mature singer.  I would be lying if I said I am not happy as a tenor.  But if I were only a conductor, I would be satisfied.  Currently, about one quarter of my obligations are conducting, and this is a good thing, because it is not wise to sing too much, so it is good to let the voice rest and still do something musical.

Was your penchant for Puccini the reason for conducting ‘La Rondine’?

That, and because I think ‘La Rondine’ is in some ways similar to ‘Stiffelio’—little know, less popular but still a masterpiece.  The first act is pure conversation, in some ways Puccini anticipated the Richard Strauss style, it was actually revolutionary at the time, but it does not conform to the stereotype Puccini.  That is why it interests me.  But this work is also related to the fact that I am very much connected to the Bologna theater, where I have sung for fifteen years, and where I would have made an exciting premiere about which I was very happy—‘Nerone’ by Boito which was first performance in 1924 and has been sung since by almost nobody.  And the cancellation came with the greatest regret, because no one could afford the premier—the situation in the Italian opera houses at present is absolutely devastating, you never know when another premier will take place.  Then they asked me—probably because they needed a well-known name—whether I could do ‘La Rondine’ with students from the master class.  Because I work a lot and am very pleased to work with young people – my tenor in the "Rondine" was 22- I was happy to agree to do this. I think it is important that you give what you know and can, because otherwise how can we live on in the next generation. I hope somebody shares knowledge and experience with my children.

You have sung almost all the major roles in your fach.   Other than “Nero,” are there others you are open to?

I would very much like to sing Peter Grimes, which would be my first role in English.  I could probably sing one or two of the Wagnerian roles, but I know when I have to think in the language that I could not perform at the level I demand of myself and that is why I will probably never do it.  But I do have a dream—and that would be Don Giovanni.  Don’t say he is lies too low for me because I now sing Otello which sometimes goes as deep. I love Mozart but unfortunately don’t have the voice for his tenor parts—but Don Giovanni….someone should trust me with the role before I become too old for it.

You were—and still are—one of the big names in the generation that came after the ‘three tenors,’ but the next generation is also here.  The world of the tenor is a battlefield.  They are all seen are very ambitious.  Have you achieved what you wanted?

The pressure is enormous if you want to become a world-class tenor, but it is a lot worse when you are young than later.  Then we know we cannot be ‘the best’ but only the best we can be. And one must give this [this effort] every evening—but not every single night can turn out to be the best, one must also know this, because it depends on so many things, on ourselves, on our partners.  And if one recognizes this then the big pressure goes away, and one can take it more easily, smile a little more and feel fine.  One is, in the end, only a human being, not a perfection machine, every day is a lottery and with experience one can prevent some things…but if it happens, then it just happens. I must say that today I am more relaxed than before. We singers have a wonderful job that I truly love, and it is also a calling, but ultimately it is a job that pays the bills. And about ambition—it is a good thing, because if mankind had not always striven farther, today we would still be in the Stone Age.  I also think we should always aim for anything we are able to reach.  Without being greedy, however.  I admit that there are times when one becomes addicted to the applause of the audience, but after 30 years on stage—I was 15 the first time I stood on the boards—you learn to deal with it. 

Is not every singer addicted to applause?  How about boos, which there sometimes are.  Do they hurt?

This must also be seen in perspective.  If one has a bad night and knows it himself, maybe they are deserved, although not necessarily fair.  But 99 percent of boos are organized and that is really sad.  If someone says to me after the performance that I was not good—fine.  But to hide in anonymity, that’s cowardly.  I am almost sorry for these people.  But I am afraid we live in a world where this has become the norm, where everyone creeps away behind his computer and hides behind an alias when he expresses himself in blogs, chatrooms, or letters to the editors. Nobody admits who he is and what views he represents.

We talked earlier about how you actually wanted to be a conductor and composer.  Are you still composing?

Oh, yes.  From the beginning I was fascinated by the spiritually of the Latin church music, and in 1984 wrote a requiem for the victims of the Falkland War, later a "Stabat Mater" or a "Magnificat", also a children's opera.  Recently, I set seven poems by Pablo Neruda to music.  Whenever I sing them, they are very positively received.  In Vienna, I sang two of them for the “Argentine Nights”….

You come from Argentina, live in Madrid, travel around the world.  Where do you feel at home?

My wife and I left Argentina because we saw no future opportunities for us and our son—today we have three children, the youngest came into the world in Paris--and now Madrid is our home.  We left our homeland with the firm intention of not looking back with tragic nostalgia: though I do not cry for Argentina, I obviously feel connected to it.  I must say that my grandparents—they came from Spain, Italy, and Lebanon to find a new home after the First World War—once suffered as immigrants always do and longed for their former homes.  If my wife and I—her forefathers are Spanish and Italian—now come to Europe and have become half European, then it is virtually the return of the next generation.

You have spoken of your children.  Do any of them show interest in this, even maybe to become a musician?

My oldest son is already grown, he is 22, lives in London and wants to be an actor so one may still hear about Ben Cura.  My daughter is 15 with all the interests of a fifteen-year old, and my youngest son is 12, and his main interest currently lies in football.  I have always made sure my career does not eat up my family life—I never want to be away from home for longer than a week at a time, then I come back for a few days, even if I have to spend a lot of time in an airplane.  And it has cost me a lot of commitments, because I simply will not live for months without interruption in another city.

Last question:  what does the Vienna State Opera mean to you?

One must see this from two sides.  Here there is a special public with which one virtually enters into a lifelong relationship similar to marriage.  If they know and like you, they are interested in everything you do, every new role, every evening.  They know what one can do, recognize if one is very good and are not angry if once one is not perfect.  One must not always begin, so to speak, from zero again, one can build on this connection with the audience, and this is very beautiful for a singer.

On the other hand, the house is a repertory company, one in which one jumps again and again into his roles.  I have sung here since November 1996 when I debuted as Cavaradossi and since then I have performed in many roles but have had only one premier at this house, and that was ‘Le Villi,’ a one act opera.  I hope that if the management does a new production of ‘Otello’ and ‘Samson et Dalila’, they do them with me.  This is a wish and aim and I would like to deposit here as well as the Don Giovanni…..

Vienna, 2009.02.26

 

 

 

VIENNA — Stiffelio, Wiener Staatsoper, 2/7/09

Larry Lash


Elijah Moshinsky (direction), Michael Yeargan (sets) and Peter J. Hall (costumes) offer a strictly literal production: it could be any small community in the early days of electricity. The huge cyclorama that divides scenes depicts a cemetery and a tiny white clapboard church that could just as well be in Kansas as in Salzburg (Piave's intended locale). Handsome in its hyper-realism, the production depends solely on the dramatic abilities of its protagonists.

While he maintains an active schedule as both singer and conductor in Europe, José Cura remains curiously absent from North American rosters. (He adds a quartet of Turiddus and Canios in March and April to the scant fifteen Met performances he has given over the past decade.) Stiffelio is a superstar tenor's opera, and Cura has the power, passion, dedication and sheer charisma to pull off a role that is not first-rate Verdi. At forty-six, he can boast a voice in spectacular shape; the slight huskiness that drifts in under pressure in dramatic passages is easily forgiven as an exchange for the moment. There is a ping, a squillo to this big, burnished trumpet of a voice that remains virtually unmatched for sheer tenorial excitement.

As Lina, Hui He, fast establishing herself as a local favorite, showed beautiful, creamy tone and lots of it — too much, in fact: she seems incapable of singing at less than forte, but her lowest register has gone missing.

Stepping in for conductor Nicola Lusotti, excused from duty for the remainder of the season, Michael Halász occasionally stumbled with rhythmically-complicated passages, failing to make a case for this rarity except as a vehicle for the likes of Cura. 

 

'The hapless man of God, Stiffelio, arrived (as in the last few years) with José Cura and it is certainly one of his best roles - he does not do much yet conveys the internal struggles credibly. Vocally, we have heard the same for some time:  passages with real, beautiful tenorial brilliance - and those in which he does not control his voice. ...Applause.'  Renate Wagner, Der Neue Merker, February 2008

 

'... with distinctive baritone and manly roughness in the low [notes] and with lots of strange sounding tones in the high, José Cura appeared as the preacher who was cheated on. Those who do not like him will always knock the effusive style of his singing while those who like him can almost always take pleasure in his intense singing and acting portrait in the role, as happened this evening when he thanked with much applause. To try to bind Cura to a bel canto line would require a renunciation of intensity and expression.'  Peter Skorepa, Der Neue Merker, February 2008

Stiffelio in Vienna

'Star tenor José Cura interpreted the title character with increasing fervor and vocal power.  He formed a credible, multi-faceted character.' Wiener Zeitung

 

'For José Cura the role of the sectarian priest Stiffelio is an ideal one: he perfectly displays the warmth of a religious leader at the beginning, later the despair during his budding jealousy and the rage of the offended man. Throughout, Cura is always Cura, an extraordinary figure and a unique personality. In that he outshines most of his tenor colleagues. Cura not only portrays his character with great sensitivity for human emotions, he obviously also feels them himself! And he convinces vocally, creates nuances and moods with his dark tenor voice; equally convincing his art of expression and phrasing. His wife Lina’s brief affair provokes in this brooding missionary a range of emotions far from pious, even a desire to fight a duel with his rival Raffaele […]. Ovations!'  Wiener Zeitung

“Stiffelio”, a Verdi opera based on Emile Souvestre’s novella and fashioned into an opera libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, was first performed in Trieste in 1850 (one year before “Rigoletto”, which was much more effective). The work was not especially successful, but experienced a renaissance in the 90’s of the 20th century.

 

[...]

 

Moshinsky’s version was successful in London, Los Angeles, Milan, and then also in Vienna in 1996. He had moved the story of the clergyman, who forgives his unfaithful wife after an admirable inner struggle, from a Protestant castle in Austria into the milieu of the American Quakers. The rather realistic production-with sets reflective of the simple, plain lifestyle by Michael Yeargan and under the musically solid care of Marco Armiliato- takes place in the 19th century. It is a story about religion, honor, love, adultery, revenge, and forgiveness in the spirit of the biblical episode of Jesus and the adulteress.

 

New to the ensemble is the Chinese singer Hui He, the “Butterfly” of the Volksoper, who employed her ample dramatic soprano (with a couple of edgy upper notes) impressively in the tricky part of Lina at her State Opera debut. She was received by the audience just as enthusiastically as the captivating José Cura with his precise study, his acutely drawn sketch of the clergyman torn between jealousy, desire for revenge and faith-based forgiveness. His tenor, once marvelously smooth and elegiac, has become a bit harsher, but the power of his tenoral creativity (i.e. his ability to give shape to the character vocally), is even more intense and disciplined in its effect. An impressive evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

La Rondine, Bologna (conductor), Feb 09:   '…continuing on to the orchestra conductor was the surprising presence of José Cura, and as a conductor he surely has a future in front of him. To begin with, the care, if you excuse the word games, with which he wraps, protects the soloists is the reason for the sustained singing. … He was attentive to the rich colors that Puccini spread freely throughout this bird that are many times underestimated.  Bravo Maestro Cura!' La Recensione, April 2009

 

 


 

Tosca, Wiesbaden, Feb 09:  Hessisches Staatstheater: Puccini's Tosca with José Cura and Hui He:

José Cura, the Argentine-born tenor whose star could not rise high enough for some fans a few years ago has recently been specializing in Gala performances like this one in Wiesbaden.  In vocal terms, Cura proved to be a nearly perfect Puccini singer whose voice in piano suggests iridescent colors; in forte, a metal sound may be present.  His aria in the third act (E lucevan le stelle) was a trace reserved, his vocal union with Mario de Rose, guest director of the Hessischen Staatsorchester, flawless.’  Axel Zibulski, Main-Rheiner, 23 Feb 09

 

  

 

 

IN REVIEW / Opera News

VIENNA — Carmen, Wiener Staatsoper, 2/25/09

Larry Lash

May  2009 , vol 73 , no.11

 

Singers, ostensibly human beings as well, carry all the strengths and frailties inherent to the species. So the chance of getting four of the world's top vocalists — who also happen to be extraordinarily intelligent, as well as superb actors — together for four performances of a Wiener Staatsoper revival of a Zeffirelli Carmen (so ancient there isn't even any livestock involved) is about as likely as that alignment of planets in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

[...]

But Carmen comes down to the two leads, and there must have been some astronomical anomaly behind the pairing of baroque specialist Vesselina Kasarova, new to the role, and the force of nature called José Cura. Given the paucity of rehearsal time for revivals at Staatsoper, one has to assume it was a matter of chemistry, or intelligence, or spontaneity, or fate: the two worked off each other to create an edge-of-your-seat intensity, offering blood-and-guts characterizations while never neglecting Bizet's score.

Kasarova's voluptuous, earthy mezzo is a quirky sound, the kind of voice over which opera fans vehemently take sides. But no one can deny her technical abilities, and there were jaw-dropping moments — especially controlled drops into deep chest voice — and a surprisingly human approach to the role, snapping José's suspenders, tearing up the floor in the "Danse bohème" and, ultimately, utterly surprised when José stabbed her, pawing at his torso in disbelief as he let her drop to the ground. Kasarova's intensely sexual, wholly unorthodox Carmen will not be to everyone's taste, but what a welcome addition she is to a currently under-crowded field.

Just add José — Cura that is — and the mix was perfect. No wimpy mama's boy, this true dramático dude was unconsciously (or not) wrapping a leather thong around a hand while Carmen delivered her "Habanera," and he was clearly a brute in his lead-up to a staggeringly gorgeous, divinely phrased flower song. And, as previously mentioned, he proceeded to beat the crap out of Escamillo.

From the eardrum-shattering downbeat, Asher Fisch told us this was going to be a brutal, veristic Carmen, and the orchestra delivered brilliantly throughout. On top of it, the speed, accuracy, and vocal luxury of Ileana Tonca, Sophie Marilley, Benedikt Kobel and Clemens Unterreiner, as Carmen's smuggler pals, were a major contribution to this rare Carmen, for which all the planets were aligned.  

 

Carmen in Vienna, from Opernglas

[…] in the role of Don José, José Cura may have wished for someone more spirited and energetic, as was witnessed in the dramatic Act Two duet, but it by no means influenced the star tenor's incredibly virile vocal performance and poignant, precisely sung interpretation. On the contrary: Cura is more than reliable and an absolute musical revelation in his present form and with all the vocal and dynamic refinement, which in taste and style is unequalled among his colleagues today. Ovations for him […].

 

Carmen, Vienna, Feb 09:  Wiener Staatsoper: Bizet's Carmen with José Cura and Vasselina Kasarova:

‘As to José Cura as Don José, he is at least honest to the fingertips. Certainly, the mezza voce of the Flower song does not make his voice happy, but as soon as he let loose with power, he does so with full commitment and therefore also to full effect.  And he is a fascinating actor, especially at the end. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the role he does not transform into a begging weakling who sprawls at Carmen’s feet pleading desperately.  This José, who in the third act has already made plain how much his honor has been violated by Carmen’s behavior, tries one more time to settle things, to give her one last chance:  when she pushes him away, he does what must be done without emotion.  He stabs her, wipes the bloody knife on his pants and turns away.  No whimpering breakdown over the corpse.  Perhaps too macho but in any case, a man of honor.  And a highly impressive performance….’ Renate Wagner, Der Neue Merker, 1 Mar 2009

‘At moments of strength, José Cura (as Don José) convinced; where it became intimate he came to the edge of his pianissimo art.  Nothing new here, but in any case an intense, raging performance.’  Ljubiša Tošić / Der Standard, 27 Feb 09

‘At the very forefront is the concentrated power by the name of José Cura:  manly and massive is his tenor, but capable of caressing tones.’ Christoph Irrgeher, Wiener Zeitung, 27 Feb 09

 

José Cura as Don Jose in the 2009 Vienna production of Carmen

                                             

‘José Cura, who seems to relish the role, seemed almost indifferent in the first act, thawing only with the Flower Song.  He sang with unexpected control – and suddenly one felt what is actually in the voice, if it is reined in to meet the part. After an emotionally strong third act, Cura changed in the finale to a desperate, introverted underdog, who begs for love and can not tolerate Carmen’s superiority any longer.  Thus the murder becomes the impulsive act of a man with no reason to live begging for one last toke of love.’ Dominik Troger, Operinwien, 25 Feb 09

 

 


  

March 2009

 

March

4, 8 - 5

Carmen - Tosca

Staatsoper

Wien

March

7

Symphonic Concert

Óbudai Danubia Orchestra

Budapest - [conducting ]

March

15

Andrea Chénier

Badisches Staatstheater

Karlsruhe

March

30

Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci

Metropolitan Opera

New York

 

Versatility Is the Unrecognized Power of the Tenor

Widmar Puhl

20 March 2009

Last May, Achim Thorwald, the director of the Badische Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, announced a closer cooperation with the Argentine tenor, José Cura.  So far, Cura has sung the lead role in a gala performance of the opera "Andrea Chenier" by Umberto Giordano which was conducted, just like Cura’s 'Carmen' Gala last year, by Jacques Delacôte.  At the end, the audience stood to give the entire company an ovation, but primarily for Cura.  And rightly so -- and not just because there is currently no one else who can sing Andre Chénier, one of the monster roles in the repertoire for tenors.

His first complete (studio) opera recording was "Samson et Dalila" with Olga Borodina ten years ago.  In autumn 2010, José Cura will bring this opera by Camille Saint-Saens to the Karlsruhe stage when he designs the set, directs and also sings the lead in its premier.  Is this (workload) professional?

Cura: I think the term "professional" is somewhat more modest than the word "artist". I say this with all due respect, because it is not a stigma, not an original sin to be a professional. It is a humble recognition of the limitation to the boundaries that life shows us: up to a point I can do something and try to master it. This is very good, no more and no less. An artist, on the other hand, ultimately risks more. Only such people make a difference.

José Cura was born in 1962 in Argentina and grew up in a Mediterranean environment: his father was of Lebanese descent, his mother half Italian, half Spanish. He did not, however, get on his neighbor’s nerves as an early bathroom Caruso but instead went to the school of arts at the state university in his hometown of Rosario. That is, he went to drama school, took intensive guitar lessons and studied voice not at all. Such versatility, however, caused some critics to be suspicious. 

Cura: Malicious tongues say that I conduct because I can no longer win bouquets as a tenor. But I do different things because they interest me. I'm curious. Also, my career has reversed course. I started as a choir director. By training, I am a conductor and composer. I also directed smaller pieces. I only started to sing much later.

At 23, José Cura was at the Art School of the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. And after several years in the opera chorus, he wanted more. In 1991 he moved with his family to Europe - first to Verona, then Paris and finally Madrid. He gave concerts, experimented, and made his debut on quite a few stages.

As Otello, Don Jose in "Carmen" or Samson, the warrior of love in chains, he is in his element. These are roles that show the man as macho, jealous for no reason or justification, depending only on his hormones and caught in the contradictions of strong feelings.

His voice has gained in volume over the years, yet he also manages expression of strength with quiet tones. Beautiful examples can be found on the CD "Anhelo" - yearning - from the year 1998:  here he sings the pure songs of Argentinian composers, many based on texts by Pablo Neruda. In addition there are samples of the composer José Cura.

The Met in New York, the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, London, Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Stuttgart: suddenly everyone wanted him and he could not say no. He travelled the world, and sang - even in roles that he now rejects. He almost lost himself in the hype, Cura says self-critically.

Cura: That is probably exactly what happened to Rolando [Villazón]. Thank God he has recovered and is back again. And that's good, because he has a great talent and a very beautiful voice. 

In 2000, when he separated from his record company, José Cura put his career/company in the hands of his wife and spent time reflecting on his versatility. At the same time, he became choosier [about career choices] and abandoned compromises. He spent time as principal guest conductor of the Sinfonia Varsovia, began giving master classes, continued with his photography, made books and established his own CD label.

Some artists, says Cura, are like crystal vases: radiant, transparent and fragile.

Cura: Others, like me, are more like vessels made of wood. We are stronger and can endure more. The same thing happened to me as to Roland, but I have broader shoulders. I am physically stronger and apparently vocally resistant. I've been through this ordeal by fire. I survived to talk about it and now I am where I am, fortunately.

For José Cura, opera is not only a musical discipline but also an intellectual challenge, drama and sports. Accordingly, he moves on stage.  He has said that he loves the sweating, the excess, the dramatic living characters, the naked motions without the safety net.

The sensory contact with the audience is his drug, something that simply cannot be downloaded. Therefore, he questions stereotypes, changes perspectives, always tries something new.

Cura: The people expect or at least hope for it. The artist should set the standards. Otherwise, we could then continue as we did 150 years ago: not good, not bad, but just like 150 years ago. Creating new standards is part of our job.

 


 

 

Tosca, Vienna, Mar 09:  'Three artists with extraordinary stage instincts shaped this noble thriller in the 525th performance of this production. José Cura is the extraordinary man familiar in illustration and from the beginning he scores points as the revolutionary and the lover, especially when facing the firing squad at the execution command, recognizing it as the consequence of the perfidy of Scarpia he had understood for a long time. The fact he proved, in defiance of his critics, that his is a still a serious singer positively rounded off his achievement of the evening.  With almost sinewy stretched phrases, concentration, and brilliance in the high notes, he sang the aria and the duet in the first act with the requisite fervor, with convincing despair in the dungeon scene and hurled an ardent Vittoria at the police chief.' Peter Skorepa, Der Neue Merker, 5 March 2009

 

 


  

 

Cura Conducts!

Budapest  7 March 2009

 

 

 

 

 Photos by Zsuzsanna!

 

          

 

 


 

 

Andrea Chénier, Karlsruhe, Mar 09:  'The character of the revolutionary French poet is written into Cura’s body.  Magnificent was the fiery appeal in the salon of the Coignys when he presents his ideals or before the tribunal when he defends his honor.  Also the singing requirements [of the role] lie extremely well within his vocal chords.  After a few unfocused moments in the first act, he raced from highlight to highlight, crowned by the scene that might be considered to have taken the honors of the evening, at the beginning of the fourth act, ‘Come un bel di di maggio,’ in which José Cura also found quiet, gentle tones.' Manfred Kraft, Neue Badische Nachrichten,  17 March 2009

 

 

 

 

 

  

Curtain Call Photo by Irmela

 

 

Andre Chénier in Karlsruhe:  Wild with enthusiasm

 Andrea Cheniér in the Badischen Staatstheater:  an impressive gala with José Cura

José Cura is already almost a good friend of the Badischen Staatstheater:  now he lent a festive brilliancy to the second opera gala of the season.  After two performances of Cavaradossi and one as Don José, he starred as Andrea Chénier in Giordano’s opera of the same name.

The character of the revolutionary French poet is written into Cura’s body.  Magnificent was the fiery appeal in the salon of the Coignys when he presents his ideals or before the tribunal when he defends his honor.  Also the singing requirements [of the role] lie extremely well within his vocal chords.  After a few unfocused moments in the first act, he raced from highlight to highlight, crowned by the scene that might be considered to have taken the honors of the evening, at the beginning of the fourth act, ‘Come un bel di di maggio,’ in which José Cura also found quiet, gentle tones.

Barbara Dobrzansky was an ideal partner for him.  One could not have filled the role of Maddalena di Coigny better for the celebrated guest.  It was magnificent how both voices in the final duet merged so harmoniously.  Vocally, Armin Kolarczyk as Carlo Gérard was highly respectable and quite credible.  […]  The audience was wild with enthusiasm in celebrating the three protagonists.  Manfred Kraft, Neue Badische Nachrichten,  17 March 2009

 

 

Puhl-Podspot Interview (2-15-09)

 Interview With Tenor José Cura

There's life in the old dog yet*:  Prior to a gala performance of the Bizet opera "Carmen" on May 23, 2008, I met with tenor José Cura at the Badische Staatstheater Karlsruhe for an interview. The meeting concerned the issue of how Cura took hold of himself after his sudden fall several years ago; besides, it centered on his expanding artistic activities.

On March 15, 2009 he will be singing Andrea Chenier here. For the next few years, moreover, an agreement has been reached with regard to a closer collaboration between Cura and the Badische Staatstheater --and that in several areas. Manager Achim Thorwald is himself a versatile artist (singer, author, director). Perhaps that's the reason he has an appreciation of the multi-talented singer, who started out as the conductor of a chorus and by now is also directing. Here is the translation of the conversation, originally held in Spanish .

The way you differentiated between the term 'artist' and the term 'professional' rather impressed me.  How has your conception of the role of artist and professional changed in the course of your career?

I believe the difference is that the term 'professional' is a bit more unpretentious, more modest than the term 'artist'. I say that with all due respect because to be a professional does not carry any stigma; it is no original sin. It is a section of life or at times somewhat of a limitation, too. That is to say:  I'm good at something up to a certain point and I try to master that something. That's very good, no more and no less. The artist, on the other hand, is someone, who ultimately puts himself on the line, taking chances, risking more. The artist says: No, I'm going to attempt to express, interpret something in a certain way, and then I'll see what happens. If I'm in error, I'll self-correct and make adjustments, and if it turns out well, I'll improve on it even more. Such people effect change. I vaguely remember a wonderful book. It talked about all those geniuses, who were treated badly because they were poor students in school or downright rebellious, or didn't do their schoolwork; because of all sorts of things. A long list. In reading that, one comes to the realization: those are the very people, our progress relies on!

One of these stories is about [Alexander Graham] Bell, the inventor of the telephone. His critics back then were experts, the engineers and electricians. They wrote that the telephone was a pretty toy for the amusement of the scientists, but that it had no commercial future at all. 

I believe that's just the point. The artist takes chances and takes a beating for it. If you put yourself on the line, some will give you a whipping, and others won't. (Only) time will tell what comes of it. 

The artist is like a medium, like a bridge. People go across bridges; they make use of them: some walk filled with respect for the architectural structure, others run and jump, yet others spit on them or stop at a pillar and take a leak. The bridge is there, has to bear it all and endures. I believe this is the job of the artist: to be a bridge, to bridge things.

Those can be small things like the difference between a mediocre and a better functioning in the field of technology or major things like the invention of the telephone or the composition of the Ninth Symphony.

When Beethoven wrote his Ninth, critics alleged that it was 55 minutes too long, and that the second movement was unpleasant in sound, as if a gypsy woman were shaking a bag full of nails. And that about Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the foundation (stone) of all modern symphonies! Well: I believe that's the issue; that's my point.

 Question: You, too, have already been on the receiving end of (verbal) lashings.

 Yes, but I have also received flowers. It evens out; I can't complain.

 

 

 

Cav / Pag @ the Met PR

 

 

Alagna, Cura Star In RUSTICANA And PAGLIACCI At The MET 3/19
 

BWW News Desk

Two star tenors, Roberto Alagna and José Cura, take on the challenge of singing the lead roles in both Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci when the classic double-bill returns to the Met's repertory. At the season premiere on March 19, Alagna sings Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana for the first time on any stage and Canio in Pagliacci in his Met role debut. Waltraud Meier joins him in the Mascagni work as Santuzza, along with Charles Taylor as Alfio. Leoncavallo's opera also features Nuccia Focile as Nedda, Alberto Mastromarino in his Met debut as Tonio, and Christopher Maltman in his company role debut as Silvio.

José Cura also sings both Turiddu and Canio, the latter for the first time at the Met, beginning March 30. He is joined by Ildikó Komlósi in her first Met appearances as Santuzza and by Ambrogio Maestri as Tonio for the final four performances; Vasili Ladyuk sings the role of Silvio at the March 30 performance only. The rest of the cast remains the same as in earlier performances. Pietro Rizzo, who is making his Met debut, conducts all the performances, which run through April 10.

About the performers

[…]

With Turiddu, José Cura returns to the role of his Met debut, which he made on opening night of the 1999-2000 season; Canio is a company role debut for him. The Argentinian tenor has appeared in two other operas at the Met, as Cavaradossi in Tosca and as Samson in Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila. Next season, Cura sings the title role in Verdi's Stiffelio, which returns to the Met after an absence of 12 years. Elsewhere this season he sings Calàf in Turandot at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Zurich Opera, as well as Stiffelio, Cavaradossi, and Don José at the Vienna State Opera. In addition, Cura, who originally trained as a conductor, leads performances of La Rondine at Bologna's Teatro Comunale.

*

Cav & Pag at the Met

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Double duty in Leoncavallo's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Mascagni's "Pagliacci" has become common at the Metropolitan Opera.

Before this year, the only tenors to sing both "Cav" and "Pag" leads at the same Met performance were Kurt Baum, Placido Domingo, Frederick Jagel, Salvatore Licitra, Ermanno Mauro and Thomas Salignac. Now both Roberto Alagna and José Cura have performed the verismo doubleheader in the very same month.

Cura is not ideal but is far closer, with a baritonial timbre but a big bright side. He combined for thrilling duets with mezzo-soprano Ildiko Komlosi (Santuzza) in "Cavalleria" and soprano Nuccia Focile (Nedda) in "Pagliacci." His "Vesti la giubba" was penetrating [...]

 

 

 

Cura @ the Met

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Bravo Cura Reports:  Setting the Stage for Cav & Pag

 

If you have never been to the Metropolitan Opera, you may not realize just how huge the auditorium is.  Imagine this:  take three standard-sized opera houses and combine them into one supersized theater. Mix in row after row of red velvet seats, spreading them far away and high above the stage. Then cram bodies into those seats, turn down the lights, and sit back to enjoy an intimate evening of opera with nearly 4000 of your closest friends.

The auditorium is oval-shaped. Sound is reportedly best in the higher seats but the trade-off is significant: you give up the pleasure of seeing the drama in favor of hearing it.  Folks sitting on the sides experience various degrees of sight-line (and some sound) obstruction, so at any given time, depending on how the staging plays out, as many as a quarter of the people--almost a complete European theater audience--cannot see the action taking place on the stage, a fact that often seems lost on the director and set designer.  During our second performance, we were seated in the Grand Tier (second level balcony), on the outer aisle, reportedly a prime location (with ticket prices to match!).  Any scene that took place stage right (or upstage in Cav) was completely lost . As you might suspect, seat selection at the Met has become a fine art.

The Met stage, in keeping with the super-sized hall, is vast, both in length and depth and must present a tempting canvas for designers.  Franco Zeffirelli established the direction, created the sets, and designed the costumes for both Cav / Pag forty years ago; the hyper-realism of his effort seems a convincing, if somewhat dated, match to these ‘verismo’ operas.  In Cav, the massive, long flight of steps leading to the church allowed the Met to pack the stage with extras and supernumeraries and still leave room for a horse-drawn carriage to cross the big stage. Pag substituted a ‘natural’ stone outcropping for steps, again leaving enough room for the horse-cart to arrive with the troupe; however, for me the overall effect was less satisfactory than Cav, primarily because Pag often had a sense of being too crowded, too overwhelming, and too busy; with the full complement of actors and extras, it seemed almost claustrophobic.

Singing at the Met can be problematic and not just because of its big barn size. Complex sets like Zeffirelli’s can absorb notes and the many bodies seem to change acoustic characteristics.  There are the usual sweet spots on the stage but perhaps due to scenery or crowds Pag didn't seem to be singer-friendly. That was particularly true in the final scene, when the actors were shoved onto the ‘stage within a stage.' Not only was that stage area partially or fully obscured (depending on where you were sitting) but the staging sometimes turned the singers away from the real audience to sing to the stage audience. As a result, occasional words and phrases were swallowed or muffled during the critical denouement.

Intimacy is sacrificed to the big spread spectacle of the Met.  With the greatest of pleasure we watched and listened from the first row on 30 March as the plots unfolded. Raw emotions rolled from the stage, inviting us into the world of Turridu and Santuzza, Canio and Nedda; José Cura, compelling actor that he is, offered a detailed and nuanced depiction of the good boy gone bad whose conscience never really deserted him and of the desperate and despairing clown whose life was a tragedy even before he was pushed to violence. We saw a thrilling performance with all the details we have come to expect from Cura and heard every word and phrase clearly is his uniquely wonderful dark tenor voice, even the hauntingly subdued ‘La commedia e finita.’ On Thursday, 2 April, frustrated by the distance that put an insurmountable barrier between us and the actors, we lost the sense of emotional attachment and missed some of the phrases entirely; the ‘La commedia e finita’ that reached us in the balcony was barely audible and sped past us too quickly to reach out and hang onto, arriving as an anticlimactic whisper that died away before it was finished. 

Summary of Cav:  Hyper-realistic sets and a cast of hundreds threatened to overwhelm Pietro Mascagni’s slender tale, but José Cura offered a nicely nuanced, impressively introspective performance in the role of Turiddu. The highlight of the evening:  Cura’s Mamma, quel vino e generoso.

Setting the stage:  Franco Zeffirelli introduced his Cavalleria rusticana to the Met in 1970; his staging not only replicates the isolated, downtrodden village but also establishes the dramatic texture that drives the tragedy.  In a place time has passed by, the old order lives by the old rules – the public humiliation of one man demands the death of another. Young, energetic, newly worldly-wise from his military stint, Turiddu certainly must have chaffed as much from the claustrophobia of his closed community as from the heartbreak of Lola’s betrayal.

Gentle Musings:  One of the interesting aspects of Cav is its structure: it is clearly divided into a ‘woman’s’ opera and a ‘man’s’ opera, balanced on the fulcrum of the critical confrontation scene. 

For the first half of the opera, Santuzza drives the message, spinning her web of woe against a wall of some of the most exquisite music in opera.  Santuzza is so successful in establishing the narrative of aggrieved innocent that we ignore worrisome signs in her behavior and forget that Turridu is never given an opportunity to speak in self-defense.  Drama comes in fits and starts and the opera meanders.

The second half of the opera is given over entirely to the men.  Pace and pulse quicken. The stage becomes a testosterone-filled arena, with Turiddu flirting with Lola and Alfio posturing jealously with his switchblade—and yet, in the middle of all this chest-thumping and manning up comes the most poignant aria in the opera.

In Performance:  Ildikó Komlósi-a fine singing actress-played Santuzza as a near hysterical, obsessive woman, one for whom overwhelming love turns instantly to unquenchable hate.  We never know for sure why Turiddu courts her, or why she offers up her virtue so easily to a man who clearly does not love her, though a modern interpretation would probably read her pregnancy as a desperate effort to get Turiddu to marry her in spite of his misgivings. Certainly Santuzza’s behavior would be enough to warn off most men. Wearing her excommunication almost as a badge of honor, she shows no dignity in her manipulation of Mamma Lucia, in her groveling appeal for love from Turiddu or in her revenge-soaked revelation of the affair to Alfio.

Lola was well-sung by Ginger Costa Jackson but the young actress came across as too overtly bold for the conservative little community: she overplayed the sexuality of her character, her hip thrusts and provocative body language too obvious, her preening arrogance and narcissism too transparent: if Santuzza stalked her man, Lola toyed with him. That she traded Turiddu’s love for a life of wealth and position clearly indicates character’s shallowness; that she allows Turiddu to fete her in public after the mass clearly indicates the character’s sense of entitlement. When she at lasts understands the danger, she scurries away without a thought for the fate of her lover: Lola is, after all, all about Lola.

Alberto Mastromarino sang Alfio well; Jane Bunnell, heavily made-up, played the thankless role of Mamma Lucia with dignity. 

Finally, there was José Cura in the role of Turiddu.  Caught between a vixen and a virago, he plays Turiddu with remarkable insight, bringing the role alive with energy and charm.  He captures the innate conflict of the rustic gentleman, a man well schooled in the hide-bound ways of the village but trapped in the fantasy of first love. His relationship with Santuzza is seen only in the snippets where Santuzza attacks, reveals her obsession, then ping-pongs back and forth between greedy love and scorching anger:  he is moved to pity and repelled in equal measure.  The internal conflict is less in the words given to Turiddu than in the acting--his final walk away from Santuzza lingers in the memory as a particularly fine moment.  Every slow step is painful; the pause halfway up the church steps in response to Santuzza’s hurled curse, with slumped shoulders, dropped head, extended fingers, telegraph emotions that need no words.  This is a man filled with angst and self-loathing, torn between right and wrong, helpless to escape the trap he finds himself caught in.

The drinking song is the only opportunity to see Turiddu in ‘natural’ form and it is clear from his interaction with the crowd that he is well-liked and admired by the villagers; even his broad flirting with Lola is tolerated good naturedly--in a town where nothing is kept hidden, discretion brings with it its own cloak of tolerance. Only when secrets are pushed into the open (as Santuzza does in illuminating Lola’s and Turridu’s affair) does rustic etiquette require retribution. 

There are magical moments in the opera house and those of us in the theater on this Friday night bore witness to one.  On this night, José Cura captured raw emotions, channeling the agony and fear of the young man who had drunk too much wine but had not lived enough life.  His Turiddu needed the blessings of his mother, the final kiss of the one woman who had loved him unselfishly and without reservation; he also needed to clean his soul of the one stain he had left:  he may go to his death still in love with Lola but he makes sure that Santuzza, the woman who had made that death inevitable, is provided for. With heart in voice, Cura found the right measure of the man, the right tenor of the song, the right emotion—the final ‘Mamma’ ripped at the soul.  Everything after that was anticlimactic, with no room left for sympathy for Santuzza.  Turiddu, the energetic, fun-loving center of this dark drama was dead, and the Easter Sunday ended with no joy.  

Coda:  Cura shows excellence in all the roles I have seen him in but to me he is at his best in those that allow him to display true vulnerability. His Otello, for example, is a remarkable accomplishment of towering strength but it succeeds almost in spite of Cura’s unsympathetic, dark take on the character; his Don Carlo, in contrast, soars because Cura permits himself to wear the weakness and despair of the prince as a second skin—we come to care about this fragile human being. His Calaf charges brilliantly through Turandot like a general leading his troops to certain victory but in his eagerness to add meat to the character Cura risks losing the humanity at the heart of the opera; his Stiffelio, in contrast, shatters in front of us and makes us ache with the pain of betrayal. So it is with Turiddu, a character in a lightweight opera best known for its beautiful intermezzo. Cura brings the role alive and touches us with his character’s lust for life and love and in his fear of defeat and death.  His final aria, his haunting last ‘Mamma’, touched us precisely because this big macho man strips down to his bare essence and allows us to share with him our common humanity.  It was an unforgettable performance by an artist who has matured nicely into the role of the young man……

 


 April 2009

 

April

2, 7, 10

Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci

Metropolitan Opera

New York

April

25

Tosca

Staatsoper

Wien

April

28, 30

Tosca

National Theatre

Szeged

 


 

 

You made your Met debut ten years ago as Turiddu. Now you’re back singing Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

 It’s a tough cookie to do both. The problem is the combination of tessitura. Cavalleria has a high tessitura, Mascagni is very tense in terms of singing. Canio is more towards the center, a very dramatic tessitura. So that’s where the problem lies, to switch from one to the other. It’s not really the length. Cavalleria is maybe like one act of Otello, and Pagliacci is another act of Otello. If you do Otello, you have two more acts to go. So in terms of physical effort, both together are like one big opera. It’s good to start with Cavalleria because Pagliacci makes the voice a bit darker and puts it down in gravity. Not to mention that Turiddu is maybe 18 and Canio is over 50, so you have to have a psychological switch as well. But for me it’s easy because I have plenty of gray hair everywhere, so I just paint it black for Turiddu and wash it out for Canio and that’s it.

How do you approach playing these two characters?

Do you have three hours? (laughs) No, well, it’s a very complicated thing. Yesterday in rehearsal I was talking with one of my young colleagues, Ginger Costa-Jackson [who plays Lola], and we were discussing that the big drama in Cavalleria is like a García Márquez piece, you know, Crónica de una muerte anunciada. That’s what happens with Turiddu. From the moment that Alfio marries Lola, everybody knows that because of the codes of the village, Turiddu has to die. Or not to come back at all. But if he comes back he has to restore his honor by challenging the other guy. It’s not that Lola was Turiddu’s lover and then, okay, who managed to get her into bed first won the battle. It’s not that. Lola was promised to Turiddu, so it was a serious thing. And when he came back, he found her married and that must have been a big shock. Today that’s every day’s music, people going up and down. But at the time and in such a small village of 200 or 250 inhabitants, imagine what a scandal it was. It’s like a Greek tragedy.

How about Pagliacci?

Pagliacci is another thing, it’s more of an everyday story. It’s sort of a radiography of show business in a way. You can see it in many different ways. You can see the old man who takes advantage of the young girl, selling her this idea of a big career if she goes to bed with him. That’s one side of show business which is still very common today. Or you can face it the other way: the young girl seducing the old man and taking advantage of his position to make a career and then dropping him from the moment she becomes a diva. Which is, again, very common today. So aside from the local colors and from the fact that it’s of course a poor company of clowns and not a big opera company or anything very important status-wise, the story behind it is entirely modern and a clear depiction of the show business.

You seem to be very interested in that story, since you also conceived and directed a new piece based on Pagliacci, called La commedia è finita [“The comedy is over,” the last words of the opera].

 That was a beautiful experiment we did two years ago in Croatia. I was invited to direct and sing Pagliacci, and the question was how to turn it into a full evening without putting another opera before it. So we thought of making a pantomime. And I had this idea of inventing a story to explain how that company of clowns became what it was. It’s set in a school. And because it was a poor school, there were no toys so they spread the word that everybody who had an old toy to give to the school was very welcome. People in the village brought different kind of toys: a clown, a ladder, a puppet’s house. And what happened was that the tailor had no toys to give so he gave a mannequin that he had in the window of his store. One day the ballerina toy woke up and fell in love with the mannequin. But the pagliaccio toy was also in love with the ballerina and hated the mannequin, so he destroyed it. And by discovering these feelings of hate and love, the toys became human. And by becoming human, they didn’t have a chance anymore of being taken care of by the kids, so they had to earn their living and created the company of the clowns. And at that point, the opera started. I did a monologue dressed as the old keeper of the school, telling the story. Then there was the pantomime, and then the opera. It was a beautiful thing.

You have a very versatile career as a singer, conductor, and recently also as a director. How did that happen?

The singing was the last thing to come, contrary to what people think. My career really is conducting and composing. That was my training, and I became a singer just because one of the complements of my conducting career was to learn how to sing, like I also learned to play the violin and several other instruments. It was part of the curriculum, and when I discovered I had a voice one thing led to another. I always say that conducting was and still is my vocation. The reason I became a musician was for being a conductor. Singing is a beautiful accident that happened.

 You sometimes sing and conduct at the same time. How does that work?

Well, you can do it in a recording studio or in a special moment in a concert, but you can’t do a whole opera of course. But technically it’s not complicated. If you can play the piano and conduct at the same time, when you have your hands busy, why not sing and conduct at the same time when your hands are not busy? (laughs) The real job of the conductor happens during rehearsals. If you have a good orchestra and you did a good set of rehearsals, then all you have to do in the performance is give attacks and cues, but the concert really goes more or less by itself. I’m talking about a symphonic concert, not an opera, where the conductor in the pit is extremely necessary because he is the link to the stage. But in a normal concert, you just do good rehearsals, you establish some cues where you have to meet, and then you do the thing. It’s exhausting, though, because you need triple concentration. And you need to really have control of your breath because when you move your arms and sing, of course you need double breath. So it’s not an easy thing you would do every day. But it’s a good experiment to find new things. The only way to discover things is to go and do them.

 A few years ago you did something very interesting during a run of Cav & Pag in Hamburg...

I conducted Cavalleria on three or four nights. By the way, my soprano was Ildikó Komlósi, who is now my partner here at the Met. And during intermission I ran upstairs, dressed, and then came out to sing Pagliacci. That was a great experiment!

Recently you’ve also become a director and designer.

Back in Argentina, I directed some little shows and straight theater but then put everything on standby. When I was invited to do Pagliacci, it was a very happy thing for me because it was like coming back to my beginnings. The year after I did Ballo in Maschera in Cologne, where I also designed the sets. I didn’t sing. It was a little scandal because of course the press hated it, since it was against what German productions today are meant to be. But I think it was a good compromise between Regietheater and having beautiful things to see on stage. We did 25 performances for a sold-out house with a cast of singers that belonged to the theater. There were no stars. Which means the show really pleased the public, and in the end, that’s what we try to do. I’m really proud of it because the production paid for itself many times, which is very important today, to recover the investment.

It sounds like there will be many things to keep you busy if you ever decide to stop singing.

I don’t know. I had many plans ten years ago, but in the last five years the show business has changed so much. The economical crisis, the internet, the crisis of the record labels, blah, blah, blah... The whole thing has changed a lot and we are still trying to understand what the future of all this is going to be. Not just because every day we hear about a theater canceling a production or even closing its doors, which is very dramatic, but also in the general sense. People today, because of all the technical facilities, have become a little impatient, or superficial. There’s no more long-time investment in young singers. People of my generation, we have paid our dues and we made it, but I wonder what it’s going to be for the next generations. The pressure is very high, the pressure of doing fast and good, and of doing it yesterday, not tomorrow.

So I really don’t know what the future will be for the whole thing, let alone my own. It’s very difficult to stop being an artist, to say, okay, I’ve done my job, I go home and make my garden. I just conducted La Rondine in Italy a month ago and I was very pleased because the reviews pointed out the quality of the conducting, the type of phrasing which was linked to the fact that I am a singer myself. I thought, here I am, conducting Rondine in Italy, they’re going to tear me to pieces, but it was exactly the contrary. So maybe there’s a future there? I don’t know. But if there’s a future as a conductor, who and what the hell are you going to conduct if everyday we’re having one orchestra less due to the crisis? So, there are many questions and few answers. Although I would be happy if I could finish paying for my house so I don’t have the pressure of the mortgage. (laughs) I have a big house! And then we’ll see. —Philipp Brieler

 

 


 

Pag at the Met

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Met, Mar & Apr 09:  '‘Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci showcased their second casts March 30, notably slowly led by Pietro Rizzo, one of several young new Met conductors this season. The ever-puzzling Argentine tenor José Cura took over the evening's double duty - Mascagni's Turiddu and Leoncavallo's Canio - from Roberto Alagna. Cura fared better in the Mascagni work, tapping into the self-hatred that most Turiddus miss, creating an interesting portrait of a somewhat weary village playboy fatally caught between duty and the call of one last fling. His method remains an odd one, but he managed good sound and gave the oft-shouted-through "Addio alla madre" a dynamic variety that made it the more moving. The almost-improvised-seeming Canio, for which Cura has all the assets, just didn't add up as a unified character and rarely sparked excitement.

Ildiko Komlosi enjoyed warranted exposure this year as Herodias and (now) Santuzza. If not a dewy-fresh teen, neither was Cura's seducer; together they made something more complex and real of their long duo scene than I've seen in this staging for years.’  David Shengold, Gay City News, 30 March 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Met, Mar & Apr 09:  'On Friday, I caught the final performance of the season revival of Zeffirelli's production of "Cav/Pag," a double-header of the Puccini-esque one-act operas "Cavalleria Rusticana" and "Pagliacci." The roles of Turiddu in "Cav" and Canio in "Pag" were shared between Robert Alagna for the past few performances and later José Cura.... I thought that Cura was in excellent voice and gave a strong performance in both operas. I always recommend this double bill of realismo melodramas for newcomers to opera.'   Matt Windman, AM NewYork/New York City Theater, 13 April 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Met, Mar & Apr 09:  'The spotlight on the curtain just before it rose on Franco Zeffirelli’s almost too-accurate Sicilian mountain village drew from us soft gasps of alarm, but it was just an announcement that José Cura, though suffering from a cold, would be singing both leading tenor roles in any case. In the event, his opening serenade did indeed sound labored — but when was the last time you heard any tenor, even in the pink of health, sing that aria of sated love with an easy, leggiero line? For the rest of the night he was fine.....' John Yohalem, Opera Today, 7 April

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Met, Mar & Apr 09:  'Double duty in Leoncavallo's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Mascagni's "Pagliacci" has become common at the Metropolitan Opera. [...] Before this year, the only tenors to sing both "Cav" and "Pag" leads at the same Met performance were Kurt Baum, Placido Domingo, Frederick Jagel, Salvatore Licitra, Ermanno Mauro and Thomas Salignac. Now both Roberto Alagna and José Cura have performed the verismo doubleheader in the very same month.  [...] Cura is not ideal but is far closer, with a baritonial timbre but a big bright side. He combined for thrilling duets with mezzo-soprano Ildiko Komlosi (Santuzza) in "Cavalleria" and soprano Nuccia Focile (Nedda) in "Pagliacci." His "Vesti la giubba" was penetrating [...] ' Ronald Blum, AP, 1April 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SzegedIndex
April 29 2009
Rab Gyula

Excerpts

In two days, José Cura will perform as Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Szeged Natinal Theater.  We spoke to him....

Q:  How do you spend your spare time?

JC:  There is no spare time, time that cannot be used.  But I do play sports, even though I am very busy.  It is very important on the stage that, even if the voice is good, you have enough stamina. 

Q:  What is the status of young people?

JC:  My son of 21 is an actor in London, the other two are too little to decide now but none of them is going to be a musician, I think.  It would be great to organize one day a conference at the University of Szeged, to go and just have everybody talk about music, about life, about art. Now that my older son in already in his twenties, I realize how important it is to stay close to people.

Q:  Do you remember your time as a student?

JC: That was not an easy time. When I was at the univesity, and that was twenty-six years ago, it was during the period of the dictatorship in Argentina. It was difficult and dangerous. I made it, but unfortunately many did not. On the other hand, we were very close to each other. When things are going well, people pull away from each other somehow.

Q:  How do you see the future?

JC:  I do not know, there is no magic. A year or two ago no one thought about what was going to be the problems of the world today.  So all the plans we had for now have to be changed. A year ago my father was still alive.  Today he is not. I think the best way is to live for today. Carpe diem. And prepare for the future.

Q: The current economic situation-- how you see it ?

JC: Traveling around the world in the last month you feel the same, an unease that a big deal of the problem was that we were living an unreality.  And apart from the fact that, unfortunately, a lot of people are suffering from this crisis, it is not too bad that it happened now, because we still have time to recover. 

Q:  What is the most important thing to know about José Cura?

JC:  I am a positive person.  I am enjoying life in the sense that I am lucky.  I have a beautiful family, I have been with my wife for thirty years and my kids are growing up beautiful and healthy, so I have everything I wish to have.

 

 

 

 

Cura in Szeged - TOSCA

 

 

Rehearsal

 

 

 

Performance

 

 

 

 

  

 


 

May-June 2009

May

16, 21, 24, 27

Turandot

Opernhaus

Zürich

June

6, 9, 11, 14, 17, 19, 21, 26

Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci

Opernhaus

Zürich

June

24

Concert gala

Teatro Campoamor

Oviedo

 


 

 

 

Maestro Gives Back

British Youth Opera Masterclass 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Raw Emotions, Bared Feelings

 

Opernwelt

 05.08.09

 

José Cura on the sensuality, the sensuousness of opera; on bad composers; on a possible withdrawal from his career as singer.

 

--Mr. Cura, on the day Massenet’s “Cid” premiered in Zurich, you learned of your father’s death. Yet you still went on to sing.

 

--Yes, it was a nightmare and a very special situation all at the same time. I had always known intuitively that this kind of message would reach me eventually, when least expected. But it was also clear to me that I was bound to break down and cry for a week whenever my father passed away. On the day of the “Cid” premiere, I had no clue what I should do. I was distraught about that, too. Now add the fact that the performance would have been cancelled if I had not sung. There are simply no singers who have “Le Cid” in their repertoire. Sometime along the way, I told myself, “Let it all out while you’re singing”. I had Alexander Pereira, the theater manager, announce me with an introduction. And I dare say that I sang as never before. In any case, it was as intense as never before. I will surely not be able to repeat that. I hope, I will never have to sing this part again, ever.

 

--To what extend did you sing differently?

 

--I cried as I sang. The conductor was also crying, as was the audience. I believe that in the end the standing ovations weren’t for me but for my father. Then, there is the fact that Massenet’s “Cid” deals with a father-son conflict from beginning to end. Looking back, I believe there couldn’t have been a more beautiful tribute to him than that.

 

--In the meantime, you have been reducing your singing schedule noticeably in favor of conducting and stage directing. Have you grown tired of your career as a singer?

 

--No, but I’ve grown a bit weary of the routine. Roles like for example Loris in Umberto Giordano’s “Fedora”--an opera, which may not be top choice—are difficult for me on a continuing basis. After a certain period of time, they come to taste bitter. Massenet, too, is after all a good composer but not one with whom any given note could only be this one way and no other. I must say that in the course of my career, I have taken the stage in quite a few works, which are, musically speaking, not completely satisfactory. I’m not trying to complain; rather, I do know how to judge what separates Mozart from the early Verdi. “Stiffelio” is a very beautiful piece, but it cannot compete with “Falstaff”, can it?

 

--You are talking about a feeling of unease towards the works you sing?

 

--Yes, a bit. An artist’s most essential attribute, his most characteristic quality should indeed be honesty. I am more honest, more genuine, when I am doing something that really engages me mentally, that touches me on the inside. I have moved among a limited number of roles and role offerings for too long. Besides, I am sensitive to the limitations, the finite nature of my profession. Giuseppe di Stefano, recently deceased, had a colorful, richly varied, perhaps excessive life. He lived to be 86 years old, but his career was at a peak not even twenty years.  My father’s death made me once again keenly aware of how limited, how finite everything is.

 

--You hail from Argentina; your musical versatility is somewhat similar to that of your compatriot Daniel Barenboim. Coincidence?

 

--Yes, for sure. Barenboim’s many-sidedness, also in the political, linguistic and cultural arena, is amazing. I mustn’t compare myself to him, whom I consider to be one of the greatest minds among musicians of the present time. Compared with him, I am quite small.

 

--How do you explain the fact that there are so many South American tenors?

 

--The short answer would be that the very question is actually discriminatory. Nobody wonders about three Italian-speaking tenors. But the five South American tenors- and there’s no getting around that they in fact exist- have to define and explain themselves constantly. I think that’s just asking too much. The more serious answer would be that as a people we are very much a cultural mix. My father’s family hails from Lebanon; my mother is half Italian and half Spanish. Thus, as far as ancestry is concerned, I am absolutely Mediterranean. At least, that might be a cultural explanation for why I ended up in Italian opera.

 

--Has the time passed, when you were frequently asked about Wagner?

 

-- Thank goodness! I have always declined all Wagner offers, and I’m going to stick to that. In fact, even the concert version of “Parsifal”, which I was to sing at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper in 2010, is not going to take place. Not on account of me, to be sure, but rather because the future principal conductor would prefer to do a full-fledged stage production. My problem is: I consider learning a text phonetically the worst of all ways imaginable. Doing that, you’ll never find the clues that point to the spirit of the matter. I’m blessed with what I’m capable of and will humbly stay with it. To be sure, the only Wagner role that could indeed tempt me would be Tristan. Some sort of German Otello, isn’t he?

 

--Surprisingly enough, your career started with parts in Hans Werner Henze’s “Pollicino”, Oscar Strauss’ “Walzertraum” and Janacek’s “The Makropulos Affair”. Was your voice misjudged so badly?

 

--Perhaps, but more than anything I’ve no doubt continued to develop in the meantime. I was in Vicenza not too long ago, where two nice-looking young people came to me backstage. “Don’t you recognize us?” they asked me. It was Pollicino and one of his little sisters, the child actors from fifteen years ago. I could probably sing the role of Niki in the “Walzertraum”, which is rather low, better today than back then. The only thing is that I’m perhaps already too old for it. I consider Janacek’s “Macropulos Affair” a really great work, and I enjoyed singing it a lot.

 

-- Your most important roles are no doubt Otello and Samson. How often in the course of a year—and how often in a career—is one able to sing such roles?

 

--A very legitimate question. For a while there, it was awful with “Otello”; I was singing him constantly all over the world. That got to be too much, even for me. I haven’t sung the role for a year and a half now, and in the future I’m going to do about five or six “Otello” performances per year. The problem is that this role really is a killer. You’re totally exhausted afterwards, physically as well as emotionally; a total wreck. Nonetheless, in 2010 I plan to return to the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in both roles, as Otello and as Samson; both in new productions. I keep to what I can do best. And if there is anything that I truly regret as far as my recording career is concerned, it is the fact that I never managed to do a studio recording of “Otello”.

 

--In Hamburg, you conducted “Cavalleria rusticana” in 2003, and right afterwards, as part of that evening’s performance, you sang Canio in “Pagliacci”. To set a record?

 

--No, rather because it was an offer. Artists respond to offers. And you know what: I didn’t do badly at all.

 

--It seems that you find yourself time and again in a position of having to defend, i.e. to justify yourself, due to your varied activities.

 

--That’s indeed so. People always ask: Why? Whereby most of them could give themselves the answers or they’re asking the question out of ignorance. All I can say is: If the concerts I conduct don’t speak for themselves, well, then there is nothing I can do about it. But I do believe they speak for themselves.

 

--Since you are a singer yourself, are you a better conductor for your singers because of that fact or rather only a tougher one—something that is said for example of the former counter tenor René Jacobs?

 

-- A better conductor; that’s what I hope I am. For I know what singers need from a conductor. And I dare say I’m also a bit tougher because I cannot accept the sentence: “That cannot be sung” from a singer. That’s to say, not when I know that, and even how, it can be done. This may also be a reason why singers are often dissatisfied with conductors. When they know too little about singing (as is the case with most), they do everything wrong. When they know too much about singing (as is the case with very few), the singers do everything wrong. From a singer, who refuses to do something, I can accept only this one sentence: “Can’t we try it a different way?” And I mean, that’s what I’ll do then, too.

 

Rolando Villazon’s career received a substantial boost thanks to his stage partner Anna Netrebko. Things were similar for Domingo due to Leontyne Price, and in the case of the young Pavarotti because of Joan Sutherland. Does one need something like that as a tenor?

 

Fact is that I had nothing of the sort. For the news, which should always be taken care of these days, it’s perhaps something that’s necessary. On stage, I have often rather had the feeling that a good mezzo soprano or a good baritone is important to a tenor. There are really great things to be sung together. This can be of greater significance to the course and the tenor of a performance than a famous soprano.

 

If you had made the change away from Erato early on- if you, for instance, had gone to Deutsche Grammophon, would your career have developed differently?

 

Today, that’s certainly no longer the case. One mustn’t forget that there has been a tremendous decline in the importance and impact of the CD labels. In the past, one got a ‘Gold Record’ for 100,000 copies sold, these days already for 10,000. I’m afraid, the continuing trend toward the internet plus the download have sealed the fate of the CD. I still grew up with vinyl discs, LPs. They were huge, and there was a sensuality to the touch. That was something luxurious. In my opinion, the move down to the CD, even though acoustically of advantage, was already sad enough, but there’s a genuine experience of a loss in the step to the download.

 

What is it that gets lost for you?

 

The sensual experience of the contact, of being in touch. Things are getting ever more anonymous and lonely for us. One doesn’t even go to a store any more. We used to call each other up on the phone. Today, one texts the words “f… you”, if one wants to break up with someone. In that respect, classical music is a bastion of what’s old-fashioned, of what’s no longer ‘in’. But that’s also where the only chance is, in my estimation.

 

Also as far as opera is concerned?

 

Absolutely. People could stay home, if their sole intent were to listen to music. In opera, everything revolves around immediacy, the directness of the singer-audience experience. Between us, there is nothing other than the music. Opera is about larger-than-life characters, sweating, excessive, radically dramatic; it’s about emotions, in the raw without safety net, and that’s what’s so special, so unique. We are no ‘digital files’, nothing virtual. That’s the difference. And out of this arises a cultural mandate, a mission. We’re out to preserve something otherwise on the verge of being lost.

How is it that you are one of only a few singers who get to have their own fan club?

I admit, I have been wondering about that myself. Several years ago, some very friendly ladies came to me and asked whether I objected to a fan club. The problem was that my name is behind it; that I, therefore, appear to be somehow connected with it, which is after all not really the case. But meanwhile, I'm finding it to be quite nice. I suppose it's also a tenor thing.

Do you have as many different role models as you have artistic disciplines?

I guard my role models jealously and, to be honest, do not like to talk about them. I have never named them, because I consider idols the root of almost every evil. They are the reason for all manner of fanaticism--including the political. I admire many artists, but I grant myself the luxury of keeping their names to myself.

Can you imagine some day giving up your career as a singer?

Every singer must live, must come to terms with this notion. I would call it quits, if I were to sing one evening of which I thought: There's no better way. Toward this point in time, I have been taking some small precautionary measures by way of those other areas in which I am actively involved. But I don't believe it will come to that all that soon.

 

 

 


 

Pag in Zurich

 

 

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009: José Cura was first the unfaithful farmer Turiddu and afterwards the betrayed Canio – both creatures of animal instinct.  He mastered the premiere admirably with a singing / acting tour de force with a dark-timbre tenor rich in substance and an extremely spirited attack.’ Torbjörn Bergflödt, Suedkurier, 8 June 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009: ‘The premiere’s central figure was José Cura, who took on both roles, that of Turiddu as well as Canio. As Turiddu, Cura was the ‘macho’ incarnate who, nevertheless, showed surprisingly much fear vis-à-vis Alfio, a carter of higher social standing among the men of this Sicilian village. He performed the Song to Lola so forcefully that his intent seemed the assertion of a claim rather than exuding charm. As things progressed, he found the way to ‘soft’ (piano) sounds which stood in contrast to his ringing out (to his metallizarre i suoni), a juxtaposition that fit in perfectly with the conception of the role. Canio was even better suited to the Argentine tenor than Turiddu. Masterful was, to be sure, how he kept balancing theatrical play and menacing seriousness already as early as his warning about make-believe theater and life not being the same, something he conveyed to an audience but actually addressed to the unfaithful Nedda. With the sound of sinewy tension and a surprising piano at the end, the tenor saw to a vocal texture and structuring of ‘Ridi, Pagliacco’ that was spellbinding.’  Th. Baltensweiler, Das Opernglas, July / August 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009:  'Opera right out of a picture postcard: Something clicks here---and Asagaroff‘s skillful transformation of this story’s playfully comedic surface into the eventually profound, existential tragedy is an accomplishment that deserves respect. To an extraordinary degree, it is also due to the acting talents of José Cura, who is singing the part of Turiddu as well as that of Canio. Dazzlingly brilliant his voice in the sweeping melodic arches of Cavalleria, remarkably vigorous and lively in the articulation of the drinking song "Viva il vino spumeggiante". That has class and gives the impression of authenticity down to the last inch. Perhaps even more awesome is his Canio: an alcohol-dependent clown, grown old, who is living off what’s left of his former assets, and, mind you, does so in magnificent voice. His slight stagger as he exits the stage after the famous "Vesti la giubba" goes to the quick, yes even more than that, it is heart-rending.'  Werner Pfister, Zürichsee-Zeitung, 8 June 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009:  ‘This new production is especially noteworthy for the presence of José Cura….His charisma and the force of his interpretation reach full potential in the clothing of Canio, in impressive dramatic crescendo.  As everyone knows, the Argentinian is a true stage animal…his ‘Vesti la giubba’ is staggering in its intensity and will remain in the memory, as will his final words which end the opera, launched not as a cry, as we often hear them, but as a nagging complaint, in half-voice, spine-tingling.’ Claudio Poloni, Concerto Net

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009:  'In the Wake of Infidelity: the Obligatory Knifing:  José Cura, who lets Santuzza have the action in the first piece, turns into a melodramatic anti-hero, driven by jealousy, in the second part, in Pagliacci. The transition from play to reality is hardly noticeable with him. The clown who has seemingly been joking just a minute earlier appears dead serious the next; it’s of distressing ambiguity even for the spectator with knowledge in the matter.  Since Enrico Caruso’s interpretation at the latest, the character of the clown is lachrymose, sentimental and full of self-pity. Cura endows him with that also and seems doubly lost in himself exactly because of his physical and vocal stage presence. And it is precisely this ‘mismatch’ of weakness in character and brute violence that logically, resolutely leads to tragedy.'  Thomas Meyer, Tagesanzeiger, 8 June 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009:  'Big Sound, Idyllic-Postcard Style:  On Saturday, the Zurich Opernhaus brought the so-called ‘Verismo-Twins’—Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana” and Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci”--to the stage. Star-tenor José Cura left his mark on both....The final quarter hour of “Pagliacci” was a veritable José Cura show. Everybody got carried away by the Argentine tenor’s intensity and presence: colleagues, chorus, orchestra and naturally the audience. Cura’s portrayal of the jealous leader of the somewhat shabby troupe of comedians, Canio, in his wounded male pride, in his despair and in his deadly rage was a theatrical event. Canio, in danger of losing his wife Nedda and nonetheless expected to perform in a comedy, a comedy which is about to become his personal tragedy. This very same Canio is the clown Pagliaccio, behind whose back the smart-looking Arlecchino reels in his Columbina. In the end, two lie dead on stage right in front of the eyes of a shocked audience.

‘Vesti la giubba-ridi Pagliaccio” is Leoncavallo’s greatest aria and a cornerstone of the tenor repertory. Cura charged it with all the drama imaginable. But also elsewhere, also as Turiddu in Mascagni’s “Cavalleria”, did he show the bright side of his magnificent and powerful voice- a voice of substance and foundation, which also has a smooth, rich flow- in conjunction with the complex and intelligent employ of vocal resources: Not only loud and extroverted, but differentiated in the service of two very different roles. Thus Cura downgraded everyone to supernumerary status-conductor Stefano Ranzani included…. Compared with Cura, the other singers had a hard time.'   Reinmar Wagner, Die Suedostschweiz, 08 Jun 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009: '…then Pagliacci: Here José Cura was now really in his element. Even his initial entrance onto the stage with Un grande spettacolo was already incredibly powerful and intense, followed by a keen and haunting interpretation of the cantabile Un tal gioco. To the most famous scene of this short opera Recitar…Vesti la giubba ultimately, Cura gave shape with thrillingly poignant vividness and forcefulness. As impotent alcoholic, Cura was also a totally convincing actor.'   Kaspar Sannemann, Art-tv, 6 June 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009:  'The star’s real triumph comes only in the last part.  Despite murder over honor and tragedy over jealousy: In Zurich there is rather a gap between “Cavalleria rusticana” and “Pagliacci” in spite of guest star José Cura…  The Argentine star tenor fashions the title role into a character portrait of the very highest order with both his singing and his acting. His cuckolded Canio is from the very start a ruined clown, a wreck, who drowns his disappointment that Nedda, whom he had picked up out of the street as an orphan at one time, has now turned away from him, in alcohol.  Fascinating, how the voice assumed a darkly glowing color as it increased in radiant intensity with the eruption of true feelings in the (middle of) the Commedia-dell’Arte play.'  Fritz Schaub, Neue Luzerner Zeitung, 9 June 2009

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, Zurich, June 2009: 'A fireworks display of emotions:  The star of the evening was clearly José Cura. The Argentine-born tenor had taken on the risky venture of interpreting an all too recklessly acting Turiddu in “Cavalleria rusticana” as well as Canio in the opera “I Pagliacci” after the intermission. His outstanding performance, with regard to singing as well as acting, was one of the most impressive factors in a show rife with emotion.'  Walter Joos, Schaffhauser Nachrichten, 8 June 2009  

 

  

  

 

 

  

 


 

José Cura--Conductor, Composer and Opera Singer

 

La Voz de Asturias

Aurelio M. Seco

22/06/2009

 

 

“The singers of today no longer have the patience to exercise the voice, to give it a good work-out.”

 

--Giancarlo del Monaco says that voices like those of the past no longer exist; that the great dramatic tenors are a thing of the past.

 

--What doesn’t exist is the perseverance and patience for exercising the voice-- for giving it a work-out like an athlete who exercises his muscles to achieve the desired increase or build-up—and one expects strength to develop by some kind of magic. There is nothing anabolic for the larynx. It took del Monaco (senior) years to develop the voice that we know as his.

 

--There are several great performers who are having serious problems with their voices. What is the problem?

 

-- If an athlete enters the (bull) ring to grab a particular task by the horns before his muscles are at the proper level for said role, he incurs atrophy instead of hypertrophy, which for being harsh-soundingly similar don’t mean the same. Atrophy, to be sure, isn’t always only physical. If to have a voice was enough in order to carve out a career in the past, what one has to have nowadays, thanks to the widespread hysteria the world is sunk in, is a perspicuity, an intellectual clarity that is fail-proof, foolproof, sure-shot. Right on, intelligence! Let’s go!

 

--Do you believe that the increase as it regards the size of the auditoriums, orchestras and tuning is damaging?

 

--Plus the size of ambition? Or worse yet, the degree of the ambition of those who are eating at your expense? Of course the factors you mention have a lot of influence on the length of a career. If soccer players had to run up and down fields of 200 m instead of 100m so that the size of the stadiums could be doubled and thus lead to more tickets sold, these players would be burned-out and finished at the end of three years. And what if the marathon were 100 km instead of 42 so that the TV rights per minute would yield greater returns? The sound of orchestras and the unnatural tuning, already practically around a semitone higher at 432 cycles per second than what Verdi used to be familiar with, don’t help either. Even if this goes far beyond the musicians themselves, let me say this: when the works we perform today were written, the sound quality of the instruments, above all of the wind section, was quite inferior. But today, a trombone is well-nigh a bazooka!

 

--Rather with frequency, some singers decide not to become a part of the artistic project of a theater because of the artistic line of its program director. The case of Marcelo Alvarez and the Teatro Real is well known. What’s your thinking on this?

 

--I have never found myself at such a crossroads, faced with such a difficult decision. Instead, faced with (incidents of) favoritism (shown) by uncertain artistic directors towards certain theatrical agencies that make decisions for them. But it is beside the point to stir that up, as the editorial page is tyrannical.

 

--Where in the world does one find the vanguard of operatic productions?

 

--Vanguard, i.e. innovation, is also synonymous with risk. Whoever is in the forefront at the head of an army gets the first shots. Geography has nothing to do with it. Those who do not have the courage to be out front get behind and wait. It’s as old as the world.

 

--Which is your favorite opera?

 

--The opera that I love best is the one I’m supposed to sing that night, and its composer, for that night, is also the best in the world.

 

--Which singers are most admired by you?

 

--All singers merit admiration. Solely the deed of sticking out your head on an everyday basis so as to bare your heart and soul and show yourself vulnerable merits respect.

 

--A professional career like yours, does it make forming personal relations difficult for you?

 

--Not if you don’t want it to be.

 

--As well-known as you are, have you ever been tempted by politics?

 

--Heaven forbid!  Yet we must acknowledge that the politicians are the divos nowadays. Every day on the front page. They even give autographs! Is that why they govern with such distraction?

 

--Are you collaborating on some altruistic project?

 

--I am a patron of the Devon Youth Orchestra, vice-president of the London Youth Opera, visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music, professor honoris causa of the University CAECE of Buenos Aires, an associate of Kofi Annan in his organization for the protection of the climate, a charter member of the Portuguese Leukemia Association. In many countries, teaching activities of mine dedicated to young people are also ongoing. Only in my adopted home (Spain), now also my country by right of citizenship owing to my grandfather from Soriano, have I still not been invited to have an active role in society. I’m expecting that to change soon.

 

 


 

Elina Garança and José Cura Conquer the Campoamor


Paul Galician

LNS / Diario Independiente de Asturias

25 June 2009

[Excerpts]

A convincing success.  The opera gala to benefit the Fundación Banco de Alimentos that united Elina Garança and José Cura on the stage of the Campoamor won the hearts of the audience that filled the seats of the theater….

The recital began with works by Verdi, Leoncavallo, Donizetti and Bellini, alternating the voice of the mezzo, with her brilliant performance of arias from Don Carlo and Maria Stuarda, with Cura's strong dramatic energy that gave life to Verdi’s Otello and the clown in “Vesti la giubba”.  Together they closed the first half with Norma; Cura used glasses to read in snatches from the score, something unusual in shows of this sort. 

[…] Cura, who changed from white shirt in the first half to a black one for the second, sometimes exaggerated his strong acting skill, offered a passionate interpretation of Don José in Bizet’s ‘La fleur que tu m'avais jetée’.  After three rounds of bows and having presenting works not often heard at Campoamor, came the encores. … .  Cura offered a ‘Nessun dorma’ that finished conquering the audience who had gathered for a good cause.

 

Opera Gala, Oviedo:  'One of the best opera galas, if not the best, to have been heard in Oviedo in decades.  This was the general impression among the public who attend the charity gala in the Campoamor Theater on Wednesday, which brought together two great voices of enormous acclaim and different temperaments, Elina Garança and José Cura.

[…] The program continued with a presentation from Otello by José Cura.  The tenor sang a shattering "Dio! Mi potevi scagliar», que fue una de las páginas con los mejores momentos de la actuación del tenor. My potevi Scaglia."  The Argentine singer, one with a controversial career, transmits the dramatic quality like few others though sometimes the overacting falls into histrionic poses.  But add to this his beautiful timbre and good muscle and it all suggests a winning value beyond market invention.  At the same time, channeling skills through technique is essential.'   Diana Díaz, Lne.es y La Nueva España,  3 June 2009

          

 


 

 July and August 2009

 

July

2

Concert for APCL

Pavilhao Atlantico

Lisboa

July

3, 8 - 10

Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci - Carmen

Opernhaus

Zürich

July

18

Concert Gala

Emilia Romagna Festival

Rocca San Casciano

August

16

Gala concert

Festival Castell de Peralada

Peralada

August

20

Recital with piano

Festival de Santander

Santander

 


 

 

Concert, Emilia Romagna Festival,  Rocca San Casciano, 18 July:  With the last poignant note from the encore ‘Nessun dorma’ from Puccini’s Turandot and marked by ten minutes of shouts and thunderous applause, the opera concert offered in the Piazza Garibaldi at Rocca San Casciano by the Fondazione Ugo Becattini came to a triumphant conclusion at midnight with the Romagna public in delirium, bewitched by the eclectic Argentine-Madrilenian tenor José Cura and the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini.

Despite the sudden drop in temperature which forced some to leave early, the public generated its own heat so involved and enchanted were they with the beautiful music of the unforgettable evening.

The generosity of the orchestra, skillfully conducted by Mario de Rose and twice by José Cura, whose entire body was like a true matador of the stage, pulling out all the artistic energy of the instruments as a Madrilenian toreador in the arena, the superbly skill and appealing actor and tenor José Cura, even the once hesitant then secure soprano Emanuela Guidice and the essentially dry presenter Enrico Stinchelli, offered such a harmonic show that it satisfied a thousand people….

Cura opened the concert with the aria ‘Vesti la giubba’ from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, the manifesto of every tenor, then the concert slipped away on wings of music by Verdi and Puccini, with the most famous arias from Otello to Madame Butterfly, through the vibrant ‘Recondite armonie’ from Tosca,  that brought out complete enthusiasm from the public. …Quinto Cappelli, Il Resto del Carlino, 21 July 2009

 

 


 

The Wild and Untamed José Cura

Martha Porter

Avue

17 August 2009

 From Catalan - the rough guide

José Cura closed the Festival of Peralada yesterday with a memorable concert.  The big voice of the tenor does not leave anyone indifferent, neither does the way he gives all his energy and vitality in the firm commitment to portraying the characters he plays. 

Cura is a wild stage animal.  He demonstrated that from his first appearance, an imposing presence walking among the musicians as he offered the declaration of principles that is the prolog to Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, a verismo piece written for a baritone. After the intermezzo performed by the l'Orquestra Nacional Clàssica d'Andorra under the direction of Mario de Rose, the tenor put on a sad face for the celebrated “Vesti la giubba,” a high risk change of character and tessitura.  The quick flip brought the first sustained applause.

A showman to the marrow, Cura quickly broke from the tradition of these concerts, speaking directly to the audience and switching on the lights in the hall.  “A concert is a night of love—and I do not like love in the dark.”

The singer, conductor, composer and stage director knows that a concert in not simply singing one aria after another but an opportunity to create character and climax.  Otello, the workhorse that has brought him the greatest success, allowed him to do exactly that. Following the famous overture from Nabucco, the passionate scene of Desdemona’s death allowed a more dramatic facet to come from the sorrowful singing of a dark voice.   

Romantic Stroll

After the interval, Cura appeared on stage without a conductor which gave him the excuse to sing and conduct simultaneously as he threw himself into a romantic promenade through the most famous [tenor] arias from Puccini, from “E’lucevan le stelle” to “Non piangere, Liù” and including other delights.

After the public cheered their idol, in the encore he offered a soft song by Gustavino and – “the higher and louder I sing the more you like it”—an intense “Nessun dorma,” an ideal close to the soiree and the Festival.       

 


 

 

 

A Theatrical José Cura

 Cesar Lopez Rosell
El Periodica

18/8/2009

Peralada

 The tenor shone his lyrical and dramatic power in the closing of Peralada

An exhibition of vocal force and dramatic presentation:  José Cura raised the musical bar in Peralada.  The charismatic Argentine tenor dazzled the audience at the end of a festival that emphasized outstanding quality of offerings that did not always get, especially those that risked the most, the expected response from the public.

 

 

Cura applied his stage presence and appealing acting skills in the service of a repertoire of works by Leoncavallo, Verdi, and Puccini.  After appearing among the musicians with the prologue from Pagliacci and opening with an interpretation of the Intermezzo in charge of the Orquestra Nacional Clàssica d’Andorra (ONCA), he then presented the famous “Vesti la giubba” from the same opera.  [Certainly] a risk for a still cold voice but where Cura demonstrated a pure tenor timbre tinged with dark tones and an ability to recreate the pathos of the character.  This expressive version extracted the first bravos [of the evening].

After a somewhat unvarying interpretation of the overture from Nabucco, Cura returned.  He asked that the lights in the auditorium be turned on.  “A concert is like a night of love, and I do not like love with the lights turned off,” said the artist who is also a composer, conductor and stage director, all things that helps him exploit the dramatic and musical resources.

And then came Otello.  This opera is one of the hallmarks of his career.  With “Dio! mi potevi scagliar” he showed a passionate outburst with the painful song about Desdemona.  He followed it with “Niun mi tema” to close the first half with acclaim.

But he did not yield the intensity with Puccini.  Cura reappeared wondering where conductor Mario de Rose was.  “I have lost him!” he said with a comical gesture before turning, singing, and directing “Tra voi belle” from Manon Lescaut and offering later, with De Rose on the podium, the romantic “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca, “Non piangere, Liu” from Turandot and other pearls from Puccini operas.

 For an encore he offered a change of pace with a Guastavino song, “though I know what you want are my high note,” he commented.  Then he ended the opera gala with an impressive “Nessun dorma” that brought the audience to its feet.

 

Programme:

PART I

Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857–1919)
Prologo,from I Pagliacci
Intermezzo, from I Pagliacci
Aria Vesti la Giubba, from I Pagliacci

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Overture, from Nabucco
Dio, mi potevi scagliar, from Otello
Niun mi tema, from Otello

PART II

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tra voi belle, from Manon Lescaut
E Lucevan le stelle, from Tosca
La tregenda, from Le Villi
Non piangere, Liù, from Turandot
Ch’ella mi creda libero, from La fanciulla del west
Intermezzo, from Manon Lescaut
Hai ben ragione, from Il tabarro

 


 

Canto a la testosterona fina

Xavier Pujol

El Pais

18/08/2009

[excerpts]

The Peralada Festival ended its 23rd season with a solo recital, the first of its kind in Spain, by the Argentine tenor José Cura, who was accompanied by the Orquestra Nacional d'Andorra Clàssica directed by his compatriot Mario de Rose.

The recital traveled the path from di forza fragments from Verdi’s Otello, one of Cura’s favorites, to Verismo opera arias from Leoncavallo and Puccini.

After finishing the first piece, the Prologue from Pagliacci, Cura directed the control room to shine a little bit of light on the public because, he said, ‘a concert is like a night of love and I do not like to love with the lights off.’

The prospect of spending the rest of the evening being loved passionately, even if collectively, by the handsome Argentine tenor spinto was flattering though certainly worrisome since Verismo is one of the more effective but less refined forms of musical eroticism; it goes to the point with the line “here you sing, here I kill you;” it aims directly at the center of pleasure and looks for immediate orgasmic erotic-aesthetics.  Because of this, veristic operas are so short.     

The male verismo aria is strong and manly; it needs a seasoned tenor who does not shrink from high notes, who can project strongly over the orchestral accompaniment and who conveys wholesale emotions. Cura gives the full measures of all these aspects and had no problem in completing with brilliance the short but terribly demanding program that included, in addition to “Dio, mi potevi scagliar” and “Ni un mi tema” from Otello--which was the best of the night--“Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci, “E lucevan le stelle from Tosca, “Non piangere Liù from Turandot, “Ch'ella mi creda libero from La Fanciulla del west and “Hai ben ragione” from Il tabarro.

Cura, who on his web page is defined as a ‘natural showman,’ is in addition to being a great tenor one of those beings who is at ease on the stage, who owns it and dominates it, who tells the audience when they must applaud and when they must stop, who flirts with the first cellist and replaces the conductor at the head of the orchestra, although not able to improve on the musical results of the Andorran orchestra.

In the end, after three encores, “Addio Fiorito asil” from Madama Butterfly, a song by Carlos Guastavino from text by Quevedo and the inevitable “Nessun dorma” from Turandot, the tenor José Cura was both the lover and the beloved, sated in love, seen off with a standing ovation and a conviction that if verismo had not been invented by the Italians, it would have been by the Argentineans.  

 


We have a Tenor

 El Punt

Jordi Maluquer

18 August 2009

From Catalan – the rough guide

Through operatic records and publications, we already knew that José Cura is one of the most outstanding tenors today.  From performances we attended at the Liceo – Otello in February 2006 or Andrea Chénier in Fall 2007 – we already have a taste.   Yesterday, in a performance of arias, he offered confirmation.  We have good specialists in Mozart and Donizetti, but for great Verdi voices we have had to take refuge in those, like Plácido Domingo, who prevailed many years ago.  José Cura follows the molds of those musicians and singers (of the past).  He conducts, he directs, and he knows how to get the audience in his pocket with a good kind of histrionics.  Sunday, in Peralada, he gave a recital without barriers, coming and going naturally, avoiding applause and understanding it:  “The more I sing loud and high, the more you applaud.” With the complicity of a good conductor, Cura showed a powerful voice and expressive approached that prevailed over all.

José Cura in Peralada

He opened singing the baritone prologue to Pagliacci by Leoncavallo and after the orchestral intermezzo, undertook the well-known tenor aria, “Vesti la Giubba,” from the same opera sung after dragging a chair onstage. After the overture to Nabucco, which showed off the ONCA trombones, Cura sang two arias from Verdi’s Otello [“Dio, mi potevi scagliar” and “Niun mi tema”] which portrayed the exquisite feelings as a precursor to the domestic violence he will pay his wife.  The second half was devoted to singing arias from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Turandot and La fanciulla del West.  His versatility was showcased in the contrast between the joyous aria of “Tra voi belle” and the drama of “E lucevan le stelle.”  After conducting the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut, Cura ended the program with “Hai ben ragione” from Il Tabarro. The applause was intense and passionate, and we were rewarded with three encores:  another aria from Puccini, this time from Madama Butterfly, a delicate song by Carlos Guastavino, and the expected “Nessun dorma” from Turandot.  His ‘vincero’ was heroic, strong, and striking but perhaps needed a little more sustain on the final word.

The only other comment we can make about a concert that seduced us completely is that Cura has a tendency to run away with the power of his voice; he gives the color but the linearity of the song suffers. 

An artistic success to close the Festival of Peralada.

 


 

From L'Opera:

The final standing ovation by the audience demonstrated its satisfaction with and sincere love for this performer.

 


 

Tenor José Cura: Entering Unknown Territory Enriches Him as a Singer

 

EFE - Santander - 19/08/2009  (Diario Público)

(The Argentine tenor Jose Cura poses after a press conference today that he gave at the Palacio de Cantabria summer during the recital that will offer tomorrow, for the programming of the 58th International Festival of Santander (FIS). - Reuters)

The Argentine tenor José Cura offers a recital tomorrow at the International Festival of Santander (IFS), devoted to the music of his country where he will debut the songs he composed, an aspect of the artist he defends saying that ‘sticking his nose’ into unfamiliar territory enriches him as a singer.  Cura returns to the FIS, where last year he starred in a new production of Samson et Dalila, to perform songs written by composers from his country like Hilda Herrera, Alberto Ginastera, Carlos Gustavino, Héctor Panizza. Giulo Laguzzi will accompany him on piano.

The program includes seven love sonnets by Pablo Neruda which he has put to music in a projected promoted by the Fundación Pablo Neruda of Chile.

This will be the Spanish debut of some of the song which he has already performed in Italy and other European countries, but this time it is, for him, ‘special’ because for the first time he is going to sing before an audience that understands the language of the Chilean poet..  

Cura stressed today that his recital of Argentine music is not pop music or tango, but rather works, in his view, that can be compared with the songs of Schubert or Schumann.

The compositions are not the only "unknown territory but not incompatible” with his status as tenor that the Argentine is getting involved with. Between next year and 2012 he plans to conduct three operas.

The first will be in Germany, where he debuts in 2010 with a new production of Samson et Dalila as stage director, set designer and singer.

By 2010, he expects to direct a new Otello, which will be produced for a circuit of theaters in Italy, although he cannot yet reveal details of the project.

Also on his calendar is La Rondine by Puccini in the French city of Nancy, which Cura defines as an "experiment with young people" whom he will teach before they go on the opera stage.   In this Rondine, he will do double duty as the production head, since he will be in charge of managing both stage and music.  “Since I will not be singing, this will give me the double luxury of being in the pit,” he said during his press conference.

“Some write that my ego is immeasurable, but that has nothing to do with it.  It is my curiosity and my desire to experience, my enthusiasm for working with youth,” the Argentine tenor emphasized, saying that there are those who insist on reading his eagerness to venture into other areas ‘in terms of ego,’ but he does so ‘in terms of enthusiasm and love of life.’

The tenor underlined that his work as composer, stage director and conductor is not relegating his talent as a singer to the background, but is rather enriching [his singing.]

 


 

Tenor José Cura Believes That to Venture into Other Facets of Music "Enriches" His Work as Singer

Cultura - 20-08-2009 14:30:00  

Argentine tenor José Cura, who this evening will perform a recital of music from Argentina at 21:00 in the Argenta Room, believes that venturing into other facets of music and ‘nosing’ into territories close to his own, as he has done in moving into production and stage direction, “can only enrich you.”

In fact, he welcomed recent criticism which emphasized precisely that by opening his range of experience he has enriched his work as a singer, claiming that the sacrifice of giving his time to more things and ‘to sleep less and to work more is worth it.” 

The tenor, who is offering a recital of the music of Argentina in the Santander International Festival (FIS), also acknowledged that ‘many’ say his ego is ‘immeasurable’ but he sees it ‘as enthusiasm and love of life.’ 

As he explained at his press conference, he will offer a program [heard] for the first time in Spain.  The repertoire is music from Argentina, but not traditional Argentine music like tango but rather Argentine chamber music, with elaborate piano accompaniments.  Also included is a cycle of seven poems by Neruda, which also debuts for the first time in our country and which in his opinion “has enormous value.” 

For the tenor, ‘the beauty of the poetry in this type of music is so much, or even more, important than the music itself,’ and he also emphasized that “there is no more comfortable feeling than knowing the public is understanding what you are saying.”

Several of the songs being performed in the recital are by Argentine composer Carlos Guastavino, ‘our particular Schubert,’ he said.  This composer wrote over 500 songs and, according to Cura, ‘many’ of them are better than those of Schubert.

Relationship with the FIS

The singer, who hosted the press conference accompanied by the director of the FIS, José Luis Ocejo, and the pianist who will accompany him, the Italian Giulio Laguzze, with whom he has worked for 17 years, recalled he was also at the festival last year, with the work Samson et Dalila.

In this respect, he thought it was good to exploit human relations with the festival more than merely the professional, since as a professional it is always necessary in the end to come to an agreement, because everything is very technical, but it is the human thing that is most difficult, in ways of seeing in life, in dreams, what is possible to cultivate.

For his part, the Director of the FIS said that artists ‘always return to this exceptional festival' and he is extremely proud to once more have ‘one of the great principle voices in opera.’ 

Projects As Stage Director And Producer

José Cura also works as a producer and stage director and one of his next projects is due in October or November next year in Karlsruhe (Germany)—a new production of Samson et Dalila, with Cura as stage manager and performer.  In addition, he will make a circuit of Italian theaters with Otello in 2011. 

In France, in the city of Nancy, he is involved with a project with which he is particularly excited, working with young people in a ‘master class’ to develop and implement a work for which he will also be in the pit.

 


 

"Sticking My Nose Into Other Areas Enriches Me."

José Cura returns to the Argenta Hall today with a recital devoted to the music of Argentina and songs by the tenor

El Diario Montañés

Almudena Ruiz,  Santander

 The Argentine tenor José Cura, who returns today to the International Festival with a recital devoted to the music of Argentina, said yesterday that “poking my nose into unknown territory is not in conflict with my performance but enriches me” as a singer.  Cura, who in the past two years has ventured into the world of orchestral and stage direction and set designing, announced at the press conference that in 2012 he will launch an experiment in Nancy (France) with young singers about which he is “excited.”

José Cura became the first artist who sang and conducted simultaneously in both concerts and on recordings.  For his recital devoted entirely to Argentine music, the tenor has chosen music by Alberto Ginasterra, Hilda Herrera, Hector Panizza, Carlos Gustavino, and others. The program will also include a few sonnets by Pablo Neruda the tenor has set to music. “The whole program has been sung many times in Europe but this recital is special because it is the first time that we do it in Spain, a country that will understand the lyrics,” said Cura, who emphasized that this is Argentine music but “not pop music or tangos” but works like those of “Gustavino that can be compared with those of Schubert."

The tenor announced yesterday that he will continue with the career as director and set designer he began last year with the premier of Un ballo in maschera at the Cologne Opera House. In October or November of next year he will direct and design Samson et Dalila in Germany and in 2010 intends to perform a new production of Otello in a circuit of theaters in Italy, a project for which he avoids giving details. 

Between these projects is a production of Puccini’s triptych for Opera de Nancy (France). Off this project the Argentine tenor explains this is a cycle of a master class in which young singers will work on the staging of the opera.  “I will be given the luxury of being in the pit,” said Cura, who is “thrilled” with this “experiment with youth.” 

As for those who assert it is his “immense ego” that leads to his desire to undertake projects to direct or conduct, the Argentine tenor said that it was only a question of his “will to experiment.”

“It is my curiosity, my enthusiasm and love of life,” stressed the artist.  In this regard, he noted that reviews of his recent recital at the Festival de Peralada speak precisely to his work in other fields as well as his interpretations to suggest the singer had been enriched.  “If the work is noticed, then the sacrifice is worthwhile,” he said.

 


20 August:

José Cura and Guilio Laguzzi

Recital - Main Stage

José Cura, tenor
Giulio Laguzzi, piano


Argentinian songs by  Guastavino, López Buchardo, Herrera, Walsh and J. Cura

José Cura was hugely successful and created opera history when he first conducted Cavalleria Rusticana, then climbed on stage to sing the leading part as Canio in Pagliacci at the Hamburg opera in 2003.


 

He is often praised for insightful, intense and unforgettable interpretations, a fact that has made him one of the most popular tenors at opera houses the world over. He has also more recently become known for his more or less unconventional concert performances. He is the first opera singer that has both sung and conducted simultaneously. This world-famous Argentinean tenor has made roles such as Verdi's Otello and Saint-Saëns’ Samson his trademark. However, his real stage debut was with the Norwegian composer Antonio Bibalo's Glass Menagerie in Rome. José Cura visits the Norwegian Opera and Ballet and Norway for the first time.

 

 

Intimate and Sotte Voce, but a Real Character

 

Lola Camús / EFE / Santander, August 2009

 

In Santander, Spain, the Argentine tenor José Cura offered a recital of Argentinean songs, intimate and sotto voce (at half-voice), this evening. In premiering his own music, he proved that he is not satisfied with being an opera star. He also made it quite clear again that he is a real character.

 

Returning to the International Festival of Santander, where last year he had starred in one of his magical operas, Saint-Saens’ “Samson”, José Cura performed -for the first time in Spain- the cycle of seven songs which he composed based on sonnets by Neruda.

 

The Argentine tenor gave his emotional all in order to champion his music before an audience, which in consideration of his work, reacted with some “bravos” and lively applause, but not so much as to make the author return more than once to the stage to thank them.

 

Later, already in the second part of the recital, he thanked them for “the respect” with which they had listened to a score that was so important to him and one that, as he explained, came into existence when someone left a copy of Neruda sonnets in his dressing room with an anonymous dedication, something that continues to be a mystery.

 

The premiere of those songs concluded the first part of the concert, which the singer dedicated to the victims of the Spanair plane crash and which began in a somewhat unusual way: the theater completely dark and only Cura’s voice.

 

Later came some little gems such as Alberto Ginasterra’s (sic) lullaby “Arroró” (Lullaby) and the “Cancion del arbol del olvido” (Song to the Tree of Oblivion) by Maria Helena Walsh,  from a repertoire, rich but little known to the general public.

 

José Cura is quite a “showman” of imposing presence and even in a chamber concert like the one tonight commands the stage. He talks to the audience, makes jokes, tells stories and responds when they speak to him from the front (orchestra) seats.

 

With two pieces left before the end of the program, he explained--perhaps because he feared that some confused soul might think the sound of Verdi would be heard there-- that he was going to sing arias from unknown Argentinean operas, even though one of them had been turned into an anthem in his country (Panizza’s “Song to the Flag”), with which he was planning to satisfy those who missed “the high notes”.

 

Before that, he had related that he presented the same program in Germany some time ago where fifty of those present, attracted by the posters announcing the tenor José Cura and disappointed by the chamber concert, asked for the money they had spent on tickets to be returned.

 

The anecdote met with someone’s “We want opera”, to which a woman in the audience added “That doesn’t surprise me”. The tenor, who some years ago at the Teatro Real confronted the catcalls of a group in the audience, did not remain silent and answered—all the while remaining polite—that to say that (kind of thing) was “an insult to such beautiful music”, which he proposed one should go on enjoying.

 

Earlier, he had spoken to the audience about his grandfather from Soria (Spain) and his grandmother from the Piedmont region of Italy, about his Lebanese great-grandparents, who emigrated to Argentina in search of a new life, and about his long, great friendship with the pianist Giulio Laguzzi, who accompanied him at the concert, and together with whom he had spent “many years making music because that’s (my kind of) music making”.

 

And also that he hopes that, if some critic alluded to “pure testosterone” in the headlines of his article on the concert with which he concluded the Perelada Festival that very same week (the one with the opera arias, with the “high notes (agudos)” and the symphony orchestra), it won’t occur to someone to give the title “pure estrogen” to his review about this concert here in Santander.

 

Besides bringing the audience to their feet in his role as Otello, José Cura composes, but he also conducts orchestras and between now and 2012, he is going to (stage) direct three new productions. In all those, he will design the set, in some, he will also sing and if not, he will be in the pit.

 

Translation: Monica B.

 


 

The Argentinean Tenor Presents His Adaptation of Neruda's Sonnets

Informador

21 August 2009

The Argentine tenor put forth all the emotions of which he is capable in defending his music;  Jose Cura offered a recital of songs from Argentina, sung intimate and softly, in Santander, Spain

SANTANDER – Neither arias from grand operas nor a display of prodigious voice:  in Santander, José Cura offered, intimately and in mezzo voce, a recital of songs from Argentina and in choosing to perform his own music demonstrated that he is not satisfied to be an opera star.  He also made it clear once more that he is a real character.

On his return to the Santander International Festival, where last year he starred in one of his favorite operas, Samson [et Dalila] by Saint-Saëns, José Cura played for the first time in Spain a cycle of seven songs he has composed from Neruda’s sonnets.

The Argentine tenor pulled out all the emotions of which he is capable to defend his music before an audience that responded to his work with “bravo” and loud applause, but it wasn’t enough to make the author return more than once to the stage to thank them.

Later, in the second half of the concert, he thanked them for the “respect” with which the score that was so important to him had been heard, and accordingly explained the effort began when someone left him a copy of Neruda’s sonnets in his dressing room, with an anonymous dedication that remains a mystery.

The premier of these songs which had closed the first part of the concert had been dedicated by the singer to the victims of the Spanair jet crash and began in an unusual way:  a completely dark theater and only the voice of Cura.

The came some little gems of a repertoire as rich as it is little known to the general public, like “Arroró" by Alberto Ginastera and "Canción del árbol del olvido" by María Helena Walsh.

José Cura is every inch the “showman” with an imposing presence and even in a chamber concert like tonight he chews the scenery.  He speaks to the audience, he makes jokes, he tells stories, and he responds to the audience when they speak to him from the stalls.

 


 

José Cura captivates at the FIS with his Argentine songs

Culture - 21-08-2009 00:30:00

Much was expected tonight, with Argentine tenor José Cura and the compositions on poems by Pablo Neruda which he has set to music debuting in our country.  The result was a success for the FIS because Cura gave Santander the opportunity to be able to experience something original and intimate from a unique voice [and artist] who is already preparing a new production of Samson et Dalila.  

José Cura (5 December 1962, Rosario, Argentina) is one of the most famous tenors in the world right now, but he seems always to have been pursued by a controversial image.  He has excelled in some opera roles, the two most notable without doubt are Otello and Samson.  It is precisely in the latter that he made his debut last year in the International Festival of Santander [FIS].  For the 58th edition, however, his participation on the stage of the Palais des Festivals Argenta de Cantabria reflected an old dream of the Argentine, a project he undertook with the Pablo Neruda Foundation, to set to music the very famous ‘Seven Sonnets of Love’ by the Chilean poet. After having presented the work in other countries, he made their debut in Spain in our city at the FIS.  He was accompanied on piano by Giulio Laguzzi.  Besides these famous poems, Cura also performed other songs from composers from his homeland, like Hector Panizza, Carlos Lopez Buchardo, and Hilda Herrera. 

How could it be otherwise that the recital, which demonstrated Cura’s stunning singing ability, turned into something intimate and close, though it lacked for color and perhaps some viewers were disappointed by what was offered.  However, the gamble convinced most who enjoyed the excellent voice of the tenor from Rosario.  Moreover, since this was a special day, he offered his performances to all the victims of the Barajas accident that just one year ago killed 154 people at the Madrid airport. After his great success last year when he made his debut in Santander with Samson et Dalila, it is possible to say that Cura’s transition for the 58th edition of the FIS was very positive and allowed him to demonstrate that he as the capacity to do almost anything if the voice is involved.

The Argenta room rewarded him with bravos and ovations, but not enough noise to bring Cura back for an encore. Certainly Cura demonstrated that his is a character with convincing and forceful interpretations though perhaps something was missing that would have made a great victory in Santander of a recital that started with the added difficulty of performing songs to which we were not very accustomed in this area. In short, a nice evening that brought us to the phenomenon of Cura in all his dimensions.

 


  

September - October 2009

 

September

6

Masterclass Concert

Opera

Nancy

September

18, 20, 25, 27

Samson et Dalila

Wallonie Opera

Liege

October

4, 7, 10

Carmen

Bayerischen Staatsoper

Munich

 


 

Cura Review

 

 -

Masterclass

 

 

The Muscular Singing Class of José

 Cura

 Le Républicain Lorrain

Julien Beneteau.

September 5 2009

 

The tenor held public rehearsals yesterday morning, sometimes with caustic criticism of the young singers participating in his class.  A concert of arias will be held tomorrow at the opera in Nancy.

Florent Mbia completed Renato’s aria from Verdi’s Masked Ball.  A few people in the audience, swept away, applauded.  José Cura, willingly theatrical, interrupted with a grand movement of his hand.  “You are not there,” he said.  The audience persisted.  “If you continue, it will lead to a kind of competition between the singers.  Us, we work.  You watch.”

The tenor is like that, massive, direct.  When he gives instructions to Florent Mbia, the arch of his back makes him look like a bull ready to charge.  “When you are angry, it happens on the inside, not outside!”  He abuses the young man, an enthusiastic volunteer, as are his fifteen comrades, for this class by the ‘maestro.’

Marie-Adeline Henry calls him that also, with an “r” that rolls effortlessly.  “I cannot call him anything else, since I studied in Italy,” the young woman acknowledges.  “It is very nice to have an outside look,” says the soprano, who also was delighted to sing accompanied by an orchestra, a rarity for “students.”  She will attend all the passages of her friends.  Everyone learns from the different performances.

Jacque Delfosse, president of the Association Nancy Opéra and organizer of the course, said that 150 applications from around the world were received.  The selections were made by ear.  “It is rare to have a world class tenor and orchestra,” he was obviously pleased.  “After three years of organizing, this begins to take shape.”  José Cura will also direct a performance of Puccini’s La Rondine in 2011/2012.  The cast?  The young people who have made it through the class. 

Florent Mbia came down delighted with his stage experience.  “I discovered another way of singing, completely different today.”  On the stage, one hand on the orchestra, the other on the singer, José Cura continued his Latin number.  The audience applauded and he glared at them, irritated and delighted at the same time.

 

 

 

Photos from the Nancy Masterclass

 

 

                           

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Masterclass

Translated!

What a treat!  For those of us who do not speak French, Denise translated the French from several Masterclass videos.

 

It takes a lot of time to translate, especially if you have only your ears to rely on, so we send a huge thank you to Canada!

 

 

 

The Maestro Teaches

 

(José Cura, directing)  “Decidedly, whether those who are behind play louder or we try to find a balance--but Dalila … hate!” (She sings) “No! You are singing a love song and this is not a love song!  It’s a song through which a woman tries to screw up a man’s life! It’s not at all the same as a love song. It’s a beautiful song but it’s not a love song! It’s not the same thing.”

(Julie Cherrier) “To really sing a part, right now, in one single aria, with an orchestra, trying to give it its dimension in very little time, and therefore being efficient very very quickly, we are learning a lot about it, and with the orchestra, there are necessarily colors on which we had not worked at home.  And listening to all the instruments and finding the motivations about which we would not have thought--and then being directed by somebody who truly knows the repertoire … well, that makes you grow.”

(Émilie Brégeon) “I came here to gather the experience of someone who has been in this profession for a long time and who knows it very well. He’s been successful and thus he knows very well what works and what doesn’t.”

(Julie Cherrier)  “That’s always a rare moment, because he is someone who has been singing for a long time, he’s stemming from a certain understanding that he wants to stand up for, and above all the music comes first, what the composer wants and through the tradition, all that we tend to look for as young singers is necessarily to sound like some other singer and then we forget about who we can be.” 

(José Cura teaching.) 

(Émilie Brégeon) “I wanted him to give me the means to find my personal touch as well as the tools to do it on my own afterwards. And then facing this big orchestra just overwhelmed me and it has done a lot of good to me.”

(Florent Mbia)  “Honestly, I was not at all expecting this and I am sublimated by this personality, and I’m telling to myself that we’re having an enormous chance to have this fellow who is all at once a singer like us, a conductor and a very very great musician. That is a luck, there are not many singers who will get the same chance.”

(José Cura) “Stop, repeat, look at me! Sing! Angry!!” (Singing) “Now, I am going to tell you something that will make you angry, that’s what I'm looking for. Your wife is a blonde and you are a black. You really feel despised because she went with somebody else, someone who perhaps looks better than you, and who’s blond, too.”

(Florent Mbia)  “He knows the flaws in everyone of us, all he needs to do is to listen to us and because he has experience, he knows the way and has the tact to approach everyone on his/her own level and to bring everything he can to him/her.  And this is a really great quality.”

(Rehearsing)

(José Cura)  “No, even less…” (Singing) “No! Less! Pianissimo…nothing…no voice…”

(Singing)

(Florent Mbia)  “There are plenty of things that I've learnt, enormously, I assure you; it’s not to flatter anybody or to do small talk, I assure you.  Especially when it comes to the way of acting on stage, and living the music,  transcending the music and then conveying something to the public, thanks to him for this.”

 


 

La chance au Samson

La Libra

Nicolas Blanmont

18/09/2009

 

"Samson et Dalila" opens the season outside the walls of the ORW.  

Stafano Mazzoni definitely has connections.  To sing the role of Samson in Liege, he has called upon one of the most well-known interpreters of the role on the international stage:  José Cura.  For the biblical hero with the precious hair, the Argentine tenor (who, not to waste time, is also a conductor, composer, and director) has charisma and power – as much physical as vocal.  Besides, he has performed it almost every year since assuming the role at Covent Garden (1996) through Bologna last year, which is also the production that will be staged—with necessary renovations—in Country Hall Ethias, on the Sart-Tilman heights. 

‘Samson pleases me from the vocal point of view and in the physical sense:  even if his power comes from God and not from muscles, the fact that I am a rather tall and strapping man corresponds well with the image the public has of this character.  But I do not like what he is, even if he is a character in the Bible – but then not all the characters in the Bible are saints! This guy is rather negative, a revolutionary in the beginning, which is pretty nice, but what he does in the name of God, which unfortunately is very modern, is less nice.  It is a story we see written daily in the newspapers and I do not think only of Allah, or even religions, but also anything which imposes ideas by force, whether in the name of money, oil, or whatever else.'

Unlike the recent production of the Flemish Opera which directly transposed the action to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the production in Liege is located in a less-dateable world:  no updating or peplos, but costumes blending oriental and science fiction, with some current references (the Intifada) but also some mythic images (the broken columns and the crumbling temple in the end). Cura has no shortage of ideas on the matter, since he will be staging the work (while singing it, too) in Karlsruhe next year.

One might be surprised to see Cura, a tenor at the top of his art, diversify to conducting and directing (and he happens to do both on some nights) when at 47 years of age he is not yet force to think about his retraining.  Instability?  By no means. ‘The routine is reassuring, and I could be satisfied just singing three or four roles for the next twenty years.  But I do not like to sleep and I do like risk:  so, when someone suggested directing or stage designing, why not?  These are trades I know – I studied conducting before I started singing – and where, without claiming to be the best, I am not doing too badly.  There are better, but there are worse.  I usurp nothing – no one asks me to build a hospital or pilot a plane! – and I do not do it for money because the fees for these are about a quarter of my tenor fees.'

 


 

José Cura, Hero and Rebel

Le Soir

Michele Friche

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

 

L'opéra de Wallonie launches its new season outside it walls:  a rare opera, Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns and for the first time in Belgium, a renown tenor who has things to say.

With his strong physique, his Samson could break the columns of the temple of the Philistines with a flick!  Conductor, composer, director, singer, teacher, photographer, father, José Cura is a warm-hearted artist who speaks his mind. 

He begins by setting the record straight:  ‘My academic background is that of a conductor and composer.  But with the crisis is Argentina, the difficulty of starting off in this business, I needed to leave to eat.  One of my teachers at the university advised me to learn to sing.  I did not want to:  the singers, they are all hysterical, I thought . . . But I had a voice, generous.’   José Cura switched careers, chaotically at first, with teachers who abused his voice.   At 28, the young Argentine musician took control for good and for the most part on his own.  “I worked like crazy, it took ne some time hitting my head on the wall, I no longer trusted anyone.  After several years of suffering – that gives you a beautiful shell—I entered the profession, in Europe.”  The tenor, who refuses nostalgia – “not to deny my roots, only cut the branches so not to suffer too much –is now based in Madrid.  “My roots, they are 100% Mediterranean:  my grandparents, Spanish, Italian, Lebanese…”

"To grind down art because it is in crisis, this is rubbish!”

The one who says he is a wild rebel is also a stage animal.  “I found some photos of me at the age of 11 that were made in a theater.  Finally, I am richer in memories of the stage than off.  On stage, I feel at home.  But I learn to disconnect quickly.  There was no way for me to become a ghost of an actor who trails his roles romantically and finishes in drugs, alcohol, suicide.  We, the singers, we do a job, one with some privileges, but one that remains a job, life being something else, a wife, children, and it is much more complicated.”  

More fragile than other voices, the tenor?

“Yes, because it a manufactured voice, not a natural one.  Even with the best technique, the best parachute in the world, it is still singing and it is still jumping into the void – and sometimes the parachutist is killed.  The singer, as a human being, is not infallible.  The important thing is that he gives it all, 100%.  We are clowns of luxury, ‘clowns’ in the best sense of the word.  A valve to amuse, to help find feelings, to reflect.  We are instruments to recreate the music the great masters have created.  To grind down art education because there is in crisis, this is rubbish.  A society that has a full stomach but no culture, sooner or later it falls.”

José Cura builds bridges across history and in particular for his role of Samson, which he has sung for fifteen years, a heroic, difficult role “with its infamous, anachronistic text…”

"But music is so beautiful, sometimes kitschy, in the style of the time. But if you take history, three thousand years later, nothing has changed! We continue to kill in the name of religion, whatever the name of god invoked. When I started singing Samson, I fell into the trap of the prophet. Then I discovered he was a judge, a military leader, the leader  of the revolution, a provocateur who uses his powers, his strength of conviction to incite rebellion. The text of the Bible is terrible; it's a horror movie full of hatred and blood. In the second act, Samson falls. Behind the man was a woman, Dalila. There are still people capable of endangering the destiny of a country for sex. In the third act, he asks his god for his strength, to become the murderer he was again, a terrorist today. Nothing changed. That's the great lesson of Samson! "

Holding most of his roles in the Italian repertoire (his Otello is as legendary as his Samson) Cura also works in French opera but refuses the Wagnerian adventure:  “It is a question of language, not voice.  Those who live for the music can get it out – phonetically – but if like me you try to live every word, then we do not sing in a language we have not mastered.  Even if I do not pronounce French perfectly, I know what I say and that is essential for an actor.”  

And Cura, who also speaks English, dreams of performing Britten’s Peter Grimes.

Meanwhile, in 2010 he will stage his own Samson.  “A modern aesthetic, stylish, trying to avoid the kitsch of the bacchanal but without updating the political message.”

 


 

A Cura l’ivresse, à Gertseva la sagesse

La Libre

Martine D. Mergeay

21/09/2009

 

 A spectacular Samson et Dalila opens the season of ORW

The same night Liege’s Guillemins station was inaugurated with great pomp, the opera institute of the French Community, homeless and seeking refuge in the hills of Sart-Tilman during repairs at the Grand Theater, opened its season in a basketball arena.  The Country Hall is spacious and inviting, certainly, but unrewarding, and not on the acoustic level, as one might think but on the visual.  In addition to limited stage equipment, the room provides no gradation in the stalls and the distances between the stage and the audience is enormous. We saw the set design of Michal Znaniecki only over the tops of heads: the setting – a courtyard square of gray marbled, topped by a gallery—a portion of the crowd’s movement, and next to nothing of the intimate scenes, including the famous second act that rivals (musically) the sensuality of Tristan duet.  It was enough to evaluate the choice of director, who gave the Hebrew people traditional religious attributes, except for Samson, who was depicted as a contemporary adventurer (sometimes with his prayer shawl), and deployed the Philistines in brocades, silks and odd hats caught somewhere between Orientalism and Futurism, and who clouds the issue: the revolutionary image of Samson is duplicated by a child throwing stones and who is soon joined by the entire group of Hebrews (the action is in Gaza).  The ballet remains, in this context, another oddity.

Strictly balanced between the hieratic general and the psychological particular, he directed all the actors except the Argentine tenor José Cura who is allowed free rein and for good reason: the singer knows the role thoroughly, he brings to it his deep, warm timbre (habits, too) and, despite some reservations in style and diction (as his French speaking is perfect), he embodies, by his immense talent, his charisma, and his generosity, the trump card of the production. The Russian mezzo Julia Gertseva (Dalila) has a superb voice, at once powerful and brilliant, and a perfect physical appearance but, contrary to what is stated in the program, she needs to move out of her reserve, in sexiness and cruelty, to match the fiery temperament of Cura.  The Opera Choir of Namur (an alliance of the Opera Chorus of the ORW and the Center for Art and Vocal Music of Ancient Namur, directed by Marcel Seminara), in which we highlight the beauty of voice, precision and intensity, to recall how Saint-Saens was inspired by the great oratorios of Bach and Handel (himself author of "Samson").

Finally, the musical director, Patrick Davin—by no means impeded by the environment of a sports hall, gave the Saint-Saëns score an ideal mixture of depth, dramatics, and elegance.  Even without seeing anything, we follow everything. 

 


 

Volupté de Dalila face à Samson

 Le Soir

Michele Friche

September 21, 2009, 09:51

 

l'Opéra de Wallonie sweated a lot to bring live opera to the Country Hall Ethais in the heights of Liège. The acoustics without amplification did not find ideal balance of orchestra and voices.  In this vast area, it is difficult to feel involved with what is happening on the stage, despite the quality of the actors and Patrick Davin in particular.  The first guest conductor of the opera has the necessary skills to revitalize this orchestra, to make it sound better, and to give nice attention to the singers. 

Not one ounce of flash in his direction in the complex architecture of the Saint-Saëns score, but a reality unfolding organically in tension, in dramatic tension, contrast and magnificent flights. Thanks to him to have offered us the sensual delight lacking in the Dalila of Julia Gertseva, with a beautiful figure and a large mezzo voice, though occasionally rough in the lower register, but who, on opening night, displayed nothing of the irresistible seducer. And she needed the sensuality to cope with José Cura’s Samson: powerful, carnal, of real presence. 

If in his first ‘speech’ exhorting the Hebrew to free themselves from their chains the tenor  mishandle the accuracy and the line of singing in the second act as a man torn between his God and Dalila he revealed mastery of his broad, solid tonal range, from the low register to the high. Cura unleashed in the third act, painfully, tragically.

As the High Priest of Dagon, the baritone Mark Rucker lends a nice sound but lacks elegance.  [There was] beautiful work by the opera chorus of Wallonia, in the articulation, diction (a real problem for most of the soloists!) and in intensity.

As for the staging of Michal Znaniecki, the scenery by Tiziano Santi and costumes by Isabelle Comte, they were puzzling in their conglomeration of styles more decorative than dramatic:  exotic oriental kitsch (the Philistines), science-fiction comics (the Guards), child-like symbolism (ribbons of blood on two walls when Samson’s eyes were plucked out, etc.)  The characterization is more realistic among the Hebrews, with touches of updating (Samson puts his jacket on the shoulders of a boy who threw a stone against the Philistines)…..

 


Hi, Deb and Kira!

I know how I feel when somebody returns from a journey and I'm burning to read every detail.  Well, I just came back from Liege 4 hours ago and have a lot to share.  Remember that this was a performance plus the annual fan club meeting.

Most of the ConneXion members arrived early Friday afternoon in Liège; most had booked in the same hotel; and none of us could wait for the start of our first performance of Samson et Dalila at that evening.  So, after exploring the old town of Liège during the afternoon, we met at 6 pm at the bus-shuttle service station to drive to the stadium.

When the light went out the expectations grew- but first came the announcement that José had a cold but he was willing to sing-oh, we were all shocked again because of so many other performances we had attended with the very same beginning! But I have learnt in the past that when he decides to sing, he can do it! So my fear became a little bit less.

And of course he did a good job- when he appears, everything is forgotten and the magic begins.

I like this staging.  There are a lot of very deep emotional and intense moments that all human feelings share--deepest desperation, triumph, hate, love, weakness, brotherliness, fear, disdainfulness... although this hall was not the best place to present an opera.

We estimated that there have been at least 1500 people in the audience and the conditions for them would have been very different depending of the seat they had.

I was sitting at one of the "better" seats in the middle of the 5th row in the first performance and didn't hear or see very well. The conductor standing in front of the orchestra- of course no pit- was like a moving pillar, occluding the important centre of the stage for us at very important moments, as when José and Julia were at Dalila's pretended love bed (act II) and José’s plaintive cowering at the milestone (Act III).

The music from the orchestra ascended so it didn't reach the ears of the parquet floor listeners very well.  I decided to look for a better place acoustically and optically for the second performance upstairs- and behold- it was so much better!

José didn't appear at the Annual General Members (AGM) meeting and though we were sad and disappointed we could understand his reasons- the director from Bologna was in town for these performances and also let’s not forget the state of his health- the second performance already at 3 pm in the next afternoon. So, we all from Europe can see him often backstage and should not grumble...

At the beginning of the second performance there was no announcement that he was still sick and it was heartbreaking emotionally what the ensemble afforded.

José was very good as part of the professional couple with Julia Gertseva- she is an extraordinary beautiful woman and a seductive but very strong and irate Dalila. They work so naturally and convincingly together- I'm very curious about their Carmen in Munich in 2 weeks....

Maybe because of the struggles in the last performance- everything seemed to be easy and floating. Funny, but the conductor cued everybody in the orchestra, the chorus and every singer on stage- excepting José! He decided what the conductor had to do with the orchestra, following his singing lines- wonderful- I liked it:-))

And I had many moments when I felt the tears coming up, as if I was in a strange wonder world.  Why can this exceptionally gifted actor, singer and man always transport the feelings in this intense, direct way!?

After the much to short performance (always, for us!), the members of the ConneXion were invited for a signing with José- he was very exhausted but laughing and joking- how you wrote, Kira- when he appears in the doorway, the whole room is filled with his presence and exuberant joy.

The Royal Opera de Wallonie was so kind to arrange everything for us concerning the meeting with José- we can only thank the communication director Mdm. Van Zuylen very much.

With best greetings

Gudrun

 

 

Gudrun's Photos from Liège

 

                

 

  

 

Hi Kira,

It was very sad that Maestro Cura had again a cold. But he sang anyway and it was very good. His acting in the 3rd act was so emotional; it was impressive.

The other singers were also very good, special Julia Gertseva as Dalila.

The Country Hall was ugly and the acoustics were not so good, but when José stands and sings on the stage, we forget all the problems.

It was a great surprise that we had the chance on Sunday to meet him after the opera, even though he was ill. He was very croaky but in good spirits and make jokes. He was so charming. He is just the best.

On 10 October I traveling to Munich to see José as Don José in Carmen. I hope he feels better again. His Carmen is again Julia Gertseva.

Best wishes,

Melanie

 

 

 

 

                     

 

 

 

 

 

Carmen in Munich

Thanks to Zsuzsanna for the photos!

 

 

 

           

           

 

 

 


 

November - December 2009

 November

17

Conducting - Bach's B Minor Mass

Danubia Orchestra Óbuda

Budapest

December

12, 14

La fanciulla del West

Den Norske Opera

Oslo

December

17

Recital "Canciones argentinas"

Den Norske Opera

Oslo

December

20

Christmas in Vienna 2009

Konzerthaus

Vienna

 


 

 

Bach's B Minor Mass

 

                   

 

 

  

 


  

Dear Deb and Kira!

 I send you some impressions of my Oslo journey for Fanciulla. To my greatest regret, I couldn't stay for José's recital--it's so hard to say goodbye—but we had so many extraordinary and eventful days in that beautiful town that we'll think of them for a long time.

Most impressive: our 1 hour guided tour of the fantastic Oslo Opera House, built in the Fjord like a wonder. It is full of ideas and it is noble but still possible to be used by everybody.  You can enter onto the roof and the view across the sea will take your breath away. All areas inside the house are built to the most modern standard I've ever seen.  I think José must be impressed by the house, too!

The staging by Robert Carsen was much better, rounder and more compelling, than I'd expected. The audience was astonishingly hushed for this season- normally every second is coughing in the operas during winter but not here.  The best acoustic ever—you could believe that you could hear a needle falling.

The staging is located in the Americas 40’s but it is always a mixture and a fine tuned symbiosis between the real play on stage and a change in appearance by cinematic means. I enjoyed that very much and was surprised by the director’s solutions many times, such as the consistent use of colours in act 1 and 2.

The opera starts with the miners sitting in a cinema-performance and looking at a black and white last goodbye scene between a man and a woman in an old Western.  This idea was genius, because for me it was an indirect reminder of the long ago first meeting between Minnie and Ramirrez.

As always it took 24 minutes until Mr. Ramirrez appeared but from the first moment the audience was under his spell. Black pants, black boots, black hat and hair, black fringed trapper-shirt, black saddle, pistol and Blues harp--he's simply the best!

José's voice had rested for about 8 weeks and you could hear it.  He was at his best--so melting, so soft, so self-defending, so comic, so strong, with warm dark tones, cooing in Minnie’s ear—a dangerous gangster and an ardent lover.

In act two the colour of blood coming down the back-wall of Minnies cabin, was breaking the strictly black and white atmosphere with an enormous intensity- I thought, there could have no blood left in José's body!

And to my astonishment, Johnson made his peace with Rance in the second performance by gestures- I've never seen that before, not even so in the performance on Saturday.  He's surprising me again and again with his own directing ideas.

There are so many moments of overwhelming emotions in all acts and we all know them, but to hear and see this live on stage from the middle of row 5- there are evenings you keep forever in your heart. There is no protection against the power of Puccini’s music; you are dragged along from the first moment.

José’s artistic abilities become more impressive in every performance. I've seen him now in three Fanciulla stagings: what a difference over the years! He's not harsh and rude any more, but heartbreakingly intense, totally relaxed, concentrated, attentive for every singer and colleague on stage and to the conductor, integrating into an established production as a guest singer without any swaggering- I love to see that.  Yet you can still perceive his effort to make it work for all and to lead it to a success. And of course he did!  A young salesgirl at the Opera shop told me with happiness in her eyes on Sunday, that “José Cura lifted the performance 110%".  She had never seen him before so she was totally objective—we are not always so.

With the greatest pleasure we learned that would meet with us in the Opera-Foyer on Saturday after the performance. We were in heaven and later discussed everything in our hotel lobby while sharing our elation with glasses of Prosecco and other fine beverages! J

With warm regards
Gudrun
 

  

         

 

 

Hi Kira,

The National Opera in Oslo presented an excellent production of Fanciulla del West in a sold out house.

We heard and saw a José Cura at his best. His Dick Johnson showed such emotions and feelings on stage that the audience went wild. Endless standing ovation!

And then somebody told him that many of his German and English fans were at the Fanciulla and his Christmas present for us was that he greeted us backstage!

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Helga

 

 

 

 

               

 

                                         

 

                     

 

 

 

Curtain call photos by Zsuzsanna

 

 


Christmas in Vienna

 

 

 

 

 

                

 

 

 


 

New Calendar!
 

José Cura has posted a new calendar for 2019 on his official website.  Check it out!  There are some amazing performance dates to look forward to in the next twelve months.

http://josecura.com/cal/

 

Check it out and select your dates!

 

 

 

 
 

 


 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find 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

 

 

This page is an UNOFFICIAL fan page Mistakes found in these pages are our mistakes and our responsibility.   

 

This fan page is dedicated to promoting the artistry of  José Cura.  We are supported and encouraged by Cura fans from around the world:  without these wonderful people, we wouldn't be able to keep up with the extraordinary career of this fabulous musical talent. 

 

If you have something concerning Mr. Cura you would like to share, contact me at bravocura@cox.net

 

Note that some of the material included on these pages are covered by copyright laws.  Please respect the rights of the owners.

 

 

 

Last Updated:  Sunday, December 09, 2018  © Copyright: Kira