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José Cura

 

Singer

Conductor

Director

 

 

 

Bravo Cura Status Update

The old website is dead;  long live the new website!

No, we haven't migrated to a better web tool yet.  Our provider is working with us to get the 'old' Bravo Cura in a stable state and then we will be looking for a new, better, more current web design program. 

What that means is that right now this is an empty shell of a website and for a while we are going to be busy moving files between the old and new space.  Then we will be exploring the best designs to form the basis for our next generation web spot.  At the same time we'll keep an eye on all the fabulous performance activity Maestro Cura is involved in and make sure to share any news that we stumble across. 

You can help us by telling us what you like--and don't like--about the new direction we are being forced to take.  We are open to suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

Latest Review:

Tosca, Luebeck, July 2014: 

"With day temperatures of 34° Celsius, everyone who entered the Luebeck concert hall that evening may have had their faces covered in sweat. But while the audience was slowly relaxing due to a refreshing ventilation, the artists had to continue sweating in the bright spotlights. The one who suffered extremely under the climatic conditions, who sang a rather disastrous first act and who necessarily should have been announced as indisposed by the festival management was star tenor José Cura. It may have been a beginning flu infection or a too short recovery phase, this "Tosca" having been performed open-air by the identical cast only the day before in Hannover, anyway - the two performances were worlds apart: Permanent coughing and throat clearing during his first minutes, most of the aria "Recondita armonia" was sung facing the orchestra instead of facing the audience, and the following duet with Tosca should bring out cold sweat as well on Cura's as on the audience's foreheads. Obviously and by whatever panacea, he had somewhat recovered himself in the second act where his glowing-steely "Vittoria"-calls should be a first compensation. But the tenor was only completely himself and fully recovered in act three and it was then when really nobody could resist his magical-metallic timbre, especially in the very emotionally and in piano sung "E lucevan le stelle" - the audience thanked him in the end with ear-shattering cheers. [...]"  Das Opernglas, issue 9 (September)/2014, pp. 56-57

Thanks to Romana for the translation!

 

 
YouTube

From Bodrum

 

 

 

Upcoming Performances

 

Fanciulla del west

September 11, 14, 18

Vienna Staatsoper

 

Nina Stemme | Minnie

Tomasz Konieczny | Sheriff Jack Rance

José Cura | Dick Johnson (Ramerrez)

 

Photo - Fanciulla Recital 1992

 

Calendar 2014

September

11, 14, 18

Fanciulla del west

Staatsoper

Vienna

September

25

Concert

Arena di Verona

Verona

December

2

Argentinean songs Recital

Opera Garnier

Monte Carlo

December

19

Tosca

Landestheater Linz

Linz

December 31

Concert:  New Year Gala

Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre Vilnius

 

 

 

Spotlight:  Fanciulla in Berlin 2006

(click on a photo for full size picture)

 

 

 

 

 

Fanciulla - Interviews

 

 

José Cura:  Let's Get Physical

 

The Independent

20 September 2005

José Cura breezes in from his rehearsal at the Royal Opera House looking rather like an off-duty nightclub bouncer. The dark-eyed Argentinian superstar, a former rugby player and body-builder, could have been tailor-made for the tenor lead in La Fanciulla del West, Puccini's take on the gold rush, for which he received rave reviews last week. His character, Johnson, aka Ramerrez, is an escaped Latin bandit, by turns a "goody" and a "baddy" in the best tradition of spaghetti westerns, but - in the best tradition of romantic opera - ultimately redeemed by love. Cura has run the gamut of "goody" and "baddy" in terms of critical opinion over the years, but it's his passion that carries him beyond that. His treacly, seductive, dangerous voice can knock you into submission in seconds.

Fanciulla gives him plenty of opportunity to let that voice shine. It's rarely performed, yet filled with vintage Puccini melody. "I first sang the role in a concert performance in 1992," Cura recounts, "so it's been growing inside for 13 years." He's particularly glad to be singing it at Covent Garden: "This production is a real classic," he says. "I remember watching it on video years ago and thinking, 'Hey, look at that, if only one day...' And suddenly you find you're in the middle of the set."

Cura's path to stardom took even him by surprise. His musical life had a difficult beginning; his native Argentina - where he was born with roots a quarter Spanish, a quarter Italian and half Lebanese - is a loaded subject. He hasn't been back for seven years. He adores Argentinian music, and dedicated the second CD he made for his own label, Cuibar Phono Video, to his country: "The Argentinian flag even appeared in the booklet," he says. "But the only country I couldn't sell the CD was Argentina. As the Bible says, no man is a prophet in his own land." His label, though, is doing fine: Cura is "in conversation" with a major label interested in taking Cuibar Phono Video under its wing.

If Cura had grown up somewhere else, he might never have found his voice. He began to sing through luck and necessity. "When I was about 12, I decided I wanted to be a musician," he says. "Argentina at that time was leaving military oppression and becoming a democratic country, but in the middle it wasn't so easy; you had to decide to do something reasonably useful. It was a big fight to make my parents understand I wanted to be a musician in a country where that was a hopeless decision. The purpose was to become a conductor and a composer. I had vocal coaching to complement the conducting, and one of the coaches said to me, 'Hey, you have to use this voice'. Later, a teacher told me, 'You don't have to be a singer, but you must learn how to sing, because that will make you a better conductor'. That was the best advice I received.

"It is always difficult to find opportunities to conduct or to get a premiere for your compositions - but in Argentina at that time, it was hopeless. Singing is a discipline where you can find some way to survive: in a choir, an opera chorus, or a musical comedy. I started to sing as a way of surviving. And, well, here I am. I survived pretty well." Once he had won Placido Domingo's Operalia competition in 1994, there was no turning back.

Is that rarest musical instrument - a glorious tenor voice - down to nature, or nurture, with hours of hard slog every day? Forget "hours", says Cura - even "years" would understate what it takes. "You cannot hurry up the processes of developing your voice," he says. "If you want to become a lawyer in two years, you can do it if you study hard, but singing is both intellectual and physical: the body has to have time to get used to what your brain understands first. And you can't stay home and work alone until you're 'mature'; you become mature by being out on stage, exchanging experiences with other singers and working with good conductors and directors.

"You can't expect wine to be more mature if you leave it longer inside the grape. You have to take it out and work on it. There are no miracles. I'm 42; I've been singing for 20 years and now - finally - I'm starting to feel that I'm kind of in charge. There's no way to do that only in the shower."

Italian and French opera has long been home to Cura, but will he ever sing Wagner? "I've been wondering too," he laughs. "The problem is the language. I can read and understand German, but I have not mastered it. To produce a believable character, one desperately needs the undertext, and there's no way to have that if you're reading phonetics. After so many years, people are used to a certain standard whenever I go on stage, so I feel uncomfortable with the idea that I would be performing knowing that I'm not giving what I'm supposed to give. When I go on stage, I feel secure in what I'm doing - you can agree with it or not, but you cannot say I'm not convinced or secure. If I give up on that security, I'd be giving up on the major secret that has made my career not only a success but a healthy success: I've never lost my nerve on stage. And I'm not intending to do so."

Cura, meanwhile, has found his way back to conducting; another happy accident, he says, that came about a few years ago when he conducted the Sinfonia Varsovia "as a joke", but found himself invited to become the orchestra's principal guest conductor - "much to the delight of my vocal detractors, who'd found the perfect excuse to say I'm a better conductor than a singer". Next season includes a stint at the Vienna State Opera, conducting Puccini's Madama Butterfly. He divides his time between singing and conducting "about 75 per cent to 25 - the perfect balance to prevent the singing from becoming a routine".

But thanks to his roots in conducting and composing, this most romantic of operatic tenors cites his greatest musical passion as something different: "Mozart said that, 'After J S Bach, each note we write can only be a commentary'. If you analyse Bach's music, you realise you can only try to be as good as you can be, without pretending to be more, because after that, what can anybody say? The experience that most touched my soul was conducting, years ago, the St Matthew Passion. One thing I regret is that I cannot sing Bach, because his works are far away from my type of voice."

Still, an artist such as Cura is never going to be pigeonholed. "The mood nowadays is to put people into specialised boxes - it's the most comfortable way of keeping them under control," he says, "but those who have things to do will jump out. I'm not alone; many people are trying to make society less cold in terms of specialisation. I don't see myself doing just one thing for the sake of avoiding being pointed at. I would be frustrated and I prefer to take the risks." He grins. "Altogether, it's not going too badly."

 

 

Restless Cura

La Nacion

BERLIN. Restless, non-conforming, and talented. This is the way José Cura is known in the world of opera, as a versatile singer whose prestige and fame has spread increasingly towards other areas of the musical business. Although his beginnings in the Rosario's conservatory focused on the guitar, conducting and composition, it was opera singing (a discipline to which he came later) that took him to the center of the international scene. Today, with a wide path and as one of the most sought after tenors in the world, José Cura often presents examples of his multiple vocations and of the solid preparation upon which rests one of the most unique opera careers of the moment.

Among them, for example, was the acid test in conducting a production of Madama Butterfly recently at the Vienna State Opera. "Nobody saw me as a tenor who was trying to conduct,” he told LA NACION.  “All the best from Mahler to Karajan have appeared there, so the fact that I was accepted professionally by this orchestra and the public who has seen and listened to all the great ones is very important and very flattering to me."

Then, in addition to his schedule as a singer and a businessman who heads his own company, and only to enumerate the whirlwind of his activities, there is the composition of an opera for children that will be presented in a German theater and the publication of two books by an Italian publisher (in one Cura analyzes his repertoire as an interpreter and in the other he presents a collection of his photographs).  To these you can add two more novelties:  one is his debut as director in 2008 in a production of Un ballo in maschera in the Staadtsoper of Cologne, Germany (a project about which we cannot reveal major details before it is announced in the local press), and his long-awaited return to an Argentine stage in 2007, after almost a decade of absence from his country.

Between performances of La fanciulla del West in Deutsche Oper of Berlin, José Cura agreed to give us an interview.

 
- What is your motivation to look for new horizons? Does the routine as a singer bother you?

- In my case, because I am very restless, yes. To sing the same role, the same music, in the same theater, the same production and even with the same colleagues... It is necessary to charge the batteries for that.  To tell the truth, many artists seem satisfied with this tranquil life without surprises in which everything is predictable. If one accepts this as a way of making a living and wants nothing more than this, then it is fine. But if you want something more and arrive at the theater proposing this or that, they say to you: ‘Uf! Cura is here with his wish to change everything!’

- But you can do that because you are famous tenor. Theatres usually don’t allow singers to change the production as you did with La fanciulla....

- Independent of whatever label you carry, every singer has professional authority. I love the challenges and the madness, but I cannot support a true error in concept because for me there is a rule: on stage you can feel strange or awkward but you should never feel like an idiot. In Act II of this Fanciulla the director asked me to appear in a impeccable white, newly ironed suit with a frilly pink shirt ... "I will put it on,” I told her, “if you can explain why and convince me that it is possible for a bandit who is running from the law to appear dressed like that in the middle of nowhere. Then she tells me that Dick Johnson does not carry a gun... This is an illogical approach! To a gunman the gun is a necessity.  It is what makes him dangerous, what he uses to threaten others. What I finally did was hide the gun and, without saying anything the baritone and I reached an agreement.  We worked out the new scene together and it was that determination that established the relationship between the two characters.

- There was a rumor that you would play Sigmund at Bayreuth.  Are you going to sing Wagner? Have you started studying German?

- No. Actually, I am not going to sing Wagner. Yes, there was a half invitation from Bayreuth to make my debut in The Valkyries in 5 years. I thought that this would be the final motivation to study the language because I do not support the idea of singing just phonetically, but we did not agree from the contractual point of view, so for the time being there is no Wagner.

- Do you think you might leave singing and devote yourself more to conducting?

- It would be foolish to leave this capital now when I finally got possession of it, because I have reached the point in which I can be relaxed on stage, I already know how to sing and I can sing with almost no suffering.

- How were you suffering?

- Never psychologically, but physically. The color of my voice has always been suitable for the dramatic roles, but my muscles and my voice as body needed many years (to mature) so what was musically and artistically clear from the beginning can now be heard and seen and reflected in an integrated, clear voice and with equal result in all ranges.  Earlier they were not matching, and that is normal in the big voices. And when the result must come from muscular adaptation to support a theoretical concept that you already learned, what is lacking only is the passage of time.

- What do you plan your performance in Argentina?

- Although the contract is not yet signed, I trust [Marcelo] Lombardero because the proposal for my return for a season at the Colón came directly from him. We will do a concert version of Samson and Dalila, with a completely Argentine cast in Colón, between end of June and beginning of July.

- For how long you have you not sung in your own country and do you regret this absence?

- From 1999, practically my whole career. I want to meet the public and my companions and one of the things that most attracts me to return is the possibility of doing something with Argentine singers. Regarding my absence, and this is a conclusion I came to only after traveling around the world, I believe that the problem with Argentina is a lack of national pride. As a result of this syndrome, we Argentinians are forced to leave with great pain in the soul to work in places where we are appreciated. There is an absence of the same sort of nationalistic pride that, for example, Englishmen have when they defend their own people at any cost.

- And how do you see the Argentinian?

- He does exactly the opposite. When one of his triumphs, he goes looking for some shortcoming or defect to bring him down, especially in the eyes of foreigners. Imagine how a person feels who is applauded everywhere in the whole world except in his own country... It is a kind of failure. It is as if everyone says how wonderful this one is except his parents.  His own parents even discredit him in front of others. It is just as in a family: if someone is smart, he does not go about ranting about his wife and his children; on the contrary, they are his principal allies. You must never betray them because it would be a serious mistake. As for the country, it is somehow sad, and as for society it means a sort of defeat.

- Which has been your experience in this sense?

- The experience was not very pleasant the last time I was there. But I stopped worrying some time ago, since 1999 when I came back fighting to give the people what I had to offer. I left the country with a knife in my back ... from my own people. I learned this in proper flesh. But I will come back, smiling and happy, without trying to tilt at windmills again. I would like to be wrong and when people read this note they will say to me: “No, José, you are mistaken! When you come, we will start working together to improve things!" This would be a big dream come true!

 

 

 

José Cura on Fanciulla & Turandot at Covent Garden and keeping opera modern

Musical Criticism

Hugo Shirley

6 September 2008

"Modern artists have always been those who understood their society, the problems of their times and reflected them in their artistic activities."

Superstar tenor José Cura is renowned not just for his singing but also for the power of his acting.

As a conductor and a composer, as well as a singer, his background displays an unusual versatility that has helped him create a series of much admired operatic portrayals, many of them at London's Royal Opera House.

Two of these signature roles are in Puccini's later operas and he's back early this season as Dick Johnson in Piero Faggioni's lavish production of La fanciulla del West. In this eagerly anticipated revival conducted by Antonio Pappano, he sings alongside Eva-Maria Westbroek as Minnie and Silvano Carroli as Jack Rance. He returns as Calaf, his Covent Garden debut in the role, in a December revival of Turandot.

We meet in his dressing room before a morning rehearsal for Fanciulla and it is with Puccini's Wild-West classic that the conversation starts. I point out that it's a work which is greatly admired but has never achieved the popularity of some of Puccini's other operas. What does Cura see as the reason for this?

'It is true that Fanciulla is not an opera with a super-engaging, psychological background. It's not like Otello or Samson or Aida, which speak about betrayal, or Pagliacci which reflects the conflicts of show business. Fanciulla is a kind of idealistic love story, a Spaghetti Western, where the girl loves the boy and the bad guy hates both; it's a situation straight out of Hollywood. We have some ingredients there, of course, but it's not the kind of heavy plot that you would dedicate a month of Freudian analysis to. In that sense, the plot is sweet, it's light. It's an opera you go to and, for once, nobody dies; it finishes in a very optimistic way and everybody forgives everyone else. Considering what we see in the news every day, it's not bad to come to the opera and, for a change, not see people dying and betraying everybody. Fanciulla is probably not so extremely popular in that sense because it is not a tortured opera, it's almost a musical, in a way, although obviously not in terms of the composition, which is incredible.'

How does Cura explain its special musical character?

'Fanciulla, like Tabarro, like the last operas of Puccini, its an opera that moves almost in the rhythm of straight theatre, where people sing almost as if they're speaking to each other. It flows really well and Tabarro is the same, it's not an opera that allows for clichés in terms of acting and movement: you really have to act, to flow with the text in a natural way. It's the perfect opera in the sense of the evolution of the genre. Of course, for some people the perfect opera is one where the tenor stands and just delivers his aria. That might be the perfect opera for an old-style approach, but at the same time it can be very hard to be realistic in those melodramatic, old-style operas. You can try but there are times when you've just got to stand and deliver, because that's how it's written. With this work that's not the case, you can really be modern. It's the ideal opera for young people, for people who've never been to the opera who you want to bring for the first time, to seduce them for the future. Bring them to Fanciulla!'

Piero Faggioni's production is well known for its grand, cinematic sets (designed by Ken Adam, best known for his work on several James Bond films). Does the grandeur of the production make it more difficult to bring across the character of Dick Johnson?

'No, on the contrary. The fact that the staging is hyper-realistic, it allows you to just be the guy, to go and live it, to get into his skin and walk on to the stage as you would into a normal saloon. You don't have to imagine, say, that there's a chair on stage when there isn't, as you might in the kind of psychological mises-en-scène that are fashionable these days, or pretend you're somewhere when you're actually just in a black room.

'All that's very interesting, of course, but with this opera it's very difficult to carry off because the whole thing is there: the colours are there, the bangs, the fights, the smell of the gold is there. People have tried it and I've done Fanciullas that have been a bit weird, but they never work. I remember a Fanciulla two or three years ago when I walked on stage and there was a telephone, there was a fax machine, people had the Internet, there were antennae everywhere. So I said to the director: "Sorry, just one little thought: why is everyone so eager to receive the post when they're emailing all the time, why are they all nostalgic about their loved ones and homes being so far away when they can speak to them on the telephone every day?" The main thing in Fanciulla is the nostalgia; the violence also comes from the distance, from not being able to communicate and the feeling of isolation everywhere. So the moment you have all this modern communication equipment, the whole thing falls to pieces.'

I bring up the idea of the opera's 'happy ending', does Cura see an irony in the fact that such a realistic opera avoids the fatal clichés of verismo?

'Puccini was not 100% a verismo composer. He was a realistic composer: his operas were realistic, were true, the rhythm was almost that of the spoken word. That is of course verismo in the sense of it meaning that it reflects truth, but not in the sense of what defined that movement, not in the sense of people breaking all the rules of old-style opera, going for bloody situations and people shouting on stage. That is what we understand by verismo – like Pagliacci, Cavalleria rusticana – which is wrong in the end. Because these operas, if they're done properly, are also very stylised. You're not supposed to go there and shout and kick chairs around in Pagliacci just because it's verismo. But tradition has, also, unfortunately created that habit and that's why these operas are not very well loved everywhere. You can do them in a very stylised way and they can work really well. So Fanciulla is all that, Puccini's all that: it's almost impossible to define. It's true there's verismo there but there's also a lot of style.'

This brings us on to Turandot; Cura is returning to Covent Garden in December to sing his first Calaf for the company. Everyone knows 'Nessun dorma' but for some people there's a problem understanding what Calaf is about as a character. How does he set about persuading an audience that there's more to him than the one aria?

'Turandot is a very tricky opera. The problem with it is that it's become famous just because of one song. We hear that and we think of the World Cup, we think Three Tenors, we think of big stadiums. But the opera is really very complicated. It's a very Freudian opera in the sense of the conflict and confrontations between the female elements and the male elements, by which I also mean within the individuals themselves. We have the female in conflict with the past and in fear of physical contact, and the male who wants to possess. It's an opera that came around the same time as Lulu where psychology was evolving, it was the peak time for Freudian and Jungian theory and an extremely complicated period, but a fascinating one for humanity too. It was a time when people were discovering lots of things that were always there and had never been thought or talked about before. In the middle of all this Puccini writes an opera which finishes with a big conflict, one that remained unsolved because he died. So some people talk about the great music he might have written if he'd lived to finish it, while others read a lot into it, since Turandot was also a very autobiographical opera for Puccini. They see the conflict brought about by the Manfredi girl in his family; Liú was the alter-ego of Manfredi and Turandot the alter-ego of Elvira, his own wife. For them this explains the confrontation between the two women, the sweetness and love of one and the aggression of the other, Turandot, who in the end surrenders to love. With this personal dimension, some people think he would never have been able to write the proper music for this duet. Not because of any technical obstacles, but because of the conflicts of his own psychological situation.'

Bearing all this in mind, I ask Cura about the completion of the opera by Franco Alfano, who pieced together the final duet and finale from Puccini's sketches to produce the version usually performed in the opera house today.

'I think people are wrong to say "Oh, Alfano did a shit job". I don't think that's fair. The guy was not Puccini and that's it. It's not fair to lay into a composer because he couldn't rise to the challenge. He did what he could and was very humble in the way he tried to serve his teacher and master. He gathered all the pieces as best he could and he wrote what he knew. Of course it's easy to say, "It's not Puccini and because it's not Puccini it's shit." For some people that's just an action reflex, and they're just repeating an opinion that's chic. I wonder how many really know what they're saying or have really analysed what the guy did, which is actually really interesting. If you acknowledge the fact that he's not Puccini and if you take it on its own terms, harmonically it's very revolutionary. The first version of Alfano's ending is even more complicated, with harmonies that were completely ahead of their time, so the guy was not stupid. Even suppose for a moment that Alfano was a genius, in any case he was not the same guy who wrote the music before so there was never going to be a perfect match in the music.'

And does Cura have any views on Luciano Berio's completion?

'I've not heard it. And with all due respect to Berio, it was probably a very interesting adventure but I don't see the necessity for it. Having said that, I'm due to do a Turandot in a couple of months in Germany and I heard they're planning to finish with the death of Liú, which is another solution. One thing's for sure, let me tell you: Calaf without the final duet is a piece of cake! Yes, 'Nessun Dorma' is an appointment but it's solvable. The last duet, though, is a massacre; it really is very tough to sing. So if the fashion is to start cutting the last duet, there'll be a lot of happy Calafs out there!'

I lead the conversation onto other plans. Cura has sung several less well-known roles, starring for example in productions of El Cid and Edgar last season. I ask if there are any other unexpected roles he's keen to tackle?

'I have some plans but some of them depend on the possibility of learning the language. I've had several people ask me to do The Queen of Spades but I really have to learn the Russian. That's not something I can do overnight. I hate singing phonetics, it doesn't work with my style of interpretation which has always depended on the subtext. It's OK to sing in German or in Russian just repeating things phonetically and having an overall idea of the plot. It's another thing entirely to speak the language and to understand the "perfume" of the words. So whether this is something for the future, or just the dreams, I don't know.

'Another is Peter Grimes, but I'd love to do that in England. I want to learn the role and perform it in the proper way by coming to the source. But every time I say this I hear, "No, but the accent and this and that", and I say "Give me a break, have you ever heard English people singing in Italian?" They're very good and they try as hard as they can but you can hear the accent. It's natural, you can't avoid it. So does that mean that only English people can sing Peter Grimes, only Italians can sing Italian opera, only French people sing in French? Then we'd end up with a very limited international panorama. All of a sudden we'd have theatres closing. So I think this is nonsense. It's interesting to have someone in a role if they care about it and train hard for it, even if you hear the accent here and there. Who cares about that as long as you have an interesting psychological approach. So sometimes when you want to experiment you have to fight against prejudice. I don't know, I'll end by doing Peter Grimes somewhere else, for sure, because I want to do it. It would be a pity, because it's one thing to do it here to learn the style and how do it properly from someone who's English. It's a different thing to do it elsewhere and learn it from someone who's not English. Every time I mention it casually here I get a smile in return. So I've just stopped mentioning it! I'll have to live with that.'

So, with Hermann in The Queen of Spades and Peter Grimes, Cura's eyeing up Russian and British roles, has he ever thought about tackling the German repertory?

'I've even had invitations but I'm so afraid of the language. The point is that when you set a standard – regardless of whether or not people like that standard – you go on stage and people expect certain things. Some people expect mistakes and some people expect thrills, that's part of the game, but they expect something. I'm afraid that if I start doing German roles I won't be up to my own standards. I think that's OK if you cannot live up to the confrontation with another artist, there's always going to be someone better than you. If you can't live with the confrontation with your own self then you're in trouble. If they say "Cura is not as good as Del Monaco or Domingo", that's OK because it's true. If they start saying "Cura is not as good as Cura himself" then you have to pack your bags and go home. For that reason I'm not ready for Wagner because I know I will not be up to my standards.'

After the two roles he's singing at Covent Garden this season, I ask if we can look forward to seeing him return next season.

'I've got nothing next season because my calendar is very full, but I hope that we can have some interesting conversations before I go to work something out. I've been singing at this theatre for fifteen years so it's a very important part of me as an artist. I've done many important roles here and it's always a great thing to come back. Also, each time you come back to the Royal Opera House you have a feeling that you're starting again from the beginning, that you're a student. With lots of other theatres you arrive as the personality you are and that's it, and they're just glad you've turned up. When you arrive here the levels of expectation, organisation and pressure are so high that you're not the "star" any more, you're just another piece in the machinery who has everything to prove and has to start at the beginning. And it's not bad to have that kind of detoxicating cure every two or three years, to be brought down to earth and start again. The point is that in London, which I see as the world capital of art, you are one more artist among many, you just have to shut up and get on with it. It's very good, it's a good therapy to be made to realise that no matter how good you might be, there's always someone who's better.'

This Fanciulla revival is being conducted by the Royal Opera's Music Director, Antonio Pappano, a Puccini specialist. Is that something else Cura's looking forward to?

'I'm very good friends with Tony and he's great fun to work with, particularly with these works, because they're in his DNA. You see him going through the score with complete emotional understanding. Without having to pretend, he's there at the heart of it. It's great because when you're up on stage and you look down and see someone who is struggling – not technically but psychologically – with the piece, you can feel it, and it gets transmitted to the stage. I'd rather have somebody who's completely at ease with the piece, even if they miss a beat here or there, than someone who's a great intellectual but not necessarily fully at ease with the piece psychologically. In this case, though, we have the best of both worlds. Add to that the fact we've got Faggioni, who is a genius, and we have a pretty ideal situation. It's not every day that you get a great cast and a fabulous company so I feel, as an artist, that I'm a bit spoiled.'  

Cura is well-known as a versatile musician but has recently shown another side of his artistic personality having released Espontáneas, a book of his own photography.

'I think it's already in the shops in London and they should have it on sale in the shop here at the Opera House,' he jumps in. He continues, 'but it's completely on the side. It's a hobby, it's like a way out. If you're a lawyer you might choose music as a way out. If you're a musician, what's your way out? To do law?' He laughs: 'No, if you're a musician your way out is probably another form of art. Some people paint, some people draw, I love to take pictures. I've been taking pictures for the last thirty years at least. I've been improving and practising and get to talk to a lot of great photographers in my job. I always took pictures as a part of my hobby, my passion, but also as a way of observing life. I'd never thought about bringing about a book but two years ago the Swiss publisher came to me and said, "I saw some of your pictures in friends' houses and I'd like to publish some of them in a book." I replied that I didn't really think the world needed a book of pictures by me but he said something nice back. He said "You might not be Richard Avedon but you're a well-known artist and people who like you will like to see how you see things. For them it would be a nice thing to have." So I said OK and we did it.'

Does he think then that these photographs will give people an additional insight into José Cura the singer and musician?

'Well, you know what Avedon used to say: pictures are not a portrait of the model but a portrait of the photographer. So it's true that you cannot take pictures ignoring your own self. It's the same if you paint a picture, it's you; even if you try to avoid it, it's always you. So it might be true, I don't think it's absolutely necessary for people to know me through pictures but the book is a nice book, with some nice pictures and that's it! It's another step in the holistic conception of a career that I always had. Being a performer, the more you enrich your secondary activities the more you transmit on stage. In the end, you're on stage telling things and you've got nothing to tell if you haven't lived. The more you live, the more you touch, the more you smell, the more you are in contact with reality, the more things you've got in the background when you try and communicate.'

Aside from his busy operatic schedule, Cura is regularly involved in education work. This London visit will also see him lead a masterclass at the Royal Academy of Music. Does all this mean he's confident in the future of opera?

'Opera has a future, but it depends on us being modern, it doesn't depend on opera. And I don't know why - and you see this particularly in London - there's been such a revolution in straight theatre but in opera we still think that the way it was done fifty years ago was ideal and that what we're doing today isn't. There's an idea today that a modern production is one where the audience needs a manual of explanations to understand what's going on. That's not being modern, that's not having anything interesting to say about a piece and just being weird so at least no-one will say you're copying. But from there to being modern is a long way. Modern artists have always been those who understood their society, the problems of their times and reflected them in their artistic activities, and that's what we need to do. If we continue to do Otello as they did it in the fifties, you ignore the worldwide crisis of fundamentalism of today: in 2008, the fact that Otello is a Muslim converted to Christianity opens up a whole world to investigate. After 2001 and September 11, the whole approach to a fundamentalist opera like Otello has changed. That's just to mention one example and it's something that can be applied to many other operas.

'That's the challenge but of course you need guts for it. If you go on stage destroying the myth that Samson was a saint, for example, and point out to people that he was killing in the name of God and therefore is comparable to a terrorist of today, then you have a scandal. If you point that out people might accuse you of being anti-Semitic because Samson was a Jew. But the philistines are also killing in the name of their god, Dagon, so both were behaving in the same way, so it's not against a particular race or group of people, it's understanding that killing in the name of God is something that's just as modern today 3,500 years after the original story of Samson. It's the same with so many operas, take Ballo in maschera with all its political intrigue, or Aida. Aida might be famous for elephants and monkeys on stage but we shouldn't forget about what's going on behind it all. So that's the future, trying to find that aspect of these works. And if you want to do that coming in in a flying saucer then that's fine, but if that's all you do then it's ridiculous. There's no point in trying to create a scandal for the sake of it, people will have forgotten it by the next day.'

 

 

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:  Bibola's Signorina Julia, Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste, Italy, 1993
     
  • First performance in US:  Giordano's Fedora, Chicago Lyric, USA, 1994

 

 

 

 

 

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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. 

 

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Last Updated:  Sunday, August 31, 2014  © Copyright: Kira