The famous Argentine tenor José
Cura New Year’s concert at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet
Theater was unexpected.
After the orchestral introduction
to Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci, the famous
tenor voice was heard coming…from the stalls. He began to sing
as the clown Canio from his sit among the audience. Of course,
after a few phrases he stood up to go to the stage, but even here he
improvised when he took the hand of a little girl who led him from
the audience, a unexpected but small and important role with which
the celebrity started the concert.
In fact, the epithet “unexpected”
perhaps best described the entire festive and very informal evening
From the beginning, the so-called
fourth wall separating the actor from the audience was broken, with
the famous tenor and even cleverer director delicately created an
informal atmosphere equal to the rock or jazz concert.
He spoke Lithuanian with the
audience (“Good evening” uttered easily and without an accent) in
public for the first time, saying he already had links with
Lithuania because his daughter’s boyfriend is Lithuanian.
“Perhaps soon I will be one of you,” joked the famous Argentine who
together with his wife has raised three children.
He warned at once (now in
English) that this would be no ordinary concert and special
evening—a New Year’s Celebration (Party)—and proposed that we relax
and enjoy. He, in turn and together with all the performers on
the stage, would literally “sweat” for the benefit of the audience.
Admittedly, I have probably never
before seen such a heartfelt and informal spirit in the LNOBT.
Nevertheless, most of the program of the concert itself did not even
remotely remind me of the classic popular songs medley that
traditionally flood the stage on [New Year’s Eve]. Yes, the
Canio aria from Pagliacci was performed with all the vocal,
dramatic, and inspiration that you would expect from the tenor who
had conquered the world, but it also introduced the Prolog, scenes
from the first act and the intermezzo.
Of course it was possible to
enjoy José’s aria from Georges Bizet opera Carmen but
also heard the opera’s overture, the Carmen and Don José duet and
all of Act IV. According to Jose Cura’s idea, the program, in
which he appeared as a soloist and as a conductor, was made up of
larger [dramatic] scenes.
In addition to the above, there
were amazing excerpts from Giuseppe Verdi’s operas Nabucco
and Aida and Camille Saint-Saëns’
Samson et Dalila.
Even the most demanding tastes of music fans could not be found
wanting against the concert program works for both the selection and
quality of the performances, which met the highest classical
As careful and attentive to the
glories of his stage partners, Cura showed special affection and
gratitude for the LNOBT Orchestra, obviously feeling great passion
for his second musical vocation—conducting. The maestro even
embraced the orchestra concertmaster Angelę Litvaitytę.
A tribute medley of popular
repertoire operas formed the encore: the Slave Chorus from
Nabucco, ‘Libiamo’ from La traviata, and, of
course, the fabulous aria of Calaf ‘Nessun dorma’ from Giacomo
Puccini’s Turandot completing the fantastic evening.
And among the encores came the
Beatles’ song ‘Yesterday’ with Cura singing and accompanying himself
on the guitar. As he commented, “What is common between opera and
the Beatles? Their ‘Yesterday’ is also a classic—classic pop.”
So, as sung in 1965, the Beatles
song ‘Yesterday’: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…”
José Cura’s inspirational arch, charisma and human warmth radiated
through the LNOBT and created a New Year’s evening atmosphere that
was free, sincere, and extraordinary. A postmodern New Year’s Opera