Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director





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How José Cura Saved his Concert in Zabrze

[An Account]


Rev. Adrian Nowak

As I sat down to write this report, I remembered an old industry joke: there is no art in playing when the instrument is in tune. I added something of my own: there is an art in playing when nothing is in tune.

A concert took place in Zabrze on Saturday, 22 November, a concert that had a good chance to be one of the most significant artistic events in Poland. It was not that until the end.

José Cura, returning to Poland after a long absence, arrived onstage in the Domu Muzyki i Tańca in Zabrze showing great artistic form.  The concert began with the prologue from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.  Cura entered the hall through the auditorium, greeting the audience, shaking hands, bowing, all while singing this difficult number.  By the end he had managed to make it to the stage, where he greeted all with great affection, enthusiastically shouting in Polish, "Dobry wieczór Polska, dobry wieczór orkiestra, dobry wieczór maestro” ("Good evening, Poland, good evening, orchestra, good evening, maestro") – here he bowed in the direction of the second conductor who led the orchestra during the arias sung by José Cura.  The Cracow Event Orchestra is an ensemble made up of young musicians.  José Cura described them as TOP MODELS.  Of course the audience bought it immediately, retuning his affection with thunderous applause.

The young soprano Agnieszka Kozlowska from the Warsaw Chamber Opera and tenor Boguslaw Morka were Cura’s guests. A bravura performance of “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca triggered another storm of applause but it is worth noting here the involvement of José Cura in conducting.  Watching him lead the group I had the impression that the tenor flowed with them in the beauty of the music.  In fact, Cura gave more of himself as a conductor than as a singer, though every time he stood in front of a microphone he confirmed his great vocal state.  During the second half of the concert he sang several arias and songs while simultaneously conducting the orchestra.  

At some point, the audience developed the impression that Cura was treating the concert quite informally.  Every now and then I noted a change in the order of the numbers but Maestro joked with the audience and the atmosphere remained relaxed; however, it raised concerns that the concert was not quite polished.  This was confirmed at the end of the first half, when Cura wanted to conduct the next aria and called Boguslawa Morke to the stage only to find that the orchestra did not have the music on their stands.  Cura fixed a smile on his face and said, “We have a small logistical problem.” When someone from the orchestra told him there was a planned break at that point Cura jokingly took his baton in hand and pointed toward the door.  In this way he invited the audience to intermission.

The second half of the program included Neapolitan and Spanish songs.  What happened after the intermission, however, confirmed the conjectures in the auditorium.  Cura returned to the stage appearing somewhat uneasy and immediately began conducting the next number.  When Agnieszka Kozlowska arrived to start the subsequent aria, José Cura stepped from the podium to ask her to translate his words.  In English, he said that the audience might think that the artists on stage did not know what they doing, because they were constantly changing the order of the arias and rearranging the sheet music. He wanted the critics to understand that the organizers were responsible because they had not provided the partitures on time so that it had been impossible to properly prepare for the concert. Naturally, this sincere confession won over the audience, who offered thunderous applause to the artists who were doing their best to save the concert.

The atmosphere cleared, one could tell immediately in the way the orchestra was conducted.  Cura began to joke again and to flirt with the concert mistress as well as the first violinist, causing the audience to laugh.  

The concert ended, although it could have been better and with the high ticket prices (145-299 PLN) the audience expected much more than they received.  In spite of everything it was a high-end concert thanks to José Cura’s great sense of humor and his strong will which, along with the orchestra and the soloists, saved the concert.

The program was rich and diverse:  first were well-known fragments of operas like the “Libiamo” from Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, the Aria of Cavaradossi from Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca and "Je veux vivre" from Charles Gounod's Romeo et Juliette; after that came famous operetta songs such as “Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss" from Franz Lehar's Giuditta and Neapolitan and Latin favorites including, among others, “O sole mio”, “Besame mucho”, “Amigos para siempre” and “La spagnola”.

The orchestra also played the overture to Verdi’s opera La forze del destino and “Tangazo” by Astor Piazzola.  According to Cura, this was the Polish premiere of the symphonic version of Piazzola’s work.  The concert ended with a long standing ovation that made clear the audience did not want the artists to leave the stage and providing evidence that they had saved this beautiful event, in spite of the organizational problems.

The main concern was the nonchalance and lack of competence of the organizers.  It is, however, necessary to mention that the promoter was MONOLIT, a company that has extensive experience in coordinating such events.

We saw a half-empty auditorium and yet with good advertising a name like José Cura—one of the best singers in the world and easily compared to Domingo or Carreras—should easily have filled the Domu Muzyki i Tańca in Zabrze.  Equally as embarrassing was the fact that Cura’s microphone had to be replaced just before the encore.  Was it really a problem to replace old batteries with new ones before the concerts?  Many oversights such as this threw a shadow over an otherwise delightful concert.  

One this is certain:  José Cura confirmed that he is a great artist and succeeded in creating such a relaxed atmosphere for both orchestra and audience through his personality that he proved you can be a big star despite difficult circumstances.  But it must be remember that a classical music concert has to be perfectly planned and implemented.  That’s why the organizers need to be reprimanded for their negligence of simple but important issues.

Another important fact was that from the beginning the concert seemed not fully thought through by the organizers.  Originally, it was intended to take place in June at the Forest Opera in Sopot; however,--as we can read on the Monolit site—it had to be cancelled due to the fault of the promoter.  It was only through the understanding of José Cura that they managed to find another time and venue in November.

On Sunday [following the performance] José Cura added an entry to his official Facebook profile in which he described the events in Zabrze: “A very traumatic experience that has ended in a good way thanks to my nice colleagues, Boguslaw and Agneska, and to the beautiful and super professional musicians of the orchestra that was put together for the occasion.... I was supposed to sing [several other arias including] Nessun dorma also, and I could not sing them...”due to oversights from the organizers.

As stated in his Facebook post, he had to improvise the whole concert and was not able to provide the audience with printed programs—from the beginning that appeared to be strange. Today we know why it was so.

If an artist of the class of José Cura is treated like this, it should not be a surprise if some will avoid our country, not wanting to expose themselves to the risks of embarrassment or the necessity of interrupting the gig at the last minute—or during it.

I will be sad to think how this evening by one of the greatest tenors in the world will be remembered.  It is a great shame for the promoters.  Still, to Maestro José Cura:  thank you for this musical feast.

With mixed feeling… Rev. Adrian Nowak

Check out José Cura’s comments on his Facebook….















































Last Updated:  Saturday, January 10, 2015  © Copyright: Kira