Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director





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Early Concerts






Concert in honor of Franco Corello


December 1997


Click on photo to watch









Come un bel di di maggio

Andrea Chénier




Du bist meine sonne










German Concert Tour


Vienna, Munich, Mannheim, Hamburg, Zurich, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden


June 2000






Royal Albert Hall




  September 2000



























Verdi Gala







Symphonic Concerts

Warsaw, Wroclaw, Bydgoszcz


































Te Deum 1996 Paris






Concert, Dublin, 1996:  José Cura at the National Concert Hall (May 2nd) will remain in my memory as one of the greatest concert performances ever seen in this country.  The Irish Times Letters, 15 May 1996



Irish Times

Sat, Feb 28, 1998, 00:00


 Paris in the spring is not, I muse - as I crunch my way carefully up the frozen-solid steps of the Bastille metro station, along the side of the opera house and around the intermittently slippy place to the offices of Erato records on the rue des Tournelles - quite what you might expect. Behind the somewhat grim, stone facade of Numero 50, however, all is sweetness and bright-green minimalist steel-and-glass light. And when Erato's superstar tenor materialises in the foyer at the appointed hour, a warm Latin whirlwind dissolves the last, lingering hints of ice from the morning. "My God," exclaims Jose Cura, surveying The Irish Times's ankle-length overcoat and fur hat before clasping the whole lot to his bosom in an embrace worthy of the last act of La Boheme, "you're very black . . . "

Ok, OK, I just put that bit in to make you all jealous. Because with a best-selling CD in the classical charts, his name on the cast list of some of the most prestigious shows around and his face on the cover of just about every music magazine you pick up, Cura is one of the hottest properties on the contemporary opera scene. He has been thrice blessed: with a voice that is both powerful and heartstoppingly beautiful; with Hollywood heart-throb looks allied to a sure instinct for the dramatic; with - and this, ultimately, is the most telling - a keen musical intelligence rooted in a solid training as a conductor and composer. No doubt about it. On a tenor scale of one to 10, Jose Cura is the full monty.

He is, at 35, approaching the pinnacle of his vocal powers. But he is also approaching the fearsome chasm that exists between "promising young singer" and "successful mature artist" - which is where the intelligence comes in. Take the make-or-break role of Otello in Verdi's setting of the Shakespeare tragedy, for instance. All aspiring dramatic tenors are expected to master it, yet it is commonly regarded as a killer for the voice, turning crooners into croakers faster than you can say "Hey, Desdemona . . . " Cura sang his first Otello with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic last year, to considerable acclaim, but he shrugs off the suggestion that it's a dangerous role.

"That's a cliche," he says. "A cliche that was born during and after the creation of Otello by Mario del Monaco. He created that character in verismo style, a Pagliacci and Cavalleria style - OK, that was his Otello, but it doesn't mean Otello is like that. And if you forget del Monaco and go to the singers who sang the role before him, you'll understand that the del Monaco interpretation is an item in the middle of the story, but is not the only possibility. Otello is bel canto - it's Verdi, not Leoncavallo. Dramatic bel canto, of course, but still bel canto.

"And if you read the character in the Shakespeare key, then you realise that the drama shows him not as he used to be - a warrior, a hero - but in the last 24 hours of his life, as he is going to pieces. Then Otello is no longer a shouting role. If you interpret Otello in the key of Laurence Olivier or Orson Welles and you put that reading together with music, then you have a new Otello and the role is no longer dangerous. It's difficult, but not dangerous. After having sung Aida, or Forza Del Destino, or Samson And Delilah, I must say that Otello is not - vocally speaking - more or less difficult for me than those operas. "Dramatically, though - well, if you take the role of Radames in Aida, if you just stand there and sing Radames nobody will be upset: it's OK; it's enough. But with Otello you have to create a character; so the difficulty of Otello is to be mature enough, or intelligent enough, or good enough, put it whatever way you want, to create that character. And usually this ability is associated with 20 or 25 years of career. Nobody thinks that you can have this maturity or capacity for analysis when you are young."

Both Cura's penchant for doing the unexpected and his ability to think himself right inside a character are shown to perfection on his debut CD, a comprehensive collection of Puccini arias. It was a courageous departure from the usual tenor debut - a dash of this, a sprinkling of that and a few lollipops to finish - and it has been wildly successful, winning ecstatic reviews and selling in excess of 90,000 copies worldwide, an unprecedented number for a first album from a relatively untried artist. He agrees, gleefully, that it was an ambitious and potentially suicidal idea. "If you put 21 pieces by the same composer on the same recording, it can get boring after the second or third piece. And everybody was worried about it, I must say, because it was also the first time in the history of recording that the same tenor recorded all the Puccini songs at once."

So was it difficult to persuade the record company to take it on? "No. It was simple. I said: `There's a lot of material in the record market, and I don't want to put another piece of meat in the fridge'. So they took the risk. And now everybody is happy."

Including himself? He laughs, happily. "When you listen to my recording, it's not like a computer singing - I mean, when I listen to my recording, again and again and again, I hear mistakes here and mistakes there, and I think if I had to do that recording again tomorrow I'd do it completely different.

"But there's one thing that makes me happy all the time, and that's that it's alive - and that each character is comparable only to itself and not to the others. So Nessun Dorma is heroic, in a way; but it's also sad because the character is not heroic all the time. But anyway it's completely different to E Lucevan Le Stelle and that's completely different to Butterfly."

While we're on the subject of "and now for something completely different", how did he end up belting out a couple of duets with Sarah Brightman on her last album, Time To Say Goodbye? Far from having the grace to look abashed, he grins widely and offers the excuse that, coming a month before his Puccini recording, it gave him a chance to polish up his microphone technique. "No, the real background is that East-West Records saw one of my videos - a behind-the-scenes video made by the BBC while I was recording the programme for the Great Composers series. And they saw that I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and they said `this opera singer is cool - why don't we call him, to do this recording?' Because although they wanted a tenor, a `name', they couldn't have an old-style tenor singing an opera aria. "So they called me, and I asked them to send me the music and the arrangement, because I wanted to see if it was high-quality or not. I don't care whether it's classical music or pop music, if it's good. And I really enjoyed it. I love pop music. You know, when I was on the trip from my house to here this morning I was listening to a whole Sinatra recital and I was jumping and dancing in the car because the guy was just incredible. And I was just thinking, it's a pity I will never be able to listen to him live . . . anyway, I'd do a pop recording again tomorrow, as long as I could keep the high quality and not end up sounding cheap."

Recordings are a bit of a red herring, though, because Jose Cura is primarily a stage animal, and having just returned from a triumphant Aida in Tokyo, he is about to get his teeth into Carmen at the Bastille Opera. Later in the year he has Manon Lescaut at La Scala, Milan and Samson Et Dalila in Washington. And in the middle of all this, he comes to Dublin to sing in a gala concert with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Anissimov, at the RDS on March 14th. This will be his third visit to Dublin. How on earth does he manage to fit Ireland into his glittering schedule - more to the point, why does he? "When I was finishing my studies in 1991, 1992," he says, "my old teacher said to me, `OK, you have to have the theatres in the big cities where you're going to work almost exclusively. But never forget you have to have those places where you go for the pleasure of singing, because that is the only thing that will keep you humanly alive'. And that's why I keep returning to Ireland - because I love the feeling of singing in Ireland. You're singing for people who know that you love what you're doing. No matter if you're famous or not famous, if you sing well you will have your success in Ireland."

The programme for Dublin consists partly of numbers he has sung in Ireland before ("I was asked to sing them again so that people can hear them with orchestra") and partly of arias he has never performed in Ireland, such as the aria from La Forza Del Destino ("which, by the way, I haven't sung for four years, so you'll get the premiere of my `new' version of it!"); the overall aim, he says, is to keep the show moving. Which, as anyone who has seen Cura in concert before will readily attest, is something of an understatement, for his is the very antithesis of a "stand-and-deliver" delivery.

"Yes," he agrees, "it will be the old-style Cura show. Because my primary aim in opera, always, is to create theatre. Now at the end of the century you have cinema, you have video, you have computer images: and you have audiences who won't put up with some guy standing there" - he puts his hand on his heart, mock-tenor style - "singing".

Jose Cura will sing with the NSO, conducted by Alexander Anissimov, at the RDS on Saturday, March 14th. Tickets from HMV and usual outlets. He will sign autographs at HMV Grafton Street on Sunday, March 15th from 12.30-2 p.m.




Last Updated:  Thursday, February 08, 2018  © Copyright: Kira