Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director

 

 

 

Operas:  Otello in Györ

April 2016

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INTERVIEWS!

 

Translated by Zsuzsanna -- with a little help from a friend

 

 

José Cura: Turn that damned phone off!

 

Dóra Esze

18/04/2016

origo.hu

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

José Cura will conduct Verdi’s Otello in Győr on 23rd April. Journalists lined up for interviews after a passionate, foul-mouthed and long chorus rehearsal in Budapest. The Origo caught the grateful penultimate place for making a passionate, foul-mouthed and unfortunately too brief conversation with the Maestro, who has been known as the “Fourth Tenor” by the world.

 

        If he stops singing, he hopes to be a full-time conductor. He’d love to.

        He learned to make bread a few days ago, and he became obsessed by the subject.

        If a mobile phone rings during the concert, he simply stops the orchestra and quips to the audience.

        The parents of his son’s girlfriend don’t even know that he is one of the greatest tenors of the world.

        Europe is Disneyland.

        He has a motto from Oscar Wilde: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.

Almost as a child you made your debut as a conductor at the age of 15, but you made your name as a singer first. What does it mean for you to stand in the orchestral pit instead of the stage in your current stage of life?

 

I am a composer and a conductor as per my university studies. I was 28-year"s-old when my singing career started. Since then, it wasn’t my plan to return to the conductor’s podium, until in 1996 something happened. In the 80's Argentina was just in the beginning to recover from the military regime. It was almost hopeless to find a job as a composer or as a conductor in that young democracy and difficult economic situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I had a voice and I had sung in the choir during all of my life, so I carefully started to perform as a soloist and I moved to Europe with my family at the age of 28, hoping to become a choir-singer in Spain or Italy. But bureaucracy intervened; they couldn’t employ me in any of the choirs without a permanent residency permit.

However this wasn’t applied to the soloists, as these are guests, not permanent staff. I found an agent who organized auditions for me. I got small roles first and then I suddenly burst into the business. It happened quite fast (from being unknown to the contrary, I mean, because, as for the training, I had been working hard for many years by then) and immediately on a large scale. Suddenly I was looking at myself in every front page. I wasn’t prepared for it at all… I put my compositions and my conducting aspirations on hold and dedicated full time to my singing career.

However fate is fate and during a recording session in 1996, the then concertmaster of the London Philharmonia, Chris Warren-Green, told me that he could feel the innate conductor in me. He teased me to convince me to return to my conducting one day and gave me his favorite baton as a present. It was very flattering from such an erudite musician. I began to “oil” my conducting skills carefully again one year later —conducting the recording of Anhelo, in 1998 Verismo and in 1999, Verdi Arias—, until in the year 2000, after a concert in Warsaw with Sinfonia Varsovia (founded by Jehudi Menuhin), the management of the great Polish orchestra invited me to be their principal guest conductor. Everything was moving again to make so to take the decision of resuming my conducting work. It wasn’t planned. I would say it was a beautiful accident. But it is easily possible —at least is my hope— the to be a full-time conductor is my future. The voice does not last forever.

Do you approach those pieces differently in which you have sung the tenor’s role? As it is in the case in Otello now?

Yes, it means a huge difference that you can transfer all of your experience to the singers while respecting them for their own approaches. I try to give them as much as I can and they take as much as they want. Nobody needs clones; I don’t force my own interpretation into their heads. I only offer what I have experienced and I know it works.

I want them to feel that they are in the hands of someone who has tried many ways, who draws his conclusions not only from the theory, but have put his life on the line. Now in Otello —this is going to sound arrogant, but I promise, it’s not my intention— I want to try things such as tempo, in accents, phrasing, etc., in the interpretation, about which I could only dream until now, because being a singer, you cannot decide everything in the performance. You need to adapt, as much as possible, to the conductor, to the director, your colleagues, etc. There is no problem with this, that’s what professionalism is about, but sometimes it's kind of frustrating.

Do you approach those pieces differently in which you have sung the tenor’s role? As it is in the case in Otello now?

Yes, it means a huge difference that you can transfer all of your experience to the singers while respecting them for their own approaches. I try to give them as much as I can and they take as much as they want. Nobody needs clones; I don’t force my own interpretation into their heads. I only offer what I have experienced and I know it works.

I want them to feel that they are in the hands of someone who has tried many ways, who draws his conclusions not only from the theory, but have put his life on the line. Now in Otello —this is going to sound arrogant, but I promise, it’s not my intention— I want to try things such as tempo, in accents, phrasing, etc. in the interpretation, about which I could only dream until now, because being a singer, you cannot decide over everything in the performance. You need to adapt, as much as possible, to the conductor, to the director, your colleagues, etc. There is no problem with this, that’s what professionalism is about, but sometimes if kind of frustrating.

Did it happen that you invited somebody to your performances from those who rejected you at that time?

You can live in resentment, but it is stupidity. Life is complicated in itself enough, what’s the point to intensify this?

However, they were wrong…

It is true that there are lobbies and mafias, but this is subject of another conversation. I don’t think there is such a stupid impresario who discards an accomplished singer just for the sake of doing it. I recall a time when this happened to me, but probably I wasn’t really good enough. In that sense I have had some disillusions when I was young, since some of those who rejected me could have recognized the potential in me, but what can you say to someone who doesn’t feel for you? I am sorry, only this. The conductor, the agent, the artistic director and the casting director have huge responsibility: they should not judge the present, but the potential!

There are agents with whom I have very good relationship now, despite the fact they didn’t accept me ages ago. I understand that it is difficult situation to handle when someone receives 100 letters a day from people dreaming to be next Pavarotti or he next Callas. In this case a quite honest answer would be this:  Sorry, I don’t believe in you. Just say that politely and, if you were wrong, maybe a new relationship can be created ten years later with no resentment. Looking down on people as a sport is extremely unadvisable. Sooner or later you’ll have to it payback.

I tell you a story without mentioning the name. Many years ago I went to an audition in a small theatre and they told me that I didn’t hit their standard. Two or three years later I became who I became. The theatre made contact with me. I answered that “thank you for remembering me, but now it is you who are not enough for me on the sense that you are a small theatre, and I have big house after me. No resentments.”

Did they understand it?

Oh, it was a very polite conversation. I wasn’t driven by revenge at all. It was just the actual truth. But it can be a valuable lesson to learn: small theaters have to bet in new artists. A small theatre does not have to see itself as if they were Covent Garden. They have to invest in young people. Otherwise they live up to a false assumption throughout which can be difficult to deal with. Ours is a very tricky business.

How do you see the future of classical music as a composer? Everything has been written. Is it still possible to find out something new?

Mozart said that after Johan Sebastian Bach nobody could write any new in music, including himself. And we are talking about Mozart! This is a very old problem. Bach, who is the alfa and the omega of music, has written nearly all —if not all of them— possible combinations notes. In a certain sense, he “ruined”, or at list jeopardized, the future with his huge genius. For whom is really to dig in his music, the resulting harmonic combination of notes implied in some of his monumental pieces in “the art of fugue”, is often more evolved, most “vanguardist” than many Schoenberg’s pieces. So, what do we do? What’s the future? There is only one option and this is true the art as a whole: the intellectual honesty.

Unfortunately most of nowadays creators, don’t fight to be honest, but to be different from the crowd. Thus, as a result, they became indifferent. It’s not a problem if the contemporary music is strange. Many recognized geniuses where strange to there fellows. Beginning with Beethoven, to mention one.  If the composer writes sincerely, his emotion comes through and we understand his heart regardless of the level of difficulty. People can feel when a composer is writes only for the sake of being different. Such notes don’t reach into the heart. This, for me, is the dividing line.

It is known that you can’t stand technology, you often stop the concert if a phone rings in.

Oh, no, no, I don’t hate it, I love it. But if your write text messages or you post in Facebook while you making love, you have a serious problem in your head. We go to the concert in order to be there sharing feelings, making love with the stage, the artists. Turn your fucking phone off and put it into your bag! What the hell should you leave it on for? Maybe such an important message will arrive that it can wait until you are finished with what your doing?

I have learned to make bread two days ago. Finally! Now I'm obsessed with the subject. It's an amazing spiritual adventure to see how it expands in the oven, it is quite shocking, touching. I deeply recommend it to everyone. You can throw something into the microwave when you are in a hurry, but we really need to spare two hours for making bread. An amazing meditation indeed.

Who finds the balance between the microwave and the real cooking, runs well and happy. But the one who is living out of a microwave through his life… Well, I'm really sorry. The Internet is frenetic; it is the Alexandrian library itself. I also use Internet, of course, by the way, I thank for the millions of bread recipes you can find there. I can share my bread making with the virtual community. Still I need to really do my bread in order to have something to share! What I can’t stand —and luckily more and more people every day is of my same opinion— is when someone rummages in his own vomit for the sake of clicks, poisoning others life.

And how does it feel when your children post your videos on Facebook?

For my children I am just their father, they interested in my career but as long as it stays that, a way of earning my living —and theirs.…— but not a way of life in itself. The parents of my son's girlfriend don’t even know who the hell I am. Sometimes they ask if it is true I sing for a leaving… They never took the time to “google” me… Wonderful! We sit and talk to each other in the greatest naturalness. Family is one thing and business another one.

What would you say today to the 25-year-old Jose Cura?

My life is privileged. I would say: Do everything just the way you did. I've always been an idealist, I went through a lot of things, many of them difficult to believe, but in the meantime I know that we cannot even imagine what it's like to be a young person today in Syria. So overall, I —we all— am in a privileged position. And it must be valued.

The young people in Europe, but perhaps the Europeans in general, lost their sense of real struggle, in a certain sense (that after-war spirit which was so great to build the Europe we have now—. Just take a stroll in India, Africa, South America, and see: Europe is still Disneyland. Even it is together with its problems, compared to them… Our youngsters —of course, I generalize this, so do not take it literally— are growing lazier.

Many people ask me how it is possible that someone becomes a great singer from anywhere in the world sooner than from Europe today. One of the reasons is that, for someone who lives in South America, his daily bread depends on success; the Sword of Damocles is hovering over his head, so he has to go the whole hog. Now if right now you “kick me and then kiss me, or pee on me”, and someone records the action and upload it to YouTube, tomorrow you’ll be more famous than me… This is the purpose of many people today: fame. But greatness and fame are not synonymous. We have lost that healthy “anger for life” in the good sense of the word, which means: Shit, I’ll do it! We have to find our way back to this strong engine before the new generations become “softie”.

Is confidence important for this?

Yes. If somebody spares his life trusting in people, he will die more peacefully than someone who was unable to trust in anyone. I have a motto from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”. Today's kids resemble to each other. They all use the same perfumes, hence they have the same smell; they dress alike, listen to the same music, eat the same food. If somebody sticks his head out of the crowd, the others label him as being arrogant. Who do you think you are? But it is exactly this that we need: leaders!

Young people have to take the lead, and take the future into their hands. My generation and then one of our parents are responsible for what wide mess. Check out the heads of state, they all are in their 50s and 60s. Corruption encompasses the world. One of my biggest wishes is that the state leaders of my generation step back, leaving room for new comers. Those who have created the mess are not able to fix it. The entire old bullshit —right-wing, left-wing, fascist, Bolshevik, etc.— ought to disappear. We have to start from scratch! Then we will maybe have a new planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

José Cura’s music-soaked world

 

Eszter Veronika Kiss

16/04/2016, 16:00

mno.hu

 

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

José Cura will conduct the concert performance of Verdi’s opera, Otello for the invitation of the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra on the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, on 23rd April in Győr. Preparing for the performance, the world-famous Argentine singer, composer and conductor rehearsed with the Hungarian National Choir in Budapest and he gave an interview to Magyar Nemzet. (This is the extended version of the interview published in Magyar Nemzet on 16/04.)

–It is easier to perform the musical context of the piece in a concert performance, without using stage direction and costumes, though it is more difficult to display the action of the play. Do you think so too?

– This is only half of the truth. An opera is a drama consisting of sets, costumes, lights, etc., and if we give it only in concert, it can tell you a lot about the music, but not about the dramatic motivation of such music. The number of people really understanding a piece that has been conceived for the stage and is only given in concert will depend on how knowledgeable is the audience. If we perform Otello for people who already know the story in a concert version, then they will understand everything and enjoy the chance of being able to concentrate just on the music. But if we have an audience that doesn’t know the piece, then the lack of action will result in just half of the information reaching the public. That is why we will make a kind of compromise on this concert and there will be some playing on the stage in a sort of semi-staged show. There will be no costumes, but for example different ties, which colors are more or less in the line of the character psychology, will help to distinguish who is who. For example Montano, who is a military chief, gets a green tie; while Cassio, who is a young, sunny man, wears a blue tie.

– During the rehearsal you analyzed the difference of the capabilities of the classical opera choirs and the choirs who are used to perform symphonic music. Is it easier to work with a choir who is accustomed to symphonic music in a concert version performance?

– The word “easy” is not the best word for this. First of all there is nothing “easy” in this work and certainly not in Otello, because this is a very difficult piece. Of course I understand what you mean. Indeed, it is always easier to work with a professional choir if the conductor knows what he wants and he has the in-depth knowledge of the piece, and he doesn’t only know it superficially, from the performances of other conductors… If you know what you want, then the singers and musicians will feel your intention from the first moment and they will do anything logical you ask for. However if a person get lost in a swampy area and tries to convince the others about knowing something by shouting, lecturing and arguing them, and in such a way he tries to obscure the fact that he doesn’t understand the essence of the thing, then it takes only a minute for him to lose the respect of the team forever. If that happens, then the difference can be clearly felt in the concert.

– You are thoroughly familiar with Otello as you not only sang but also directed it. What does Otello mean to you in terms of your career?

– When I started singing, of course, I dreamed of the role of Otello as any tenor does. I never thought that I could be in such a close relationship with it because it's no longer just a role, but it is also much more: a companion. I've been working with him for twenty years, and it's a real partnership, which all the more is beyond the role because in a sense it has accompanied half of my life so far. Of course, it is also hard to say this, because Otello is a negative character. It is especially inconvenient for me to consider it as being a kind of “pal” without having to pull a definite line: that though I work hand in hand with a role day after day, yet I must isolate myself from it as far as it is possible, keeping always in mind that it is just a role. A delicate balance is required to allow such a character being close to yourself, being careful so that you never cross the line.

–Do you have time for anything else which is not music besides your tremendous work?

– Is there anything in life which is not music?

– Sports, gardening, reading...

– Good sports are operated by rhythm…

– So life itself is music?

– Everything has a sound, and every sound is in harmony or not with each other. When we break this sound, this harmony; we decompose and destroy the balance. Many problems come from this, being lack of proper communication the most important one. If we could “hear” the music of creation in a kind of holistic approach, we could relate to each other very differently. But coming back to the question, there is nothing in the world which would not have something to do with music. If I would answer your question, I could say that in my free time I do sports and gardening. But when I do sports and gardening, I do them as musically as possible…

– Composing, conducting, singing, stage directing and designing, being home in almost every segment of the music: this kind of attitude is a kind of renaissance attitude, isn’t it?

– Yes, it is. Unfortunately, this kind of renaissance attitude doesn’t count to be a modern approach in the 21st century. In the 20th century, people started to be increasingly specialized in one area, and then in smaller and smaller sub-areas. Today, if you go to the doctor, you are looking for a doctor who specialized in one specific area of the human body. If you have a headache, this doctor's medicine relieves the headache, while it may probably ruin your stomach. Of course I am generalizing, but as a fact, it is true that we should rediscover the spirit of the Renaissance. Maybe not in the sense that one person ought to do everything, but yes do as many things as that person is capable to do. There is a common Chinese saying: If you always do what you are capable of doing, then you will never know what you would have been able to do. Einstein said: If you do always the same things, you get always the same results, more or less. No move ahead, progressing, or bock back, why not, correcting. Statism.

– If you cultivate for example also more segments of the music, then —I suppose— it helps you to think globally about that given area.

– There are many things which we need to see in a global context, but not in that sense of the word  “global” we nowadays mean by globalization, which is nothing other than the destruction of identity. Today, everyone is doing the same things, dressing the same way, using the same perfumes, listening to the same music, reading the same books. We are slowly losing our identity, worse, our personality. Each person has their own personality, every culture, every country possesses a specific national character. Today, when I see a man in the street and I have no idea where he comes from: United States, Peru, Hungary, Spain, Lebanon? Races apart, of course, as these have no real impact today that we are so, luckily, mixed. Coming back to the question, I do not do so many things in music: I cannot play an instrument anymore (larynx apart…). I watch the violinists, for example, with envious of how their fingers move with incredible virtuosity and how many different colors they can bring out from this little instrument. There are things we are capable of doing only together. For example I can’t perform Otello alone; I need the orchestra, the singers, choir and the management to sell the tickets, organize the hall, etc, or you, the journalists, for example, to convey my words to the audience. It does not matter what we do, but how we do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

José Cura conducts in Győr - exclusive interview!

20/04/2016

Author: Mónika Farkas

Photo: Gábor Marcali

gyorplusz.hu

 Translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

[Excerpt]

 

We expect a special evening on Saturday, we will hear Verdi’s masterpiece, Otello in a concert version in the Audi Arena. One of the most important interpreters of the opera, the world-famous José Cura will conduct the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra in this concert on the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Each member of the team is on the point of transmitting the uplifting experience of the concert to thousands of people. We had an exclusive interview with José Cura after the press conference last Friday.

You said after the concert of the Arena of last year, that the performance was like a night of love. What do you expect now from your joint forthcoming evening as a conductor?

The concert of last year was a very important and spontaneous “communion” with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra. It is not as easy as you might think; it depends on the professionalism and cooperation of the two parties. Compared to Otello, the concert we did last year in the Arena was a much easier experience to absorb for the audience and it exploded in big success! The current one week rehearsing period is mostly like climbing the mountain; we want to reach the summit together with the international and Hungarian soloists, the choir and the orchestra. It is a great challenge to conduct Otello in the Arena and this evening will be even more special, since the concert will be held on the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Similarly to the concert of last year now we also expect thousands of people, creating the opportunity for the crowd to enjoy classical music. I am very confident in our common success on Saturday!

How did the selection of international soloists happen?

In the case of an international production like this one, the budget of the performance is very important. That is why I didn’t invite “stars” for the main roles, but I was looking for young people for whom it might be the first time to sing the role in an international stage, and are motivated by our common work and the opportunity than by the money. I think it was the right choice!

You have sung the title role of Otello more than 200 times. What is your expectation of Christian Juslin who sings the title role now?

If I would have any expectation of Christian then it wouldn’t be fair. I would try to transmit him my 20 years’ experience in the role and he will make the decision of what to take and what to leave of that experience. I am sure he will be an excellent Otello.

What would be your keywords about this opera and why did it become so important in your life?

Sometimes you don’t choose a piece, she chooses you… I sang the title role of Otello for the first time at the age of 34, at that time I had never dreamt before of this possibility. But one day I got a call: “We have this opportunity for you. Will you take it? Or will you lose this unique chance?” sounded from the other end of the line. I already knew that this could be the big hit of my life, because this production was broadcasted live on televisions in more than 100 countries in 1997. The performance hit the jackpot with the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado conductor. This is how my twenty years “affaire” with this piece started. And I mean the whole opera, not just my part, for I know each note of everyone, all lyrics and instruments almost by memory. I could even sing Desdemona’s role with some effort… It is part of the working process to keep on discovering more and more details each time: A never-ending story!

What kind of new thing did you find in it during the rehearsals in Győr now?

I have to admit that I approach the musical texture quite differently as a conductor than as a singer; I feel the orchestra quite differently now than when I am accompanied as singer. I discover and perceive lots of new things. The modernity and message of the piece is very important for me and I believe that it will reach to a lot of people!

What did happen with you, Maestro since our last meeting?

Oh, a lot of things, perhaps the most important is that I am getting older, saying more precisely, I am maturing, I am in my place, I am aware of my existence, my limits, my knowledge, and my lack of it and this is very reassuring. It feels good to know that the work of 30 years got matured and it didn’t go into nothingness, and this is a confirmation for me. But I am becoming much more emotional, I need my country and the presence of my family with me, since I spent a lot of time without them to reach my goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Pure Joy and Happiness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singing after the death or Verdi's opera, Otello in the Audi Arena of Győr

 

szk –

25/04/2016

felvidek.ma

 

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

[excerpt]

 

Those people, who bought the season tickets of the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2015/2016 season, could see the last performance of the season in the Audi Arena. The concert version of Verdi’s Otello was performed in the giant complex of 5500-seat on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the death (23rd April) of the greatest playwright of all-time, William Shakespeare this Saturday.

 The performance was conducted by none other than the world-famous Argentine opera singer, José Cura, who is also the legendary performer of the title role. In this production he not only appeared as the conductor of the evening but he created the stage direction and stage design too. Christian Juslin sang Otello’s role, Desdemona was played by Gabrielle Philiponet, while we could see Piero Terranova in Jago’s role. The other roles were interpreted by well-known Hungarian singers: Emilia – Zsófia Kálnay, Cassio – Gergely Boncsér, Roderigo - László Kálmán, Montano – Máté Fülep, Lodovico – Marcell Bakonyi, herald – László Lisztes. The Hungarian National Choir (chorus- master: János Csaba Somos) and the children choir of Béla Bartók Singing-Music Primary School (chorus-master: Tamara Farnadi) contributed to the performance.

The audience who came from Felvidék (Upper Hungary) with their seasonal tickets didn’t have to worry about the fatigue of their travelling, because the organizers provided buses for them departing from Dunaszerdahely. According to the great interest for the concert, three buses transported the audience to the spot in Győr. After a short and convenient journey, the buses arrived at the parking area of the Audi Arena well before the beginning of the concert. [...] It was also time to fill the form of the prize game and throw it into the collection boxes, as the viewers of the show attended the draw too. The lucky winner whose coupon will be pulled up on 2rd May will win two tickets for one of the performances of La Scala of Milan including the costs of airplane tickets and hotel room too.

At the beginning of the performance the Mayor of the city of Győr, Zsolt Borkay greeted everybody and told us, that the city of Győr will apply for the title of “Cultural Capital of Europe” in 2023. He hopes that this event and the other programs which will be held in Győr in the future will help to the city to win this title.

Everybody waited excitedly to hear the first notes of the opera. Great applause surrounded the entry of the choir and orchestra, and then the eagerly awaited conductor, José Cura appeared. The whole Arena fell into silent, neither came a hiss from the audience. We felt, that all of us were holding our breath at the same time, not to disturb the concentration. Then José Cura raised his baton and began to do magic. The storm arrived to the stage and the notes of the storm were resounded by the orchestra. The singers appeared in the light standing on the stage which was placed between the choir and the orchestra. 12 cube-shaped wooden boxes symbolized the scenery on the stage.

We were witnessing a modern performance: the actors didn’t wear period dresses, but the men appeared in suits while the ladies wore elegant evening-dresses. The enjoyment of the performance was increased by the help of giant screens on which the actions of the stage were projected together with the Hungarian subtitles of the Italian text of the songs. It was a fantastic experience to follow the story in the performance of such great artists which was brilliantly supplemented by the choir and philharmonic orchestra. The amazing sound and spectacle were perfect together.

There was a twenty minute long intermission during the two-hour performance, so the audience could relax a while.  There was a feeling among the audience in the second part of the opera that we were waiting for the “Moment”. For that particular moment when Otello enters and asks Desdemona: “Have you prayed tonight?” The highpoint of the opera came with Otello’s jealous rage and he strangled Desdemona while he sang wonderfully. Of course as usual in such cases in the opera, after her death, Gabrielle Philiponet’s tinkling voice brought the stars down from the sky. The truth came to light for Otello, but he could not help Desdemona and thus he killed himself.

After the last closing notes of the frenetic performance, incredible ovation and burst of applause broke out in the auditorium. When José Cura came to bow at the curtain call, it was not enough for the people to produce loudness with their hands but they also started to stomp on the ground with their feet too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maestro Cura Synthesizes Music and Spectacle in an amazing performance in Györ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"We developed a close partnership"
José Cura will return to Győr

Revizor

Kis Éva

 

Revizor: You are known to be one of the world's leading interpreters of Verdi's music today, and you also consider him your favorite composer of all. What is it that makes his music so special for you? Which aspects your soul and mind resonates the most with?

Verdi is a genius whose music I admire, mainly the pieces of his maturity, which are the ones I am specialist in, but he is not my favorite composer. My favorite one is Johan Sebastian Bach. Anyhow, there is a characteristic in Verdi’s mature music —quite like Bach —, for which he doesn’t give too many explanations in the score about how to perform his work. He seems to be saying: “If you are good, you will understand what I want to say. But if you need too many explanations to understand my music, then you are not good enough”. This “opened door” to the never ending possibilities of performance is so fascinating, that I never understood why there is a whole school of thinking that claims to be the only one to own the secret to the Verdian interpretation. Verdi would be the first to be angry with the limitations these “self- nominated priests” are imposing on his music.

 R: You have sung the role of Otello more than 200 times in various productions, even directed the opera three years ago in Buenos Aires. Are you trying to highlight newer aspects of it each time in those different versions, or rather sticking to some core concept or ’message’, when presenting it?

One thing does not exclude the other: The core concepts have been there since Shakespeare time, or even earlier, since Cynthio time, the original writer of the piece. But to discover more and more details that are embedded in this “core” is the most exciting thing for me: a never stopping process!

R: This is going to be a somewhat special, concert performance of Verdi’s Otello in Győr, April 23rd. Some say that a concert performance of an opera not only helps the audience understand new musical elements of a certain piece, but provides the performers this same experience also. Less action on stage, more action in the music, less theatrical, therefore: more personal. Do you agree with this?

Performances, when they are good, they are good, no matter the “shape”. A good concert can be a great experience and vice versa. Same for a full stage production. Depends on the elements, on the direction, the place, the mood, both of the public and of the performers, the weather… Many things. I expect this concert to be very special for many reasons. But also very different: don’t forget we are playing in an Arena and not in an ordinary theater.

R: You are also going to be the director and stage designer of the upcoming concert performance. What does that mean in this special format exactly? Will there be some acting too on behalf of the singers? Or how will the rehearsal process look like?

In this case, for stage designer you have not to think on a usual situation, but as having designed the “space” on which we are going to perform: The levels on stage, the stairs, etc. Also, within the limits of the Arena equipment, we are going to make some lights to help the public focusing on the performance.

R: You often say that the mainstream interpretation of Verdi’s music nowadays is way ’too belcanto’, lacking the original psychological deepness and emotional strength. Will this conviction and approach be part of your instructions too in Győr, while directing?

This has been Verdi’s own fight forever. He always complained about the subject: “I don’t write Belcanto —he claimed— I write Melodrama!”  If you are a true Verdi performer, you have to take this as one of the interpretation rules: The word and its implications are as important as the music itself.  Different to Belcanto, where the words are mostly the vehicle for the music, regardless, sometimes, of the dramatic message. Belcanto priority (beautiful singing) is the beauty in the sound production. Melodrama priority (drama in music) is conveying the meaning of the text, by using the music as an ally.

R: Even the character of Otello is somewhat misunderstood, you often say. For you, there is nothing heroic or noble in his behavior at all: a Muslim who became a Christian for political reasons, and a cowardly professional killer. Does the current political context of growing religious fundamentalism all over the world have any effect on the way you are thinking about this opera? Or is it your aim at all, as an artist, to address this issue more strongly, in order to reflect the world we are living in right now?

The world we are living in needs no “extra help” in order to shock us even more… The worldwide mess is such that any extra accent to illustrate such mess is rhetoric, to say the least. However, it is true that pieces like Otello are so “actual” that they make you think that nothing has changed in 500 years. And not only about religion —a never ending subject of discussion— but also in subjects like “gender-based violence” (Otello physically mistreats his wife and kills her), or betrayal, racism, xenophobia, use and abuse of people, etc.

R: Last May you performed at the same Audi Arena with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra, which was an amazing night. Can you recall the atmosphere of that concert? What was it like to work with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra then?

It is because that was an amazing night that we decided to go for this other, hopefully, great concert. I cannot wait to start working with the Györ Phil, not only because they are great musicians, but also because in the short period we have worked together, we have developed a very strong feeling of partnership.

R: Both Hungarian and international singers will be performing on the stage this time in April. Did you take part in selecting the singers for this forthcoming production? How do you decide who you’re going to be working with?

I have proposed the three main roles.

R: Performing is ’like a ping-pong’ for you, once you said, it’s about giving and receiving energy. When working as a conductor, can you detect those energies coming from the audience too? In what ways can you react to that musically, or how do you interact with a certain crowd of a specific night?

A very difficult question to answer because we are talking about “feelings” as connected to “senses” and not only to heart-felt impressions. How can you explain senses? Can con you describe the famous “6th sense”, that famous third eye many people have?

R: You clearly dislike being labeled in any way. You regularly reject being called the “Fourth tenor”, you also say that you are not a tenor that conducts, but a conductor who sings. And you even left your former production team that was too keen on commercializing you. You are coping with many art crafts, opera singing, conducting, stage direction, stage design, composition, teaching, photography —this all could easily make you called a “true renaissance man”. Do you reject this label too? Or how would you most like to be described as?

I don’t do things seeking for descriptions. I just do. I have never claimed to be a photographer, for example. I have always said that artistic photography was my hobby. A hobby that has helped me a lot in my need of observing the world. I can quote a colleague of yours: “José Cura is a polymath, a Leonardo da Vinci of our time”. (Seen & Heart International, November 2015). Ultimately, as I always say, life is too short to be also “little”. Carpe diem is my moto, and my life philosophy.

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Shakespeare from a Score

Bors Online

11 March 2016

Next time you will perform with the Győri Filharmonikus Zenekar on the Shakespeare anniversary, your audience can meet you on the 23rd of April, 2016, on the 400th of the English playwright's death. Earlier you said, that Shakespeare is one of the most humorous man. Why do you think that? Why is the humor so important in the life and in the literature?

One thing is to be serious and another very different is to take yourself seriously. This second thing is at the origin of arrogance and tedium. Great artists have never taken themselves seriously, still being very serious at their work. Take Mozart or Shakespeare as examples, but not the only ones.

In Győr you will conduct Verdi’s opera Otello, which was written from the famous Shakespeare drama. Otherwise, this piece about destructive jealousy is not exactly famous about its humor. Why do you like this drama?

The fact that good humor is a healthy thing to have doesn’t mean you only have to do funny things in your life. One thing is to have good humor and another one is to be superficial.

Everybody knows that the text of this opera does not match with the original, it is written by Arrigo Boito. The opera literature is a different genre. When did you meet this for the first time?

Everybody knows? I didn’t know it… Being a specialist in this theme, even having written a novel about the subject (not published yet), I can tell you that Boito’s adaptation is stunning and respectful of the original. An original, by the way, that it’s not Shakespeare’s but Cinthio's, an Italian writer who was born a century before the Bard wrote his play, Othello, based on a drama included in Cinthio’s Hecathommithi.

Which is your favorite opera and why?

My favorite opera is the one I am doing whenever you come to see me at the theater. At my age and with my career, I don’t do operas I don’t like…

Among others, one of the main aim of Győri Filharmonikus Zenekar to endear the opera and classic music with youngsters. In your life, you were expelled from the musical path more times but you never gave up. What was so attractive for you in the arts that you have never left the art career?

When you are convinced you have something to say and you want to say it, nothing will stop you. It needs, of course, lots of courage to endure the fight until you eventually succeed, but it is not impossible.

On the beginning of your career you lived in hard circumstances with your family, you   had to leave your home country. Did literature provided consolation for you and give power? If yes, would you tell us some words about it?

Literature has “literally” (I am redundant on purpose) backed up my life since the very beginning. There is a book by the philosopher José Ingenieros, “El hombre mediocre”, which has always been at my night table, giving me consolation after each fight against envy…

You are an opera singer, a composer, a conductor, an actor, a teacher, a photographer, a businessman and a father. When do you have time to read a book, because you can be so busy with your work, concerts and rehearsals?

It is surprising how many things the human brain can do and assimilate when you don’t let the easiness of nowadays technical means to stunt its capacities, isn’t it?

What are you reading nowadays? What do you like in this book?

I usually read several books of different topics during a same period: some more technical, some more amusing, like good novels or even comics. I have finished “Hombres buenos” by Perez-Reverte. I am reading Salvatore Dali’s “Los cornudos del viejo arte moderno” and I have started to read the “Diary” of Cristobal Colón, a fascinating lecture that shows many things about this legendary historical character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

José Cura conducts in Györ Hungary

09.03.2016

www.fidelio.hu

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

 

The Györ Philharmonic Orchestra is waiting for his audience with the concert performance of the opera of Verdi’s Otello on the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, one of the greatest playwrights of all time, in the Audi Arena of Győr on 23 April.

The peculiarity of the performance of one of the world's best known operas is that the legendary performer of the title role, the world-famous singer and conductor, José Cura will stand on the conductor’s podium, who is also well-known for the audience of Hungary and Győr. José Cura will be not only the conductor but the stage director of the show too including the creation of stage design and spectacle. The performance takes place with the participation of famous international and Hungarian opera singers.

Christian Juslin will sing in the title role of the main protagonist of Otello, Gabrielle Philiponet will play Desdemona’s role, while Jago’s character will be shaped by Pierro Terranova, one of the prominent young opera singers of the Italian opera school. In the other roles well-known Hungarian singers, Zsófia Kálnay, Gergely Boncsér and Marcell Bakonyi appear on the stage. The Choir of The Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra will participate in the concert; their choir master is Csaba Somos.

 

 

 

Otello and José Cura in Győr, Hungary

 

09.03.2016

magyarnarancs.hu

 translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

 

The world-famous tenor grasps the baton

And if he grasped it, he won’t it let out of his hands, certainly not, until the end of Verdi’s Otello. But what made the great tenor to wink at the conductor's podium? A few years ago we asked this issue from him and it didn’t remain unanswered (full interview here).

Magyar Narancs: Why did become you interest in conducting after fifteen years of sumptuous singing carreer?

José Cura: Originally I graduated in conducting and composing. Once I was living in the belief that I would lead the most famous orchestras of the world interpreting the works of my  most admired composers mainly Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler and Rachmaninov. The voice training, singing, performing arts and theatrical self-expression came relatively late, around my age of thirty. Thus my path is completely differs from the ones, who grasp the baton at a certain stage of their carrier with the intention to renew it.

His Otello performance of 1997 made the great singer to a super star and he directed his own Otello production in Buenos Aires recently.  In the light of this it is beyond question that we will welcome a true Otello specialist in his person in Győr.

In Otello’s role, Christian Juslin will sing, the French soprano Gabrielle Philiponet will play Desdemona, while Jago will be shaped by the Italian baritone Pierro Terranova.

 

 

 

 

 

World-renowned opera singer will conduct in Győr, Hungary

 

08.03.2016

www.nol.hu

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

 

The world-renowned opera singer returns to Hungary with a real curiosity: on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, he will dream Verdi’s legendary Otello to the stage with the contribution of the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of The Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra and renowned international and Hungarian singers.

Although José Cura – who rushed in  the awareness of classical music with the title role of Otello nearly two decades ago – who is known that he does not like if he is considered as being just an opera singer who happens to be also conducts. After all, the situation is just the opposite: originally he graduated in conducting and composing and besides this he “incidentally” became one of today's most popular, most sought-after star tenors.

Accordingly the conducting activity is actively (and more and more prominently) present in his carrier for more than fifteen years now, and he more often acts as stage director in recent years too. Most recently he just directed his own Otello production, notably in his native Argentina. The 53-year-old artist knows every vibration of this piece since he sang the title role of Otello more than two hundred times (in countless conception, in two different productions in Hungary too). It can be said without exaggeration that this role became his trademark now in the opera business. He is used to be called as the ”fourth tenor" by many people (referring the master trio of Domingo, Pavarotti and Carreras), but he always humbly rejects this fantasy flag.

A series of particularities characterizes the upcoming production of Győr. An adapted concert version of the drama will be seen on the Arena’s stage on 23 April. It will be directed and conducted by José Cura, who is also in charge for the stage design and spectacle. (It is known in the professional circles, that he is a multitalented artist.)

Therefore a very special reading of this opera of inexhaustible depth and dramatic content is expected from the Maestro in his usual “holistic” artistic approach. Even we can speak about “the evening of favourites”, since Shakespeare – as we know from the biographers - was Verdi's favourite writer, and Verdi is Cura's favourite composer, as he confessed countless times about it.

The composition of the singing team also promises exciting synergies; the joint work of Hungarian and foreign talents. In Otello’s role, the Finnish Christian Juslin will be seen and heard, the French soprano Gabrielle Philiponet sings Desdemona, Jago will be played by the Italian baritone Pierro Terranova. The Hungarian singers will be represented by mezzo-soprano Zsófia Kálnay, Gergely Boncsér who currently plays Cassio’s role in the Hungarian Sate Opera and the bass-baritone Marcell Bakonyi at the concert. The music is provided by the aforementioned Győr Philharmonic Orchestra, with which the star tenor gave a frenetic concert last year in Győr too. The Choir of The Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra led by their choir master, the Liszt Prize winner Csaba Somos will also contribute. The Argentine Maestro will prepare for this monumental event in Győr during an intensive one-week long rehearsal.

 
 

 

José Cura will perform again in Győr, Hungary

 

mno.hu

10.03.2016

 translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

 

José Cura, one of today's most popular opera singers will conduct Otello in Győr on 23 April. It is not surprising from the Argentine tenor, since it is well-known, that he doesn’t like if he is considered as being such an opera singer, who, incidentally, sometimes also conducts. Originally he graduated in conducting and composing, only after this he started singing in his late twenties.

Renaissance man

“It is a very dangerous road on which humanity acts now. They kill the spirit of the Renaissance, which defined the intellectual progress for centuries. Today the expectation is that we know or cultivate only a narrow area of the world and knowledge. And this is true not only for the art. If someone acts differently, then it would be criticized hard. ” – said José Cura to Kultúrgrund in a previous interview.

His natural talent was soon discovered shortly after he won the Operalia singing competition founded by Plácido Domingo and then he became one of the most sought-after tenors of the world. Over the last fifteen years, however, he is more often coming back to his original vocation.

José Cura considers Verdi as his favorite composer, but he has a particularly sensitive relationship with Otello. In fact he became a super star thanks to his Otello performance in 1997 and he performed the title role of this opera more than two hundred times yet.  In 2008 in Szeged - on the occasion of his first full opera performance in Hungary – he also chose this Verdi's work to perform, which he sang in the Hungarian State Opera of Budapest last year too.

Cura is a returning guest in our country; he gave a highly successful concert with Andrea Rost in Győr last year in May.  Then he vowed to return again this year: on 23 April he will conduct Verdi’s Otello in a concert performance again with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Audi Arena of Győr.

Moreover, Cura is not only the conductor but also the stage director of the show. In the role of Otello the Finnish tenor Christian Juslin will sing, Desdemona’s role will be played by the French soprano Gabrielle Philiponet, while Jago’s figure will be shaped by the young Italian baritone, Piero Terranova.

 

 

 

 

Promotional Material

 

 

 

 

Click photo above to watch

 

 

 

Click photo above to watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press Conference Announcing Otello in Concert in Györ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

José Cura is in Hungary

 

mno.hu

14/04/2016

 

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

 

 

José Cura and the Hungarian National Choir – this time the Maestro doesn’t sing, but conducts Otello. Photo: Balázs Székelyhidi / Magyar Nemzet

 

José Cura the world-famous singer-conductor rehearsed with the Hungarian National Choir on Thursday in Budapest. They are preparing for the performance of Otello held in Győr on 23rd of April. By the invitation of the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra, the Maestro conducts Verdi’s piece in a concert performance. The title role of this opera also made him famous of that time and he has also done the stage direction of the opera in Buenos Aires recently. Though this time he didn’t prepare for the full staging of the opera, but he inserted minimal movements into the staging for which he also created the stage design. Our interview with José Cura will be appeared here on Saturday in the Kultúrgrand session in which - among others - you can read about the importance of Renaissance life philosophy and also about the role of Otello in his career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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José Cura world-famous tenor: “It is a huge challenge to conduct Otello”

 

source: MTI

published: hir.ma

15/04/2016

 

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

“It is a huge challenge to conduct Otello” –said José Cura world-famous tenor to MTI. He conducts the concert performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra in the Audi Arena of Győr.

 

The Argentine tenor held a rehearsal with the Hungarian National Choir – which also contributes to concert the chorus master is Csaba Somos – in an extremely good atmosphere on Thursday in the Palace of Art (MÜPA) in Budapest. After the rehearsal José Cura reported to MTI that it didn’t often occur that they were laughing so much while working under his leadership. On the other hand, some humorous remarks usually help the musicians and singers to relax during the several hours of rehearsals which mean great strain for them.

  

The conductor also added that he was very satisfied with the work of the choir. He praised the achievement of the Hungarian National Choir more times emphasizing that as the choir belonged to a symphonic orchestra they had a significant advantage over the official opera choirs in singing certain softer tones.

 

On one occasion he expressed a special praise for the tenor session too, telling us that in the case of some choirs it is good if the other voices “hide” the tenor voices, but this is unnecessary for the Hungarian National Choir. The 53-year-old singer recalled, that he had been singing Otello for 20 years, which was one of his most well-known roles.

 

He also produced the stage direction of Otello in Buenos Aires three years ago. As he said, after spending so many years with this piece, the conducting of Otello represented a huge challenge and exceptional pressure for him since he couldn’t approach this opera with such ease as in the case of dealing with a new and unknown music.

 

However, José Cura sees that it is also a great advantage for him to have sung the role of Otello in countless different situations under the hands of many directors and based on lots of aspects, so he knows well what is working and what is not working in the performance of this immensely complicated and long piece.

 

Last time, the singer-conductor performed in Győr last year on 3rd of May in a joint concert with Andrea Rost and Győr Philharmonic Orchestra. José Cura is a frequent guest in Hungary; the Hungarian audience could see him in a full opera performance in 2008 in the National Theatre of Szeged when he sang the title role of Otello. In 2014 he dazzled the audience of the Hungarian State Opera as Cavaradossi in the frame of the Budapest Spring Festival and he also sang Otello there last year. At that time he said to MTI that he would be glad to introduce himself as a stage director in Hungary, too.

 

This is now becomes true, since José Cura not only conducts, but also directs the performance of Otello on 23rd April and he produces  the stage design of the show as well. The Finnish tenor Christian Juslin sings Otello’s role, the French soprano Gabrielle Philiponet performs as Desdemona and the Italian baritone Pierro Terranova interprets Jago’s character. Hungarian singers, Zsófia Kálnay, Gergely Boncsér and Marcell Bakonyi appear on the stage in the other roles.

José Cura is considered as being one of the best tenors of our time. He performed on the opera stage for the first time in Verona in 1992. Two years later he won the Operalia international singing competition founded by Plácido Domingo. The young tenor was mentioned as being the new star of the 1990s and he was invaded by many contracts and also celebrated by the audience of Paris, London, Milan and New York. In 1997 he earned enormous success in the title role of Otello in which Claudio Abbado conducted the orchestra of Berlin Philharmonic. José Cura have sung Otello’s role more than 200 times during his career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

José Cura world-famous tenor conducts Otello in Győr

 

15/04/2016

gyorplusz.hu

text: Mónika Farkas

photos: Gábor Marcali

 

translated by Zsuzsanna Suba

[excerpt]

It is a huge challenge to conduct Otello – said José Cura world-famous opera singer and conductor in the press conference on Friday in Győr. He will conduct the concert performance of Verdi’s masterpiece with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra in the performance of international and Hungarian singers in the Audi Arena of Győr.

Kálmán Berkes, the art director of the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra recalled that it was a great experience to work together with José Cura last year and they had developed a close partnership and friendship. “Similarly to the concert of last year, the quality of the show also will be provided, so everybody will see and hear clearly everything, no matter where you are sitting in the Audi Arena of Győr” – emphasised Kálmán Berkes. The orchestra invited his subscribers for the concert from Győr and its rural neighbourhood too.

As it is known the world-famous singer and conductor performed for the first time in Győr last year on 3rd of May in a joint concert with Andrea Rost and the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra also in the Audi Arena.

One week rehearsing period is waiting for the super team. In this context José Cura said: “the one week rehearsing period is mostly like climbing the mountain, we want to reach the summit together with the international and Hungarian soloists, the choir, the orchestra and the audience too. I am very confident in our common success!”

According to the concert of 23rd April, the world star emphasised, that they undertake no less a task, than to bring classical music to thousands of people, but they will be helped by their common, professional work and the wonderful texture owing to Shakespeare and Verdi. For the question of the newspaper of Győrplusz, whether Otello’s story is still relevant today and how it can speak to the people, he replied: “This masterpiece is incredibly relevant and modern today!  Because of racism, xenophobia and refugee issues are the most vital problems now in Europe. This is true for such key themes of the piece as betrayal, exploitation, cruelty, abuse of people and domestic violence as well. It makes you think that nothing has changed in the last 500 years. [….] Otello speaks about our time to the people of today” – he added.

On the Friday’s press conference, the 53-year-old opera singer recalled that he had been singing Otello for almost 20 years and this was one of his most well-known roles. He also has done the stage direction of the opera three years ago in Buenos Aires. According to this masterpiece, he also said, that twenty years of love has been going on between him and the opera; every time he discovers more and more about it. “This is being called as true love and never-ending story!” – he said.

José Cura is going to be not only the conductor, but the director and also the creator of stage design of the performance of 23rd April. Christian Juslin will sing the title role of the opera. He will perform the role of the Venetian Moor for the second time. He looks forward the role with great excitement since it is all about human emotions. The French soprano Gabrielle Philiponet will interpret Desdemona for the first time. She willingly threw herself into the whirls of the streets of Győr after the rehearsals; she already was fascinated by the city. Jago’s character will be formed by the Italian baritone Pierro Terranova. He told us that doing this role was like taking part in psychotherapy, because it was not easy to understand and accept Jago’s malice and cruelty. Well-known Hungarian singers, Zsófia Kálnay, Gergely Boncsér and Marcel Bakonyi appear in the other roles on the stage of the Arena on 23rd April. The chorus master of the Hungarian National Choir is Csaba Somos. The work of the choir was praised by José Cura, the conductor during the rehearsal in Budapest. He emphasized that as the choir belonged to a symphonic orchestra, it had a significant advantage over the official opera choirs in singing certain softer tones.

Our exclusive interview with José Cura can be listened to this week in Győr+Radio in the program of Divertimento.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press Conference Photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rehearsal Photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorable celebration of Shakespeare’s anniversary with Verdi’s Otello under the baton of José Cura

with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra in the Audi Arena of Győr

 

23/04/2016, Győr, Hungary

report by Zsuzsanna Suba

 

José Cura is one of the greatest Otello of our times on the international opera stages. His legendary interpretations embrace a period of almost 20 years starting from the young, hot-headed and violent General through a ripened, matured presentation of this complex character to the introduction of a deliberately aging, tired Moor. Recently, in this latter phase of the development of the character he is mastering the role in delineating the destruction and burden of the passing years in the body and soul of the Moor. Cura portrays him as the traitor of his people, a merciless mercenary and brutal killer, who is weakened by his inner uncertainties and fear. His enthralling, very passionate acting singing performances are famous about his novel approaches showing many sides of Otello in Shakespearean context and according to Verdi’s amazingly dense score and musical shaping.

José Cura is a true specialist of Verdi’s masterpiece and he is continuously digging into the depth and soul of the opera. He admits he still doesn’t know the Moor completely; there are new discoveries for him every time he meets with Verdi’s surprisingly timely and modern opera drama. Parallel to his world-famous opera singing career, Cura also has several irons in the fire and he carries on his other activities too as an accomplished and experienced composer, conductor, stage director and designer.  He took these latter two roles and also performed the main hero of the opera when he staged his own Otello production few years ago earning great acclaim. It was a dreamt but very logical step for him to launch a production for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare with the performance of Verdi’s Otello in a festive event where he would stand on the conductor’s podium by the invitation of the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra. This time he was not only the conductor but also the stage director and designer of the show performing together with this orchestra and young debuting singers in a concert performance in the Audi Arena of Győr which was capable of hosting about 4000 people there.

The idea of this project emerged last year immediately after the exploding, huge success of Cura’s first giant opera concert with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra (and Andrea Rost soprano as a guest) in the same plot. That concert was named as a “massage for my soul” by Cura emphasising the enjoyment when his multi-faceted art and impassioned musicianship and the orchestra’s (led by Maestro Kálmán Berkes artistic director) enthusiasm and professionalism fell in love with each other and they were ready for further cooperation. This was also proved by Kálmán Berkes who expressed the great expectation and excitement of the orchestra toward this new project and their reunion with José Cura as a conductor during their next, common work. Cura’s renowned commitment for seeking new and unexplored paths of classical music making for a wider audience made this project very exciting and promising. Being familiar with Cura’s many Otello performances, the complex features of his musical and theatrical backgrounds and knowing the refreshing approach and quality of his symphonic concerts he gave on the conductor’s podium in the past or recently, this concert meant a valuable and unique combination to discover more about Verdi’s wonderful piece.

Preceding this Otello concert, José Cura emphasised at the press conference in Győr that the challenge and difficulty of performing Otello was laid in the fact that the opera alone is a immensely strong piece requiring very strong interpretation from everybody. This latter had always been his trademark during his career – not just as Otello but in every roles he took -, but now the whole team, the soloists, the orchestra, the choir and even himself - as a conductor  - would make their debuts in their respective roles – and he didn’t want to put any pressure on them. He highlighted that the best partnership that could work among them is to grow up with the music together day by day through their committed and professional teamwork during the intense rehearsals. According to his words enjoying and discovering the whole universe of a score together is always the most amazing experience for the musicians.

Beside to the huge work they had to accomplish together, we must consider the difficulty of the task in terms of technics, logistics and all the aspects of musical shaping and arrangement to put the whole concert finally into the stage of the huge Arena. Though such a vast place is not ideal for an opera in any senses, they wanted to bring this great piece to as many people as they could, so thousands of people could enjoy classical music there. Kálmán Berkes also added that the success of their opera concert last year proved that their team was capable of arranging a perfectly working, high quality sounding and visual environment for an operatic event in the Arena.

The singers of the debuting international team for the main roles were chosen and invited by Cura. They all - Christian Juslin (Otello), Gabrielle Philiponet (Desdemona) and Piero Terranova (Jago) - expressed their enthusiasm to take part in this project. It represented great opportunity for everybody to gain valuable experience in Verdi’s opera and to work with the leadership of Maestro José Cura. Young Hungarian singers appeared in the smaller roles, the Hungarian National Choir (chorus master János Csaba Somos) of Budapest and the children choir of Béla Bartók Music School of Győr contributed to the performance.

José Cura’s huge undertaking to train the orchestra, the soloists and the choir for the entire opera of Otello from the starting up of their meeting to the possession of the roles with the implementation of his musical and dramatic concept was just the beginning of their ambitious artistic goal. Armed with these resources their final purpose was to create a production of highest quality in a semi-staging concert performance of Otello on this Shakespeare anniversary. They wonderfully managed to achieve these aims and their performance met with incredible success and tribute in the packed Arena in front of 4000 people. Taking into account the evolved very effective semi-staging form of the opera and the resulting musical and theatrical quality, the evening gave much more to us than a usual concert performance. We enjoyed an enthralling opera evening, the singers and musicians portrayed real characters and complex, psychological drama on the stage.  Based on Maestro Cura uncompromising, very sensitive and supporting hands and musical imagination plus the achievements of the excellent singers, choir and orchestra they created and maintained that high quality, intensity and dramatic excitement of the opera which were radiating from Verdi’s score and Shakespeare’s drama in a very dynamic, temperamental approach. There is no doubt that this wonderful result is derived from and expressed by the integration of the spirit and artistic approach of our conductor whose manifold artistic background, knowledge and experience is unrivalled in its complexity and emotional affection for this opera.

The whole evening was a very refreshing enjoyment indeed from the very beginning to the end. Primarily in the most dramatic highpoints of the great ensembles of the drama - when the soloist, choir and orchestra displayed their united power together - it became also a rarely experienced, cathartic adventure due to the really beautiful musical development of the score and devoted performances of the singers and musicians. But it would be unfair not to underline how beautifully the soloists grew up into their difficult roles during the interaction of the various ensembles, duets or the projection of great solos on the stage. After the end of the evening the audience of the Arena produced thunderous, steady applause lasting for more than eight minutes completing it with many forms of their rousing reception and we were ready for a prolonged celebration. But after more, happily repeated common bows on the stage, soon Maestro Cura’s bouquet landed in the hands of the concert master lady of the orchestra and he modestly waved goodbye to us while running away from our extended plaudits.

The stage was built on a lifted podium which was situated between the orchestra and choir. The members of the choir stood on the steps in the two sides of the “gallery”. A minimal, symbolic setting was created and functioned on the stage giving the frame of the play. Different arrangements of big white boxes and also the empty middle part of the steps were used by the actors to support their moving, acting and interaction on the podium during the scenes. For example Jago sang his Credo lying on a cross formed by the boxes and these props were also used as Desdemona’s bed in the last Act. The soloist wore contemporary clothes; black suits and differently coloured ties for the men or elegant, white (Desdemona) or black (Emilia) evening dresses for the woman. The Arena was equipped with huge giant screens on both sides of the podium and also in the middle part of the auditorium on which the actions of the stage or - in lesser extent - the playing of the orchestra and also the text of the libretto could be followed by the audience in great quality.

Despite of the fact that the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra played Verdi’s Otello for the first time, I admit that my initial expectation was that I would rather concentrate on the orchestra to discover the hidden gems of Verdi’s wonderfully dense, talkative score with the help of the powerful, ambitious, truly symphonic sound and performance of the orchestra introducing either the detailed, subtle nuances or the overwhelming, dramatic actions of the music. And indeed, in José Cura’s determined and heated reading of the score, the musicians wonderfully fulfilled this role. But what a valuable addition was when the excellent interpretation of the soloists took the lead and dominated the stage. The orchestra also produced a beautiful and balanced harmony with them and the mesmerizing choir. I could not help it but paid attention to the singers, so extra effort was required if you wanted to absorb yourself into the delights of the orchestral details. There were plenty of them, so the audience wasn’t bored at all during this long, four-act opera.

It was also a special enjoyment to see the way our conductor and the musicians pampered and supported the singers and made way for them for the evolution of their characters. All these were managed and directed by Cura’s very expressive and aesthetic waves in his accompanying musical instructions. You also could notice how beautifully he lived together with the music “singing” the score together with the actors and the choir. He didn’t apply any excessive tempo, volume or extra features with his baton and body but kept everything together in an amazingly concentrated, developed and elaborated arch of music making and let the music and drama breathe by its own power and beauty.

He laid a magic carpet at the feet of the singers and the choir with his protective baton and full-scale attention as the orchestra  generated sharpened dramatic tensions, sweeping dynamism, full-coloured, stunning sound and energetic, fresh tempo or just touching, beautiful lyrical moments. He put everything in the service of the music. José Cura’s deep and tireless, full-blooded dedication, his inexhaustible musical leadership and infecting artistic credo to achieve the highest quality possible yielded the gripping energy level and fuel of the show. This was the pledge of the success of the performance together with his partners’ emotional and professional commitments.

The wonderful musical development and fiery implementation of the first, storm-scene gave the initial impulse to the whole evening like a steam-engine which never eased down during the course of the opera even in the most poignant moments. The equally effective and beautifully played rejoicing fire-choir (“Fuoco di gioia”) and the ensuing drinking scene with its tense rhythms and alarm were also unforgettable scenes. But the Otello-Jago duet at the end of the second Act, the scene with the delegation of Venice in the third Act and also the entire last Act carry off my palm. One of the greatest climaxes of the opera is the arrival of the new deal of the Venetian ambassador and the final development of Otello’s collapse at the end.  Cura masterfully arranged his trumpets on the top of the steps on the two sides of the auditorium and also on the gallery of the stage so we witnessed an extra cavalcade of the brasses during this scene. The deployment of this melodious musical sequence lent lovely freshness and extraordinary tension to the story. The orchestra and choir perfectly fulfilled Cura’s ideas, his concentrated and all-embracing musical will and it produced an admirable dense, united and sharpened sound with the enhancements of the key zeniths. It was a fully-resonant, highly emotional scene. Yet, the opera reached its highest point during the entire last Act and after Otello’s death. José Cura concluded the drama in his own way: the baton of his right hand slowly ran out of the protective palm of his left hand bringing complete silence into the Arena. We proudly guarded this gem for a while until some careful breath of the soul then our celebration burst out with tremendous, unified power.

Christian Juslin’s Otello solved his difficult task in the title role really well. He gave a thoughtful characterization of the Moor. He depicted a kind of intellectual man with his elegant and clever appearance rather than a quick-tempered, muscular and merciless commander first. He still conveyed a strong-minded, solid leader and on the contrary a bit introverted character. His “Esultate!” represented a strong and impressive entrance after the overwhelming dynamism of the introductory storm-scene of the choir, orchestra and singers. He was able to show Otello’s tenderness and love toward Desdemona and also his inner struggles and suffering in the duets and solos during the process of the destruction of his former world by Jago’s machination. His Otello fought with himself and finally the violence and cruelty of his soul overcame his doubts. He convinced me as a cold-headed killer in the last act and then again he became a broken man in his suicide action. This concert was just his second Otello performance on the opera stage and he gave a powerful interpretation vocally too. He varied his vocal colours skilfully and he had the stamina to own every note even in the hardest passages whether it required gently projected, tender notes or shining, steely resonant, trumpet-like sounds in the heights. His tenor had heft and I liked his dark, slightly smoky timbre and also the soft tone of his voice which for my taste was essential for Otello. His acting skills and vocal confidence became stronger and stronger offering also passionate outbursts, violence and sudden collapses in the extreme scenes. You perceived how better he felt himself in the role as the actions progressed. I liked his performance the best in his great solo “Dio mi potevi scagliar” and final farewell “Niun mi tema”.

Gabrielle Philiponet debuted here as Desdemona and she owned her role remarkably. She is a young, beautiful soprano with fresh and impassioned stage presence who loved Otello unconditionally. Her Desdemona was not an idealised character; she had a lovely personality who was down to earth. Playful tenderness radiated from her fragile, attractive figure. She was a valuable, loyal partner for Otello trying to protect him but she immediately felt the forthcoming danger too. She sang the role with pure heart, full empathy and beautiful voice. Her soprano had a rich and supple quality; it possessed not only mellow warmth in the timbre, but was filled with great emotional power. It carried pleasant resonance and strength in the high-tensioned moments. I especially loved the slight vibrato of her voice in the passionate top notes and this gave a spinto character to her performance. Her long tearful solos in the last Act touched the audience so much that after her last notes nobody dared to break the sad and airy atmosphere of the auditorium with any noise or applause. Then the orchestra played a breathtakingly exciting, thriller-like introduction to Otello’s entrance and the forthcoming final encounter of the couple.

We also had a debutant in Piero Terranova’s Jago, who seemed to be the most experienced singer among the others. For me his Jago was the real “jolly-joker” of the evening. He introduced a fully matured character to us in both vocal interpretation and acting ability stealing the show in the first half of the performance. He immediately bought me with his flawless account of the role including his cultivated, easily projected, smooth and lively baritone voice, pleasant timbre and vibrant acting performance. His seedy voice soared above the orchestra with unrestrained anger and hate in his very impressive and incredible Credo. I won’t forget for a while about his really wicked and easy-going interpretation of the solo including his philosophical, unique conclusion too. Jago’s malicious, cynical and nihilistic but also coward character was manifested in his vocal and actions. He was one of the inexhaustible motors of the performance.

I was happy to discover the great potential and excellent interpretation of the young Hungarian singers in the smaller roles. Gergely Boncsér’s fresh, high-pitched and handsome Cassio with his bright, gleaming and striking voice and natural stage presence became a strong quality of the evening. The same is valid for Zsófia Kálnoky thanks to her youthfully intense, pretty, beautifully sounded and pure-hearted performance in Emilia’s short role. Marcel Bakonyi’s luxurious Lodovico immediately attracted our attention when we heard his uniquely coloured, great timbre and powerful, commanding voice. László Kálmán and Máté Fülep showed a pleasant, engaging contribution in the roles of Roderigo and Montano.

The Hungarian National Choir deserves special praise for the singers’ devoted participation and excellent achievement in their new and difficult operatic role. This ensemble delineated incredible unity and quality throughout the opera in accuracy, crystal clear transparency, temperament and resounding skill always giving gorgeous, dynamic support to the scenes in the great moments. The children gave also a lovely performance when they accompanied Desdemona.

After the end of the opera it was time and space for our long, sustained and enthusiastic celebration (shouting of bravo, stamping feet on the floor, frenetic rhythmic clapping, etc.) in more waves addressing to all the participants as I mentioned above. We hope that the musical cooperation of José Cura and the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra will continue and they will delight us with other musical peculiarities in the future too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated:  Saturday, May 21, 2016  © Copyright: Kira