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[Otello Reviews] [Otello Turin 1997] [Otello in Madrid and London] [Otello Argentina 1999] [Otello Washington 2000] [Otello in Italy] [Otello in Zurich 2001 - 2004] [Otello Misc Performances] [Otello in Munich] [Otello in Barcelona 2006] [Otello in Szeged 2008] [Otello in Tenerife] [Otello Berlin 2010] [Otello Zurich 2010] [Otello in Bratislava] [Otello in Luxembourg] [Otello in NYC 2013] [Otello in Argentina 2013] [Otello in Vienna 2013] [Otello in Cologne May 2014]


 

Surprise in Bratislava!

 

 

Add another role to Cura's legacy:  on 9 Feb he stepped on the stage of the Slovak National Theater in the operetta Die Fledermaus!  For the occasion, Cura sang Nessun dorma to thunderous applause!  Watch the amateur video below to see the action!

From the news account:

We can inform you that José Cura today (8 Feb) promised that tomorrow, Thursday 9 Feb, will appear at the ball of Prince Orlofsky in the operetta Die Fledermaus.  It is a unique opportunity to appreciate the art of Cura and for visitors and lovers of opera who would like to hear Cura at the SND as Otello in the eponymous opera by Verdi but who have not been able to get tickets.  Who Prince Orlofsky invites to his ball is always a mystery.  We think that divulging this secret will bring goods to many of you, as tickets for Die Fledermaus are still available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press Conference Photos in Bratislava

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cura Speaks

Press Conference Overview

 

World-renowned Argentine tenor José Cura in Bratislava

 

Opera Slovakia

Ľudovít Vongrej
10 February 2012  

 The world-renowned Argentine tenor José Cura has traveled to Bratislava to perform as the main character in the Slovak National Theater Opera’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. The past few days have been spent in rehearsal for the performance, which will take place on 11 February and 2 March.

Along with Maestro Cura on 11 Feb will be Jago: Dalibor Jenis; Cassio: Oto Klein; Roderigo: Ivan Ožvát; Lodovico: Martin Malachovský; Montano: Mikuláš Doboš; Un Araldo: Daniel Hlásny; Desdemona: Adriana Kohútková; Emilia: Denisa Šlepkovská. The conducter is Ondrej Lenárd.

The tenor was available to answer questions at a press conference.  He said that a man does not become an artist instantly.  At the beginning of his career he has only one talent.  A man becomes an artist over the course of his lifetime.  He was asked about problems with the current makerting of opera productins in the world.  Cura spoke of the need for a strong, high quality culture and available art that is needed not only for leisure and entertainment but is also necessary for the higher goals of transmitting tradition and enducation nations.  He said the current trend to introduce new, modern production is not a problem if it has been intelligently thought out and the concept can be logically explained.

José Cura has such standing in the opera world that he can actually chose where he works.  The Maestro said he came to Slovakia to work in a professional theater and has enjoyed the collaboration.

The artist also spoke about the character of Otello and breifly compared Otello and Nabucco, two works by Verdi.  According to Cura, Verdi was a composer with talent at the time he wrote Nabucco but by the time he wrote his next to last opera, Otello, he had become an artist.

“I have sung Otello for fifteen years.  I have not counted all of the performances, but it must be around two hundred.  For those two hundred performances, I have worked in about twenty different productions.  I have worked with excellent conductors and directors, but also with very poor conductors and directors, and I have learned a lot from both.  From the first group, I learned what the opera should be like and from the others I learned what it should not be.  When I started to sing Otello, I had all black hair and I had to paint it white so I would look older and anow I have to color them black so I do not look too old.  What seems like a joke is very serious because it means that for 15 years I have been a young man who has been trying to imagine how it feels to be an older man, and now I that older man who knows how it feels.  This is, of course, reflected in the interpretation.

"I have seen the DVD performance of Otello from the Slovak National Theater.  Last August I did the opera Pagliacci in Cesky Krumlov and Director Průdek told me about his ideas of staging in the SND.  The theater asked me to sing Otello at the premiere but I had a performance scheduled somewhere else.  Now I am here, so I will sing Otello."

At the end of the press conference, the theater management informed us that José Cura will be the exclusive guest at Prince Orlofsky’s ball in the presentation of Die Fledermaus, the comic operetta by Johann Strauss II, on 9 February.  Upon his arrival on the opera stage Cura received great applause and not only by those who knew about it.  José Cura treated the Bratislava audience to the aria Nessun dorma from Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Turandot.

 

 

Rehearsal Photos for Otello in Bratislava

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More From Bratislava

 

Stage Dust is a Drug – A Meeting with José Cura

Izabela Pažítková

9 February 2012

José Cura has gained worldwide recognition thanks to his strong emotional and original interpretations of opera characters and his unconventional and innovative concert performances.  His name is one of those that glows in big letters on the signboards of major theaters around the world.  And José Cura is performing in Giuseppe’s opera Otello at SND on 11 February and 2 March 2012.  Under the baton of Ondrej Lenárd, he will be joined byb Adriana Kohútková (Desdemona), Dalibor Jenis (Jago) and other prominent soloists of the Opera Theatre.

With a charismatic personality, the brilliant and charming tenor met with journalists on 8 February in the new buidling of SND.

José Cura has had the character of Otello in his repertoire for fifteen years and has performed in more than twenty different productions.  As an opera, Otello is not just a historical drama but a drama but a deeply psychological drama of racism, betrayal, and manipulation.... Cura talked at the press conference about his dream roles, the talent and maturity of his artistic career, and said that, in general, it does not matter whether something in modern or classic (in staging) but more importantly is the intelligence by which it is presented as well as its message.  Artists—artists are the engine of the genious of others and allows the genius to communicate with the audience, among other things, said Cura.

 

You can watch portions of the interview below, but the language is a combination of Spanish and Slovak -- just so you know.  If you are not fluent in these language, you can still enjoy the lively, always entertaining tenor, complete with his Basque beret, charming the audience of reporters!  His response to a ringing cell phone comes around 5:00.

 

 

 

World Tenor José Cura Hosted at SND

 

TASR

9 February 2012

 

 

 World renowned tenor José Cura will be presented to opera lovers as a guest in the role of Otello in the work of the same name by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.  He appears Saturday, 11 February.

Under the baton of Ondrej Lenárd, Cura will work beside Dalibor Jenis in the role of Iago and Adriana Kohútková as Desdemona.  Verdi’s opera, directed by Josef Průdek, premiered on the stage of the SND 21 October last year.

“Otello I sing for fifteen years, it is almost two hundred performances, I have participated in twenty different productions.  I have worked with excellent conductors and directors, but also with very poor conductors and directors, and I have learned a lot from both.  From the first group, I learned what the opera should be like and from the others I learned what it should not be.  Otello offers many opportunities.  I participated in performances with traditional conceptions but also in contemporary design, where the stage has only four walls,” he said at today’s afternoon meeting with the media.

“It was during the rehearsal with the conductor that I told him that even after fifteen years I am still surprised by this performance.  There are certain works and certain characters who are for life and that after many years of maturing,” the maestro told TASR.  Commenting on opera characters he would still like to learn, the maestro replied, “Even though I am not the youngest, I have some dream characters so I still keep young.  Old age is just the beginning when the dreams all end.”

[…]

 

 

SDN Bratislava:  José Cura Carves the Drama in Otello

Opera Plus

Paul Unger

12 February 2012

 If memory does not deceive, my first live encounter with tenor José Cura was during the semi-finals of the prestigious singing competition Operalia in 1994.  One of the winners of the finals in Mexico was the dramatic 31-year-old tenor from Argentina.  After that, José Cura’s career rapidly gathered momentum.

Today, he is one of the most popular performers of the verismo school and in the title role of Verdi’s Otello.  It is in this character that José Cura will appear at the Slovak National Theatre Opera on Saturday, 11 February.  Three days before the performance at the press conference, he literally “opened” himself to the reporters.  Intelligent, witty, and friendly, the artist spent an hour answering questions from the diverse spheres of professional and personal life, discussing his career as a singer, conductor, director, and the delights in fine Kumstát (?).

Cura dwelt on Otello, which he sees as not only a historical drama but a deeply psychological one about racism, betrayal, and manipulation.  It has been a mainstay in his repertoire for fifteen years and he has put on the costume of the character in more than two dozen productions.  The success of the staging doesn’t depend on whether it is traditional or modern, black or white.  If there is a good director and cast, the staging can be anything.  The concept just needs to be logically justified. 

Cura touched on the on the status of singers at the turn of the century. This current generation is unlike the previous who had the luck of being able to mature vocally gradually.  Some have been successful, others have not, and under the pressure of marketing, publishing, and money (repeated three times) we have lost a lot of talent.   At the beginning, a singer is not an artist.  According to Cura, if you have talent and have a long career then you transform into an artist.  He has no problem with anyone who says they like the singing of Mario del Monaco or Placido Domingo.  It is just personal preference.  But the moment comes when “Cura doesn’t sing as well as Cura” then it is time to pack your bags.

 

 

 

With an extraordinary sense of humor peppered [throughout the conference] he responded to the disturbing ring of the cell phone of one of the journalists:  “Calling Verdi…..Giuseppe, Hello!”  Cura was asked if he still has a dream role and if that includes Richard Wagner.  With a smile he replied, “I have dreams.  I do not have nightmares.” He admitted that he had received many offers for roles in Wagner but since he did not speak German he could not shape those role to the desired level and so he has not accepted any of them.  “Old age begins just when all the dreams end.”  The 21st century has killed the spirit of the Renaissance man.  He does not like questions like what are you—singer, director, conductor, photographer?  He also doesn’t like the world to be divided into blocks.  He does not care whether it is east or west (where is the center, he asks?).  As for the professional theater, stage dust for José Cura is a “drug.”

Before Saturday’s performance Cura offered Bratislava citizens an unplanned bonus.  He appeared in Strauss’ der Fledermaus as a special guest at the ball of Prince Orlofsky.

 

 

Review

(continuation of above article)

And what of his Otello?  In a word, breathtaking.

 

Giuseppe Verdi: Otello
Dirigent: Ondrej Lenárd
Réžia: Josef Průdek
Scéna: Milan Ferenčík
Kostýmy: Josef Jelínek
Zbormajster: Pavel Procházka
Orchester a zbor Opery Slovenského národného divadla
Premiéry 21. a 22.októbra 2011 Sála opery a baletu – nová budova SND Bratislava
(písané z reprízy 11.2.2012)

Otello – José Cura
Jago – Dalibor Jenis
Desdemona – Adriana Kohútková
Cassio – Oto Klein
Roderigo – Ivan Ožvát
Lodovico – Martin Malachovský
Montano – Mikuláš Doboš
Emilia – Denisa Šlepkovská
Un Araldo –  Daniel Hlásny

 

 

And what of his Otello?  In a word, breathtaking (thrilling).  The first two acts where filled with a surfeit of tense moments, when the ideas about the deployed tempos between Cura and conductor Ondrej Lenárd vastly differed.  From the opening ‘Esultate!’, the tenor was incomparably faster than the beat Lenárd put down.  The principle, however, was that from the very first entry onto stage we must see a fighter, a commander hardened by both sea and storms.  He had the authority to be able to strongly intervene in the current conflict in Cyprus but was also a man with all of a man’s human weaknesses.  In the first duet with Desdemona ‘Già nella notte densa' the voice changes from bronze-colored and severe in tone to evoke emotions, not only in its color and dynamics but most especially in expressing the joy of reuniting with his beloved wife.  Even with strict compliance with the staging of director Průdek, the singer ends up singing on his back.

A special charge was given in the Act II quartet.  Otello’s part in this moment is not to dominate; it is conceived as an inner spiritual reflection and a struggle with conflicting ideas about Desdemona’s infidelity. With extreme sensitivity to nuances he reveals how his relationship with Iago is being shaped and though he still hesitates to believe the intrigue he has failed to banish the worm of doubt.   José Cura in these proceedings expressed absolute harmony between vocal and acting resources.  Once again, other he got out of line with the tempo (the recitative sections were treated loosely, almost colloquially, as if it were a “recco recitative”), but for the benefit of the grinding atmosphere of the moment it was effective.  On the other hand, José Cura is so prudent and experienced that he knows where to hold instead of grab, where the phrase should be opened and developed, that the effect is indisputable.  For the first time Lenárd’s music for ‘Ora e per sempre addio’ kept pace with the immense, expressed urgency, sung steel hard and with bright tones.

If the tempo disagreement between the protagonist and the conductor came often in the first half of the evening, the partnership between the soloists avoided collision.  Cura seemed extremely empathetic to Adriane Kohútková (Desdemona) and seemed to almost relish the dialogues with Iago. 

A huge variety of expressive colors were uncovered in the third act.  Outbursts of anger, signs of mental chaos and self doubt, José Cura provided starkly dynamic contrasts and colors.  The monologue ‘Dio! mi potevi scagliar’ began as a quiet reflection but gradually evolved in expression until it culminated in the arrival of Iago, although there was no holding, no luminous ‘Cielo!  O Gioia.’   […]  With faith firm and voice calm, he knew what he had to do and ended the life of his beloved wife.  ‘Niun mi tema’ as a closing monologue was an intimate testimony of the sorrows of a man who believed he succumbed to a manipulator.  With great licenses in his choice of rhythm and tempos but also with huge and credible psychological immersion, José Cura had completed his first Otello in Bratislava.

The audience welcomed Cura with spontaneous applause (even for Esultate!).  And it said goodbye to him with prolonged applause.  It was definitely a superior evening at the Opera Theater. … May we experience similar evenings as often as possible.

 

 

 

 

Otello

in

Bratislava

Eyewitness Account

 

Hanka and Miro give us an audience view of the gala performance

 

EYE WITNESS REPORT from Bratislava

Short “welcome” applause from the Bratislava audience greeted José Cura when he stepped on stage with his magnificent “Esultate” and long, enthusiastic applause with many bravos were received afterwards, at the end of the first two acts and at the conclusion of the whole opera. The reason for the ovation?  José brought everything needed to the stage: the authority of the leader-warrior, understanding of the ravishing drama, strong emotions and psychology, loving moments and desire in duet with Desdemona, jealousy, madness – everything expressed by different colours in his voice, varying volume and tempo and excellent acting, all the elements that many in the audience had never experienced.  He brought real-life to relations between Otello, Jago and Desdemona. As Dalibor Jenis (Jago) mentioned in a short interview for Slovak TV in opera foyer later on, with José Cura on stage they all “grew up”, because José Cura brought a lot of experience, ideas and energy to this performance.

Although some may have found the concept very simple, we liked this classical production, which worked, in our opinion, very intelligently, with lighting and small, quick changes that created the proper atmosphere at every moment, so much so that the audience was never disturbed by anything strange and could fully concentrate on and enjoy José's and other artists’ voices, their excellent acting and beauty of Verdi's music. Perhaps without José Cura and his fiery stage presence and his influence on the others, it could have been a boring performance. Verdi music in Otello requires great understanding and experience from the artists in addition to great voices; therefore Otello on a really high level cannot be performed well in the theatres only by the “standard” casting.

Even if it was classically staged with historical style of costumes, there was one special moment at the end which reflected the present times, but in a way different from that in Berlin or Zurich. In Bratislava all was concentrated on drama between three main characters in historical frame but at the moment when Desdemona is already dead and Otello has whispered his last “baccio”, Jago, dressed in a suit of an expensive fabric and latest (modern) cut, came from the dark side of the stage to the “palcoscenico” and sat down in one of the seats (the only one which remained empty as “reserved” during the whole opera performance) among the spectators. The message was clear – evil is eternal, the Devil is always with us. Was it the reference to the “banksters”, or 1% of the rich, who manipulate with our society for disadvantage of 99%?? Who knows, but we felt that perhaps Verdi would like such an end to his opera, which he wanted for some time to be called Jago….

Great applause with a nearly immediate standing ovation and many bravos for the main three characters, but most especially for JOSÉ CURA--it was his night! He definitely conquered the hearts of all people in the totally sold out opera house. People around us, while leaving the house, all were speaking about this absolutely unforgettable experience…    Bravo Cura!

Many thanks, dear José, for yesterday night.

Even if we saw you many times as Otello, you made the performance in Bratislava another real gem and it will remain in our memories for ever...

Cordial greetings,

From Hanka and Miro

 

 

 

 

Otello in Bratislava

 

José Cura – Another Star at the National Theater

Slovo

Vladimír Blaho

14 February 2012

While concerts, which are organized by commercial companies in the square or in the building of SND (Ramón Vargas, Dmitri Hovoroskovky, Juan Diego Florez, Cecilia Bartoli), we have finally experienced a huge star in an opera.  Argentine tenor José Cura was introduced to Bratislava as Otello on 11 February 2012.

[…]

José Cura is one of a group of Latin American tenors (Ramón Vargas, Marcello Alvarez, Juan Diego Florez, Rolando Villazón) who in the past decade have played “first fiddle” on the world’s opera stages.  The singer, whose family roots lead back to Lebanon, Spain, and Italy, is now nearly 50 and has for the last two decades been one of the jewels at the leading opera houses.  His unique personality, in addition to singing and conducting, and more recently, directing, and his artistic origins have gained him a certain (charismatic) reputation.

In concert, he upturns the usual sleek production with both informal dress and behavior to attempt to make contact with the audience and meet them in song repertoire which features theatrical artistic expression. That approach is fully appropriate to opera performances, in which Cura focuses neither on the beauty of the voice nor on perfect technique but in the comprehensive understanding of complex characters interpreted through expressive voice, movement, facial expressions, and gestures.  With his dramatic, baritonal vocal characteristics and interpretative abilities, he is ideal for projecting the dramatic, verismo characters (Calaf in Puccini’s Turandot, Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci).  Apart from the heroic Samson in the French opera by Camille Saint-Säens, he is perhaps best known for his role in Verdi’s Otello, having appeared in about twenty different productions

Cura offers a thrilling portrait of Verdi’s passionate hero at the SND, alternating between rage, despair, and resignation, his dramatic fund of striking force and with a metal ring in his top that must allow the same to be written as that by a Viennese critic about opera star Maria Jeritza, “that it (the voice) is amazing even when she sings with approximate intonation.”

A speaksong interpretative style is also a [Cura] characteristic so recitative occasionally recall parlando (which would have strict vocal defenders of the Italian school distinguishing between verismo and the late Verdi and permitting it only in the first instance) and he occasionally deviates from the flow and tempo, changing the musical accents according to his own taste.  On the other hand, his performance is all perfectly thought out, calculated for maximum effect.  For example, when he first sees Desdemona he runs up the stairs like a young man, while at the beginning of the third act he climbs on wobbly (broken) knees.

In evaluating Cura’s Otello, it is important to be aware of differences in interpretative approaches.  On one side stand the singers with beautiful voices, expert bel canto style and lovely legato, which makes listening a wonderful experience. Cura, on the other side, represents the stage creation, in which the visuals (either physical beauty or acting and expressive skills) play the more important part.

After the deaths of the great Luciano Pavarotti and Alfredo Kraus, both of whom the broader public considered to be ‘technical’ vocalists, it appears that the scales have begun to lean toward the side of representational in the complexity of interpretation.  True, this approach has its limits [comments about Paris production of Madama Butterfly in which an otherwise good interpretative performance was marred by uninspired/average singing]…but Cura has not yet exceeded the threshold and therefore Bratislava opera lovers can enjoy even more of his art at his second appearance, in March, in Verdi’s Otello.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otello

in Bratislava

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otello

in Bratislava

 

 

José Cura – Lover, Predator, Murderer, Victim

Pravda

Paul Unger

13 February 2012

 [excerpt]

In recent years, a number of world famous artists have appeared live in Bratislava.  While Juan Diego Flórez, Ramón Vargas, Cecilia Bartoli and Dmitri Hvorostovsky performed in concerts brokered by private agencies and after the Lucrezia Borgia with Edita Gruberová and Paul Bršlíkom within the framework of the Bratislava Music Festival, the first truly stellar name has finally been brought to the opera theater.  The title role of Verdi’s Otello is played by one of its most popular performers, Argentine José Cura.

At 49, José Cura stands at the zenith of his career, with fifteen years years and over two hundred performances of Otello behind him.  He knows at every moment what the hero experiences, what internal, often pathological, conflict sets him off, how to express quiet emotions of love, jealousy, impulsivity, mental collapse and failure. Cura is fixed on stage, the sea-and-storm hardened warrior, the tenderly loving husband who is also a predator, all the barrage of emotions that he must manage.  Cura’s concepts are extremely polished, both contrasting with and based on his deep knowledge of the original.

It is particularly valuable that the actor’s expressive resources are subject to the musical and vocal lines of the situation.  Cura’s big, serious, almost baritone-tenor has a bronze polish and he has the experience to build the emotionally charged role without compromising in delicate areas—even at the price of a serious misunderstanding in pace between him and conductor Ondrej Lenárd.  Both have strong personalities so the search for the ‘middle way’ was challenging, especially in the first half.  Finally, however, some of the points were raised at a lively pace and slower sections were given content and inner reflection.

It was a wonderful experience to watch as José Cura developed a dubious relationship with Iago (the expressive Dalibor Jenis) and as his feelings changed for Desdemona (Adriana Kohútková) as the predator becomes a lover, then getting caught in mental whirlpool as he becomes the victim of intrigue, murder, and death.

The high expectations for José Cura were fulfilled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cura Crawled under the Skin of Otello

SME

Michaela Mojzisová

12 February 2012

[Excerpt]

 

On Saturday, the Slovak National Theater Opera presented Verdi’s Otello, starring on of the world’s most famous tenors, Argentinian José Cura

 Although I do not doubt that his charisma and charm would have won over the audience at a José Cura concert, it was wonderful that he put on the costume of Otello and stood on the theater stage.  His effort provided the juice that the  Bratislava production previously lacked.

The world-renowned tenor has performed as Otello approximately two hundred times.  To the SND he brought his own, mature concept of the controversial character.  His Otello is an aging man who, with a manly exterior and confident demeanor, hides old scars and internal uncertainty.  He is looking for redemption in the love of a young woman but instead Desdemona accidently becomes the instrument of his destruction.

All this—and much more—can be read through Cura’s singing and acting.  He is emotional, not pathetic; he is dramatic but not hysterical.  Otello’s pain, his doubt, and his suffering are internalized and they are conveyed through Cura’s tone and gestures.  He keeps the viewer off-balance, impressing as he crawls under the skin [of the character].  The details are found in his vocal performance, details of which may be questioned in operatic terms but Cura would consider that to be nitpicking.  The singer with the dramatic, masculine, metallic voice did not hesitate to sacrifice the perfect aesthetic tone for a sense of authenticity in his character.

Dalibor Jenis supported Cura in Saturday’s gala as an expressive, sophisticated Iago.  Adriana Kohútková’s Desdemona was convincing as in the last act.  Although harmony between conductor Ondreja Lenárd and the star creaked here and there, over time (the tempo) gained the momentum of a smooth performance.  The Bratislava audience survived the evening well, considering they must usually choose to travel beyond our country for such an experience.  The performance repeats 2 March.

 

Otello in Bratislava

Eyewitness Report

 
Hi, Kira!
 
We have been to the second performance of Otello in Bratislava!

Shortly after the first night of this production (November) which we had been here for we had decided to let many years pass before we will come again - it was such a horrible performance with orchestra and singers of bad quality! But now, incredible! What a change!

Unfortunately the orchestra and conductor were again mediocre but José Cura with Dalibor Jenis made it possible to overcome this: both sang and performed with breathtaking excitement.  The entire audience gave standing ovations!

You have so many wonderful pictures on your homepage that we will send only two photos in front of the curtain.

 
And now we look forward to the "Tosca" this month in our Wiener Staatsoper!
 
With best regards,
 
Eva and Herbert Nießner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cura as Otello in Bratislava

by

Zsuzsanna

 

 

 

Double standing ovations for José Cura’s brilliant Otello in Bratislava

 Slovak National Theatre, 11th February and 2nd March of 2012

 We enjoyed our operatic trip to Bratislava very much. We had superb reason to travel there, since José Cura was invited by Slovak National Theatre (SND) to step into the title role of their new production of Verdi’s Otello in two evenings on 11th February and 2nd March of 2012. Tickets were sold out well in advance – we have to express our special thanks to the box office to guide and help us getting the tickets for the first night - so we got really excited when the time of these events came. Just imagine a huge and impressive new theatre complex, the New Building of SND at the bank of the Danube that can be reached by a short ride from Budapest (or Vienna) and you can make a pleasant stroll in the nearby charming old town of the city as well. We enjoyed a really biting cold day in February while our trip in March brought the breath of spring to us with lots of sunshine.

The new Otello production of Bratislava Opera (directed by Josef Prudek) owned some interesting solutions and a nice, renaissance atmosphere of traditional scenery in its staging design. Though I didn’t like and understand fully the styles of the different costumes of the cast, these were elegantly designed. White and light colours altered with dark (soldiers) and black ones (for Otello and Jago). Local people represented more groups of nations on the stage, according to the Cyprian environment. Fine lighting concept - playful dancing of sunshine on the walls - stairs, little arches, inner court and terrace softened the massive grey stone walls of the large Fort. It dominated the stage and remained the central element there as a permanent main scenery throughout the opera. Little changes were arranged for the different scenes adding additional elements from above (curtain, baldachin, little Chapel with the Cross and candles, glass window, etc.) or below  (emerging podium which functioned as Desdemona’s bed and also as a larger stand for Jago’s declaration, imagined influence and power). The overall impression of staging was very nice indeed even though I was frustrated by keeping minimal lighting on and using a “dust and fog” machine to make it more ancient.

José Cura sang and played Otello’s role magnificently. I had the impression that from the beginning he emphasised an aging Moor rather deliberately – at least comparing it to the dashing military look of his Otello in Zurich - who wore the signs of illness and suffering of the long war.  Of course I don’t have to mention that his vitality, commanding energy, thrilling vocal beauty and expressiveness were always there in every moment. He experienced the situations very intensely and engaged our attention and thoughts with inimitable power and charisma. He mastered again the role: after setting his entrance and the base of the character in a lovely and vivid manner he added more and more colour, shade, increasing tension and excitement to the play and his figure during his powerful vocal acting up to his very last, painful and lonely solo.  He delineated the whole progress of Otello’s transformation as his figure was totally worn away and chased to the state of serious mental illness.  Through his dramatic actions the dark sides and brutal, dangerous behaviour of his non-heroic Moor were also unmasked in thousands of ways. This was accelerated by the revealing signs and alleged proofs of Jago’s machination thanks to Otello’s aggressive and betraying, mercenary character, his inner uncertainties and wickedness. He became more violent and hungrier for revenge with animalistic instincts and finished to act as a cold-blooded murderer having no choice but to make away with himself.

 At the end of the opera, the audience celebrated José Cura’s principal contribution and his rock-solid, brilliant dramatic achievement in Otello’s portrayal with wonderfully spontaneous and long standing ovations on both nights. These lasted about 10 minutes and coupled with intense, thunderous applauses and bravos. Enthusiastic applause granted the whole company and main protagonists also especially Dalibor Jenis (Jago) for his endearing, very fresh and sonorous vocal power and good stage stamina and Adriana Kohutkova whose tormented Desdemona impressed us the best on the second night, when her enchanting vocal acting and stage presence improved a lot in passion and theatrical involvement. The orchestra and choir of SND led by Ondrej Lenard contributed well to the success.

In the beginning of the First Act, the introducing scene of the drama with the big storm was arranged really skilfully.  The choir occupied the huge stage turning toward us and they commented the state of battle on the sea powerfully. The huge, black shadow of a rolling schooner was also enlarged and projected to the stage. It almost sank to the bottom of the sea, but finally the mast emerged and Otello was ready to land on Cyprus at the vocal climax of the scene. Just in the moment of his entrance the audience spontaneously welcomed José Cura’s Otello with a warm applause appreciating his appearance here in advance.  Though it could have been disturbing for a singer, José kept his cool and after a deep breath he did render his dark, earthquake-like and conclusive “Ensultate!” to the people making clear the balance of power for everybody. He welcomed his men with contented joy and then he left the stage with his relieved Desdemona in haste. Heart-warming moment coupled with magnificent beginning of the opera here.

We were acquainted with Otello’s power again when he made order among his men and degraded Cassio.  The love duet of Otello and Desdemona enjoyed again a unique setting. Only a small podium symbolised their bed on the ground covered with white silk. Then a small dome of white curtain of three segments descended from above and stood in the air like a stylised Turkish baldachin and we could see Desdemona preparing herself for the night in a dark, nearby cabin at intimate light. She was helped by two women who covered their faces and bodies with black traditional Muslim clothes. José Cura led the duet with sensitive voice and attentive hands; the warm, velvety sound of his timbre captivated us for long moments. He signalled some signs of his illness and the warrior’s tiredness toward us, but above all he was delighted to be with his beloved Desdemona. After conveying their desire to each other in many rounds of common understanding, Otello sang the final notes of the duet lying on his back while unmistakably called Desdemona to join to him for more pleasure. Enthusiastic applause granted them after the First Act.

The first big moment of the Second Act was owned by Dalibor Jenis in Jago’s Credo. He managed to deliver this difficult aria vigorously showing great determination and vocal power spicing it also with infinite malice. I wished, only if I could forget about his last scornful laughter at the end. José Cura appeared in dashing black pants and shirt for the rest of the play and his Otello lived on the stage again immediately. The first longer encounter of Jago and Otello carried lots of interest and peak moments. Our Otello utilized his unique skill in keeping their vocal conversation fresh and dynamic. The varied colours and slim, steely blade of his voice was pure pleasure to listen. Otello frightened Desdemona at the first time, then the quartet of the protagonists seized the best ensemble moments including the expressiveness and vocal beauty of the tenor’s lines.

Then Cura showed many faces of his starting agony (“Desdemona rea!”) and Jago really should fear for his life. Otello’s doubts radiated beautifully through his vocal shading and physical actions. Though he remained unpredictable and very dangerous, he walked into Jago’s trap easily. His aria (“Ora e per sempre addio …”) possessed a well-built, heroic structure and dynamic power. This not only preserved the pride of the great general but also reflected his real despair and fear so expressively, that Jago was really satisfied by the quick progress of his plan. Then Otello’s wild temper burst out again uncontrolled and he almost pushed the breath out from Jago. But in the next moment he clung to him so firmly, that it was a surprise for the devil. Poor Jago was physically suffered from both actions very dangerously; at least he had to pay this price for the success of his actions. By the poisonous and furious vision of Jago’s clever storytelling Otello became even wilder and he led their stunning swear of vengeance (“Sangue! Sangue! Si, pel ciel ..”) to victory. No one, even Jago could compete with Otello in the dramatic beauty and overwhelming power of his vocal delivery which was stamped by his inexhaustible anger and darkness of his thoughts.  Then the Moor indicated clearly that their union wouldn’t be durable; he wanted more. The vocally and theatrically very spectacular and passionate duet of Otello and Jago deserved the eruptive applause and bravos of the audience, which took longer than their aria itself at the end of the second Act.

The Third Act even promised more excitement. The long duet of Otello and Desdemona told us everything about Otello’s soul and thoughts in a nutshell, as a stand-alone, very powerful and key mini drama. The two protagonists were keen on to iterate their own goals in more rounds either it was centred on the exemption of Cassio or on the searching of the “fazzoletto”. In the latter we have witnessed how sly and inventive resources Cura’s Otello could align in the battle through his remarkable singing acting. From his softest vocalism and caressing words of all sugar and honey to his darkest, steely brittleness lines and threatening, merciless orders including an almost murderous attack against Desdemona (“Giura! Giura e ti danna!” …) we were treated with unbearable tension and increasing violence of Otello’s behaviour. Even Desdemona’s heartrending prayer did not soften his determination; indeed he interpreted it as being another and impenitent sign of her guiltiness. Finally he chased her so barbarously as if she would be a free prey of “cortigiana” for him and concluded his actions with a final vulgar rape attempt.

Then being scared by himself as well, he collapsed to the ground and mourned himself in his following, very intimate, vocally matured and profound solo (“Dio! mi potevi scagliar …”). He set up a wonderful, meditative tone of infinite sadness and hopelessness first, and then he strengthened it with defiance and dynamism. The last few words and high notes of his aria revealed his mad and high-strung state of mind seeing Jago’s appearance as his rescuing factor again. Though by this point I was totally disarmed by this phenomenal theatre making, Otello’s spying in the next scene was really ingeniously choreographed and implemented.  He utilized every possible corner of the fortress not to miss any words of Cassio while remained invisible for his eyes. He showed up here and there, up and down unexpectedly making his vibrant and dazzling vocal comments on the meeting of Jago and Cassio. In a lovely, daring moment, Jago simply dropped the “fazzoletto” down from the bastion which landed in Otello’s hands and he was almost scared to death by the palpable, final proof of his betrayal. Just imagine his vocal explosiveness and vehemence again when made the conclusion about the murders.

The fulfilment of José Cura’s vocal acting in the Venetian scene was also overwhelming in its every little element. Logic and madness were mixed here when he read the pages of the new order carefully. However the last page didn’t survey; he crumpled it first, then smoothed it out and took the sheets back to the dossier as if nothing had happened. He ordered Desdemona to stay next to him, seized her hand hard and declared Cassio’s power in a cool and ironic voice. In the next moment he swept the papers away in his denial while he faced Lodovico, the ambassador of Venice provocatively (Noi salperem domani!”). It was not enough; he tossed his woman to the ground heavily (“A terra! …  e piangi!”) and also signed to Cassio to take over his duty. In this tensed and stiff moment only Jago hurried to help the humiliated Desdemona, who performed her painful solo delicately. The others had no courage to intervene and it took Cassio a long time to dare to stand behind Otello’s throne during the powerful vocal ensemble of the protagonists as the Moor left the stage. When he appeared later again, his whole posture spoke of his bad physical conditions and he soon collapsed fainting into his lost throne at the end of his wild and magnetic vocal agony. Of course Jago triumphed and rejoiced over his helpless body (“Ecco il Leone!”) with sarcastic laughing while the podium lifted him up to the top of the stairs. Huge applause again!

The scenery of the Last Act conveyed an impressive, eye-catching harmony in its intimate and dark surroundings. The central place of the stage was occupied by Desdemona’s bed and the walls were enriched by a little Chapel and a Gothic glass window. The last, long solos of Adriana Kohutkova settled into our heart with its fragile yet powerful and passionate vocal shaping and poignant moments. After her last words, the orchestra continued the music without a break but the audience wanted to express their appreciation and rewarded her with a short, but distinct applause for this achievement.

Then the music indicated Otello’s arrival. José Cura wore a black, silk robe and was equipped with a sabre and dagger on his side and belt. He entered into the stage silently and carried out his unique, ritual sequence. He raised his sabre above Desdemona’s sleeping head, but he didn’t finish the movement of his arms and walked to the Chapel. He welcomed the Cross in his own (Muslim) way taking also farewell from it indicating his final decision about Desdemona. Then he sat down to the edge of the bed and gave a delicate, awakening kiss to her. We were frightened and delighted at the same time by the last duet of Otello and Desdemona which took place quickly leaving no escape for her. Otello’s judgment and murderous action was coldly determined, cruel and powerfully monotonous in its thrilling vocal delivery and daring execution. His silk robe functioned as his weapon like a rope and he also used his muscles effectively to kill Desdemona in a merciless manner.

When his action was discovered by Emilia, the Moor threw his back against the wall and seized his sabre and dagger like a lonely warrior who was ready to fight with everybody. Finally he turned against Jago but almost jugulated the intervening Lodovico. In his final, wrenching solo of “Niun mi tema” he took farewell from his sabre and life. He sang his last, immensely tender, tearful and remorseful words to his Desdemona and joined to her in her death with a kiss after his suicide action. For the last drops of music the stage darkened and we saw Jago leaving the stage. He took a seat among the audience wearing elegant, modern suit which pointed up to his eternal presence.

The closing accords of the music were not fading yet, when the applause of the audience burst out uncontrollably and thunderously. It turned into a spontaneous, very grandiose standing ovation which rocked the theatre.  Escorting our jubilant clapping, we also produced ear-splitting bravos and whistles of joy in a very passionate and steady manner.  It took ten minutes long and was intensified in many waves as José Cura and the protagonists came back again and again for the many curtain calls on both nights. Fortunately the artists held their ground bravely and they all were very happy with the results. We enjoyed really very special and successful opera theatre events indeed thanks to José Cura’s gripping Otello’s portrayal and his fruitful cooperation with the devoted artists of Slovak National Theatre. Hopefully it will continue in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Last Updated:  Saturday, April 20, 2013

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