Bravo Cura

Celebrating Josť Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director




Operas:  Peter Grimes

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Is it all in his head?











Fun Throw Back!

Josť Cura is nothing if not determined!  Way back in 2008 he was actively working toward the starring role in Peter Grimes, preferably in England.  The excerpt below features some opera lovers discussing the (mostly) pros and cons.

The good news is that even though ROH didn't mount a production for the great tenor, he has managed to find a way to not only star but also to bring his vision to the stage.

Bonn -- the adventure begins.

Josť Cura on Peter Grimes

PostDominic McHugh on Sat Sep 06, 2008  

I was interested to read the interview with Josť Cura: 

(Musical Criticism, 6 September 2008):  I ask if there are any other unexpected roles he's keen to tackle?

'I have some plans but some of them depend on the possibility of learning the language. I've had several people ask me to do The Queen of Spades but I really have to learn the Russian.  

'Another is Peter Grimes, but I'd love to do that in England. I want to learn the role and perform it in the proper way by coming to the source. But every time I say this I hear, "No, but the accent and this and that", and I say "Give me a break, have you ever heard English people singing in Italian?" They're very good and they try as hard as they can but you can hear the accent. It's natural, you can't avoid it. So does that mean that only English people can sing Peter Grimes, only Italians can sing Italian opera, only French people sing in French? Then we'd end up with a very limited international panorama. All of a sudden we'd have theatres closing. So I think this is nonsense. It's interesting to have someone in a role if they care about it and train hard for it, even if you hear the accent here and there. Who cares about that as long as you have an interesting psychological approach. So sometimes when you want to experiment you have to fight against prejudice. I don't know, I'll end by doing Peter Grimes somewhere else, for sure, because I want to do it. It would be a pity, because it's one thing to do it here to learn the style and how do it properly from someone who's English. It's a different thing to do it elsewhere and learn it from someone who's not English. Every time I mention it casually here I get a smile in return. So I've just stopped mentioning it! I'll have to live with that.'

Once again, he raises the idea of learning the role of Peter Grimes in England because it's part of our heritage, and clearly he's upset that he's been refused the part on the grounds of English not being his first language. Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

Dramatically, one would think that the part was right up his street, even if he's a little too Latin-looking for Grimes. On principle, I don't have a problem with the language, but on the other hand I remember being vastly disappointed with Sara Mingardo's performance in Handel's Messiah with Colin Davis a couple of years ago, when she was singing in English alongside three English soloists. She really stood out. So...I don't know? It would be interesting to get readers' reactions. Josť Cura on Peter Grimes - hugo on Wed Sep 17, 2008  

It seems to me really strange that there's this apparent double standard when it comes to English opera. It's perfectly normal for opera audiences to be subjected to all manner of dreadful pronunciation in French opera, in particular (my favourite recording in this regard is probably Franco Corelli's Faust - stunning singing but with absolutely no concession to the language - but then again, he often managed to make his Italian sound strange too). Some might argue even that Domingo, at least earlier in his career, was being indulged when allowed to sing roles in German, which often (from the recordings, at least) sound very strange, accent-wise.

Listening to Cura as Peter Grimes might require a bit of adjusting but the ear would soon have no issue with any accent there might be and I suspect that the originality of his interpretation would easily outweigh any problems. Apart from anything else, it could only be a good thing for Britten...? Josť Cura on Peter Grimes - PostDominic McHugh on Wed Sep 17, 2008  

Covent Garden does have a point though, surely? It's not something most people would pay to hear Jose Cura to see unless he'd had a major success with it elsewhere.

Also, even when it was cheaply priced and featured a stunning cast in 2004 - Ben Heppner, Janice Watson, Alan Opie - the last staging of it at the House didn't sell out.

Also, with ENO bringing a new staging next April and Opera North having brought out a critically-acclaimed new production in recent years, the piece probably isn't even near the top of their list of pieces to stage, regardless of who's in it. And since ENO is kind of in the middle of a Britten cycle at the moment, the ROH is probably looking to go in other directions? Josť Cura on Peter Grimes - hugo on Wed Sep 17, 2008  

I guess the Royal Opera's missed the boat now anyway. And from what Cura said, he's stopped bothering to ask them anyway. I can imagine, though, a Cura Grimes would be terribly divisive, but I guarantee several people who would not have come to see Heppner in the role would probably decide to see Cura in it. Josť Cura on Peter Grimes - Dominic McHugh on Sun Sep 28, 2008  

I think he's someone who's exciting when he's excited. So although I agree, Grimes isn't what I'd choose to hear him sing, when an artist like that wants something that badly, the results might be exciting. Cura as Grimes - Mike Reynolds on Thu Oct 02, 2008  

Having just seen Cura in Fanciulla, I would certainly go to see him as Peter Grimes. He has energy, stamina and a dark colour to the voice that would be very persuasive. And casting him against a Borough made up largely of English/English speaking singers would only emphasise his 'otherness' - the man who doesn't quite belong in the Borough anyway. I think it would be fascinating.

I don't really buy the idea that Grimes is that 'English' an opera anyway. Think of its conception and the world situation at the time. I was at an ENO performance under Paul Daniel in Snape Maltings a few years ago and as the last chord of Act 1 crashed out and resonated in that reverberant acoustic I sat stunned, asking myself: where did this music come from? I think the abstract ideas it embodies leave the whole notion of 'English opera' far behind.

I'm lucky enough to have heard Britten, Grimes included, in France, Germany, Hungary and other points east. What always amazes me is how naturally performers embrace the Britten idiom and how they make it feel as if it is 'their' music. For me, that's the genius of Britten. Conversely, we have that whole streak running through English society that loathed BB and his music - even today. "Can't be doing with Britten" is still a refrain in Suffolk, where I live.

I'd like to see a concert performance of Grimes with Cura as PG supported by a top flight cast and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra under Gustavo Dudamel. That would be quite an evening! Josť Cura on Peter Grimes - Dominic McHugh on Fri Oct 17, 2008  

I think Cura could be an interesting Grimes, but I must say I didn't enjoy the recent DVD of the opera from Zurich because, contrary to your experiences, I find the non-Anglophone members of the cast, the chorus and the orchestra don't understand the language (both textual/musical). Musically, obviously Britten borrows from Verdi and the classical period, but I really do find this piece very English. Josť Cura on Peter Grimes - PostJngarratt on Fri Oct 17, 2008  

I think I'd agree that this is a really English piece and loses some of the tension if the singers don't understand the semantics of the language. But surely you could say that about something like Don Giovanni being sung by an English singer in Italian? Isn't it a given nowadays that any world class singer gets a coach if they are singing in a language that is not their mother tongue ? Surely Cura could do that?

Ben Heppner wasn't exactly how I'd visualised Grimes, but he was VERY effective in the part.




Last Updated:  Saturday, April 22, 2017  © Copyright: Kira