Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director

 

 

 

Operas:  Peter Grimes

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Is it all in his head?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Throw Back!

José 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.

José Cura on Peter Grimes

PostDominic McHugh on Sat Sep 06, 2008  

I was interested to read the interview with José 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.

https://illiweb.com/fa/empty.gifRe: José 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...?

https://illiweb.com/fa/empty.gifRe: José 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?

https://illiweb.com/fa/empty.gifRe: José 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.

https://illiweb.com/fa/empty.gifRe: José 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.

https://illiweb.com/fa/empty.gifJose 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!

https://illiweb.com/fa/empty.gifRe: José 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.

https://illiweb.com/fa/empty.gifRe: José 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  This is a machine-based translation.

José Cura uses language with precision and purpose;  the computer does not.  

We offer it only a a general guide to the conversation and the ideas exchanged but the following should not be considered definitive.

 

The Rebel of Opera - José Cura presents his view of Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes" in Bonn

Kulturexpresso

Midou Grossmann

Bonn, Germany (Kulturexpresso).  A matinee of a special kind was experienced Sunday at the Theater Bonn.  The internationally-acclaimed tenor José Cura will serve as director, stage designer and singer of the title role Peter Grimes, premiering on May 7, 2017. Cura is certainly known to most opera fans as one of the most versatile singers with an expressive voice and great stage presence but few know him as a director.  The artist, who trained as a composer and conductor, already appeared as a conductor at the age of fifteen and then decided at the age of 28 to turn to singing, is a creative genius.  In February he sang his first Tannhäuser in Monte Carlo, with grand vocal conviction.

Cura is now offering his vision of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, which premiered at the Sadler’s Wells Theater in London in 1945. It took, however, some time before he was able to speak on Sunday morning (at the pre-performance discussion).  Cura was totally ignored by the presenter, music journalist Regine Müller.  She discussed in detail with the conductor Jaques Lacombe as well as with the baritone Marc Morouse without involving José Cura.  When Ms Müller finally spoke to Cura in slightly bumpy English, after he had sat in a vacuum for about 15 minutes, he probably had no idea how the discussion had progressed to that point.  Most unprofessionally, Ms Müller used a reference to Rolando Villazón as a starting point.  After the singer, stage designer and director of the production clarified the situation, he provided a spirited view of the opera, with the translation between languages now taken by American Marc Morouse; conductor Lacombe also spoke in English from this point.  The presenter had become superfluous and from this point the discussion developed into a lively and interesting introduction to Britten’s demanding and, for some, bulky work.

José Cura is philosophical about his approach, the message clear:  Grimes’ fight against the s sea is probably also the struggle for life by many people in a merciless society. As an outsider, Peter Grimes is observed by the village community and condemned without compassion.  An old theme in the history of mankind:  whoever does not adapt is excluded.  Fisherman Grimes is also not a ‘diplomat’ and so the drama takes its course.  Whether he is guilty of the death of the two boys is ultimately denied but Grimes is probably non-contactable, according to today’s medical terms, and also bi-polar, but ultimately he is a man who cries out for affection.

The libretto of the opera is based on the poem by George Crabbe, which Cura calls an important foundation for his production.  Certainly he has also found a new challenge in this part as a singer who will set new standards.  Just as clearly, this discussion also highlighted José Cura's concern for the planet.  The turbulent social and political events simply cannot leave an artist who has grown up in the totalitarian system of Argentina uninvolved.  Under these circumstances, this production - a co-production with the Monte Carlo Opera - will surely become a moving operatic experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Tenor.  Director.  Set designer.

 

Theater Bonn

2 May 2017

José Cura makes his debut as Peter Grimes in Bonn.  The star tenor will also take on the role of director and stage designer.  He explains in an interview how he does this.

In the upcoming PETER GRIMES production, you will be singing the title part, directing and staging.  How do you tackle all these different challenges?

José Cura: I have been doing this holistic approach to new productions for 10 years now. The secret to be able to direct a show, while taking part as an actor in your own production, is to work with lots of advance, preparing and anticipating as many situations as possible, and to have a trustful supporting team that knows exactly how you want things to be. Taking about designing the stage, for me, a great part of creating a show is to inhabit a set, that’s why, to conceive such set, I first imagine the action I may develop in it, and then design the physical space where such action will take place, so that I have everything I need.

Can you tell us a bit about the pros and cons of this 'all-round position'?

José Cura: There is no such thing as “because you break the rules, you are surely wrong”. Every “way” of doing things has advantages and disadvantages. No system is perfect. I have always been known for my intellectual honesty in performing as a singer, so it is not strange that I conceive my spectacles in the same way. In my shows, the characters behave or convey their psychology in a certain way, because when I plan things, I start from a concept in which I fully believe from A to Z, and I carry on such concept taking care of all aspects myself. But, on top of all, the main reason for doing this is that I enjoy the process a lot, regardless of the fatigue implied, which is the only serious disadvantage I can think of.

Risking to get lost in my own ego is not a possibility, even if it may look like, because each of my collaborators, including the in-house professionals (technicians, tailors, electricians, etc), are asked to be absolutely honest in their contribution, even when they think their honesty may upset me. I believe there is no way to grow up as a man and as an artist, if you cannot capitalize the advices of those who you have delegated responsibilities. Needless to say, that there are people who criticize my choice of grouping several aspects of a production under myself, but nobody, in good faith at least, can criticize the professionalism of the production process and the quality of the results. You may dislike my work —all points of view are fair and welcome—, but you cannot deny the seriousness with which it is done.

You are playing Peter Grimes for the first time ever and I have read that you wanted to sing this part for a very long time.  What's so intriguing to you about this opera and this part?

José Cura: It is a piece where the coherence between text and music is such that one has the impression of doing “schauspiel”. On top of that, it is the last “card” I needed to complete my dreamed “poker” of operas: Otello, Samson, Tannhäuser and Grimes. Having done these four “grands” (one for each main operatic country), makes me very proud. By the way, this year alone, I have started with Tannhäuser, continued with Grimes and will end the season with Otello: a tough but very rewarding semester! There is one more title I would love to do to complete the “big five” and this is “Dame de Pique”, but I think Tchaikovsky will escape my artistic greediness, due to the language barriers…

Nature and especially the sea play a decisive role in PETER GRIMES.  Do you connect somehow with the sea?

José Cura: I am a guy of the Argentinean pampas… The sea was 1000 kms away from my house, in Rosario. Still, the attraction to the water has always been very strong in me. Maybe it is because I hate confined spaces places, suffocating environments. Claustrophobia, that’s also what Grimes is about: The restrictions of a hermetic society, that drowns its own inhabitants.

You’ve sung in Bonn a couple of times.  What do you associate with the city and the theater?

José Cura: Each time I have been in Bonn it was just for a couple of days. Therefore I cannot say a lot about the city. This will change, hopefully, now that I will be there a month and a half. I say “hopefully”, because the work to be done to put Grimes on his feet is so huge, that it will probably not allow me to be a tourist…

As for the Opera House, I feel very comfortable working there. People are professional and caring, and their determination to keep high and proud the standards of the House, despite the hard economical times, deserves all our support. After Grimes, in which I will have worked with the choir and the ensemble, I would love to be back one day to conduct the legendary Beethoven Orchestra, another of the solid pillars on which Bonn’s Opera leans on.

 

Peter Grimes: José Cura Shifts the Blame on Main Character, Concocting an Engrossing Production

OperaWire

Alan Neilson

17 May 2017

 The starting point for any production of Peter Grimes lies in the interpretation of the opera’s central character, namely Peter Grimes himself: to what extent should the audience be encouraged to view the anti-hero as an outsider, a victim of the underlying, but all-pervading intolerance and hypocrisy which saturates the Borough, rather than simply as a sadistic sociopath? Clearly, any production of note will include elements of both, but deciding on the right balance can be a difficult and, sometimes, a controversial decision, especially in cases where the director may struggle to elicit the necessary interpretation from the singer, or where the director and the singer have a different understanding of the role.

However, in this new production at the Bonn Opera, this was not to be a problem, as José Cura plays the role of Grimes, the director, scenographer, and costume designer. In fact, Cura has professed a longstanding wish to undertake this role, referring to it as the final ‘card’ in his dream ‘poker hand’ of Otello, Samson, Tannhäuser, and Grimes. He has, therefore, been handed the perfect opportunity to realize his ambition, an opportunity to create a very personal interpretation.

Shifting the Blame

Josè Cura opted to emphasize Grimes’ guilt in the drama while underplaying the role of the Borough. During the Prologue, Grimes’ first dead apprentice is beckoned by a line of child spirits to join them. In the final act, Grimes, in his delusional state, is tormented, not by two, but by three images of dead children. Thus, Cura hints at Grimes having more than two possible child deaths on his hands, and thus, moves beyond what Britten and Slater (the librettist) had written – which, in itself, does not necessarily go against their intentions. The idea of portraying Grimes as a serial child murderer is, of course, a valid starting point, although it requires careful handling. Cura chose to further accentuate this idea by not allowing the audience to be privy to the death of the second apprentice. We only see them scampering down the cliff, followed by Grimes holding the dead apprentice in his arms. Yet, Britten is very specific about this point; the child slips, Grimes does not touch him, Grimes is not directly responsible. In this production, the audience is left without this crucial piece of information and is encouraged to put the blame squarely upon Grimes’ head. In order for Cura’s reading of the drama to work he was, therefore, forced to downplay the role of the village populace in this sad affair, and in doing so the crowd/mob was relatively passive, and not particularly physically intimidating, at least not until they learn of the death of the second child, when their anger and disgust is brought thrillingly alive. In these moments, they moved menacingly towards the front of the stage, singing the chorus, ‘Peter Grimes, Peter Grimes’, with weapons in hand.

On a scene by scene basis, Cura directed the proceedings with a great deal of assurance and success and brought a great deal of energy to the drama. Of particular note was his masterful handling of Act 1, scene 2, situated in The Boar. This particularly busy scene with a lot of fast moving activity, and yet one in which all the characters were given the necessary space to express themselves. No incidents were lost amongst the hubbub. Grimes’ sudden entrance was suitably highlighted, bringing everything to an abrupt halt. One interesting decision taken by Cura, given that he created a traditional production, was to portray Mrs. Sedley as a semi-comic character. In the first scene of Act 3, he had her dressed à la Sherlock Holmes, sniffing out the whereabouts of the missing apprentice. Although it is not unknown to play Mrs. Sedley in this way, it is a risky decision. It worked well and confirmed Cura’s instinctive understanding of theater.

As scenographer and costume designer Cura produced a traditional and, in parts, an imaginative set with Victorian/Edwardian costumes, in which dark colors predominated. This palette aided the creation of the heavy atmosphere that overlays the work. In the center of the stage was The Boar public house, which doubled as the church, situated next to a tall structure that doubled as a lighthouse and as Grimes’ house. A rotating stage allowed the scenes to change rapidly, moving us from outside to inside the structures. The floor of the stage was a shale beach, with winching equipment to haul the boats in from the sea. As Grimes’ story unfolds, the set falls into decay, shadowing his mental decay, so that by the time of his suicide, The Boar/church is just a hollow frame. The overall effect was visually very pleasing and allowed a number of evocative and memorable mise en scène, such as in the final act. At this moment Grimes is seen pulling his boat up onto the beach, with the mist blowing in from the sea, the stage rotating slowly so that Grimes really appears to be struggling under its weight.

That said, the prologue did feel like it belonged in a different production as it featured a white curtain upon which the shadows of the participants in the courtroom drama were projected. All the while, Grimes stood in front of it over the dead apprentice. The entire staging of this segment, especially when compared to subsequent scenes, came off as bland and totally at odds with the rest of the production.

Embodying Grimes

The first thing to note about Cura’s performance was that he looked the part. He was dressed as a typical looking fisherman, physically strong, well-built, slightly weatherbeaten and sporting the requisite seafarer’s beard. His acting was secure and expressive, and his strong presence allowed him to dominate the stage – not always with positive results, however. Musically, Cura produced some magical moments, the most compelling being Grimes’ Act 3, scene 2 mad scene, accompanied by an off-stage chorus. Distance fog horns introduce the scene and Grimes, slowly descending into a state of delirium, recalls past events. Cura’s vocal control was as near perfect as it was expressive. His mood swinging wildly and singing in snatches, Cura moderated the tone, coloring, and dynamics of his voice, successfully capturing Grimes’ mental agonies. It was a truly energetic and convincing reading of the part. A further example of Cura’s qualities, although a little more uneven in quality, was Grimes’ monologue ‘Go there!’ followed on by an extended arioso ‘I’ll tear the collar of your neck’ in which he addresses his apprentice and himself, reflecting upon his recent troubles and hopes, whilst also berating the boy. At times threatening, at times contemplative, Cura produced another versatile and expressive reading, his voice characterizing the ebb and flow of his unstable mental state.

However, this was far from a faultless performance. Two faults dogged his performance throughout the evening. Firstly, Cura’s English pronunciation was far from exemplary, a fault accentuated by the clear English from the rest of the cast. Line after line was simply unintelligible and it really did detract from his performance, only partially mitigated by the quality of his expressive and versatile voice.

Secondly, and in some ways more serious, and notwithstanding his marvelous singing in the final act, his performance was unbalanced. Whereas Cura expressed Grimes’ agitated, unstable and sadistic personality with great force and vitality, he completely failed to project Grimes’ visionary character. Thus we were presented with a somewhat lopsided portrayal. This was most obvious in his arias ‘The Great Bear and the Pleiades’ and ‘What harbour shelters peace.”  Both were delivered without any real depth of feeling, a failing for which the orchestra must also share some of the responsibility, as there existed a distinct disconnect, in some passages, between the pit and the stage and an imbalance within the orchestra itself, compromising the dreamlike sound. The result was that the audience was deprived of an insight into the more human side of Grimes’ character.

The Great Surprise

Obviously, Peter Grimes is a work with more than one character, and Cura was supported in his endeavors by a fine cast. As Ellen Orford, the South African soprano Johanni van Oostrum, who was making her role debut in this production, put in a truly splendid performance and was the surprise of the evening. Her portrayal, always measured and controlled, grew over the course of the opera. The relationship she developed with Grimes was highly nuanced and captured the frustration that underlies her feelings for him. She possesses a bright strong soprano, secure across the range, although a slight harshness at the top end was evident on occasions. Her voice blended well with Josè Cura’s Grimes and was always the tenor’s equal. At times, they blended beautifully in harmony, as in their duet during the Prologue, when they contemplate their friendship, and at other times they were quite discordant, as in their Act 2 duet, when Grimes’ rage boils over, as his own inner frustrations take control, and strikes her. Their voices complemented and contrasted perfectly, and brought real depth to their relationship. Her interaction with the other characters was also well-balanced and finely sung. One such instance was the closing quartet that ends the first scene of Act 2 in which the Nieces, Auntie and Ellen produced a wonderfully controlled and lyrical sound. However, the high point was her ‘embroidery’ aria, which she delivered with great beauty, coloring the voice with subtle shades to highlight the poignancy of her broken dreams.

Strong Support Overall

Balstrode, the worldly wise ex-sea captain whose horizons extend beyond the narrow confines of the Borough, was played by Mark Morouse. Respected for his sound advice, Balstrode should be able to dominate the stage, and so he did, that is, except in his exchanges with Grimes, in which Cura tended to outshine and dominate. Morouse possesses a voice with suitable gravity and authority but sounded a bit thin in his upper range.

Auntie, played by Ceri Williams, kept a tidy and well run public house and managed the customers like a real professional. Vocally secure, although occasionally her projection lacked strength, Williams sang the part convincingly.

Auntie was supported in The Boar by her two Nieces, played by Marie Heeschen and Rosemarie Weissgerber. Both possessed light bright sopranos and flitted provocatively amongst the guests. They also displayed good technique and harmonized well together and with other members of the cast in the ensemble parts.

The Romanian, Leonard Bernad as Swallow, moved easily and convincingly between the courtroom and The Boar, displaying a complete indifference to his blatant hypocrisy and to the moral conflicts of his behavior. His bluff bass was strong and carried authority. During the Prologue his dislike of Grimes was palpable, his staccato interjections impatiently drowning out Grimes while taking the oath. The questioning that followed allowed Bernad to display his skillful handling of recitatives, which were expressive, yet always controlled. And in the Act 3 pursuit of the First Niece, his singing blended well with the Nieces, producing lively and expressive exchanges.

Of the minor roles, Fabio Lesuisse as Ned Keene deserves special credit. He produced a real energetic performance and made a convincing spiv, simultaneously charming and unscrupulous with a shining baritone voice, who danced his way through the drama, never allowing a chance to make a fast buck go amiss. The role of Ned lay comfortably within Lesuisse’s range and he took advantage of this, singing with confidence and freedom. His leading of the singalong, ‘Old Joe’s gone fishing and’, at The Boar was delivered with brio and panache.

Ankara I. Bartz, as Mrs. Sedley, was played as a semi-comic figure, which did not detract from the vicious nature of her tongue. Bartz’s mezzo-soprano was a suitable fit for the role, and she performed her Act 3 arietta ‘Crime, which my hobby is’ well, neatly matching it to her semi-comic role.

The hypocritical Bob Boles, played by Christian Georg also put in a creditable performance, coming across as thoroughly dislikable and suitably mean spirited. His diction was clear and his singing impassioned as, for example when he rallies the mob to seek out Grimes in his house.

Contrast Not Always Apparent From the Pit

The Beethoven Orchester Bonn, under the baton of Jacques Lacombe, produced an energetic, spiky reading of the score, which added to the onstage tensions and highlighted Grimes’ mental instability. Act 1, scene 2 set in The Boar was particularly successful. The music beautifully created the raging storm outside the inn as well as the brewing tensions that were developing inside and crowned it with a brilliant accompaniment to Grimes’ unwelcome entrance. However, in line with Cura’s own interpretation of Grimes, the more dreamy aspects of the score were not adequately explored and failed to produce any sense of contemplation, misguided hope or reflection, and consequently lacked the necessary contrast. Moreover, “Peter Grimes” relies on the orchestra to create a claustrophobic atmosphere which hangs heavily over the Borough, and unfortunately, this was entirely missing. This was most clearly illustrated by the first of the musical interludes (Dawn), which was taken at a brisk pace and lacked musical languor and the corresponding sense of foreboding.

The chorus was well-drilled by Marco Medved and produced a lively, powerful performance. The singing was always expressive and compensated, to some extent, for their fairly static movement, which was hampered at times by the buildings situated in the center of the stage. In particular, the menace that Medved/Lascombe managed to generate from their singing was at times almost frightening.

Bonn’s Peter Grimes cannot, therefore, be classed as a runaway success, yet it nevertheless did engage the audience throughout the evening. It was certainly very pleasing to the eye and, although musically somewhat inconsistent, it generated an emotionally charged atmosphere and elicited some good singing and fine acting from a solid cast.

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Grimes - Bonn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative Ending (Not used)

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Grimes

Bonn

Das Opernglas Review // Courtesy of José Cura (official)

Translated by Sandra Ott

Eagerly anticipated was this premiere at the opera house in Bonn where also fans from a long distance arrived to witness a special debut. With the title role in Benjamin Britten´s masterpiece José Cura fulfilled another great wish after Tannhäuser in Monte Carlo (OG 4/2017) as Peter Grimes ranks among his dream roles he absolutely wanted to sing. The Argentinean not only developed the demanding role in a remarkable way but also ensured that the production was gripping and authentic. He was also responsible for the stage design and the costumes. As he explained in the Opernglas interview in the February issue this multiple strain is a huge challenge associated with a great deal of labour. This is for him also very enriching. And what was offered to the audience at this exciting premiere evening impressively underscored with how much meticulousness and care Cura approached his manifold tasks. At the same time it became clear that the Argentinean is a team-player as it was important for him that at the final applause the complete technique and stagehands could receive the ovations personally.

Cura convincingly worked out that Britten's work is an ensemble opera in which a whole village stands against the outsider Grimes who is excluded and driven into isolation. Thereby brilliant singers as well as formidable choirs, perfectly rehearsed by Marco Medved, where available. The hunting of the unfortunate fisherman in the last act with the bloodcurdling “Grimes” shouts became an insistently and unsettling moment strengthened by Cura's convincing scenic leadership.

In the centre of the set is a watch tower with attached house recreated from the Watchout Tower in Aldeburgh – the English coastal city where Benjamin Britten together with Peter Pears lived many years and where he also died. Also in Aldeburg in 1948 the Aldeburgh festival was set up. Grimes together with his apprentice live in the tower while the attached house alternately is used as church and Aunties pub. Threateningly fishing nets hang over the building and additionally provide a dark and menacing atmosphere which dominates the whole opera. A convincing idea is the binding between the beginning and the end of the piece: during the prolog Grimes stands in front of a curtain, the body of the first apprentice lies in front of him, the court under the chairmanship of Swallow, witnesses and village people are only visible as shadows behind the curtain. This already symbolises the exclusion of Peter. At the end there's Ellen Orford in front of the curtain, behind the curtain again the villagers as she, who sticks with Grimes up to the end, is now excluded and might be the next victim of.

In his directorial approach Cura portrays the title role much more positive as we face in many other productions. Most of all his Grimes is a victim of the jealous and narrow-minded residents of the fisher village who force him to death. Also in his dealing with John (touchingly and intensely played by the little Jaydon Morouse, the son of the Balstrode singer Mark Morouse) the affection from Peter towards his second apprentice prevails. The fall of John is rather an unfortunate accident. Still the dark side of Grimes could have been a bit more highlighted, for instance that due to his selfish acting he plunged the boy into misfortune as well as he pushes away Ellen. It is excellently illustrated in the great final monologue that the fisherman is driven by madness due to the events. Vocally, Cura presented himself in top condition, his warm tenor responded easily in all pitches. But above all the many nuances he sets and with which he intensifies the inner conflict of Grimes fascinated.

An ideal cast for Ellen Orford was Yannick-Muriel Noah who has a wonderful floating and fine nuanced soprano. With this and her touching acting she exuded a lot of empathy, for Peter as well as for the apprentice John. She provides the few bright moments in this dark social drama. The grumpy but thoroughly kind-hearted Balstord was sung by Mark Morouse with a modulating and multifaceted baritone who combined penetrating power and vocal suppleness in an ideal manner.

The ensemble of the opera house in Bonn impressed with a tremendous homogeneous performance whereby even the small roles where convincingly staffed. Terrific for example was the expressive Ceri Williams as Auntie who was one of the few to take sides for Grimes, at least phase-wise. Her nieces where perfectly staffed with the vocally softly singing Marie Heeschen and Rosemarie Weissgerber. Marked and highly contoured Leonard Bernad sang Swallow while Anjara I. Bartz shone as the intriguer Mrs. Sedley.

To the huge success of the production chief conductor Jacques Lacombe contributed. He familiarized the Beethoven orchestra audibly with Britten's score that reflects excellently the sparse life in the fisher village. The famous orchestral interludes, the “Sea Interludes”, where intoned expressedly sensitive and expressive. And even in the expressive choral tableaus the balance between orchestra pit and stage was always kept and so the whole performance pleased with a transparent and unfussy sound.

The performance was a plea for the ensemble theater and that only together one can create great moments of opera. This in turn can only succeed if there is somebody who can bring together everybody and if there is a coherent overall concept. José Cura provides all this in Bonn, and he also offered a touching and vocally terrific role portrayal. No wonder the complete auditorium stood up for standing ovations when the tenor came on stage for the final applause.

From L.-E. Gerth

 

 

 

Mit Spannung war diese Premiere an der Bonner Oper erwartet worden, zu der auch Fans aus weiterer Entfernung anreisten, um ein besonderes Debüt zu erleben. Denn mit der Titelrolle in Benjamin Brittens Meisterwerk erfüllte sich José Cura nach dem Tannhäuser in Monte Carlo (OG 4/2017) einen weiteren großen Wunsch, zählt doch der Grimes zu den Traumrollen, die er unbedingt noch singen wollte. Der Argentinier hat sich nicht nur die anspruchsvolle Partie auf bemerkenswerte Weise erarbeitet, sondern zudem auch für eine packende und authentische Inszenierung gesorgt, bei der er zudem noch für Bühnenbild und Kostüme verantwortlich zeichnete. Wie er bereits im Opernglas“-Interview in der Februar Ausgabe erklärt hatte, stellt diese Mehrfachbeanspruchung für ihn eine riesige Herausforderung dar, die mit einer Unmenge an Arbeit verbunden sei. Diese empfinde er zugleich als sehr bereichernd. Und was das Publikum an diesem spannungsvollen Premieren-Abend geboten bekam, unterstrich eindrucksvoll, mit welcher großen Akribie und Sorgfalt Cura an seine mannigfachen  Aufgaben herangegangen ist. Zugleich wurde deutlich, dass der Argentinier ein Teamplayer ist, war es ihm doch wichtig, dass beim Schlussapplaus auch die komplette Technik und die Bühnenarbeiter die Ovationen persönlich entgegennehmen konnten.

Dass Brittens Werk eine Ensembleoper ist, in der fast ein ganzes Dorf gegen den Außenseiter Grimes steht, den es ausgrenzt und in die Isolation treibt, hat José Cura überzeugend herausgearbeitet. Dabei standen auch eine glänzende Sängerschar sowie formidable Chöre zur Verfügung, die von Marco Medved perfekt einstudiert waren. Die Jagd auf den unglücklichen Fischer im letzten Akt wurde so durch die markerschütternden „Grimes“-Rufe der aufgebrachten Dorfbewohner zu einem eindringlichen und verstörenden Moment, der durch Curas überzeugende szenische Führung noch verstärkt wird.

Im Zentrum des Bühnenbilds steht ein Wachturm mit angebautem Haus, das dem Watchout Tower in Aldeburgh nachempfunden ist – jenem englischen Küstenstädtchen, in dem Benjamin Britten mit Peter Pears viele Jahre gelebt hat und wo er auch gestorben ist. In Aldeburgh ist außerdem 1948 das Aldeburgh Festival aus der Taufe gehoben worden. Grimes wohnt mit seinem Lehrjungen im Turm, während der Anbau wechselnd als Kirche und Aunties Kneipe genutzt wird. Drohend hängen Fischernetze über dem Gebäude und sorgen zusätzlich für eine dunkle und bedrohliche Atmosphäre, welche die gesamte Oper beherrscht. Ein überzeugender Einfall bildet die Klammer zwischen Anfang und Ende des Stücks: Während des Prologs steht Grimes vor einem Vorhang, der Leichnam des ersten Lehrjungen liegt vor ihm, das Gericht unter Vorsitz von Swallow, Zeugen und Dorfbevölkerung sind nur als Schatten hinter dem Vorhang zu sehen. Dies symbolisiert bereits deutlich die Ausgrenzung Peters. Am Ende steht dann Ellen Orford vor diesem Vorhang, hinter dem sich wiederum die Dorfbevölkerung befindet, denn auch sie, die bis zum Schluss zu Grimes gehalten hatte, wird jetzt ausgegrenzt und könnte durchaus das nächste Opfer sein.

Cura hat in seinem Regieansatz und seiner Darstellung die Titelfigur deutlich positiver gezeichnet, als sie uns in vielen anderen  Inszenierungen begegnet. Sein Grimes ist in erster Linie Opfer der neidischen und engstirnigen Bewohner des Fischerdorfes, die ihn in den Tod treiben. Auch im Umgang mit John (berührend und eindringlich gespielt von dem kleinen Jaydon Morouse, dem Sohn des Balstrode-Interpreten Mark Morouse) überwiegt die Zuneigung Peters zu seinem zweiten Lehrjungen. Dass dieser abstürzt, ist eher ein unglücklicher Unfall. Ein wenig mehr hätten trotzdem die dunklen Seiten des Peter Grimes herausgestellt werden können, etwa dass dieser durch sein egoistisches Handeln sowohl den Jungen ins Unglück stürzt, als auch die ihn liebende Ellen von sich stößt. Herausragend wird im großen Schlussmonolog verdeutlicht, dass der Fischer durch die Geschehnisse nun dem Wahnsinn anheimgefallen ist und es für ihn keine Zukunft mehr geben kann. Stimmlich präsentierte sich Cura in Bestform, sein warm timbrierter Tenor sprach in allen Lagen sicher an. Vor allem aber faszinierten die vielen Zwischentöne, die er setzte und mit denen er die Zerrissenheit Grimes’ noch verstärkte.

Als Idealbesetzung für die Ellen Orford erwies sich Yannick-Muriel Noah, die über einen wunderbar schwebenden und fein nuancierenden Sopran verfügt. Mit diesem und ihrem anrührenden Spiel verströmte sie viel Empathie, sowohl für Peter als auch für den Lehrjungen John. Sie sorgte für die wenigen hellen Momente in diesem dunklen Gesellschaftsdrama. Den bärbeißigen, aber durch und durch gutherzigen Balstrode versah Mark Morouse mit seinem modulations- und facettenreichen Bariton, der auf ideale Weise Durchschlagskraft mit vokaler Geschmeidigkeit verband.

Das Ensemble der Bonner Oper beeindruckte mit einer ungemein homogenen Leistung, wobei selbst die kleinsten Partien überzeugend besetzt waren. Grandios war beispielsweise die Auntie der ausdrucksstarken Ceri Williams, die als eine der wenigen zumindest phasenweise Partei für Grimes ergreift. Ihre Nichten waren mit den vokal geschmeidig intonierenden Marie Heeschen und Rosemarie Weissgerber perfekt besetzt. Markant und sehr konturenreich sang Leonard Bernad den Swallow, während Anjara I. Bartz als Intrigantin Mrs. Sedley brillierte.

Zum großen Erfolg der Produktion trug aber nicht zuletzt Chefdirigent Jacques Lacombe bei, der das Beethoven-Orchester hörbar gut vertraut gemacht hatte mit Brittens Partitur, die das karge Leben in dem Fischerdorf so vortrefflich wiedergibt. Die berühmten Orchesterzwischenspiele, die „Sea Interludes“, intonierten die Bonner Musiker ausgesprochen feinsinnig und ausdrucksstark. Und selbst in den expressiven Chortableaus blieb die Balance zwischen Graben und Bühne durchweg gewahrt, und so erfreute die gesamte Aufführung durch einen transparenten und schlackenlosen Klang.

Die Aufführung war ein Plädoyer für das Ensembletheater und dafür, dass man nur gemeinsam Opernsternstunden erzeugen kann. Diese wiederum gelingen aber auch nur, wenn es jemanden gibt, der alle zusammenführt, und wenn ein schlüssiges Gesamtkonzept zur Stelle ist. Dies alles lieferte in Bonn José Cura, der dazu noch ein berührendes und vokal grandioses Rollenporträt bot. Da war es kein Wunder, dass sich das komplette Auditorium zu Standing Ovations erhob, als der Tenor zum Schlussapplaus die Bühne betrat.

L.-E. Gerth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated:  Sunday, July 09, 2017  © Copyright: Kira