Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director

 

 

 

Operas:  Tannhäuser

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First Wagner - February 2017

 

 

 

 

Mission accomplished, my first Wagner is done!!! Huge company and personal success!!! Thanks for your support and good wishes!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews!

Note:  Many of these are machine-based translations.  We offer them only as a general guide but they should not be considered definitive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Romana

 

 

“[…] and last but not least: The Wagner debut of a star tenor. To come straight to the point, the audience witnessed a veritable sensation. […]  José Cura offered in his role debut as Tannhäuser a brilliant performance which met the pitfalls of this highly demanding part, feared by many a tenor with good reason, with an amazing ease that seemed to completely negate any possible difficulties. Although obviously afflicted with a cold, there was no noticeable weakness in his performance, quite the contrary: The concentrated, focused pitch, the secure intonation even in the trickiest passages, the phrasing developed completely naturally from the language flow, the wonderfully sonorous, virile-baritonal timbre, added to the stunning, secure high notes – all this together made a wonderfully penetrated, very expressive and at the same time vocally well-rounded and beautiful interpretation of Tannhäuser which you rarely have a chance to hear. And one which evokes the wish to listen to it soon again – in French as well in some day in German! […]”  Das Opernglas, April 2017, R Tiedemann

 

 

If you want to read the full German text:

 

 

 


 

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017:  “José Cura collected a variety of opinions for his Tannhäuser. Some found him inadequate but most of these [also] question the French version, preferring the original German.  Certainly, the amount of ‘Latinity’ in the role may be troublesome for those comparing the performance with certain singers in the German style.  For our part, we liked the interpretation of this charismatic artist, also a good musician, since he—like Nathalie Stutzmann—has conducted renowned orchestras, and it didn’t bother us to find him in the feverish outbreaks of an Otello or the peremptory accents of a Samson.  Moreover, Cura knows how to control the bursts of enthusiasm or revolt when necessary by using a whisper or mezza-voce when his Tannhäuser becomes fragile or skeptical.  His account of his return from Rome in the last act is undeniably moving.”   MetaMag, 7 March 2017, Christian Jarniat

 

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017: And what about him?  Tannhäuser—here called Henri?  José Cura had a bad cold and during the ballet he coughed several times:  we feared the worst. Nothing bad happened—with Tannhäuser Cura has conquered yet another role brilliantly. Perhaps due to the cold he remained more subdued during the core scenes but sang powerfully especially during the harp and hall sections, and offered a Rome narrative with so many nuances that I struggled with tears.  Distinguished, with a lot of soft tones and also visually touching performance, Cura was the romantic hero par excellence, a handsome man and an absolute professional, with serious French.  Hats off!  …  This was a memorable evening, a special kind of experience.” Opera Lounge, 22 February 2017, Geerd Heinsen

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017: The musical performance can be spoken of as at the highest level.  With José Cura, one has the ideal title hero, convincing in his debut in a Wagner opera.  He sang every note and he sang brilliantly.  Wagner always demanded 'Italianità' from his singers and that he got from a highly impressive Cura with a flexible voice that was never strained in the high notes.  Together with his acting made for an ideal Tannhauser! […]  This was an artistically important project….” WeltExpress, 3 March 2017, Midou Grossmann

 

 

 

Tannhäuser at the Opera of Monte-Carlo - Wagner in French

 

ConcertClassic

François Lesueur

February 2017

 [Excerpt]

Tannhäuser in French!  Would we see a return to the fifties, when Wagner was sung in France in the language of Moliere, in bombastic and often rough translations?  No, rest assured this project is quite different, hand-stitched by the Monte Carlo Opera for the Argentine tenor José Cura.   

After playing Stiffelio in 2013, José Cura announced that he would be delighted to return to Salle Garnier in an unprecedented role: having abandoned the idea of ​​approaching Parsifal, Cura agreed with Jean-Louis Grinsa to come back for the French version of Tannhäuser.

It is not certain that Tannhäuser has become the new favorite role of José Cura, but one feels that this incursion into the Wagnerian repertoire mattered to him.  His French is not always comprehensible, but the language of Don José and Samson is not hostile to him.  The voice, after a career spanning twenty-five years, is still there, wide, powerful enough, expressive and resistant, while the high notes still sound robust.  His instinctive and impulsive temperament is appropriate to the anti-hero Tannhäuser, since the Roman narrative shows no apparent effort, sung without force, in a very personal way.  A resurrection which deserved discovery…

 

 

 

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017: “José Cura, with his very endearing timbre, carries the team forward with his fearlessness.” ResMusica, 3 March 2017, Jean-Luc Clairet

 

 

 

A Pilgrim to Monte-Carlo: Tannhäuser en français

Beckmesser’s Quill

Posted by Mark Pullinger based on review by John Johnston

27 February 2017

 [Excerpts]

As a pèlerin visiting the opera houses, large and small, it has been an ambition since seeing Pressburger and Powell’s film The Red Shoes as a child to attend a performance at the fabled Opéra de Monte-Carlo. When a production of Tannhäuser in its 1861 Paris version en français was announced this was unmissable.

The film, whose ballet sequences with Moira Shearer and Massine are staged in the Salle Garnier, tells the story of a dancer who abandons love in her obsessive dedication to her art. Obsession and the duality of sacred and profane are central to Tannhäuser and entering this opulent opera house, where the foyer leads you through one door to the Casino and through another to auditorium, certainly emphasises the struggle between the worldly and spiritual.

Tannhäuser, sung by José Cura, barefoot in the loose fitting linen and a flowing shirt of a 19th-century poète maudit would probably not have gained entrance due to the strict dress code, tenue correcte exigée.

The opulent Garnier theatre with its Belle Époque decor felt like a character in the narrative, and when Elisabeth addressed the “Cher Édifice” of the Hall of Song at the start of Act 2, the lights  were raised in the auditorium.

Reverting to the original Paris version meant, of course, that it was sung in French as were all operas at the then Imperial Opera, and this of course placed the work firmly in the tradition of Grand Opéra. The potent mix of sex and sanctity that runs through so many works from Robert le diable, through Faust to Thaïs is central to the plot, and in translation the polarities of La Reine d’amour and Le Rédempteur had the whiff of incense and excess.

Jean-Louis Grinda’s mise-en-scène did not allow for grand scenic effect on the fairly small stage, but imaginatively used projections and video on a front scrim and all enveloping cyclorama, were reflected on a raked semi-circular acting area. The opening Bacchanale was most effective, staged as an opium-fuelled trip with Tannhäuser lolling on a pile of cushions amidst psychedelic video in eye-dazzling acid colours.

Disappointingly there was little in the way of ballet, which would surely have outraged the Jockey Club, just four Venus clones in slit-skirts striking attitudes. The transformation to the Thuringian landscape was well handled by a switch to a verdant Maytime woodland. Again in Act 2, projections made the stage appear to be a Neuschwanstein interior. Costumes were 19th-century and there was an impressive array of millinery for the noble ladies. The final act took place amid winter snow.

The narrative was clearly delineated in a classic manner though with some insight. Wolfram gave Elisabeth his hunting knife to slit her wrists.  Rather than being appalled by Tannhäuser’s desire to return to the Venusberg, he sees what he has been missing and he is quite happy to be led away by Venus. The Papal staff is borne in by the pilgrims, but Tannhäuser is facing the Minnesingers with their hunting guns as the opera ends.

Conducted by a noted singer, Nathalie Stutzmann, great care was given to diction, and the forward placing of the voices and crisp enunciation were a long way from guttural German barking. Jean-François Lapointe’s Wolfram was exemplary, delivering a rapt “Douce étoile, feu du soir”. Aude Extrémo, as opulent, glamorous Venus, makes one want to hear her as Dalila or Eboli though she needs to beware pushing her voice and losing pitch. Annemarie Kramer was a keen-voiced Elisabeth, easily riding the great Act 2 finale. In the title role, José Cura maintained resilient voice throughout, despite the vocal demands rising to the Rome Narration, without any of the musical distortions of which he can be guilty.

Given the French Wagner tradition, one thinks of Georges Thill and Germaine Lubin, I hope there will be more opportunities to hear further performances in French. For now, much praise to Monte-Carlo for presenting so cogently this original Paris version

 

 

Tannhäuser's Successful Resurrection in the "Version de Paris" in French

ConcertoNet

Eric Forveille

February 2017

 

Monte-Carlo Opera decided to stage Wagner's Tannhäuser in the French version of Paris, a version which has not been given in the century and a half since its creation.  Fortunately, history will judge and this masterpiece of Wagner will gradually impose itself on all the scenes of the world.

José Cura’s interpretation will be hard to match.  [He added] No histrionic effects in the song of exemplary purity, culminating in a narrative of the pilgrimage to Rome whispered in mezza voce thanks to a remarkable mastery of a mixed voice that is never détimbrée.  Naturally, this did not prevent him from shining in the splendor of the score, but one feels that the Argentinian tenor sought above all to reveal the humanity and vulnerability of Tannhäuser who here became the exact antithesis of the more virulent, even unpleasant, one once admirably embodied by Wolfgang Windgassen.

 

 

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017: “The Tannhäuser of José Cura was filled with nuances and the vocals and theatrics were elegant.  His voice sounded ripe and the emission seemed easy.  […] Rossini wrote: "Wagner has wonderful moments and terrible quarters of an hour."  That was not the case on the evening at the Monte Carlo Opera.”   OperaClick, 3 March 2017, Alicia Perris

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017: This new production [of Tannhäuser] by l'Opéra de Monte Carlo offered reasons to make the journey.  It is the first time that Nathalie Stutzmann has conducted an opera so arduous.  It is also the first time that José Cura , a subscriber to Verdi or Bizet, has ventured onto Wagnerian soil. In the title role, Cura possessed stamina and power.  While his line could sometimes be a bit neater, the color, both dark and Latin, is marvelous, with an art of extrovert personification which culminated in a Rome narrative told in tortured confidences.  The tenor (Argentinian) is able to flatter himself, in spite a hint of an accent, with a very correct diction.”  Diapason, 1 March 2017, Emmanuel Dupuy

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017: “In the lead role, José Cura [offered] a heroic voice. The whole of France deserves to see this show with Cura…” Monoco Matin, 20 February 2017

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017: “After the version (French) and the conductor (Stutzmann), the third surprise of the performance was José Cura (a tenor who also conducts) as Tannhäuser, his first Wagner.  In Monte Carlo he was in good form, with vocal mannerisms controlled and his instrument still sounding bronzed.  As usual, he held the highest notes for the minimum necessary.  With a French elocution that was clear enough, Cura stressed a more tormented Henry (whose name is not mentioned even once in the opera Tannhäuser), his bursts of passion and attacks of remorse, in addition to his charismatic stage presence.  The Rome narrative, translated with a wide variety of colors and shades, with the highlight of an interpretation as unexpected as it was remarkable.  The resurrection of the Parisian Tannhäuser was a success.”  El Cronista Errant, 2 March 2017, Xavier Cester

 

 

 

Tannhäuser, Monte Carlo, February 2017:  “The Argentine tenor José Cura is impressive in the title role:  his true tenor pleasantly changes the timbre from all those high-pitched baritones who struggle without hope of success against a merciless range.  Despite the material and self-importance in the voice, he also manages to showcase the character’s fragility.”   Opera Online, 27 February 2017, Emmanuel Andrieu

 

Minnesong à la française

 

Die Presse

Wilhelm Sinkovicz

[Excerpts]

 

Translated by Romana B

 

For the Wagner community, this premiere had a special meaning: Monte Carlo presented Tannhäuser with José Cura in the title role! To come right to the point: the result was sensational. The Argentinian, up to now active only in the Italian and French repertoire, mastered the notoriously energy-sapping role at the highest level. Where his colleagues are happy to just “survive”, Cura is in possession of the broadest imaginable palette of expressions.

 

Cynics might claim of not having heard such a refined performance of this tenor for quite some time now. The reason may be that Cura approached this borderline experience with utmost respect. In the duet with Elisabeth […] you marveled at his rhythmical precision in the tricky eighth note passages, pushed further forwards by the orchestra in the required “stringendo”.

 

After the acclaimed debut Cura confessed that he would never have dared to sing Tannhäuser in the original language which he hasn’t master. But in French there was a familiarity for the singer not only in phrasing but especially in the  articulation which helped him to overcome the first obstacles.

 

Classical song, German or French

 

The next tasks, tremendously difficult to master, Cura solved with his musicality. Tannhäuser, a minnesingers opera, is about singing “Lieder”.  Tannhäuser sings to Venus – in hymnal verses, which Cura enhanced from recitative parlando to exalted vocal eruption. He also interrupts the “Sängerkrieg” – unctuously started by the “Landgraf” sung by Steven Humes – almost improvisatorially, spontaneously, to work himself up into a rage of passion.

 

In the big ensemble, the sticking point of each interpretation of Tannhäuser, Cura knows how to change the otherwise (voice-) murderous “Erbarm Dich mein” calls into elegant vocal phrases using the French style of “voix mixte” and remains audible even against the strong competition from the ensemble and the chorus.  The mixture of eloquent narrating and extrovert-self-forgetful expression culminates in a “Rome narrative” which increases the tension, already built up by Annemarie Kremer’s deeply fulfilled prayer, to unbearable levels.

  

The international board of opera house directors should now get together in order to finance a comprehensive German language course for José Cura. There are not too many singers of Tannhäuser of that quality running around between the Bayreuth Festspielhaus and Teatro Colon…

 

 


 

 

Tannhauser, February 2017, Monte Carlo:  "The opera house of Monte Carlo has the lovely idea of reviving this rarity, an enterprise at the same time musicological and philological which offers in addition to a great singer who had never wanted to approach Wagner because he doesn't master German language the occasion of his first role as a Wagner tenor: It is indeed José Cura who embodies a passionate and generous Tannhäuser, more commensurate with the sensuality of the Venusberg than with the rigour of the Wartburg. The small size of the hall (and the conch decoration) permits him  a subtle and nuanced way of singing which fits the score very well."  La Libre, 22 February 2017, Nicolas Blanmont

 


 

 

 

L'Opéra de Monte-Carlo presque à l'heure de Bayreuth

Podcast Journal

Christian Colombeau

24 February 2017

[Excerpts]

 

A rarity:  Tannhäuser in French.

Baudelaire summed up the Wagnerian blockbuster presented in Paris in 1861 as  “Tannhäuser represents the struggle between two principles who have chosen the human heart for the main battlefield—that is of flesh against spirit, hell against heaven, Satan against God.”

The score, then, is entirely based on a man torn between his sensual propensities and his hope for salvation, a translation of Wagner’s ambiguous relationship toward sex that both obsesses and tortures him.  But what makes this opera, which cleverly combines sacred and profane, truly singular is the figure of Elizabeth.  Far away from Venus, the flesh and the evil that corrupts, she is the saving virgin. 

From the opening, we can see our hero languishing in a sort of luxurious house of tolerance, his brain indoctrinated, trying to rebuild his moral and physical virginity.  Tortured by both (rarely smiling, José Cura makes an effort and it works!), our former erotic sets off in the pursuit of eternal salvation.  Undertaking the role (for the first time) José Cura’s Roman narrative, full of despair, was extremely effective. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a German opium smoker

Tannhäuser - Monte Carlo

 Opera Forum

Laurent Bury

22 February 2017

 

The real version from Paris, at last!  Certainly, Tannhäuser was not, unlike Don Carlos or the Vêpres siciliennes , written directly on a French libretto, but the version of 1861, substantially restructured compared with the creation of 1845, included a few passages which were set to music on French lyrics.  Nuitter’s translation is not unworthy; its only fault is that it does not always respect the place of accents, resulting in a sometimes unconventional insistence on meaningless words. A curiosity, no doubt, and it is unlikely that this Tannhäuser in the language of Moliere will be indispensable in the future, particularly in Germany.

It is especially unlikely given the small number of Francophone Wagnerian singers at present; most will prefer to learn the usual German version.  Yet it was precisely this use of French that allowed José Cura to take on the role:  as the Argentinian tenor has told us, he would probably never have agreed to perform Wagner if he had not had this opportunity to interpret this music in a language he has mastered.  One can always reproach him on a few errors of pronunciation here and there but this great artist understands what he sings and knows how to express it.  […]

The French does not really pose a problem to Annemarie Kremer, overall quite understandable. But if the Dutch soprano has the silhouette and vivacity of young Elisabeth, does she really have the voice?  Are we not expecting more clear colors and less vibrato?

Jean-François Lapointe joins a thorough understanding of the French style with a rich timbre and eloquent declamation worthy of the best baritones in our national repertoire.  Steven Humes has the good taste to take care of his diction, without resting on the beauty alone of his grave With Venus, Aude Extrémo performs a beautiful undertaking of role, for which she knows to find accents sometimes caressing, sometimes threatening.   

Consisting of a semicircular floor mirror surrounded by a cyclorama, the said decoration is not without impact on the projection of the voice.  Oddly, the singers who walk along the periphery, like Anaïs Constans ' pretty shepherd, reach the ears almost supernaturally, but as soon as the characters occupy the center of this space, the sound becomes more blurred, and it is only when they come to the front of the stage that it regains a certain sharpness.  This setting, however, allows for the use of extremely successful videos during the first act (the psychedelic visions of Tannhäuser, prompted by an opium pipe that Venus encourages him to use).  That Venus is accompanied by four look-alike dancers may reflect the impression of satiety that the hero experiences; the pleasure here is suggested rather than demonstrated.  Some of the other choices by Jean-Louis Grinda leave us more skeptical:  the medieval décor of the Wartburg seems very kitsch, with the extras miming statues that crumble when Venus appears triumphant.  Finally, in the last act, every notion of Christian redemption is resolutely driven out:  Elisabeth opens her veins and, at the last moment, the Pope’s crozier does not bloom but all hold guns pointed at Tannhäuser, who will undoubtedly spend a bad fifteen minutes after the curtain has fallen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Opéra de Monte-Carlo: à quoi bon ce singulier Tannhäuser?

 

Sebastien Herbecq

20 February 2017

[Excerpt]

 

Venus does not succeed in seducing because her top is shrill and she lacks involvement with the text; the legato and the conduct of the line of song are lost.  Tannhäuser seems to warm up during the first scene and the cohesion of his former companions is much improved by the end of the act.  Things continue to improve in Act II with the arrival of Elizabeth, sung by Annemarie Kremer whose vocal and theatrical involvement are interesting; unfortunately, the somewhat metallic timbre, the power and the opulence of her voice somewhat tarnishes the image of an angelic and pure character.  José Cura as Tannhäuser has the ability to be dramatically invest in the different stages of the role.  Although the top of his register is marked by a vibrato, his account of Rome is very theatrical and very powerful.

We are not sure what Jean-Louis Grinda’s vision is for his Tannhäuser.  The director presents very beautiful images which are devoid of any connecting link.  A unifying vision struggles to emerge.  Venus is presented as a caricature of a red-haired femme fatale, with a silvery slit dress, sequins and a long, candy-pink coat with a profusion of feathers.  Could he not imagine anything but a Venus as vulgar and worthy only of a brothel?  Tannhäuser smokes an opium pipe to support his presence at Venusberg in what appears to be a contradiction of his true penchant for carnal pleasure.  And the ballet that so divided the Parisian audience at the opening?  Here it is non-existent and reduced to lascivious and explicit poses of clones of Venus.

 


 

Dépaysement et proximité : le « Tannhäuser » français

ClassicAgenda

Jacqueline Letzter and Robert Adelson

23 February 2017

[Excerpts]

To hear a whole opera by Wagner sung in French is an exotic experience, as if we were hearing Massenet in German.  Of course, within the whole of opera history foreign works were often translated into the language of the people, making them more accessible at a time when there were no surtitles.  This was especially the case at the Opéra de Paris, where after the premiere in 1861, Tannhäuser was presented again from 1895 but still in French.  It was only in 1959 that this opera was sung entirely in German in Paris.

[…]

For the new production in Monte-Carlo, the conductor Nathalie Stutzmann and the director Jean-Louis Grinda return to the score of 1861, with the text in French. Grinda, with Laurent Castaingt (scenery, lights and images) and Jorge Jara (costumes), sets the action in Wagner's time, with decors made up mostly of projections of digital images.  When these elements are taken together, they succeeded in finding a compromise between tradition and modernity, taking no great risks, but not distracting from music, singing and dramatic play with too much staging.

In the first scene, for example, a woman's eye, in close-up, watches Tannhäuser, crammed on cushions and smoking opium (a nod to Baudelaire, Tannhäuser's fervent admirer ), while four delightful Nymphs wander around him while awaiting the arrival of Venus. Does this mysterious eye represent the consciousness of the hero, stuck in the boredom and immobility of Venusberg, or is it the eye of Elizabeth, his beloved who has been neglected in Wartburg?  Or perhaps it is the eye of the Virgin Mary, benevolent protector of sinners?  No information is provided in the program regarding staging; we are left to our conjectures.  The Bacchanale has as its backdrop intense color spots and silhouettes of dancers moving on the rhythm of music, suggesting the effects of opium on the spirit of the hero.  All this is very aesthetic and convincing.

The choreography of Eugénie Andrin is sober.  In the bacchanal, the nymphs hardly move, seemingly also subjected to the immutability and boredom of the sterile paradise that is Venusberg.  The dominant theme suggested by this staging is that of the human being - fallible, uncertain, and selfish, but thirsting for the ideal - in the face of his impulses and temptations.  The theme of religious salvation is sketched, but not predominant.

[…]

For the production Stutzmann and Grinda chose young and dynamic performers who had not necessarily already sung Wagner.  This is even the case for the title role, here entrusted to the Argentine tenor José Cura, a versatile artist (singer, conductor, and director) who has proven his worth in bel canto, Verdi, and Puccini (in Monaco he sang the title role in Stiffelio in 2013).  Although Cura did not immediately deem convincing in this role, it is he who, through his theatrical presence, gives this production its particularly "human" character.

In his duel with Venus at Act I, Cura may not take enough time in the lengths required by Wagnerian rhetoric, but in Acts II and III he is perfectly in his element.  A passionate knight and brilliant minstrel, Cura’s Tannhaüser seems more moved than blasé about the admiration and the constant friendship of his fellow knights and by the love Elizabeth still bears him, even after he deserted her for Venusberg.

Cura happens to be interested in the plight of his character who constantly falls from his pedestal because he cannot control his impulses.  In his narrative of the pilgrimage to Rome in Act III he shines as much with the liquidity of the timbre of his voice as he does by his technical ability [ease].  He even manages to insert a note of humor is this so-serious scene: before facing his executioners, he invites his friend Wolfram to leave and taste the pleasures of Venusberg, a suggestion followed by Wolfram—though needless to say that such a stage direction does not appear in the libretto.  The gesture, however, gives lightness to the characters and frees the opera from its dualism between sex and asceticism.   

[…]

The effect of this Tannhäuser is singular, not only because of its Gallic sounds, but also because this production ignores the contemplative heaviness of certain productions in favor the more narrative, Latin, and fully human aspects of the plot.  These qualities also bring this opera closer to us.

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Promotional Video

 

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Screen Grabs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on photo above to watch short video about Tannhäuser in Monte Carlo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated:  Friday, April 28, 2017  © Copyright: Kira