Prague Artist in Residence
Recommended Personalities: José Cura
25 May 2015
José Cura to Take up Artistic Residence
20 May 2015
Famed opera singer will be with the Prague Symphony Orchestra for three seasons
Incoming chief conductor Pietari Inkinen and opera star José Cura outlined the 2015–16 season of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
The 81st season of the FOK, as it is also known, will be the first for Finnish-born Inkinen as chief conductor and the first of three years for Cura of an artistic residence.
Argentinean tenor Cura is best-known for his signing but he also composes and conducts. He will be showing off all sides of his talent this year, and looks forward to doing more in the coming years, depending on the audience and critical response.
“I had a chance last night to talk the orchestra management and they are as crazy as I am,” he said at a press conference.
“But what happens after this year depends on what you say,” he added, meaning the press. “If you say my compositions are bad, I’ll stop writing them.”
the 2015–16 schedule Cura will present two programs. The first will
be the world premiere of the orchestral version of If I die,
Survive me! The piece, which Cura wrote and will also sing, uses
poetry by Pablo Neruda. Inkinen will conduct the Oct. 7–8, 2015,
program, which also includes pieces by Ravel and Sibelius. Cura will
sing in Spanish, as the rhythms of the language match the music.
The other program, on Feb. 10–11, 2016, will see Cura conduct one of his own compositions as well as two works by Rachmaninoff and a piece by Respighi. Cura said that he wrote Magnificat some 27 years ago when his first child was born, and that it — the music, not the infant — was at the bottom of a box until recently. He performed it once as it had been written: “with a lot of mistakes,” as he put it. Then he began revising it but tried to keep it in the spirit of the work of young man and not turn it into a mature work. Mezzo-soprano Dagmar Pecková will participate in the evening.
He will also be teaching master classes in April 2016. He pointed out that these are not beginners’ lessons, but are for people already at a high level of accomplishment.
Cura said that he originally wanted to be a composer, but his teachers urged him to sing once they heard his voice. “There is no money in composing,” he said. “So I followed their advice and began singing.” But he enjoys when he gets a chance to return to what he truly wanted to do.
Singing also taught him to be a better composer and conductor he said.
Cura’s three-year residence grew out of a chance meeting between the singer and the orchestra on an airplane. Several musicians recognized him and the talks led to an offer.
“How can you say ‘no’? This residence isn’t a question of money. It is about pleasure,” he said.
Cura performed with the FOK in 2003, and said he was impressed at that time with both the quality of the musicians and their attitude.
Chief conductor Inkinen introduced the rest of the 2015–16 season, which will start with an Aug. 26 outdoor concert of Dvořák and film music conducted by Jan Kučera.
The season will start in earnest Sept. 16 at the Municipal House with Inkinen conducting Dvořák’s symphony From the New World plus a concerto by Martinů with guest violinist Pavel Šporcl and the Czech premiere of a piece by Esa-Pekka Salonen. In total, Inkinen will conduct six different programs during the season.
The first program with Inkinen as a chief conductor is typical for him as it combines Finnish and world-renowned composers. For his work the FOK, typically it will be Finnish and Czech composers.
Dvořák and Martinů will also be featured when Inkinen conducts an Advent concert for UNICEF on Dec. 16 and 17, 2015.
Inkinen was also excited about the Feb 24–25 concert featuring pianist Barry Douglas playing a piano concerto by Beethoven, followed by Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9.
Inkinen said that for now there were no plans to do studio recordings with the orchestra, as they were just getting to know one another. Instead, he wants to put the emphasis on live performances.
The 81st season will offer four world premieres and two Czech premieres, in some cases conducted by the composers.
The FOK will also tour during the season, going to Britain, Thailand, China and Japan.
Notable guests for the season include Štefan Margita, Simona Houda-Šaturová, Felix Rumpf, Veronika Dzhioeva, Marie Fajtová and Zdeněk Plech.
The Drama, Composed by Singer Cura, was a Great Success
Prague- There was a great success this evening at the Prague Municipal House with the musical-literary drama “If I die, Survive me!” whose author is the famous Argentine tenor José Cura. The songs were composed on themes from the life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In the nearly full Smetana Hall the world premiere of the orchestral version of the songs were performed by the Prague Symphonic Orchestra. Cura sang the poet’s voice in Spanish while the role of the writer’s wife, Matilda, was recited by Zlata Adamovská.
Chief conductor Pietari Inkinen directed the concert, having recently joined the Symphony Orchestra FOK. Cura also joined this season as resident artist.
Cura and Adamovská both had colds. The singer apologized for their indisposition at the start of the concert, and jokingly reported that at the stands in front of the audience were a “cold couple.” Even so, both artists fulfilled the assigned role and harvested appreciative applause and expansive bravos at the end of the twenty-minute long song cycle.
The world famous tenor appeared for the first time in Prague as a composer. The overall atmosphere was melancholy, the drama based on seven sonnets set to music from Neruda’s collection of hundreds of sonnets on love. They were written before his death to say goodbye, according to his wife for whom he wrote the sonnets.
The tenor will cooperate with the Prague Symphony Orchestra for three years and plans to implement three projects including six concerts. He will present as a singer, composer, and conductor.
Photos and Words by Zsuzsanna
José Cura’s Two Splendid Concerts with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK)
7 and 8 October 2015
Report by Zsuzsanna Suba
We travelled to Prague in October to enjoy José Cura’s performances with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) in two ensuing nights which welcomed the beginning of his three-year residency at the FOK. Both concerts harvested great and enthusiastic success and we would preserve these particular events in our memories for long time.
A very rich and nice program booklet was available and dedicated for the concerts containing information about the program and the main participants. José Cura wrote the Prologue for it about the story of eleven years as he completed the composition of the cycle of seven songs he wrote to Pablo Neruda’s poem (1995-2006). As homage to Matilde (Neruda’s wife) and Pablo Neruda great love Cura composed a musical-literary drama “If I die, Survive me!” for singer, actress and piano. Recently in May 2015 José Cura orchestrated the piece and this was performed here in Prague as a world premiere of his orchestral version. José Cura was also the author of the text of Matilde’s words, inspired by her memoirs and correspondence. In the program booklet Matilde’s words framed the text of Neruda’s seven poems and these all were printed in three languages (Spanish, Czech, English) so the audience also could follow the meaning of the words more deeply. The concerts were held under the auspices of H. E. Mrs Helena Tuuri, Ambassador of Finland to the Czech Republic and under the auspices of the Embassy of the Argentine Republic to the Czech Republic.
There was a nice meeting with the artists in one of the saloons of the Municipal House just shortly (6.15 pm) before the first night of the concert started on 7th October. José Cura (voice of Pablo Neruda) and Zlata Adamovska (voice of Neruda’s wife, Matilde) appeared here together. José immediately declared that they are so connected to each other as husband and wife, that both of them got sick and had a cold. Indeed he soon had to realize that it was going to be a difficult night for him when his coughing became stronger during the meeting. Despite of these circumstances he kept on talking and also answered the questions of the audience generously.
It was a unique opportunity for us to listen to José’s words about the birth of his music for Neruda’s sonnets and how he got encountered with these poems during his career which meant immediate and also new musical inspirations for him again and again until he finally finished his composition (cycle of seven songs) few years ago.
José seriously joked about our times when it was not common for people to read poems or take notice of the beauty of the works of arts in our everyday life, but he immediately fell in love with the poems in the moment he first read them when he got a book of Neruda’s poetry as a present from somebody after an opera performance in Palermo in 1995.
In the past years José Cura performed and sang his songs many places in Europe and also in Argentina. His musical setting of the songs initially was written for vocals and piano. At these occasions the music was accompanied by a pianist, while Neruda’s poems were read by an artist in the language of the audience before the songs were performed.
José Cura told us that the whole cycle belongs to a drama in which after Neruda’s funeral, his wife, Matilde returned to their empty house and found the poems on the table. The poet dedicated these poems to her in his life knowing that he would die. In this drama Neruda’s wife is talking with her husband - it belongs to her memories – and he answers her through his poetry. In this concert Matilde will be present, we can listen to her thoughts and words when she encounters with her husband’s poems and presence.
José emphasised that this is a music drama. At the beginning, Neruda’s wife is suffering, she is sad and desperate. “She opens the door but Pablo is not there. She finds some of the poems and starts to read them. Her husband is telling her not to be sad and starts to live, as it is written very beautifully in the last poem”. According to José’s words the sonnets were talking to us in a touching, beautiful and very positive way about death. Neruda admired and rejoiced at everything he loved, he didn’t lament over his fate. He says to his wife: I died but I want you to live.
José told us that when the Prague Symphony Orchestra invited and appointed him to be the “Artist in Residence” of the orchestra and he thought about their concerts, he decided to accomplish the symphonic orchestration of the cycle for this occasion. So this present concert will welcome his very fresh creation, the world premiere of the orchestral version of the cycle now. He also confessed that creating the symphonic orchestration was not so difficult task for him – in fact it was a much easier process than writing poems. The real difficulty meant no technical one for him but to arrive to the perfect dramaturgic approach of the music in which the music of the orchestra could meet and convey the meaning of the words of the poems. He admitted, that he didn’t think that he had finished the orchestration now and he would like to work on it further in the future. He also said that his love story with the Prague Symphony Orchestra started 12 years ago. He feels that he is part of the family and not a guest now. It was also a nice surprise to learn, that the FOK organized an official signing session with José Cura in the beautiful foyer of the house during the interval of the concert.
When you enter to the beautiful Art Nouveau building of the Municipal House and its huge, very decorative Smetana Hall you immediately feel that you arrived at one of the sanctuaries of classical music. And when you hear the overflowing sound of the Prague Symphony Orchestra you understand why the musicians own this house for their own right. It was a long time ago when we visited here last time in 2003 on the occasion of José’s legendary opera aria concert with FOK, but this feeling had not changed since then. I have to say that we were fortunate enough to enjoy José’s performance of some of his songs and also the whole cycle two years ago in Budapest and Vienna accompanied by piano and text of the songs. We found that those concerts represented very touching events emphasising the united beauty of his music, his distinctive singing performance and soul of the poems. We were really looking forward to meeting with his music drama here accompanied by a whole symphonic orchestra. Almost full house welcomed both concerts and you could notice the special atmosphere of the events among the rows of the audience.
The introducing, short Maurice Ravel’s piece (Pavane for a Dead Princess, conducted by Pietary Inkinen the Chief Conductor of FOK) was an unknown surprise for us. It set up the exotic, melancholic mood of the evening well. The orchestra played the impressive, haunting theme of this rich music beautifully giving crystal clear, transparent sound and intimate storytelling to the melodies. The music was flowing around us like a huge, wide stream of free and enchanting musical dream showing difference faces each time when it returned in the little variations.
Then José Cura and Zlata Adamovska came to the stage and sat into their chairs on the two sides of the conductor’s (Pietary Inkinen) podium. Big applause welcomed them. José informed us that they were such a united couple, that he and “his wife” were ill; Zlata’s had a fewer in the afternoon and he was coughing. But they were going to give all their love as a married, sick couple to us now. On the second night he asked for more light for the audience that we could read the text of the drama and the poems easier in the program booklet.
The structure of the performance of the cycle was built up well and effectively. It was performed as a whole unit without stopping it with any break and applause. The two first and two last sonnets were sung together by José and introduced by Matilde’s words while the remaining three songs followed each other separately having Matilde’s own distinct words read before the music. The famous Czech actress, Zlata Adamovska gave a touching and deep interpretation to the words and thoughts of Neruda’s wife and José Cura reflected them by the song with the supple beauty, power and sensitivity of his voice and music.
The symphonic background and accompaniment of the orchestra beautifully conveyed the mood of the songs and it had an immediate harmony with Cura’s well-known first and last songs – presented also on his Anhelo album of 1998 - for which the music was written in the earlier years of the composer. It served well the melancholic but also vivid atmosphere and meaning of the poems. The four new songs had a larger dynamic and emotional range. The rich interpretation of the orchestra remarkable interacted with José Cura’s impressive, easy-flowing, natural vocal style and burnished timber and his expressive and intense, really devoted performance. I have to admit, that at one point I gave up to read the text of the poems parallel with his singing lines. I felt it would have been a serious mistake to miss a moment from his really emotional performance. You took delight in his very immersed and talkative singing including the abundance of the delineated colours, distinctive vocal lines and arches of the songs supported by his native, Spanish words, facial expressions or body language. All these features were integrated together and represented a harmonic and touching musical poetry. Indeed, the symphonic music didn’t intrude ahead of the poems but it became a warm, strengthening medium for them.
I loved the overflowing tones, deep beauty and warmth of the strings as well as the presence of playful melodies in the forms of some gentle instrumental solos, together with the poignant dialog between the tenor’s vocalism and the reflected words. I was particularly impressed on the second night by the discovery of the subtle, touching voice of the little, ringing bells. It appeared as an accidental and little dissonant sound first but later their presence became more frequent and solemn. Soon they gave way to the more serious sounds of huge and accentual peal of bells of the church. I felt that perhaps the poet, Neruda’s presence was symbolised here and then the death itself logged in and knocked on the door more frequently. This musical playfulness was attractive and moving at the same time throughout the progress of the music drama.
We were enchanted by the flowing music which constantly maintained our interest for almost 25 minutes. Beside of the easy stream of Cura’s soft and generous voice, he put all his passion into his words of love or even death-denying, indignant declarations singing with his eyes, hands and body as well. My personal favourite among the songs became José’s recently composed “„Pensé morir” with its very intimate, harrowing launch and dramatic, heated shaping. José poured all his heart, his full-blooded, thrilling voice and energy into the biggest emotional outbursts and he bravely managed to hide his illness from our eyes. Only his huge sigh at the end of his second evening indicated his tension and relief in surviving the concerts in this condition.
After the end of the performances of the cycle of the songs, the whole auditorium gave a strong, warm and very appreciative applause to José Cura, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the conductor Pietary Inkinen and the actress Zlata Adamovska. However we were armed with more heated enthusiasm, frenetic applause and bravos addressed to José Cura after the second night. The artists, musicians but especially José were very happy with the results and they returned to the podium more times to receive our long celebration. Then we hurried to the foyer where the artists took part in an official singing session during the interval.
A long queue was formed immediately there and the main protagonists of the evening fulfilled the many signing requests of the people tirelessly for 20 minutes. José was the one who laughingly urged us to return to the Hall for second part of the concert but he didn’t move until the last requests were completed by him including many extra dedications and photos. The second part of the concert consisted of Jean Sibelius’s Symphony (No. 1.) and we enjoyed this long and multi-coloured music very much. This piece highlighted the great quality, stamina, harmonic team work of the orchestra and their joy of music making together with their leading conductor Pietary Inkinen. They harvested our huge applause for this part of the concert as well.
We happily will return to Prague and the Municipal House next year in February where José Cura will conduct this orchestra including symphonic pieces from Respighi, Rachmaninoff and one of his own composition (Magnificat).
Last Updated: Friday, January 13, 2017 © Copyright: Kira