Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director

 

 

Articles and Interviews


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Interview:  Little Big Portrait (Monaco)

French version can be found here:  http://www.littlebigmonaco.fr/mainphp-234359-686366-865939.html

 

ENCHANTING SINGER

We know him worldwide for his exceptional tenor career, but José Cura is also a conductor, a director and a composer. He just performed Tannhäuser at the Opéra of Monte-Carlo last February An extraordinary artist, guided by creativity and the love of music, whose last album, « Love songs » from Dvorak was released on iTunes*.

 Dark hair, wide shoulders, imposing presence and a charming voice. He is an ogre with gentle eyes. An attractive ogre. We have the feeling that Jose Cura only does what he wants. Without compromise.  He seems to be running away from the sensible that would have limited him to Verdi and Puccini. And follow his own singular path, never being where we expect him to be. Last February he was the lead singer in Tannhäuser, at the Opera of Monte-Carlo, performed in French for the first time since its creation in 1861 at the Opera of Paris. A new successful challenge, for the artist who had not yet explored Wagner’s repertoire. A dantesque role, with almost 3 hours on the stage, the role of a singer torn between carnal and divine love.

A multi faceted artist

Leaving a delighted Monaco audience, he then left for Praha to perform « Ecce Homo », an orotario he composed, before flying to Bonn for the rehearsals of « Peter Grimes » from Benjamin Britten that he will perform for the first time next May. And that he will direct.

Enough to make anyone dizzy, but not him, appearing so calm, and finding natural to play multiple roles, tenor and composer, tenor and director, or even conductor, decorator or even producer. Without forgetting photography that he really enjoys. ** We also have to add actor, because of his ways to deeply embody his different roles. He works, explores, deepens, and go over the limits. He enjoys experimenting new audacious paths, taking the risk to confuse the audience that is so keen to hear him again and again in Calaf of Samson. Like he did in Monaco in 2014, when he performed an Argentinian show. He is what Orson Welles was to Cinema. Jose Cura is a free and unclassifiable artist. And he only does what he wants to do

Conducting and composing

His incredible career led him from Rosario in Argentina where he was born, to performing on the most prestigious stages around the world for the past twenty years. As a kid, he learned guitar, then piano, became a choir director, and trained in composing and conducting. At that time he did not see himself as a soloist .It’s the director of the academy of music in Rosario who detected his gift and advised him to study opera singing. Then he obtained a scholarship to study at the Institut Supérieur d'Art du théâtre Colón in Buenos Aires.. And like in every beautiful story, there are twists and lucky encounters. At the beginning of the 90s, José Cura left Argentina, where there was very little opportunities, to try his luck in Italy, with his wife and his baby after having sold his apartment. After a few months, with no success and no money left, he decided to go back to Argentina. And he remembered at the last minute, that one of his friends has given him the phone number of a singing teacher in Milan before he left for Europe. He managed to get a meeting with the maestro and sang a piece of music from Andrea Chénier. Impressed by his voice, the teacher took him under his wing. And Cura obtained gradually roles that would lead him to success
 
Independence & Teaching
Today he is laughing at his past bohemian lifestyle. But he probably kept his strong independence from those days . His next challenge is to produce and sell his albums on the main on line platforms such as iTunes* like for his last album
« Love songs », from Antonin Dvorak, a moving album telling the story an impossible love of the composer. José Cura is also keen to share his knowledge. He is a guest teacher at the London Royal Academy, where he teaches master classes, and he does the same in many other countries, including France. He confesses a specific bond with Monaco and its opera, where he comes back frequently. Passionate and faithful


* Avec Irina Kondratenko au piano. A télécharger sur 
iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.
** "Espontaneas" José Cura. (Cuibar / Scheidegger & Spiess, 2008.)

 

 

The Interview:  Das Opernglas

Ralf Tiedemann

February 2017

Many thanks to Romana for providing the interview!

 

Q: This season offers two eagerly anticipated role debuts: Tannhäuser and Peter Grimes. Starting with the Wagner opera, which comes out in February at Opéra de Monte-Carlo: As they are doing the French version, the language actually should not be the problem; so what is the main challenge for you?

JC:  As a performer who prefers a natural body language (no wonder my favorite pieces are late Verdi, Puccini and the Verismo), to convey Wagner’s amazing musical rhetoric with a believable use of histrionics will certainly be my biggest challenge. Also, the sometimes forced tessitura in which the tenor sings is a problem to face, but I trust I will be able to solve it by adapting my singing to the needs of the score.

Q: How did the fact that they are giving the opera in French made you take this role into consideration?

JC: You are my witness in this: during these long years since we know each other, my only reason not to sing Wagner has always been the respect I have for the public, a respect that doesn’t allow me to sing in a language I don’t currently speak. Whether people like it or not, there is a Cura “standard” in what refers to interpretation of roles, and that standard is strongly bonded to the connection between the text and my body language—something that is conditio sine qua non for prose actors, but seems not to be so in opera. Or at least not always… There is no way of having an honest body language if the words don’t belong to your cultural baggage. That is why, when I was asked to do Tannhäuser in French, a language I fluently speak, I immediately accepted, sure that this is probably my only chance of singing Wagner.

Q:  And, honestly, would the German version really let you sweat?

JC: I may solve it with phonetics, I have a very good ear after all. But it wouldn’t be what people expect from me. One thing is people saying that Cura is not as good as some other xx artist (for this is a point of view), but one other very different thing is saying that Cura is not as good as Cura himself…

Q:  You once also planned Parsifal, but for some reasons this has not been realized. I assume that in the meantime this dream of a role might finally be left unfulfilled?

JC:  This was a concert version that was cancelled. A pity indeed!

Q: Coming back to Tannhäuser: For Paris, Wagner himself worked together with Charles Nuitter on the French translation of the libretto. Much more important were the changes to the score itself, which not only took the conventions of the Paris opera houses of that time into account, but also shows quite clearly the composer’s development during the years, as in the meantime he had already finished his work on Tristan. Which version of the score precisely do you follow in this new production at M-C Opéra and what are the merits of the different editions of Tannhäuser?

JC:  I haven’t got enough authority in Wagner to answer your question. I am discovering a whole new world now, and in such discovery I am proceeding with the innocence of a child and the extreme precaution of a wise adult…

Q:  In Monte-Carlo the opera will be conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann – a singer-conductor, as you yourself. Did you already experienced her working in the pit and how does the communication about the musical interpretation goes on?

JC:  I am not a singer-conductor, but a composer-conductor who later on became a singer. But I understand your question in the sense that we all, me the first, expect Mrs Stutzmann to be sympathetic as only a singer can be when conducting equals. It is certainly a huge opera full of very difficult singing, so a conductor that can “hold” the orchestra with authority while accompanying the singers with love and understanding is determining.

Q: Do you expect that your approach of the role will differ from what we usually hear?

JC: As said, my authority in Wagner is very incipient, so I cannot tell if I will be able to do a “creation” out of Tannhäuser, or just a good professional work. Let’s talk again in March…

Q:  Just three months after Tannhäuser, the next big role debut will be coming up: Peter Grimes. This time, at the Oper Bonn, you are also doing the staging as well as the setting. Isn’t this quite a challenge for an artist preparing a new role?

JC:  It is a huge challenge and a big risk: the challenge has to do with the amount of work on my shoulders and the risk with spoiling myself with the fact of creating my interpretation in the best of ways: in total agreement with the director… Jokes apart, it is a hell of a work, but also a super rewarding one: The epitome of artistic enjoyment! If it would have been a more frequent opera, probably I wouldn’t have directed and sung it, but when will I have again the possibility of staging such an amazing piece that is not so often performed? I couldn’t lose this one chance!

Q:  As I remember Peter Grimes is one of your “dream roles”. What attracted your interest in this role – and what are the challenges – vocally? dramatically?

JC:  Coming back to what I said about my difficulties to deal with Wagner’s musical rhetoric and dense libretti, Peter Grimes is exactly the opposite: the perfect symbiosis between music, text and action. A dream for the kind of performer I am. Every moment is a challenge in this piece, but such a tasty challenge that each step taken with risk is also a step taken with pleasure.  

Q:  What differences, resp. what similarities between your two new roles, Tannhäuser & Peter Grimes, do you see – vocally? dramatically?

JC:  Both are marginated guys, but for different reasons: While Tannhäuser challenges his fate, Peter Grimes suffers its consequences. Vocally, Tannhäuser relies more on great music, while Grimes relies on the use of the voice to convey a state of spirit sometimes just by the voice alone, like in the big monologue of the third act.

Q:  What are the crucial points in regards to the staging? How far did you come up to now with the conception of your staging – and can you already give us some insights?

JC:  The show will be based on the multi-uses of an emblematic Aldebourgh’s building…

Q:  This season also offers three of your most important roles: Calaf, Dick Johnson in Fanciulla and Otello. Would you consider these roles as your current signature roles?

JC: I surely can say that Otello and Dick Johnson are signature roles of mine, as well as Canio, Samson and, hopefully in a couple years, also Grimes. About Calaf, although I have portrayed him several times with success, I don’t consider it a signature role because he does not offer enough “flesh” to carve. It is a night of great singing, not a night of deep psychological inside.

Q:  Any more new roles to come?

JC:  Developing Tannhäuser and mainly making Grimes mine will take some years, so no other roles as of today. On the symphonic side, yes, next March is the world premiere in Prague of my oratorio Ecce Homo, written in 1989!

Q:  It’s about 25 years ago now that you relocate you and your family’s lives to Europe, where your international career started soon. We followed your steps and sometimes unusual ways all over the years and for me personally it is always a great pleasure to talk to you – this time even with a bit more delight, because it relates somehow to my own jubilee: Your first interview has been one of the big cover stories of “Das Opernglas” in 1997 – in my very first year as editor-in-chief of this magazine. Looking back to all these years, you too will sum up that the business has changed a lot, right?

JC:  The world has changed a lot, and our business has changed with it. The new technologies in general, and internet in particular, have inoculated in the mind of many that long-time effort and studies are not anymore necessary to succeed. Nowadays, everybody is a photographer, composer, writer, movie director, singer, actor, cook… Never more than today has the difference between being “famous” and being “great” been so accentuated. Once upon a time you needed to be good to be famous. With time, you also may become great and be venerate for your wisdom. Today you can be easily famous, without having anything to aport <impart> to society apart from your own home-made garbage, canalized through “the world wide net”. So far so good: everybody has the right for their minute of fame… But in the long run this is seriously affecting the quality with which we do things as the great majority of people prefers to “enjoy” bad stuff with which they identify rather than great stuff that make them feel inferior if they are not well in their heads. Other’s greatness has always had two different effects in people: envy and hate —because I cannot be like you—, or admiration and gratitude —because others greatness stimulates me to improve, to grow, to become a better individual. This ancient phenomenon, old as our species, is today multiplied ad infinitum by the accommodating easiness of internet.

 

 

 

 

Photos by Zoe Cura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Note:  this is a computer generated translation provided to offer a general sense of the conversation.  In this particular case, however, even with the less than accurate translation it is obvious that the time lines offered by the author are convoluted and some information offered in error.  When attempted to note the erroneous information we did so but we undoubtedly missed several inaccuracies; we did not attempt to correct the meandering timeline. Readers should not consider the introductory paragraphs to be authoritative.]

 

José Cura is one of the most famous tenors in the world

Telegram

Boris Homovec

7 July 2016

 

On Sunday the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and we've got an interview with its biggest star, José Cura

José Cura, one of the greatest tenors of our time, is on his way to Dubrovnik from Ljubljana, where he appeared in Otello as a guest in the title role of Verdi's opera, produced by SNG Ljubljana and Cankarjev dom and directed by Manfred Schweigkofler.

Cura will sing and conduct at the opening of the 67th Dubrovnik Summer Festival on July 10.  The next night he stars in a gala concert, along with Linda Ballova, the lyrical soprano with Slovakian roots and an international reputation, and Television Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Mladen Tarbuk, performing a less well-known repertoire of Bersa, Verdi, Mendelssohn, de Falla, Piazzolla and Manzanera in front of St. Blaise.

A versatile artist of world renown

What I found especially interesting is that Maestro Cura is not a typical opera star.  He is also a trained composer and conductor, an opera director, set designer, photographer, brilliant performance and God-given showman. 

He has been celebrated for his unique interpretations of the most demanding opera roles, including Otello in Verdi’s Otello, Samson in Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila, Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and Stiffellio in Verdi’s same-named opera….

For years, the world’s toughest critics have weighed in on the singer’s unique voice, the actor on stage who brings freshness to tired characters, the conductor who does not accept music if there is no dramatic meaning, the director who certainly understands what it means to each artist to be on stage and how to extract the maximum creativity.

Educated in Rosario and Verona

The 53-year-old Argentinean, born in Rosario, figured out at the age of 12 that he would be involved in music for the rest of his life:  he began to play guitar, at 15 lead a choir and then continued to study composition and piano (sic-should be conducting).

His musical education was at the National University of Rosario.  At the age of 28 he moved to Italy, firmly determined to perfect his opera singing, studying with the excellent teacher Vittorio Terranova.  He made his debut at the Verona Opera (note:  Teatro Nuovo, Verona) in the role of the father in Henze’s Pollicino.

He has worked on all the major world stages

He sang in Miss Julie in Trieste in 1993, then took a career turn by winning a first place prize in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia.  With the Italian diva Mirella Freni, he made his first appearance in Chicago in Giordano’s Fedora.

In the mid-nineties, he performed in Covent Garden, starring as Stiffelio in Verdi’s less well—known opera by the same name.  However, glory in Europe brought him the role of Samson in Samson et Dalila, which he first sang in Rome (sic: Cura first sang Samson in London in 1996 and later in Turin in 1997), and he won critical praise as Pollione in Bellini’s Norma and Don José in Bizet’s Carmen, which he performed in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

He made his La Scala debut in 1997 in La gioconda, followed by Manon Lescaut and La forza del destino, all under the baton of Maestro Muti. 

He became a big star in Italy

One of the crucial points in his career was his decision to play Otello, conducted by Maestro Abbado, at Turin’s Teatro Regio, which was directly transmitted by RAI.  Afterwards, the public went crazy with praise—“A new Otello is born”—and Cura went on to perform the role in many of the European capitals, all the way to Washington, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo.

Cura made his debut at the Arena di Verona in a lavish production of Carmen. (sic: he made his debut at the arena in Aida in 1999 in a production which was the first opera production broadcast directly over the Internet).  He became a world-famous opera star, his career certainly not harmed by his physical attractiveness. 

Cura became famous as a conductor

He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Cavalleria rusticana and sang some thirty roles in major opera houses around the world.  But Cura was never satisfied by simply singing.

He conducted Un ballo in maschera in Piacenza in a modern production.  In Seoul he performed in Carmen in a lavish production seen by 37,000 spectators on a stage 120 meters long with videos the size of those in football stadiums.

In Cologne, he performed with the opera diva Anna Netrebko in front of eight thousand opera fans.  And his Alfredo in La traviata (note:  assume this reference is to La traviata a Paris) is considered one of the most beautiful and most emotional interpretations ever sung.  He conducted Madame Butterfly at the Vienna State Opera

Croatian audiences heard Cura for the first time in Rijeka

Croatia first had the opportunity to listen to Cura live during the Rijeka summer concert in July 2006.  The Met gave him a standing ovation in Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Tosca.  He returned to Rijeka as a director, set designer and writer of La Commedia è finite [note:  a creative rethink of Pagliacci].

While he was appearing at the Zurich Opera House in his debut in Massenet’s Le Cid, his father Oscar died.  As a true professional, Cura did not cancel but rather sang an emotionally shattering performance before a moved audience that had learned of the tragedy and who offered a standing ovation.  The next day, he flew to Argentina to bury his father.

A unique classical artist

Maestro Cura performed in concert in Zagreb in 2008.  With a rich repertoire he has travelled the world and delighted opera fans as Otello, Samson, Canio, Don José, Stiffelio, Cavaradossi, Calaf,  and, debuting at the Zurich Opera in 2010, as Rodolfo in La bohème.

Cura is first an opera star but in parallel with a great singing career, he directs and conducts.  In addition to recording albums, concerts, performing in the most prestigious opera productions, [he has] conducted and directed Un ballo in maschera in the Cologne State Opera house and set his own productions of Samson et Dalila, La rondine, Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci

Cura is considered by many as a pioneer in contemporary opera

He is the first in the world of opera stars who has simultaneously made the sets, designed the costumes and directed an opera—Puccini’s La rondine in Nancy.  In 2008, Cura published his first book of photographs, Espontáneas, which was followed by an exhibition in Italy.

His discography includes 17 albums with top opera productions, and as a very talented actor who loves the camera, fifteen of his roles have been recorded.

Simple, humble family man from Argentina

He has held numerous master classes all around the world and though his life for the last 30 years has taken place between the biggest airports, the most luxurious hotels, famous theaters and the most prestigious opera houses of all time, he has managed to preserve a marriage with his wife Silvia Ibarra, who heads his legal affairs and accounting office.  They have three children:  Ben (a 28-year-old actor based in Britain and who greatly resembles his father in his younger days), Yasmine and Nicolas. 

This striking, dishevelled, bearded man never became a glory bear, losing touch with reality and acting like a capricious spoiled star; rather he remained a simple, humble, honest family man from Argentina who has great love for what he’s doing and that transmits through his voice, hands, emotions and gestures to classical music lovers around the world. And that’s the purpose of his life’s mission, to which he speaks exclusively to the Telegram.


[Note:  all Qs and As have been taken from the English text found on José Cura’s official Facebook page]   

Telegram: You have performed in Croatia (Rijeka, Zagreb), but this is your first time at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. Have you been to Dubrovnik before? What are your expectations? The program you have prepared with your colleague-performer Linda Ballova and Maestro Tarbuk is interesting indeed, spanning the works from Bersa to Piazzolla.

Cura: I have only performed a couple of times in Croatia, but enough to feel the enormous professionalism of the Croatian musicians and the great energy of its public. I have never been in Dubrovnik, but I cannot wait to get there because it is well known how beautiful the city is. The program has been done upon the requests of the Festival and the wish of Mo. Tarbuk to dedicate part of the concert to the Spanish repertoire.

Telegram: You have been present on the world's opera stages for decades now. Have you noticed any difference between your generation of singers and the present-day one?

Cura: The differences between the previous generations of singers and the present one, are the same as in the society in general. Of course, there are exceptions and generalizing is always a risk, but the most remarkable difference is that, while before, fame and quality used to walk together, today, you can be famous even if you are not so good. Sometimes, even not good at all. This is not a great problem when audiences know how to “separate the wheat from the chaff”, but today, consumers of any product, prefer to bet on the “minute made results”, than in long term maturation. So we have the football player of the “moment”, the top model of the “moment”, the politician of the “moment”, the tenor of the “moment”, the pop singer of the “moment”, and so on. And, you know, moment is, per definition, a short period of time… This global phenomenon, results in more and more superficiality in detriment of a deeper way of living. The consequence: mediocrity as never before, disguised with the blinding light of ephemeral glamour.

Telegram: What is your advice to your students in your MasterClasses?

Cura: “Be yourself, everybody else is already taken”.

Telegram: To what extent has ambition been the motive in your conducting, singing, directing, producing, composing, set design and photography careers?

Cura: First you would need to define “ambition”. If you are talking about “economical greediness” then I have to say: none. Not because I am Madre Teresa, but because doing many things is the best way to earn less money… The fee of a top tenor is a lot higher than the fee of a conductor or a director; if I would be just singing all the time, I would earn much more, yes, but have less satisfaction. On the contrary, if by ambition you mean what the word really means (from “ambire", ambi=both, ire=go: taking several paths to achieve a goal), then yes, “ambition” rules my life: the ambition of realizing myself as a full rounded interpreter.

Telegram: Do you always require maximum from both yourself and other participants in every project?

Cura: It is not by putting dictatorial pressure on people that you will obtain the best from them, but by preaching with the example. That is why I have always required much more from myself than from others.

Telgram: What was your experience working on several projects with the great director Liliana Cavani?

Cura: Unfortunately, I have only worked in two productions with Liliana: Cavalleria rusticana in 1996 and Manon Lescaut in 1998. But those two shows remain among the restricted group of my best shows ever.

Telegram:  Do you have better interaction with conductors or directors?

Cura: With both, if they are real professionals. Unfortunately, the “business of culture”, being very “elusive”, allows a lot of bluffing, and not all of those who claim to be professional performers, are so. When you work at the level I do, you can’t forget you are dealing with people who have invested many years of their lives to become good in what they are: singers, instrumentalists, stage technicians, etc, are not there for you to spread your incapacity on them. You need to win their respect with hard and efficient work. Enough of people imposing themselves because they belong to a certain “untouchable” logia! Do well, and I will follow you; do bad, and I will fight you.

 

 

Telegram: Directors of today exaggerate in their stagings…

Cura: There are good and bad directors, same as there are good and bad singers, conductors, etc. The problem is that, while a singer who cannot sing will not make it to the stage, a director can be a bluff and still move on, with the right “friends” in the right places. Many of those, useless as they are, have great assistants to do the dirty job, while they take the credit. Anyhow, I believe that, same as a good director can make regular performers improve, a good performer will always more or less save a bad director and the show will go on. Not ideal, but…

Telgram: Do you prefer classical interpretation of operatic parts, or the new and avant-garde ones?

Cura: I prefer intelligent readings, no matter the fashion. Rare, but possible when you are in good hands.

Telegram: How important were Horacio Amauri and Vittorio Terranova for the moulding of your vocal skill?

Cura: As important as each person that crosses your life, and even more if it is during your prime growing up period! If that person is, on top, a good pedagog, with a great message to transmit, then it is a dream. I revere both, Horacio and Vittorio, not only for what they taught me, but for what they represented at a moment in my life when I needed a “rock ledge” to hold onto not to fall down. Unfortunately Horacio has passed away not so long ago. He was still young and left a huge hole in the Buenos Aires’ singing family.

Telegram: How much have you been determined by Argentina? What are the Argentinean people like? Passionate, noisy, powerful…?

Cura: A human being that denies his roots is a plant destined to drain… Argentineans are the result of a big cocktail of nationalities and so, as it happens when you mix up ingredients, sometimes the result is delicious, sometimes… not. I love my country of origin and regret my so little artistic relationship with it: Things that happen when politics and art coil around the same stick. You can easily guess which of the two is at risk in such an abnormal, still unfortunately very common marriage…

Telegram:  You have performed with the world's greatest opera divas, from Mirella Freni, Katia Ricciarelli, Montserat Caballe up to the present-day ones Elīna Garanča and Anna Netrebko. Have you noticed a difference in the attitude, approach to work, or to the "Diva"  title between Freni and Netrebko for instance?

Cura: Nobody can achieve the Diva qualification without hard work and tremendous sacrifices. I have learned an awful lot of technique watching Mirella sing up-close; I have learned how to be tough, yet sensitive, from Katia; I have learned the meaning of guts, by sharing the stage with a very old, but very determinate Caballé. Elina, one of my best friends in the business, is a remarkable example of how a professional should be, with a beautiful career that perfectly balances work and family, and Anna has proved everyone that she doesn’t owe her success just to the fact of being a pretty girl…

Telegram: How much were you flattered for being chosen to lead Sinfonia Varsovia for several seasons as Lord Yehudi Menuhin's successor? What was the experience like?

Cura: It was a huge deference not only to inherit Menuhin’s podium, but also to have the trust of such an orchestra. Sinfonia Varsovia back then, was an impressive group of virtuosi from which I learned a lot. Working with them improved my conducting skills a lot.

Telegram: When singing the Italian repertoire, how important is to know Italy, the mentality of its people and the way they communicate? When singing the Czech repertoire, how important is to stay in Prague, or in Berlin or Munich when singing the German one?

Cura:  The more you understand the idiosyncrasy of a nation, the better introspection you will have on its art.

Telegram:  Which repertoire is intimately your favorite?

Cura:  Independently of the historical period of the composition, I have hard times to perform those pieces that don’t “touch” not only my emotions, but also my hunger for “technical satisfaction”: Having the chance of bringing to life a masterpiece is one of the most rewarding experiences a human being can experiment.

Telegram: What phase are you in today?

Cura:  I wouldn’t say I am a moon “in its first quarter”, but for sure I can say I am a moon still in its “waxing crescent period…”: Never stop; never take it for granted!

Telegram: Have some of the roles come in your career too early, when you have not been sufficiently ready for them vocally, and especially physically? I assume that nowadays you would prepare and interpret them in a completely different way.

Cura: The proof that each role I have done was done in the right time, is that today, after 25 years of international career and almost 40 years on stage altogether, I am still “alive and kicking”. Of course, all of us would love to redo things under the light of experience, but this doesn’t mean that, when we did them, they were wrongly made; just “youngly” made…

Telegram: Is it burdening for you when media, music experts and fans expect you to be a star for 24 hours? Do you have to disappoint them at times?

Cura: It might be a problem, yes. That was my life until I decided to cut with the superficial side of the “game”. It is not true that if you are famous, you will inevitably be subject of harassment, from fans or press. You harvest what you plant: if you are a discrete person, you don’t attract hysterias.

Telegram: How much burdening is the fact that your entire singing career depends on a daily basis on such a subtle and delicate thing as the human voice?

Cura: As long as it is not your life that depends on ephemeral things, but only your career, it is not a problem. Your job and your life shouldn’t fry in the same pan…

Telegram: How often it happens that after a concert the audience exclaims “bravo” and sends followers, while you are quite unhappy with what you have given from yourself that evening?

Cura: The true love of a sincere audience is never connected with the technical result of a single performance, but with the degree of commitment you have put in it. You don’t fall in love with a person just because he/she has a great body, unless you are a superficial idiot. Same applies to the love that grows between an artist and his public. This great feeling, that is the result of years of communion, has not to be confused with the ephemeral “fever” that provokes a properly sung high note…

Telegram: Is there a myth that tenors tend to be depressed? Pavarotti called tenors “mythical depressives“. Have you ever suffered from depression?

Cura: I have my moments of depression, as every human being whose brain is active… but they are not connected to the business.

Telegram:  You are said to be one of the world's finest actors among tenors, to move fantastically and have outstanding expression on the stage. How important for you is to give a brilliant acting and not only vocal performance?

Cura: Well, some people don’t like my performances because of the same reason… “If I want to see good acting —they say— I go to a prose theater. When I come to the opera, I only want to hear singing”… No comments, right? For me the good acting is condition-sine-qua-non for a good opera performer. Surprisingly, and here’s where the problem starts, this is not a primary worry for most of the operatic world. If you can sing properly, you will be admitted in a conservatory with the hope that, one day, maybe… someone will be able to stick into your “singer’s brain” the necessary acting skills. Wrong. An examination to enter a school where you will be trained to be an opera performer, has to be equally severe both in singing and in acting. Otherwise, the nature of the career is corrupted in its origin, causing all the problems we know when the time of creating a proper show comes. An actor is an actor; a singer is a singer, but an “opera performer” has to be both: singer and actor in an equal level of quality and commitment. Not to mention the fact that an opera performer has also to be a decent dancer, a proper fighter (mainly the males, due to the many necessary fighting choreographies of a lot of roles), etc.

Telegram: Do you listen to your intuition? When failing to do so, how many times in your life have you made wrong decisions?

Cura: Intuition is an “overrated” quality… I have always been very intuitive, but it is only when I have learned to dose it, based on experience, that I have managed to obtain the best out of it…

Telegram: Your life goes on between taxies, airports, theaters and hotel rooms. Not as glamorous as many believe it to be. How stressful is such a way of life for you?

Cura: A lot. So much so, that I have paid a huge personal price for it, in terms of health, that I only see today, after so many years of nomad life. These days, I am seriously dedicated to “re-tuning” my future…

Telegram: Are you aware of how many people actually stand behind your name and the Cura brand? Do you feel responsible for the team of people working for you, who live on your name and status in the long run?

Cura: I think you are exaggerating with this statement. There has been such a time when not only lots of people were “eating” with me, but also many of them were eating “from” me… It is not the case anymore nowadays. From the moment I stopped being a product to become an artist in my own right, I lost the interest of those whose only scope was to make money. On the contrary, I have gained the respect of those who identify with my moral. So far so good!

Telegram: One of your most distinguished roles in recent seasons is Otello, which is a pinnacle in your line of work. What comes after it?

Cura: Tanhauser in January 2017 and Peter Grimes in May of the same year: Two completely different challenges that I expect will add a whole new dimension to my career.

Telegram:  How do you invest the money you have earned? How important for you is money in today's “material” world?

Cura: Denying the importance of money to cope with the everyday realistic needs, is hypocritical, but thinking that money will solve all your problems, is idiotic.

Telegram: How do you relax after a performance? Do you have a glass of wine? Do you enjoy food…?

Cura: The number of times you just go back to your hotel room and eat peanuts because the restaurants, or the room service, are closed, is larger than people think. One of my preferred situations, though, is to share a table after the show with those who have worked with me, and cool down together.

Telegram: Is your day still too short, in spite of lasting from seven in the morning till after midnight?

Cura: Always, and the older I get, the worse. When you are young (younger, in my case…), each day is an entity you can count and remember. But the older you get, the more time becomes soluble: Months, weeks, days, melt together in a continuum, at an always faster speed. The feeling of not being able to finalize all those things I want to leave behind me, my legacy, so to say, makes me crazy… On top of my everyday work as a performer, I am now working on a huge book dedicated to a better understanding of Othello and also revisiting my old compositions for their imminent premiers: My Magnificat was premiered last February and my oratorio Ecce Homo is to be performed for the first time in March 2017 in Prague.

Telegram: What have you given up because of your career?

Cura: Contrary to what people think, if you make an effort, you can perfectly balance your family life with your career. It is not easy —in the sense that, when I had a couple of days in between performances, instead of resting, I was always on the first plane back home, and also, I have refused many productions when they could fit the schedule, to my need of seeing my family at least once a week—, but not impossible. Of course, I have lost things, but altogether I was always there in the important moments and the proof is the great adults my children are today. Not to mention that I have been happily married for 31 years: An unusual fact indeed in this business… Where I feel the burden of my hectic public profile of the past, is in not having had the chance of cultivating big friendships, being my best friends still those I left behind in Argentina 25 years ago, and who I miss an awful lot. The thing is that a strong, consolidated friendship lasts forever, while a new one needs time and dedication: Two things I didn’t have for a long time. Today I truly regret it and, in trying my best to fix my error, I discover how lucky I am to be surrounded by amazing human beings who where just waiting for the right moment to get close; a very rewarding feeling that confirms, once more, that in life, you harvest what you have planted.

Telegram:  It is a less known fact that in your life you have done quite concrete physical work: you have been a body builder, electrician, carpenter… Do you believe not to have the hands of an opera star, but of a working man?

Cura: The kind of hands you have is not just a physical thing, but a mental attitude…

Telegram: As a photographer, you take photographs of people you do not meet in your career, including quite ordinary, often unhappy and lonely people, whom destiny has not treated very kindly. Why?

Cura: One of the most valuable qualities of a person is to be able to observe the world and to capitalize the conclusions of such observations, good ones and bad ones. Incredibly enough, contrary to what people think, one of the first consequences of being successful, is isolation: The worst that can happen to someone whose job is “to be in the skin of others…”. First hand struggle, or at least a great sensibility to understand others vicissitudes, is a must for a good actor.

Telegram: Are you worried about the future of your children? Wearing the name Cura, many doors will perhaps open for them easier and faster, but, under the burden of your name, status and popularity, it will be more difficult to prove themselves…

Cura: To “wear” my name would probably turn to be useful if they were classic musicians, but they are not. My children “wear” my name, as every proud son does, while “tailoring” their own names in their respective lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles

Mama Mia! That's some tenor

Shanghai Daily

Created: 2007-2-9  

Michelle Qiao



 
Argentine tenor Jose Cura sings a superb Prince Calaf in "Turandot" and immodestly says his "good shape, big and strong" is ideal for the role. But he calls the greedy, kingdom-hunting character "disgusting" and hopes Chinese audiences won't think ill of him, writes Michelle Qiao.

Opera singers often identify with, even love their roles, but Argentine tenor Jose Cura loathes "Prince Calaf," his character in the opera "Turandot" staging this weekend at the Shanghai Grand Theater.

"'Turandot' is not a love tale, but a tale of interests and greedy people trying to seize power," the tenor said during a press conference this week.

"The character of Calaf is not romantic. Chinese Princess Turandot loves Calaf but Calaf wants her for her kingdom, money and power. He is superficially charming but behind the mask he's an idiot, disgusting.

"The Prince has lost his own kingdom and searched in the world for another kingdom," says Cura. "He put in danger the people he loves to obtain something he wants."

"I'm sorry that for the first time in China, I must play an idiot. Please don't think ill of me or link me with the character."

However, playing the black-hearted and designing prince, the tenor still impressed his Shanghai audience with his charming "surface" and superb voice last night.

This production of "Turandot" is a treat for the eyes because both Cura and soprano Paoletta Marrocu, who sings Turandot, are in good shape compared with other overweight Calafs and Turandots in the opera world.

"My good shape, big and strong, is the result of many years of physical training in my early days," says Cura, wearing a pink sweater and a pair of comfortable white sneakers. "In the past, a long time ago, I weighed 20 kilos less. Now I'm 44, 20 kilos more, and 20 years older."

But he can still pass for a prince.

"For roles in modern theater, if you look like the character it's better for the theater fantasy. Old audiences gave the greatest importance to good singing. But the younger generation likes good spectacles."

Cura's charisma shone from the start of the production created by the Shanghai Grand Theater and the Zurich Opera House, when he showed up like a sexy secret agent in a black leather jacket, a tight-fitting gray vest and shades.

In sharp contrast to the antique green copper hues of the set and the icy demeanor of Princess Turandot, Prince Calaf casually smoked a cigarette and searched his laptop for answers to Turandot' love-or-death riddles.

He even stretched on the ground to sing his famous aria "Nessun Dorma," perfectly striking high B. His melodious vocals with beautifully held top notes were expertly controlled.

With the Bund as the backdrop, the prince ended his dangerous love pursuit with a romantic candle-lit dinner with the cruel princess who had actually fallen in love and changed her weighty formal robes for a fitted scarlet evening gown.

"Cura was not only acting, but also creating," says Zhang Guoyong, head of the Shanghai Opera House. "He demonstrated the talent of a true master."

Unlike other opera stars who often give pleasant, bland comments during interviews, Cura was bold and forthright. "Mama Mia," he occasionally exclaimed when occasionally targeted with surprising questions.

"I didn't know I'm famous in China," he said. "I thought I was completely unknown and so I could relax on stage. Now you will expect so much from me and I must rise to the challenge."

No matter whether he likes it or not, Cura is widely known in China as "the world's fourth tenor" (after Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras).

"You can say I'm the successor of the three tenors who are as old as my father and you are also the successor of your own parents, right?" he says. "We are the next generation and the world was so different from their time around 30 years ago when CDs and DVDs had just been invented. "Now we face a big crisis of new media and the Internet and MP3s will be the future. If Bach were alive today, he might use a computer to write music. It's very complicated, not simply being a successor. It's difficult to succeed in the opera world today."

Cura has been a rare artist who's not only a tenor, but also a conductor and composer. In addition to the two "Turandot" operas, he will conduct the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra for a concert at the Shanghai Grand Theater on February 14.

"I will also try the role as an opera director," says Cura. "In every role I have put all my love, so I cannot say which role I'm best at. But what makes me happiest is conducting. I meant to do some deep, profound music for the Shanghai audience. But the organizers asked me to do some romantic music for Valentine's Day, such as 'Romeo and Juliet'."

As a tenor of IT times, Cura has an iPod with him that is filled with jazz, symphonic music, and his favorite singer Karen Carpenter - but no operas.

"I don't like some untuned pop music," says the tenor. "I cannot have music as a background. If music is there, I will have to pay attention to it. So I only like music with dramatic objectives."

Despite its modern elements, this production of "Turandot" closely follows the original Puccini plot. Princess of China, the dangerously beautiful Turandot, refuses to marry anyone but the man who can answer her three riddles. All suitors who fail will be put to death.

Enchanted by her beauty - and kingdom - the unknown Prince Calaf dares to try and at last succeeds, at the cost of the life of his slave girl Liu, who is in love with him.

"Prince Calaf has a disgusting personality," repeats Cura. "He can be a citizen of any country of any race, like the greedy people of all times. They don't hesitate to kill their mother to succeed."

Well, maybe Cura feels it's a pity to show up as a man with disgusting personality for his China debut. But through his on-stage acting and off-stage talking, the tenor has showed Shanghai the unique personality behind "the fourth tenor."

 


 

The Two Loves of José Cura

Publico.pt

19 October 2007

Pedro Boléo

 

The voice of Argentine José Cura can be heard today in Lisbon.  And that is only one part; after the interval he picks up the baton and takes Beethoven by the horns.  Rebelliousness or professionalism?

He has two loves:  the baton and the voice.  Two forms of expression of the same personality.  José Cura says that he used to want to be a maestro, but had to sing to sustain his family.  Now it is not quite so true:  the Maestro José also sustains the family, and Cura did not stop being a tenor.  Today, in the Teatro San Carlos in Lisbon, he will sing some arias from opera but the main course of the evening is the 9th Symphony of Beethoven, conducted by this artist in search of joy.  The same work, the 9th, the most emblematic of the ‘genius,’ as the maestro without fear states.

How?  Does he sing and direct the singers?  Is he behind and in front of the orchestra?  José Cura explains:  “The artist prepares a show—it can be one part, the other part, or both.” In 2003, in Hamburg, he directed an opera and after the interval he jumped on stage to sing another.  Of course:  “Nobody finds it strange that DeNira goes behind the camera.  Or that Woody Allen is the actor in his films.  But in opera…”

José Cura fights against the established ideas and prefers to consider himself a total artist.  Or at least an artist free to do as he wants.  A rebel?  “Not in an unpleasant sense, but an artist has the right to create following his own reality and instinct,” he says.

He has already been told he does too many things:  he responds that to be an artist “is not only to be safe and avoid risk.”  He has already been criticized for singing and gesticulating, as if directing the orchestra:  he argues that an artist “must be true to their own nature.”  Before we even ask about the 9th Symphony he is about to conduct, José Cura adjusts the chair in his dressing room at the San Carlos and adds Beethoven to the discussion.  “If they had dictated to Beethoven what he should have done, he would not have been able to do what he did to the art of the symphony.” And remember: “About the symphony they said it was as unpleasant as the sound of a bag of nails.  That it was banal.  That there was 55 minutes more than what was needed.  Today, we know that it is the cornerstone of symphonic music.”

And will Cura launch himself into the ‘cornerstone’ as if it were nothing?  He has the size, the physical strength, and the enthusiasm, certainly, but does he have the right stuff?  “Yes, I feel the responsibility,” says the singing, slouching in his chair.  “But on the other hand, it is simple:  simply respect what the genius wrote.  We must put ourselves into the hands of the composer.” It is then that José Cura leans forward and starts offering a thousand ideas about how the symphony could go.  He puts himself in the hands of Beethoven. “Many conductors today still think they can change a symphony to the better.  It is a fairly common arrogance.  Even if it was ‘to improve it’…. Does it need to be improved?” Asks José Cura.  We are, by the way, reminded of the version of the 9th by Maestro Herbert von Karajan, and he said jokingly:  “It was you who said it, not me.”  But he is now out of jokes:  “There were excesses of a pseudo-romantic kitsch for a while.  Maybe people needed it that in the post-war period- a mist, one to hide the exaggerated, excessive mannerism, distilled, but it has its time.  We must put this in its historical context.” Today things are different, he says.  “Also because there are better editions of the scores.  And we arrive at impressive conclusions.  For example, Beethoven wanted certain passages taken more quickly.” And just so there is no misunderstanding, the Argentine maestro warns:  “Many people will find my interpretation strange and original.  But it is only what is written.” 

We then move to José Cura, tenor—the same man but a star with different demands:  attitude on stage, physical appearance, theatrical capabilities.  Is this just a marketing of his image?  “I do not know what is marketing,” he says immediately.  “It has to do with being beautiful or not.” And he confesses that “many roles that I would like to play are or stranger or ugly types, but they do not let me do them.  It is true that in spite of everything, we all have a physical self that determines the type of character.”

José Cura is a man of 45 years, an opera superstar but also a simple and direct person, with a moving honesty in how he speaks.  He is not a man of poses, although he knows how to be an actor and give a performance.  The keyword that connects to success is “professionalism – a word that is used often but is worth ever less.” But in music it is a different case:  “It is a problem that music is not like medicine.  If a surgeon doesn’t have the degree, then he is not going to cut into your intestines.  But in music the title does not mean anything.  Many people say that are [professional] but they are not.  They deceive the public.”

We could see in him as a modern and multifaceted Pavarotti, one who goes to the gym, takes photographs (another great passion) plays guitar, singes, conducts, directs.  But no—he is only José Cura, a rebel and a respectful, popular artist in opera houses, a stage animal, a man with an open mind and with ‘social commitments’ (Cura is a founding partner of the Portuguese Association against the Leukemia).

Is this rebellion?  Yes and no.  He recalls Beethoven, once again: “If it were not for the rebels we would be in the stone age.”

The Gala Concert


Lisbon, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos
Today at 21h Chelsey Schill (soprano), Maria Luisa de Freitas (soprano), José Cura and José Manuel Araújo (tenor); Johannes von Duisburg (bass). Musical Direction [Symphony No. 9]: Jose Cura; Musical direction: Mario de Rose. Portuguese Symphony Orchestra. Choir of San Carlos. Arias, Leoncavallo, Puccini, Giordano and Verdi. 9. St symphony (Symphony Coral, op.125) from Beethoven

 

Publico Article:  two loves

 

 


 

José Cura

 

Forum Opéra

P. Rinck

September 2007

 

 

 

 

Q:  We hear you singing certain French roles regularly (Samson, Don José); we wait for your take on the role in Rodrigue (Le Cid) in January 2008. What is your relationship with France today?

JC: I lived in Paris for 5 years, but today I have no special link with France.  At least, no more than with other countries.  I have a close relationship with Spain, the country where I live, and also with Portugal because I am a founder of the Society against Leukaemia and so there I do a different type of work, extra-music.

Q:  You proposed a master class in Nancy.  In the past we have usually seen in the role of professor stars grown a bit old….but a tenor at the peak of his art, what does it gain you to teach? 

JC: It was not me who proposed the masterclass.  We say in Argentina, “You should never give advice if you are not asked.”  I am here because I was invited.  But I came with pleasure because I have done a masterclass almost everywhere in the world in the last four years.  I have done some in Russian conservatories, in Moscow and Yekaterinburg, but also at the School of Music in Indiana and again in Buenos Aires.  In particular, I have just been named as a “visiting professor” by the Royal Academy of Music; I am the vice president of the British Youth Opera and patron of the Devon Opera.  I already devote a lot of time to teaching, because it is, I believe, the only way to ensure the continuation of our profession.  It is thus almost an obligated passage for “old singers” but why not do it [teach] at my age if I am asked?  To be named professor of the famous Royal Academy of Music, so selective in its choices of students and of professors who are not normally asked before they are 60!  I see this title as both an honor and a confirmation.

Q:  Who were your teachers?  And what did you learn from them?

JC: I am the rebel of classical music.  I have not ever had a teacher “in the pocket,” never had a fixed relationship with any single Maestro.  I always went to drink directly to the fountain I needed, according to the needs of the moment and according to the level of authority which I saw in the professor. That is why, when I am asked for a masterclass, I always insist on working from pieces that come from my repertoire.  One can only pass on the real experiences acquired in a specific field.  Omniscience does not exist.

Q:  We know your world success is not only as tenor but also as conductor. We notably remember the evening in Hamburg when you sang Canio after having directed Cavalleria …Recently, we have see you creating complete entertainment spectacles, like Comedia é finite or directing.  Do you seek to have a global, absolute vision of an opera?

JC: First, just an aside about Comedia e finite:  there will soon be a non-commercial DVD sent to those who are interested, in particular showing the making of and the results of a different approach to the opera.  I do indeed believe this is the first time that a singer had directed himself on stage. That [being first] always creates a scandal in the opera world where some have stayed in the 1950s.  But in the movies certain great actors direct themselves as well!  This approach will be, for once, from somebody who knows what he speaks about, because he is used to dirtying his hands, to do what it necessary and not from an outsider who always knows better than anyone else...

Next, I believe there is always a question of personality.  I have a very expansive personality.  That is obvious!  I have trouble being held within a cage…thus there is much to do!  Having said that, it is still a matter of making good things.  But until proven otherwise (and opinions are always welcome), I believe that I do not do so badly… Sometimes I am reproached for taking on too much, but this is how I like my life.  I still do photography and other things.  And when I return home, I mow the lawn before repainting the door…I accept all the points of view and criticism but I always repeat: “Live your life and I, I will live mine.” If someone does not like my work, then he shouldn’t come; those who like it, come! 

Q:  Do you have limits?  Are you preparing to surprise us in years to come with the incursion into other repertories, in the German language for example?

JC: OF course, everyone has limits.  I cannot do everything.  But before saying I cannot, I always try all the same!  I believe we live in an era of exaggerated specialization.  When you have to see a doctor, you are sent to a specialist in the right corner of the left eye!  And it is like this for everything - - it is necessary to find a little of the spirit of the Renaissance: mankind progresses by integrating diverse and varied disciplines.

As for German, I acknowledge that here precisely is one of my limits!  I am often asked to sing in this language, given my voice type.  I have always answered not at this moment. I am afraid of this language, so foreign to my way of being and articulating.  I am afraid of being ridiculous by missing the words or even more the accentuation.  The public has, fortunately but also regrettably, become accustomed to a “Cura style,” to a certain interpretive level on my part, and I do not want to fall below this level!  We cannot be the best everywhere, but if we begin to become less good than ourselves, it is the beginning of the end!  I am thus going to make an “experiment”: in 2010, I am going to sing Parsifal in concert, in the Deutsche Oper of Berlin, but I have asked to do it with the score in front of me!  It will allow me to see whether it is really a matter of limit of not.  After that, we shall talk again of it…..
Opéra Forum interview Sept 07

 

 


 

Andrea Chénier, a poet at the Liceu

 

Opera Actual

 Susana Gavina

 

[Excerpts / gist]

 

Andrea Chénier in BarcelonaThe Liceu of Barcelona opens its opera season on September 25 with Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, a title that returns to this stage after an absence of two decades, with fourteen performances and three different casts, the first headed by Deborah Voigt, José Cura and Carlos Álvarez.  The Argentine tenor … explains the points of view he brings to this masterpiece of versimo.

Andrea Chénier is a title that has been on the programmed often at the Liceu; nevertheless, for more than two decades, “from the 1985-86 season,” confirms Joan Matabosch, artistic director of the Gran Teatro, it has not been staged. “It is a work in the repertoire and one of the most popular in the recent history of the Liceu.  Because of that, programming it has become a small event.” One of the reasons for its absence in the last few years, according to Matabosch, “is the need to have great singers.” He has managed to bring together a cast headed by José Cura, Deborah Voigt and Carlos Álvarez, alternating with the voices of married couple Daniela Dessí and Fabio Armiliato together with Anthony Michaels-Moore and another set with Carlo Ventre, Anna Shafajinskaia and Silvio Zanon.  In the pit will be musical director Pinchas Steinberg. In staging the opera, the Liceu is not treating itself to a new production this time, something great theaters are usually expected to do at the beginning of the season.  Instead, they have hired a production from Tokyo designed by Philippe Arlaud, who this year presented Tannhäuser in Bayreuth. "It is not a question of this being a radical reading of Andrea Chénier,” the art director of the Liceu assures, “but it is not a traditional staging either.”

Jose Cura's presence in the Barcelona opera theater is turning into something of a habit and is the only one in this Spanish opera seasons. The Argentine tenor returns with a role he knows well, that of a revolutionary poet executed by his own comrades in arms. “I made my début in the role in 1997 in London, and I do not do it as much as I would like to,” he says with regret during a telephone interview from Buenos Aires, where he has returned after an absence of almost nine years. “Since then, I have sung it in maybe four or five productions.  It is not an opera that has become common, probably because the roles of the tenor and the soprano are very difficult.  Last year I did it in Bologna and it was recorded on DVD,” he adds. Cura confessed to ÓPERA ACTUAL that he did not know anything of the Japanese production and joked: “I hope not to be alarmed.  Do you know anything?” he asks.

For the tenor, a test

As far as the vocal characteristic of his role, the tenor underlines again that it a matter of “a very hard role for a tenor, but also very interesting because it is very complex.  In the first act, especially in the ‘Improvviso,’ the tenor is very present, the aria is quite dramatic and written central enough that one must try to be heard because the orchestra plays loudly.  Later, in the second act—and that is the most tremendous because there is a great monologue and a great duet—that is where the tenor is tested and discovers if the role fits your voice or not.  The third is simpler and the fourth is complicated because the first aria is practically written for a lyric tenor, very dreamy, almost with the scent of the aria ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Tosca,” according to Cura.  “It is a bit of the farewell. And later is the final duet, which is very badly written—and I don’t say this only because it is super-orchestrated but it has that effect, though it is tremendous. It is there where it really returns to test the tenor to see if one is a tenor for Chénier or not.  This is an opera which time and time again puts the singer to the test.” Singers such as Mario del Monaco, José Carreras, and Plácido Domingo have interpreted this role.  “Franco Corelli became famous because of it.  It is a role in which, much like Saint-Saëns’ Samson or Verdi’s Otello, even though it is a minor work when compared with these titles, the tenor is greatly illuminated and it can even mark your career.”

Giordano’s opera, with libretto by Luigi Illica, is inspired in part by a real person, a French poet with the same name who was a partisan in the French Revolution, although the execution of Luis XVI caused him to redefine his support, finally being executed after accusations of being a counterrevolutionary.  “I have a book at home about the life of the real Chénier, although as usual in opera the history is exaggerated for the melodramatic requirements of the plot. He was a revolutionary who died for speaking the truth.  He was an honest person and when he saw the ideals that he had originally defend transformed into what he had been criticizing, he decided to separate himself.  The opera denounces the system in power, independently of the party who holds it.  In this sense, the opera Andrea Chénier is both very durable and very current.” The tenor emphasizes a phrase in the second act, “that is almost not heard but which summarizes the opera:  ‘The old courtesan inclines her head to the new God.’  In the end they all pay homage to the same thing, independent of its color.  This phrase is turned ultimately against Andrea Chénier,” the tenor says.

Other horizons

 

José Cura confirms that he does not have any other projects planned in Spanish theaters, in particular the Teatro Real.  “In February 2006, when I was performing at the Liceu, the directors of the Real approached me and said they wanted me to return.  That seemed good to me and so I told them to go ahead, and that was it.  Perhaps there is no repertoire for me at the Real,” he said.   Nevertheless, he has agreements with the Barcelona theater through 2011, although he can not tell us what since “one of the agreements I have with the theater is not to reveal anything until they announce the season. The Liceu,” he continued, “is a very well organized theater.  Not even the Metropolitan in New York is signing that date.  In this, the Liceu is an international example.”

 

In respect to his participation in the macro project of José Moreno to build the Theater of the Three Cultures, a project from which soprano Montserrat Cabellé has removed herself, Cura affirms that he does not know anything, although he has not disassociated himself.  He is waiting for that call from Moreno. “The last time we spoke he told me all was moving ahead and that he would talk with us when the project was more firm.” And he insists that “I have never withdrawn but rather suspended [my involvement].  If when they finish my calendar allows me, I would love to continue with it.”     

 

 


 

José Cura Returns to the Colón

 His voice will be heard again

After eight years without a role in a production at the theater, the tenor will star in the main role in Samson et Dalila, which premiers tomorrow.  Tuesday he sang in Rosario, his city, at the festival for the 50th anniversary to the Monument to the Flag. 

 La Razon

Geraldine Mitelman

[excerpts]

José Cura in Argentina, June 2007Dressed in a black T-shirt and looking very casual, the Rosarino tenor José Cura gave advanced details of Samson et Dalila, the opera by Camille Saint-Saëns that he stars in, along with mezzo soprano Cecilia Díaz.

The singer, who has not performed in the Colón season for eight years, proved to be happy and very funny during the press conference held at a central hotel.  After recalling “the old days when nobody knew him here” until now when he returns successful (he is recognized everywhere and at present resides in Europe, where he lives with his wife and children), Cura discussed the make-up of the character he has interpreted so many times.

“There are two ways to read Samson, and one of them is wrong.  He can be interpreted as a Christ figure, like a hippy of the 60s.  No.  He belongs to the book of Judges, revolutionary leaders and not good boys.  Samson incites the town to raise weapons, which transforms him into a sort of “Che Guevara” of the age,” he explained. Before that disconcerting parallelism, Cura had been referred to as the heir apparent to the artistic direction of the Teatro Colón.  “I would not accept a future offer for the position, but if they offered me the job of principle guest director, I would say yes,” he affirmed amidst laughter directed at the current artistic director, Marcelo Lombardero, who was in the room.

Besides discussing his approach to the work Samson et Dalila, Cura focused on his role as compose in advance of the 8 July premier in Rosario of his work Sonetos.  Later, in response to the question of his possible return to his country, he said:  “You never know, life has many returns.”

 


 

José Cura

ParaTi

19 July 2007

Julieta Mortati

The renown Argentine tenor, currently living in Madrid, is in Buenos Aires for the opera Samson et Dalila in the Teatro Coliseo.  In a chat with Para Ti, he related how he studied music, martial arts, and even gave classes in body building to survive.  He began to sing at the age of 27 because “I discovered that my voice could pay my bills.” He is considered to have one of the best voices in the world for its interpretative quality.  

José Cura in Argentina July 2007José Cura (44) traveled to Argentina to attend the golden anniversary of his parents (the celebration is on Saturday 7 July in Rosario, his hometown).  He is accompanied by his wife, Silvia, and their three children:  José (19), Yazmín (14) and Nicolás (11).  The visit, at first a secret, was quickly divulged and the family plan was subsequently interrupted by five performances of Samson et Dalila (by Camille Saint-Saëns) in the Teatro Coliseo, with the artistic support of the Teatro Colón, and in Rosario with the festival of the 50 years of the Monument to the Flag and a chamber concert in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of  Mozarteum, (8 July) where he will present the world premier of the Sonetos cycle, seven pieces composed for the poetry of Pablo Neruda. In his last week in this country, he walks with bags under his eyes and runny nose.  “On the stage it is cold,” says Cura of the Teatro Coliseo, “And it was not only cold but windy!  Yesterday it was blowing off my shirt and the boys in the chorus were wearing cravats and scarves on stage.  We endured, “but in the end the body just says ‘enough!’.

What does it mean for you to sing in Buenos Aires?

Well, it is not the same thing to sing for your people and your family as it is to sing for those who have your respect because they are your fans but who do not know you, do not know the man on the other side.  When you sing in your country, you know that in the audience are people who knew you as a boy.

In his childhood, Cura learned to play the piano by intuition, watching as his father interpreted Beethoven and Chopin.  Later he studied guitar, composition and piano, and entered the School of Art at the University of Rosario.  By 12 he had already begun to direct choirs and orchestras.  Along the way, he specialized in martial arts and played rugby.  Then at 27 he began to sing.  “Singing appears rather late in my musical career.  I discovered that I had a voice and initially the investment seemed very logical:  with this voice I was going to be able to eat and to give food more easily to my family than with composing.  As crude as that sounds, I started singing for purely economic reasons,” he admits and then explains:  “That which began as a blind date ended in a life-long relationship but in the beginning I believed I was going to sing for only a few years to relieve the situation, to pay the bills and pay for my house.  Finally, it turned into the full-time profession that transformed me into what I am.  There is a thing called destiny…I cannot complain.”

And when things went badly for him, he didn’t complain, either.  In 1983 he wanted to enter the Teatro Colón but a teacher at the audition told him, “You do not sing, you shout.” The he gave classes in tae kwon do, body building, and worked in a hardware store.  In 1990 he took a second audition at the Colón and finally they accepted him, but he decided to leave for Europe.  With his wife—whom he met at 16—and José, his first son, Cura took a Pan Am flight toward Milan.

[NB:  As most of his fans are aware, Mr. Cura was accepted at the Colón in 1983 and rejected in 1990, after which he decided to move to Europe.  The reporter just got the dates mixed up but we wanted to let you know the real story.]

 

A Stubborn Man

-  I was always very stubborn.  Like young children, each time they get up in the morning it is not important to them what happened the previous day, just that they are going to play again.  I believe I am like that.  I was always convinced I had something to say, I was prepared to say it, and was going to keep on saying it until I finally found someone who would listen to what I had to say and then this person would pass it on to others.  It is being eternally young beyond all mistakes and objections.  It causes one to want to continue forward with the same thing.

In 1995 [editor's note: he won in 1994], Cura won the Operalia singing contest, presided over by Plácido Domingo, and quickly became one of the most prestigious tenors in the world, especially praised for his interpretive qualities.  A year later, he made his début in the role of Samson at the Royal Opera House in London, a role that he continues to perform and for which he received the Orphée d’Or and Echo Klassik awards.

- What is important for you to interpreting Samson et Dalila?

- One of the things in regards to this opera is its use of force.  Some fifteen hundred years before Christ there was killing in the name of God, and 3500 years later, it is the same thing.  Humans still do not have the courage to take responsibilities for their mistakes or their successes.  If we need to kill, the fault is with the other, and if we use God, so much the better because no one can complain or say anything.   

- And personally?

- This opera has a special aura because it has been with me practically throughout my career.  I have it very well done, very well chewed, very studied, and very sung.  The character is the same in all works, the equation is different.  Every performance is like an act of love, a sexual act, and it is the audience who is your partner at this moment.  And you have to ask yourself, “How much do I give to the artist?” The difference between an audience who succumbs to the artist and one that does not is enormous. It is like making love to a plastic doll.

- How do you prepare for your roles?

- The voice functions like the face of a model.  When you are going to do a photography shoot, you have to treat yourself to more sleep so that you have the least ‘wrinkles’ possible.  And on the day of a performance, if a singer tries to rest everything so the voice can be as fresh as possible, that is ideal.

- Why did you decide to live in Europe?

- I like Madrid, we have a most beautiful house where I am able to have all the things I want in my life, achieve all my whims.

- Do you have the tastes of a divo, eccentricities?

- Eccentricities, none.  But, yes, I give myself the things that I want.  I have a wine cellar in my home, with a pile of wine I have collected.  I have a pool, a gymnasium, the things that we have always wanted in the way we like most.

Cura confesses that when he is alone in the house he enjoys silence and he never sings in the shower.  He prefers to shop, to cook, and to taste wine.

- And you also like photography?

- Yes, I love it, and we are now negotiating the release of my first book of photographs with a Swiss publisher.  I like news-photography, not posed photos, and take to the streets with my camera to collect the testimony of the entire world.  I grab hold of my camera and get lost.  I have ended up in some screwed up neighborhoods and more than once have had to be removed from complicated situations.  I love to know the true face of a town.

- Opera is often considered to be of the elite.  Is this something that bothers you?

- It is always spoken of as elite, but anywhere in the world the ticket price to listen to an opera costs less that the cost of tickets to the [sports] field.  For many years there was a tendency:  people who liked classical music wanted to feel exclusive, but that is stupid because the composers wrote the music for everyone.  They were simple people, but not easy people.  They were geniuses because they were simple, and this trend to deify them became fashionable at the beginning of the twentieth century, when these divisions were created for the purpose for with which all divisions are created:  “Divide and you will rule.’ When in fact there is only good music and bad music.  There is boring classical music and brilliant popular music.

 


 

 

He Can't be the Same Man, Can He?

 

The Independent

Michael Church

12 April 2007

 
In 1993, José Carreras celebrated his triumph over leukaemia by starring in Verdi's Stiffelio at Covent Garden. Two years later, an unknown singer named José Cura replaced him.

That was Cura's launch: overnight he was awarded a big recording contract, and hailed as the "fourth tenor" and as a new operatic sex symbol, and his meteoric career began. Now he is back in that role: the production is physically the same, but since both he and director Elijah Moshinsky have changed in the intervening time, it will also reflect that.

"Then I was a naive young kid trying to fit into the shoes of a tormented and complicated adult," says Cura. "Now I am closer to that character." Is his voice changing? "A lot. It's getting darker and darker, to a point where some people think it's moving beyond the tenor range. Certain characters I cannot do now, not because I can't [sing the role], but because the colour of the voice wouldn't portray the psychology."

And although he still exudes the lazy pantherish charm that made his first interviewers go down like ninepins, he's taken drastic steps to obliterate that original image. "All that stuff about the sonny-boy sex symbol, those stories about the fourth tenor - it was sending out the wrong signals, and I was getting shot at with the wrong weapons. I grew very unhappy with how I was being sold, so I dismissed my agent and set up my own company to organise my work.

"I'm 44, and I started my career when I was 14 - I've worked very hard to become a serious musician and a finished artist, and now we've cleaned away the garbage. Now I am accepted as serious artist."

He globetrots as a conductor as well as singer, he's staging his own touring production of Pagliacci in Croatia, and he has had a new CD and two DVDs out in the past three months: point made, point taken.

 


 

The Artist as a Part of Society

Der Standard

(gist)

 

Daniel Elder spoke to José Cura about his conducting, burned-out colleagues and Christmas as folklore.


Christmas in Vienna PRSTANDARD: Mr. Cura, you have different approaches to music. You have studied piano and composition, started conducting at 15 and only much later began to sing.  Is it sometimes difficult to switch between these approaches?

Cura: I do not think that I should switch, but that all of these activities interact. It is very interesting that no one is surprised when an instrumentalist starts to conduct, but everyone is when a singer begins to do so. Unfortunately, a singer has for many years been viewed not as a musician but only as someone is lucky enough to have a voice. Today there are many singers who are real musicians. And as a result, as a singer you presumably have different approaches to phrasing and breathing music.

STANDARD: Is it for different at the opera or at a Christmas Eve proceedings? Do you see any difference between art and event?

Cura: We use these traditional concerts especially to be present in the society. It is one thing to be staying in town as a guest artist and to appear in the concert hall, another to feel as if you are slowly beginning to belong to the people of a country.  To participate in a Christmas celebration has to do with an informal feeling:  the artist becomes part of the society and is not just someone who comes and departs again.  This concert shows this difference.  It is beautiful for an artist to identify himself with many people, not only those who go to the opera, but also those who switch on the television to hear Christmas carols. 

STANDARD: Entertainment as an art, not only for the elite?

Cura: When one says this, it means one thinks just the opposite. Artists are there so that the audience feels good and happy. That means that we artist must return to our roots and ask ourselves what it means to be an artists - a person from the society who is there to maintain the society. If we only look at it as a business, we lose contact with reality. We must do both: I must pay my bills, but must also have the good feeling of being part of a whole, as a doctor, lawyer or journalist, and not just an isolated individual. All this Bullshit about the élite is anachronistic. Sorry, but a normal ticket for the Vienna State Opera is a lot cheaper than a ticket to a football game.

Christmas in Vienna PRSTANDARD: A big issue today is the dangers for young singers who sing too much.

Cura: That was also a danger for me when I started. In many cases, we lose great talent because they burn-out before they go far. In this respect, the music business is very brutal. This is a question of control and it is very difficult because young people are afraid that the dream may end once they say no. I thought to myself today: perhaps those who survive are the stronger, better able to remain on track - a kind of natural selection. But that is very dangerous and also very sad.

 STANDARD: What is Christmas to you?

Cura: I come from a Catholic family, and Christmas is for us an important date. I think today’s celebrations with its strong symbolism is very important. Individualism is strong today, and Christmas is a day on which all at the same time are thinking the same way. We should exploit that and send a message of peace, love, send a dialogue. That is something we have lost today. We no longer speak with each other, but rather send SMS. We are not even talking on the telephone with each other because it means a direct confrontation. If you send someone to hell, you send an SMS. At Christmas at least give all at the same time a kiss. If we succeed in bringing that into everyday life, then this festival means more than mere folklore. We do not need more folklore.

(THE STANDARD 20.12.2007)

 


 

José Cura Writes of Love

La Nacion

 

The tenor premieres his own songs based on poems of Pablo Neruda

 

Saturday July 7, 2007

José Cura in Argentina, Summer 2007With his performances in Samson et Dalila presented by the Teatro Colón, José Cura gave ample evidence to the Argentine public of why his name is where it is in the world of opera. Nevertheless, and not to lose the habit of being pleasantly surprised, an important moment still remains on his agenda before the tenor returns to Europe.  It is a question this time of the world premiere of his Sonnets, based on the poems of Pablo Neruda, that take place tomorrow in the program for the Mozarteum of Rosario, which is celebrating its Silver Anniversary with a concert by José Cura and pianist Eduardo Delgado in the Foundation Astengo.  The two, acquainted through the CD of Argentine music Anhelo, will offer a chamber recital, including songs from the recording, works for solo piano, and the pieces composed by Cura.

The history of these Sonnets was born in 1995, when José sang in Palermo (Sicily) in the Zandonai opera Francesca di Rimini, based on the legendary lover Romeo and Juliet.  Someone—he never knew who—left a book of Neruda poems in his dressing room with an anonymous dedication that says, “For you, who sing of love, words of love.”   On opening the book, according to the tenor, the first thing he read was the last sonnet that says “When I die, I want you hands on my eyes” and he was so moved by emotion that the music was composed almost at once in a single moment of inspiration.  He continued with “My love, if I should die and you should not” until the commitments and the dizzying life of the singer on the rise forced him to put all the beautiful ideas and sensation in a drawer not to be opened for several years, until, in 2006, the composer firmly decided to finish the project and to choose the sonnets that, he felt, still remained to complete the cycle.  The author of the dedication, very romantically, has never been revealed.

In Buenos Aires, La Nacion met with Cura and Delgado.  The pianist referred to the work as personal music whose harmonies declare a proper and elaborate language.  “They do not look like anything else.  They are interesting works and with their polyphonies and counterpoints, they are also difficult.  It gave me pleasure to work with them because they demanded I study them and because I feel I can relate with José’s musicality,” Delgado explained.

In turn, Cura added comments that referred to the composition of the Sonnets

-Are they composed for your own voice?

They are written for a high baritone because I consider the voice of a baritone the most beautiful one for chamber music, as in that of the mezzo for a woman.  The middle zone is where the voice flows more sweet and less forced.  This reflects my own vocals:  a dark voice with the ability to sing high notes.  It is not possible to sing them like normal songs.  They are intellectual, which means they cannot be learned by hearing them, it is necessary to be able to read and to understand in depth the music that, in reality, is a long duet of piano and song. 

- How did you transfer the musicality of the word to that of the singing voice?

-The poetry of Neruda awaken the senses, is theatrical in an old-fashioned way.  Each word is loaded with theater and drama. The options were to write melody accompany the words or to write music, but with the sensory wealth that opens us up to Neruda’s fascinating world. The complexity of the music is related to that of the text, so that it is not necessary to listen to distill pure melody.  One must concentrate in the poems, leaving the melody to present itself alone.

 


 

NDO is privileged to have as its Patron, internationally renowned tenor and conductor José Cura. Maestro Cura, originally from Argentina and now based in Madrid, has a deep interest in finding ways to help younger singers gain experience and so help further their careers.

This is a unique opportunity for music lovers from Devon and the UK, to enjoy the passion, commitment and artistry that Maestro Cura brings to everything he does. In addition to the Masterclass, there will be a garden party Concert performance of opera arias and ensembles given by all twelve singers in the afternoon of May 7th; Maestro Cura will then present the prize. On the morning of May 6th, Anthony Legge (Director of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music) and Alex Ingram, conductor and music coach, will be bringing their expertise in working with opera accompanists to a Repetiteurs' Seminar. Devon singers will have an opportunity to take part in this seminar.

The performances will be held in the charming Jubilee Hall of Stover– an independent school set in its own 60 acres of beautiful grounds in the glorious Devon countryside. Stover is situated on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park, just a few miles west of the market town of Newton Abbot and a mile from the main A38 carriageway between Exeter and Plymouth.

 

“I truly hope that New Devon Opera enjoys economic success which will allow the company to develop in a strong and confident way. "  José Cura

 

Opportunities in the UK to see or hear international opera singer and conductor, José Cura, are rare but on  6 May 2007, Maestro Cura will come to Devon to give a public Masterclass with twelve talented singers he has chosen – and who will represent some of the best of today's young opera singers.

A compelling actor and charismatic stage performer, Cura has been featured in numerous telecasts of opera productions and concerts from venues around the world. Blessed with a rich burnished tenor voice, mesmerizing stage presence and abundant charm, José Cura has been thrilling audiences since he first burst onto the international music scene. His intelligent, insightful – sometimes controversial, but always intense and unforgettable performances - have made him a household name to opera lovers the world over.

 But this success did not come easily. As Cura himself puts it:

“I moved from Argentina to Europe in 1991. I worked for two or three years in restaurants – my wife worked with me, washing dishes – and we did many things a lot of people wouldn't think about doing. We had a very hard life. We lived in a garage for one year because we couldn't pay the rent and we heated the garage with a small fire, with me gathering wood in the middle of the night!”

 It is this memory that drives his desire to help promising singers to gain the skills and experience needed to succeed in the notoriously tough and challenging world of international opera. Working together with New Devon Opera – the south west's resident professional opera company, of which he is Patron – the aim is to build this project to become a regular national event in Devon.

 This is a unique opportunity for music lovers from Devon and the UK, to enjoy the passion, commitment and artistry that Maestro Cura brings to everything he does. In addition to the Masterclass, the re will be a garden party Concert performance of opera arias and ensembles given by all twelve singers in the afternoon of May 7th; and, Maestro Cura will present a prize. On the morning of May 6th, Anthony Legge (Director of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music) and Alex Ingram, conductor and music coach, will be bringing their expertise in working with opera accompanists to a Repetiteurs' Seminar. Devon singers will have an opportunity to take part in this seminar.

 The performances will be held in the charming Jubilee Hall of Stover– an independent school set in its own 60 acres of beautiful grounds in the glorious Devon countryside. Stover is situated on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park, just a few miles west of the market town of Newton Abbot and a mile from the main A38 carriageway between Exeter and Plymouth

An international star, José Cura has received many awards and prizes for artistic excellence. In 1994, he was awarded first place at the International Singers Competition (Operalia) as well as the Prize of the Public; in 1997 he was awarded the Abbiati Award (Italian critics' prize) for his performances in two Mascagni operas - “Iris” in Rome and “Cavalleria Rusticana” with the Ravenna Festival- and in “Il Corsaro” in Turin. A year later, he earned the Orphée d'Or from Académie du Disque Lyrique. In 1999, the Buenos Aires ' CAECE University awarded him the distinction of “Professor Honoris Causae” and the city of Rosario the one of “Citizen of Honour.” He received the ECHO award for Sänger des Jahres from the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis in 2000.

In 2000, Cura was knighted “Chevalier de l'Ordre du Cedre” by the Lebanese Government.

Cura was honored as the Best Artist of the Year from Grup de Liceistes in Barcelona in 2001, received the Ewa Czeszejko - Sochacka Foundation Award (Poland) in 2002, and the Sirmione Catullus Prize honoring him as one of the great singers of opera in 2003. In recognition of his artistry and in acknowledgement of the great affection and high esteem in which he is held in the country, José Cura was awarded “Citizen of Honour” by the City of Vesprem, Hungary, in August, 2004.

Year 2005 proved a banner year for José Cura.  In November, The British Youth Opera (BYO) announced that he had accepted the position of honorary Vice President of the company.  This appointment, made in recognition of Cura's dedication to teaching, mentoring, and supporting young talent, adds his name to a distinguished list of benefactors including such luminaries as Dame Janet Baker, Dame Felicity Lott, and Bryn Terfel.   Cura also became Patron of New Devon Opera.  The company, established to promote and tour opera within Devon and the South West of England, is a non-profit organization that promotes charitable and educational productions and concerts. 

In December 2005, Cura became the second recipient of the City of Piacenza-Giuseppi Verdi award in recognition of his contribution to classical music as both singer and conductor.  The award, individually designed to honor the winner, is given annually to an artist of international significance who has inspired critical approval and audience affection.  That Cura receives the recognition so soon after its establishment is tribute to his reputation as one of the greatest tenors of the age, his artistry on the podium, his warm relationship with fans, his personal support of young musicians and his on-going involvement in charitable organizations.

 


Learning from a Maestro

By Laura Joint


World famous tenor José Cura comes to Devon to hold a masterclass with 12 lucky singers.

Internationally renowned opera star José Cura will be in Devon in May, to hold a masterclass with 12 singers.

The Argentinian-born tenor, now based in Madrid, agreed to take the classes after becoming patron of professional touring company, New Devon Opera.  The opera company, based in South Devon, publicised the project in 2006 - and more than 100 singers from all over the world have applied to be selected.

That number will be whittled down to around 25 for auditions in London on 24-26 April. José Cura will then choose the final 12 who will be in the masterclass in Devon on 6-7 May.

It's hoped the José Cura Opera Project will unearth a new generation of opera stars.

The public will be able to watch the classes at Jubilee Hall, Stover School, near Newton Abbot on 6 May. Then, on 7 May, the 12 will perform mainly ensemble pieces at Stover School - in front of an audience including the Maestro himself.

The tenor will present the singer who impresses him the most with a special prize.

José Cura is in England in April and May, as he is performing in the Verdi opera, Stiffelio, at the Royal Opera House in London.

Linda Hughes, chair of New Devon Opera, says it's a real coup to bring José Cura to the county.

"This really puts Devon on the map," Linda told BBC Devon. "People from all over the world have taken an interest in this." 

Linda hopes that the event can be repeated in the future - but on an even bigger scale. New Devon Opera was formed in 2004 and auditions for performers locally and nationally. It is a not-for-profit charity.

In a classic case of 'if you don't ask, you don't get,' Linda approached José Cura about the role of patron.

"I was speaking to him at the Royal Opera House and I asked him. And he said yes!".

 


 

Debut of José Cura as Stage Director

 EFE
El Universal
Berlin
Thursday December 27, 2007
 

(gist)


The Argentine tenor will direct Verdi’s Masked Ball next 17 May in the German city of Cologne   

 

Argentine tenor and conductor José Cura has decided to explore new artistic horizons and will try his luck as a stage director—but without abandoning singing for the simple reason that “singing pays my bills.”

"As a director I am a novice and therefore not paid well. In fact, my actual pay as director for the entire production is more or less what I earn as a tenor in a single evening," revealed Cura in an interview with the magazine "Opernglas."

Cura, living for years in Spain, makes his debut as director on 17 May in Cologne (western German), and the production chosen for this initial effort is the opera Un ballo in maschera (A masked ball) by Giuseppe Verdi.

“Germany is an ideal place for any producer, because the public here is more open-minded than almost anywhere else,” maintains Cura, who nevertheless feels comforted that “my big challenge as director is to achieve a balance between modernity and tradition.”

The musician considers this experience as “one more step in my career, just as many actors, after years of experience, decide they want to be on the other side of the camera,” but he insists that not only will he not abandon his role of singer but he will also expand his repertoire.

Among Cura’s future plans is Parsifal by Richard Wagner, an opera he will sing in concert version in 2010 at the Deutsche Oper Berlin that offers a major new challenge for the tenor--and not just because, in this case, he must sing in German.

 Article - El Universal EFE - Cura debus as stage director

 

 


 

José Cura’s Debut as a Director

Der Standard

 27 December 2007

(gist)


Hamburg - The Argentine star tenor and conductor José Cura now tries being an opera director. On 17 May 2008, the 45-year-old will make his directorial debut at the Cologne Opera with Verdi's "Masked Ball."  

"Of course, Germany is a wonderful place for directors, as the audience here is really much more open than elsewhere," said Cura in an interview with the magazine "Das Opernglas." However, this also serves as an excuse for the director who ignores the balance between modernity and tradition: "That is for me the big challenge."

Acting Interests

Acting is of special interest to him, said the world-renowned singer. "Directing is just the next step - similar to the famous movie actors who, after years of experience with good directors, change sides. In cinema it seems much more common and accepted than in musical theater."

His main focus will continue on the singing, assures Cura. "For a very simple reason: With the singing I pay my bills." As a director he is a novice and is paid accordingly. "My current job as a director - for the entire production - corresponds more or less to what I earn as a tenor in one evening."

In the future the singer will challenge himself with Wagner roles. In 2010, he will sing “Parsifal” in concert at the Deutsche Opera. "This is my first step to see how it goes." Wagner excites him on the one hand, but frightens him on the other because of the language. (APA / dpa)

 


 

“The flag is our identity: It is not the DNI* but the DNA of each one of us.”

 La Capital

June 2007

José Cura says that singing at the Anniversary Celebration of the Monument was something very special. The tenor from Rosario, who now lives in Europe, admitted that he felt flattered by the call.

Rosario opera singer José Cura joined in the festivities marking the 50th anniversary of the National Monument to the Flag with a rendition of the “Canción a la bandera”, which is an aria from Héctor Panizza’s opera “Aurora”. Visibly moved, the tenor, who lives in Europe where he has forged a solid career for himself, talked with La Capital, confirming the saying that your homeland is in essence your dialog with the land of your childhood: “When I close my eyes, the first thing I see is my childhood home, the neighborhood of those early years”, the artist confessed.

 

Applauded by the critics for his interpretations of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello” and Saint-Saens’ “Samson”, Cura is also recognized for being the first artist to have sung and conducted the same work simultaneously as well as being the first to combine vocal with symphonic performances in the same concert.

 

Emphatic, commanding and loquacious, Cura steps for a moment out of his role of operatic artist with international stature and enters onto the path of confession admitting that to sing under the circumstance that brought him here is somewhat different.

 

--What does it mean to you to sing at the Flag Monument?

 

--To sing the “Canción a la bandera” at the Monument is a bit overwhelming. It’s not an ordinary concert; it’s about this place, this particular spot and the song of it. There can be nothing any more intense than that.

 

--Does this place bring back memories for you?

 

--It’s not only about memories but also about a sense of identity. The Flag Monument is number one in what one identifies with as a Rosarino. Perhaps number two is Newell’s and Central….After having sung “Canción a la Bandera” in England, in Japan and in Australia, it is something else altogether to sing it here.

 

--What does the flag mean to an exile?

 

--No, not an exile because that implies a person who leaves with a kick in the backside, so to speak. This man is not an exile but an emigrant. Just as our grandparents came here from far away in search of good fortune, many of us left from here to go far off in search of ours. And the flag is a means of identification, it’s our identity, and it isn’t even just the DNI—it’s the DNA of each one of us.

 

--Eight years ago, you sang in this very spot before a crowd, and we were not able to find out what kind of aftertaste that experience left. What happened on that occasion?

 

--We were expecting 5,000 people and 40,000 came. It was an extraordinary event, full of warmth and affection. It’s a tremendous memory.

 

--When you close your eyes and think of Rosario, what do you see?

 

--The first thing I’m likely to see when I close my eyes is my childhood home and the neighborhood of those early years. It’s a place that has changed very much. Clearly, thirty years have passed….

 

--The reason for this visit to Argentina is the presentation of other programs, like those you are going to give with the cast from the Colón at the Coliseo of Buenos Aires Theater.…

 

--No. The initial reason for this visit was the celebration of my parents’ fifty years of marriage, an anniversary that coincides with that of the Monument. Later, it became known that I was coming since it is practically out of a question that no one is going to find out when one moves about, and from there, the invitations began to arrive. In this case, they are especially appreciated because taking part in this celebration is something special. Afterwards the one from the Colón came up and the concert in the Mozarteum here. In the end, I’m working more during this vacation than I do when I’m at home.

 

--What has been going on with your “Aurora” CD?

 

--That was a disc dedicated to my country which, to be precise, does begin with the “Canción a la Bandera”. I recorded that CD in 2001 and dedicated it to Argentina, but it was never sold in the country. We are not managing to set up agreements with any distributor. It was a CD dedicated to this country and sold throughout the world, but here, it’s sad to say, no one knows about it. To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Monument, the City of Rosario has entered into an agreement with my company to buy 5,000 discs at cost. We are not making anything, but at least, in a symbolic way, it will be found at this commemoration, when it should have been here all along and should have sold thousands of copies simply because it is dedicated to Argentina, regardless of whether the artist, who made it, is liked or not. When a disc is dedicated to a country, it is (really) dedicated to its people. Dedicated to my fellow Argentineans, it is a CD to which they have no access. Market considerations take precedence over sentimental ones. Let’s hope that 5,000 copies are not enough.

 

*DNI-Documento Nacional de Identidad 

Translation: Monica B.

 

 


 

A Conversation with José Cura

Entre Notas

María Josefina Bertossi

When José Cura came down punctually to the lobby to give us his final interview before returning to Europe, I thought it was gracious of him not to have canceled after the effort of the previous night’s concert when he sang while suffering from an untimely cold (for a singer, a cold is always untimely).  Besides, it was a very cold 9 July (Rosarinos hardly remember when it was really cold) and many expected snow. I will never forget when it snowed in Rosario a few days before my entire family was involved in a car accident and we saw the snow on the windows of the hospital, recalled the Rosarino musician (singer, director, composer) who now lives in Madrid but works in capital cities around the world.

“Have you ever tried to pick a flower with a glove?” was the first thing we heard from José Cura from the stage.  The opening question was an attempt to explain how it feels for a musician to sing with a cold and, in addition, to share the recital and the respiratory affliction with the pianist, Rosarino Eduardo Delgado, also ill with a cold.

The audience filled the auditorium of the Teatro Fundación for the concert on 8 July, the main event of the 25th anniversary of the Mozarteum of Rosario, which had been announced as a program of chamber music, a difficult assignment considering the health (of the artists) since this repertoire needs vocal subtleties, but we can attest that the artist carried it off with experience that comes from the position, interspersed with enjoyable and sincere comments.

“Last night I took a beating and this morning I rose voiceless.  Anyone who isn’t in this career has no idea of the significance of singing with bronchitis.  I did well and believe those who saw it liked it,” Cura said with satisfaction.

There were those who hoped you would sing opera even though chamber music had been announced.

The program said chamber music.  I would love to do all of my concerts this way. I do not enjoy singing arias in concerts because opera in concert is monastic and the audience always expects me to sing the same thing.  Besides, opera cannot be done with just a piano and for a concert as important as this anniversary it had to be a chamber concert with piano.

The auditorium of a theater can be a good thermometer to measure the relationship between an artist and the public, and it is there that we listened as some talked about this singer.  José Cura is the full name of an international artist, but those who knew him in Rosario, in Fisherton, and from childhood they have called him what they always called him:  José Luis.

José was designated by the exigencies of the program space because José Luis is too long.  Only in Rosario do they call my José Luis.

The concert represented the world-wide release of Sonetos, a work based on the verses of Pablo Neruda with music by José Cura.   The composer explained that once in a dressing room somebody left him a book of poems by Neruda, which he fortuitously opened to the page of the sonnet that begins “When I die, I want your hands on my eyes.” 

The premiere was not assured, however, since authorization from the heirs of the Chilean poet arrived only four days earlier.

Here in Rosario we saw you and we listened to a singer, composer and director.  How difficult is it on the international level to impose the role of director and composer on the figure known as a singer?

I never impose it.  I propose.  Those who like the proposal accept it, those who do not, don’t.  I conduct a lot and in very important locales such as the Vienna Opera and when you direct the Wiener, you conduct one of the significant orchestras in the world, the same is true in London with the London Symphony.   There is never this sort of question because when one stands in front of the orchestra for the first three minutes the musicians see the tenor but then no longer, because to move forward without a professional musician [standing on the podium] would not be possible.  The preconception comes from the press, which does not understand and uses tenor as a bad word.  To say someone is a tenor is like saying that she is a woman rather than a feminist, like referring to a stupid individual with no rights.

The buzz surrounding the concert was the announcement of the ‘music’ of José Cura.

Because of it, the highest points in the entire night were the sonnets, twenty minutes of music of very strong intensity and that says a lot.  When you write something people have not felt, makes no sense to them, they start fidgeting and begin coughing.  Therefore, it was very emotional, and one must not forget this was a premier, that while the audience was listening, and it is complicated [music], they were already analyzing it and enjoying it.  There was a lot of work (in composing), hard work with theatrical awareness.  Every harmony and every melodic turn tried to continue the poetry of Neruda.

In our city, there is a lot of music and many musicians who feel dissatisfied with what they can and cannot do.

There is something everyone needs to know:  nobody comes to seek you out, and this is true not only in Rosario or in Argentina:  it is that way in the world.  Youth has a tendency to say ‘I am the best in the world but no one knows it.’  I know many cases like that, both colleagues and students, who come to me and say ‘Maestro, what do I have to do?’ and I tell them they must go out and bang on doors, and they say to me ‘But what happened that made you so lucky?’   Luck?  I have spent more than thirty years doing this and only in the last ten or fifteen years have I begun to see the fruit.  Recently, in the last five years of my life, I have been transformed by an event that is very easy to obtain—the event of maturing.

Sometimes, someone will ask me how it feels to be famous and I say nothing at all, because it is so easy to become famous.  Nowadays, with the mass media, being a celebrity is almost free.  The difference is to achieve the sort of fame that is transformed into greatness.

Sometimes the decision to leave or to stay can be very difficult.

Emigration is always difficult.  Even though now it is easier for us than for our grandparents, that does not stop it from being traumatic.  When you move to a country where nobody greets you, nobody knows you, and when you present your work visa they look at you badly simply because you are Argentine or because you are a foreigner, and there is nothing you do to avoid it, and that it what happened to my wife and me.  There were many people who told me not to leave but if I had a contract I would not have gone.   For example, in Buenos Aires some singers asked me how they were singing and I said good.  “Well, then, if you have a contract you can send it to me.” No, it doesn’t work like that. 

The concert ended with “Aurora” by Hector Panizza, the same aria that was sung together with the audience at the Monument to the Flag, the same one which he also occasionally surprises the English audiences.  Despite the respiratory problem that appeared in the last note of the aria, when the audience asked one more from him, Cura , with humility, agreed to one last one.

You have a work dedicated to the Malvinas.  What has happened to it has not be produce?

I knocked on two or three doors and they were not opened, nobody seemed interested in it.  Perhaps it was not the moment.  When I wrote it in 1984, I was 22 years old and we were entering a democracy.  It is a work for two choirs, with the dream being there would be an Argentine choir and an English choir, quartet soloist, a children’s choir, an orchestra—a very big, very expensive work.  I wrote it in ’84 and there it remains, and if some day I decide to do it perhaps I will have to revise it, because many years have passed and with them a lot of experience has been gained, or maybe not, because perhaps it would be nice to show what a boy of 21 wrote at that age.

 



Interval Drink with José Cura
 

Classic FM

Sarah Kirkup

May 2007


What are you drinking?
A Spanish red wine from my beautiful cellar!

You're the patron of New Devon Opera...
The point of the project is to create an operatic activity in Devon. We have auditions this April and, depending on the quality of the singers we get, we'll see how far we can go.

Why do you want to help?
I believe in the continuation of the human species! Also, I am known for being a rebel, and it would be ridiculous to have fought all your life to transmit your opinions and then to die without leaving your legacy.

You're in Stiffelio at Covent Garden from 20th April...
With Stiffelio, I am allowed to be a dark character, and I like that. The one-dimensional thinking of most tenor roles is exhausting - it's so limiting having to behave like the beautiful lover all the time!

Acting's important to you...
You have to be believable. The best compliment I had was at the end of Otello, when an epileptic came up to me and said: "I saw myself in you". I had studied for a long time the reactions of epileptics; the ability to observe has to be the main quality of any actor, I think.

You conduct as well...
Singers respond well to me as a conductor because if there's anyone who knows what the hell they're going through, it's me. I conduct and sing at the same time, but only encores; a whole concert would be a killer!

What's your next ambition?
I'd love to sing under the baton of Simon Rattle. I like his fresh approach to music.

 


 

José Cura:  Titan of the Opera

Le Nueva

He has just arrived in the country to dazzle us with his talent.  This Argentine tenor, who has already triumphed in Europe, will sing today in Rosario.  

 [gist translation]

José Cura is one of the tenors in greatest demand on the international stage and also one of the most popular figures in classical music, but he does not agree with such high praise. His is a multifaceted talent (singer, conductor, composer, guitarist, régisseur and businessman), impelled by a spirit always eager for creativity and challenges, leading him on a journey toward artistic satisfaction.  Always on the edge of frenzy from this fascinating life, Cura’s temperament seems to have been forged to enjoy facing risks, as a real titan, and not in vain has it been written that his is one of the greatest voices of the century.  For all that, and in spite of his youth, José Cura has already joined Olympus as one of the mythical singers [sacred monsters] of the 21st century.  

An anticipated return home

He returned to Argentina, like one of our more prodigal sons, for a concert production of the opera Samson et Dalila by Teatro Colon, but most of all to his audience, to their affection, and to his family.  “After 16 years in Europe, my house, in a physical sense, is no longer in Argentina.  But my feelings, my memories and my most intimate experiences, these will always continue to remain in my country.  I am happy to return and meet again with the people with whom I grew up in an artistic sense.  I want to see the countrymen with whom I was lucky enough to share the ‘kindergarten’ of the stage,” recounted José in a talk in Berlin, Germany, not long before he returned home. And then, as it could not otherwise be, speaking of reunions inevitably means speaking of memories and the conversation, with Cura showing a less familiar side, could not help but begin with his beloved hometown, Rosario.

Memories of Rosario

“The oldest images I retain of Rosario,” he recalls, “are the first two or three days of primary school.  I do not know if that was in the LaSalle or San José School, because after three days my parents withdrew me to enroll me into a new school, one that had just opened by the brothers of Saint Patrick of Ireland.  We were the first class.  There were barely two rooms and a patio.  My class was also the first class to graduate.  Today it is a great school, one of the biggest in Rosario. The last time I was in Argentina, in 1999, I visited the school, I met with the students and I encountered a couple of my former companions.  So there is where I begin my memories of Rosario, in the little school of St Patrick. In reality so many years have passed…and it is only now when I return that I perceive this passing of time.”  The imaginary route soon pass by his old house near the river and the second one in the first residential district of Rosario.  Almost immediately, and understanding the strong connection that joins them, music arrived and, of course, with it the beginning of the history whose future chapters would cause him to do nothing less than conquer the world.  “Music always formed part of my family.  My father played piano well enough.  I have a very clear image of when, as a boy, I watched him, seated at the piano, playing Chopin and Liszt.  Then he tried to imprint on me his own story as a boy, sending me to study piano with a teacher in the neighborhood.  But the initiative did not work.”  After a few months, the teacher dismissed his young student with a brief note sent to his parents, in which he explained, sadly, that it would be best to wait for a time when an interest [in music] developed in José that had, to that moment, not been demonstrated, and at the same time he recommended looking for a hobby that appealed to the young man, because musical sensitivity did not seem strong in him.  “It was probably true at that time, and the best example was that, from that moment, I began to devote myself to rugby.” 

Musical Beginnings

But when did he discover his extraordinary vocation in music and what was that cause that permanently awoke his sensibilities?  Oddly and without warning, that event was the result of an examination to enter secondary school.  “I was there with one of my best friends.  He played his guitar, the Beatles were fashionable, and he created a lot of interest.  I learned to play immediately and the experience awoke the calling that had been sleeping within me.”  This was the friend who gave him his first set of tools.  Soon, his father contacted Ernesto Bitteti (an old family friend), and Bitteti recommended a professor with whom to study seriously.  That began the history with the guitar.  “With my exuberant and extroverted personality, I was like a time bomb.  I learned to play well enough, although always somewhat hampered by my very large hands…the things were causing me quite a lot of work but I managed to have good results.  The guitar, though, very quickly made me feel small, not in a technical sense but in the fact of it being a very introverted instrument.  For that reason, I entered the Conservatory in Rosario to study conducting and composition.” 

One of his teachers—who at the time was the director of the conservatory—gave him the advice that changed his life forever:  “His comment determined who I am today.  He said to me: To become a better conductor and composer, you will have to study singing.’  Indeed, following his advice I began singing opera and ended up becoming a singer.”  Everything that happened after that is more or less well-known history; in 1983 he auditioned for the Teatro Colon, in 1991 he left for Europe, where success and fame waited for him with open arms and rewarded him for years of sacrifice in pursuit of his dream.

Today, and for some time, José Cura has been one of the biggest names on the international music scene.  He is an exceptional professional who believes art is a profound path in life.

“One of the characteristics of classical music is that it is one of the few forms of art that remains, between one person and another, a single thing:  to the work of art itself. We interpret that work live, without networks and without lies.  That artisan concept is probably the most important aspect of music and, in my opinion, why it continues to work, although as a spectacle it may be a little anachronistic.  It is an art of skin and bone, fact with flood, sweat and tears, and for that reason it is an expression that stays alive. It is my hope that all people, at least once in their lives, are touched by this sensation, so powerful and so extraordinary.”

Love of Cerulean Blue and White

In one of his latest disks, called Aurora, José Cura included a special dedication to ‘his country’ and printed the Argentine flag on the cover.  After launch of that record (2002) Cura said, “I want my people to know that, for the entire world and with much pride, José Cura is an Argentine tenor.” 

 


 

Cura

 

Interview with José Cura

LaPorta Clássica

Ofèlia Roca

GIST TRANSLATION

 

Ofèlia Roca:  What is the daily life of an opera singer like?

José Cura:  Pretty much that of any other person, I imagine.  However, since I am a very atypical case, I cannot offer a very reliable opinion. Perhaps a singer who dedicates himself only to opera has a more orderly life, more aseptic in the sense that he can take better care of himself.  Personally, since I devote myself to many things such as conducting orchestras, composing, and running my company, my life is quite complicated. Last night there was a late performance so today I could have slept until noon, but now I am on my way to Madrid because I have to check a few contracts and I have a few work meetings to discuss projects that we will be doing soon.  If the day had 29 hours it would not be enough for me.  This is a question you have to ask of an opera singer. . .  (laughs)

OR:  But you are an opera singer! Is there any negative part of your work?

José Cura:  All work has its negative aspects.  In mine, for example, the daring of wanting to be yourself, to create, to give your own reading to a character is little tolerated.  For the peace of mind of many…you have to be like this or that earlier artist whom the audience liked.  It is quite a strange thing to handle objectively.  One of the critics of Andrea Chénier said that Cura’s Andrea Chénier is very his, very Cura, and I said to myself:  Can I imagine this is positive?  No?

OR:  Yes, it is!

José Cura:  Although I do not know if it were written in a positive spirit, it is for me, and very much so.  If they wrote that Cura’s Andrea Chénier was very Domingo or very Carrerras, it would be bad for me because I would not have created anything new and bad for Plácido and José because to avoid risks I would have been copying them. I believe that there is a big part of the opera theater that still needs to make settlement with the respect to the passage of time.  The ordinary public does not want to go to the theater to see acts of 40 years ago. Vebal actors who do that would seem like terrible professionals.  If we asked singers to sing like Caruso, it would be like asking actors to act like Sara Bernhardt.  We would surely laugh since they were of other times and what was then brilliant is today comical. […]  To answer the question, I make a living from a beautiful profession. This makes it almost ‘forgettable’ that negative forces always exist.  

OR:  They call you the singing conductor.  Which passion began earlier?

José Cura:  It is not a question of passion, if not profession.  Being passionate is very nice but it often makes you lose objectivity:  hot heart and cold mind, that is the key to survival.  Conducting the orchestra is the profession I have lived with the longest.

OR:  Before singing?

José Cura:  I trained as a conductor and a composer.  The first time I stepped on the podium I was 15 years old.  On the other hand, the first time I sang as a profession, with a seriously paid contract, I was 28 or 29 years old.

OR:  So you began to study singing as a result of being a conductor.

José Cura:  Yes, as a complement to a conducting career, as well as studying other instruments.  I began to sing in semi-professional choirs without a defined vocal technique.  When I finally began to practice and discovered I had a good voice (laughs) I said to myself:  walk, look where!

OR:  When you sing, do you think as a conductor and do you conduct as if you were singing?

José Cura:  When I conduct, I phrase as a singer.  I believe a singer is lucky to be both the instrument and the instrumentalist.  Great ‘phrasing’ by an instrumentalist does not stop because an instrument is outside the body. The singer, however, expresses with his body and it is a privilege and if you manage to pass it on to the musicians in front of you it does make a big difference in the final result.

OR:  Talk to us about the character of Andrea Chénier that you have been performing since the beginning of your career and the difficulties that the tenor who sings this role must endure.   

José Cura:  It has enormous vocal difficulties, because it is a role that is quite badly written. Giordano was a great melodist; in fact, what is surprising in Andrea Chénier is that it is exactly that: to pick through these incredible melodies, unfortunately, for moments of great inspiration.  When the melody is not the main thing, Giordano fell down a little on compositional structure. Perhaps for that reason he is not considered at the genius level of Verdi or Puccini.  His melodies are sometimes so surprising that they can make more of an impression than Verdi or Puccini, but just a little bit gets into it and this makes interpretation very difficult. There are moments when the work works by itself and others when it has to be elevated by the stage work and through interpretation.  Sometimes I have the impression that Giordano reasoned more like an instrumentalist than a singer;  for that reason some of his lines are ‘very instrumental’ in his tessituras and extensions with the difficulties that the singer must endure.  They say that when Giordano went to see the premier, he said when leaving:  My God, what I have written. But it cannot be sung!  As a result, I will go so far as to annotate the score to cut some piece or to lower a tone if necessary.  But if this happens in a work from the repertoire like Andrea Chénier, you cannot even imagine what is like to sing a rare opera of Giordano like Siberia.  The main scene for the tenor (I can assure you of this because I have recorded it) is a killer.  I do not even want to think of what it must be to sing the entire opera.  For a while, Fedora was done often because Domingo and Carreras sang it a lot, and I even did many performances of Fedora but I stopped doing it.  Almost exclusively, any Giordano that is done is Andrea Chenier

OR:  The Liceu has not done it since season 1985-1986

José Cura:  It is not done often, as we were saying it is vocally very difficult and not many singers have it in their repertoire. The part of the baritone is the best of the work, the most interesting dramatically speaking, because is has various colors and evolves with the character throughout the opera.  Maddalena, however, is a more ordinary lírico-spinto soprano role, in the sense that it does not have big vocal stumbling blocks—no more than other operas of the genre, I mean—with a big aria that is very famous for being music in the movie Philadelphia.  The tenor is tremendous from the vocal point of view and perhaps for that reason this work is performed so rarely.  Although the Liceu has a number of performances there are three different casts, all three are excellent. Well, speaking about the tenor, my contribution is a little less good than the others….

OR:  It does not seem that way to me!  All the roles that you interpret must contribute something to your person, since you put yourself into its skin and psychology.  Is there some you appreciate more for some reason?

José Cura:  Most of the characters I portray are horrific human beings: if one is not a traitor (like Otello), then he is a degenerate (like Pinkerton) or one who sells out (like Radamés) or is a violent drunk (like Canio);  these I do not identify with….Perhaps the two roles that I do identify with, from the point of view of personality, are Andrea Chénier and Mario Cavaradossi:  two similar characters who stand up to defend [what he believes in] and die because of it.  The histories look alike, the formal structures of the two operas (Chénier and Tosca) are very similar as well:  the location of the arias, the context of the duets, are practically identical. The arias E lucevan le stelle and Come un bel dì di maggio are siblings…but although Come un bel dì di maggio is the ‘older’ one because Andrea Chénier precedes Tosca by four years, Tosca is the seamless masterpiece that Andrea Chénier is not.  Chénier and Cavaradossi are two positive characters in the human sense because they die for what they believe.  Perhaps for this reason I identify with them.  Although without any desire to die in a literal sense, you die every time you go on stage to do what you must do, asserting your right to be ‘yourself.’   And just as in Chénier the guillotine seals the death of the poet, at the end of a performance the sound of approval by the audience is, by analogy, the guillotine that could make the difference…this sword of Damocles is perhaps one of the most critical moments for an artist.  The theater is not a football pitch to release frustrations but a meeting place for the exchange of cultural messages.  If you do not like it, it is not necessary to whistle at the end, it is enough to be silent or, if you know beforehand how it goes (because you know-and do not like—the artists or because the production was promoted properly) simply don’t come.  So many of the people who whistle then come to ask for autographs…there is a lot of sickness!

OR:  Do you have any new roles in your repertoire?

José Cura:  I am already studying Le Cid by Massenet. Yesterday I started to get into the libretto and was going out to look for material, taking advantage of the fact that Spain is where most of the documents about this legendary person abound.

OR:  Do you study the time and history of the operas in which you sing?

José Cura:  Yes, when they are operas with storylines and personnel whose historical connotation can influence interpretation. 

OR:  Have you ever tackled a musical project that was a true challenge?

José Cura:   All, because the moment you come on the stage is always a challenge, you are always being tested.  Young singers say it is very hard to begin auditioning for a role.  Compare that to the pressure of having to ‘audition’ every time you walk on stage, not only for a single person but rather for a thousand or more, that one ends up being a walk….

OR:  How do you see the present opera world and what do you think will be its future?

José Cura:  Opera is currently in a great crisis.  But it is not a crisis of voices.  It is evident that there are no voices like before, there are voices of those now: better for a thousand reasons and worse for many others, as it has always been.  The future of opera will happen, I believe, when the artists and the public decide once and for all to put opera in that revolution which has already taken place in the spoken theater years ago. You have to break the pose, the mannerism.  To take the opera house into a new interpretive dimension.  To analyze the characters and make them live, no only from a historical point of view, but also in light of the current social conflict:  one example that I often give is that whether we like it or not, we can not interpret Otello any longer as we did 50 years ago.  Not even as we did ten years ago.  The interpretation of the emblematic character changed since 11 September 2001, a day that marks the beginning of the current crisis of fundamentalism, not just for Muslims, but also for the West.  We need to reread operas in the light of the context in which we are living.  The new generations are changing and struggling with risk—before leaving the stage you never know if this is the night someone will whistle—because any change involves risk and that means not everyone will be pleased.  Nevertheless, if we do not start to change, once this current generation of audience passes we will have to close the theaters.  The new generation of young audience reason with a different mentality: these are the children of film, of computer technologies so that when they approach an opera they find it such an artistic anachronism that they are no longer enticed to return.  A theater without an audience is a theater closed. 

 


 

La Commedia e' Finita

 

Novi List

Svjetlana Hribar

 4 June 2007

Why opera and ballet together?

Pagliacci is a short opera and, to avoid doing it with another short piece, we decided to go for something different, to try a new experiment. From the beginning the idea was to have a sort of Hamlet-like situation where first the toys (puppets) perform the comedy and then the real actors perform the comedy.

First I wanted to do the pantomime on Pagliacci’s music, making a special arrangement for the pantomime, but it was too serious and the toys were not appropriate for this kind of music. Then, we decided to use Respighi and Rossini because the music is very light and, in that sense, the moment where the toys are dancing the pantomime is more innocent: toys are really dancing and then they discover the human feelings of love and hate, become real human beings and the music becomes realistic and dramatic.

Why Pagliacci? Was there any special reason to do that?

The organizers of “The Rijeka Summer Nights" offered it to me. They asked me if I wanted to do it and I immediately starting to develop the dramaturgy. Instead of only one hour and ten minutes of music this version has two hours of music with the same leitmotiv as Pagliacci.

Why did you decide to perform in Rijeka again?

Last year's concert was a great success. I came in, did the rehearsal and the concert and left. This year I have the opportunity to stay a bit longer and meet the people and the city they live in as well as the ensemble I am going to work with again.

What do you think about the orchestra?

The company, the orchestra and the choir are very professional, all the technicians are always doing their best, and sometimes they stay late or come early. We are functioning as real company, because we are all together working to accomplish a common goal. All of that you can see and feel in Pagliacci, it is a company of clowns working together.

Is this yours first time as director?

I have already done some little pieces but this is the first time I am directing a complete opera, a complete show that, on top, is not only an opera but a whole concept which I have created from the start. At the beginning there is a monologue, as in fairy tales, where you find out what happened to these toys when they discover that they have feelings and become real human beings. When this happens, kids stop playing with them, they are not treated like toys but, all of a sudden, they are treated like real people. So they need to find the way of earning their living to survive. That is why they decide to create a company of "pagliacci" to go around working as "pagliacci" for living.

When did you get this kind of idea, earlier or just thinking of Pagliacci for this project in Rijeka?

I never thought about it until I was invited to do this in Rijeka. In the first meeting I had with Mani Gotovac and Nada Matoševic, I told them my concept. Together we went through my ideas, they told me what was possible to do and what was not, but they both agreed with the idea of having all three parts of this theatre drama, opera and ballet together in this project.

Nice, but you are also working on the set design for this show and we know that you are familiar with graphic design, photography. Is this your first set design?

No, it is not the first. Soon I am going to do Ballo in Cologne as a director and set designer. I already did scenes for that production.

When I decided to do the set design in Rijeka, I didn't want a real set. I just wanted the whole theatre open, like in a hall. The play starts in a school, the war has just finished (it could be any war that happened anywhere). People were poor.  They had no money to buy pencils, books, toys, all the people in this town brought to the school what they had at home. That's why I don't need a set, we just need a room and the stage is a room.

Yesterday I told the electricians not to worry about covering the lights because I want to be able to see everything.

Mentioning war, I read that in early days when you were young you also composed operas for children and some requiems for the Falklands. From whom did you inherit all those talents?

I was educated as composer and conductor. I began to sing at the age of 29 and since then I haven't had time to compose. When I was young I also started to act. When I started to sign I connected all these elements and developed the complete picture of myself. Later, I started to study design, set design.

You started to conduct at the age of 15, was it before the training?

I started to train when I was 12. That is not an unusual thing to do at that age - you have famous conductor Daniel Barenboim who started to conduct at the age of 11! In the art there are no rules: you just get there when you get there. Of course when I was 15 I didn't conduct Mahler, but some baroque music like Handel, small pieces. Little by little I started to conduct larger ones.

You recorded Rachmaninov with the Varsovia Orchestra. But there is also an interesting and sad story that is behind your decision to that piece…

Yes, it is really sweet and sad story. When I was appointed as conductor of the Sinfonia Varsovia, I had a friend who lived in Madrid. His name was Gacia-Navarro.  He also was a conductor and was like a brother to me. I was going to tell him the news of my engagement but instead I got the message that he had died 3 days before. I never got the chance to tell him the good news, never got the chance to ask him for some advice or ask him for some training...Because I already had engagements I wasn't able to be at his funeral. So, when I returned to the Orchestra, they asked me what I wanted to conduct in the first concert. I answered them that I wanted to do something that they had never played before. In the meanwhile I went back to Madrid and visited Navarro's family. There, I asked his wife if I could look through his library. Everything looked neatly placed except one score: Rachmaninov second symphony. I figured out what message my friend was sending me. The performance of that symphony was a great success not only in Poland, Vienna, Sweden and Portugal, we also recorded it and it was very well received by the international reviews because we had very fresh tempo and Slavic approach, not simply romantic.

You own a record company, Cuibar Phono Video, which recorded your performance with Sinfonia Varsovia…

This is the story that is connected with Rachmaninov. We wanted to record the concert but not as commercial one but as a souvenir. We wanted to have a recording of our first work together.

When we heard the recording we liked it, it was a very good performance. We decided to publish it-it would be a pity not to publish it! So we started to ask information on how to publish a new recording. We got to know that we had to have a legal label. So, in the beginning, we created the label only to be able to publish Rachmaninov. Later we changed the label a bit and we recorded Aurora, which was also a great success, then Dvorak's symphony and his Love songs, and now we are negotiating with one big international record company to do joint venture for future recordings.

What do you have in mind for future recording?

I don't know. Right now I have a special project: I am recording chamber music; just piano and voice of everywhere in the world, different style, different languages and only my voice. That's a dream I have and I would like to make it work! I have to start recording now and maybe keep recording for 6 or 7 years because it's a lots of repertoire.

When you learn new parts, how do you study them?

When I learn new piece I normally study alone. And when I have learned it thoroughly, only then, I start to work with the conductor who is going to conduct it directly. We start to discuss it together, finding colours and creating the roles together, I normally don't work with a repetiteur because I know to play the piano.

And now something different: you said that you are feeling wonderful in the Theatre. Are you staying in the hotel or in the apartment?

Unfortunately in a hotel. Not because I don't like hotels, we are in the very nice and beautiful hotel here, but because we are working at any time of the day, from early morning till late evening, so it is very difficult to find a restaurant to eat at that time. When you live in apartment you can easily prepare something to eat.

Do you like to cook?

Yes, I like cooking. I think every artist likes to cook.

Where do you go on your holidays?

My holidays are very complicated to negotiate with my family; because I am always traveling I want to spend my holidays at home but my wife and kids, that always stay at home, want to travel. So it is really difficult to negotiate this, but we find a compromise: we travel 15 days and spend 15 days at home.

How many children do you have?

Three, 2 boys and 1 girl - 19, 14, 11. We live in Madrid because it is great city, the weather is wonderful, the people are very nice, it is a very sunny country in central Europe where I am very comfortable and where they speak my language.

Do you work in Madrid or not?

No, never. I have the theory that it's better not to work too much in the city that you live, because in the city you are living you can be anonymous. You can walk and feel free to do whatever you want to do.

Is your wife your manager?

We have a company and she is the chief accountant: it's her profession.

What do you do in your free time? Do you practice any sport?

Well I try to practice as much as I can. It's difficult to practice any sport when you are moving all the time, but I do some gym, paddle tennis or even kung-fu.

How you keep your voice in good condition?

Well in this period, while I am working here, I am speaking a lot and you can hear that my voice is a bit tired.

What do you think is easier to keep: a male or a female voice rested?

I really don't know. Baritone and bass sing in the normal position, tenor is artificial. The first part of the voice of the tenor is normal and the second part is artificial. It is a very delicate voice to work with.

Have you seen any place apart from Rijeka?

I visited Opatija last year when I came for the concert. And now I am looking forward tomorrow, since I have the first free day in this long period and maybe we'll go to Opatija or somewhere else.

Last summer you were awarded the prize from Novi List. Did you get it and where did you put it?

The sculpture is in our office on top of  the bookcase, overseeing it.  I have to say very sincerely: it's not a thing you usually get. When I received it I put it there and said I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT.

Then because I see it every day I am beginning to see the movement of the wires, I am starting to understand this sculpture. And this is what always happens in art: you come to see a performance of a new piece and you don't like it at first. Then you hear it again and again and little by little you start to discover things. At the end you realize that it wasn't bad at all.

 


 

The Latest Challenge for José Cura is called "Un ballo in maschera”

 Heraldo / La Nacion / Terra

Directing a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera "Un ballo in maschera" is the latest challenge José Cura, the Argentine tenor now residing in Spain, has set for himself. "I was invited to do it next year by the Cologne Opera, Germany," he tells us in his dressing room at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden where he is currently starring in "Stiffelio," also by Verdi.

Cura says he is not bothered that some people think adding the role of stage director will short-change his singing and explains that he is simply interested in expanding his field of activities. "Un ballo in maschera is an opera I know well since I have both sung and conducted it.  It is an interesting work to experiment with,” points out the musician.  “The fact that the tenor (in Cologne) is a man of color will force me to rethink the whole drama,” he adds, referring to North American singer Ray M. Wade.

This year Cura will also direct a spectacle called "La Commedia e finita" in Rijeka (Croatia), based, he says, on the opera “I Pagliacci” by Leoncavallo.

Reviews

Regarding the opera that he has come here to sing, “Stiffelio”—the same one in which he made his London debut in 1995—Cura feels obliged to defend himself  against some of the reviews of the production that have recently been published. The critics have made note of the extraordinary vocal power of the principal singers, Cura (the Protestant pastor Stiffelio), the North American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (Lina, his adulterous wife) and the Italian baritone Roberto Frontali (her father).

The vocal power is so great that it often seems to overwhelm the Royal Opera’s orchestra, conducted by Mark Elder, and prevent a more nuanced interpretation. What actually happens, says Cura, is that in the first act, which takes place inside the house where the pastor’s family live, the set acts like a big sound box, amplifying the voices.

“We are completely aware of it. It is like singing in the shower of your home. Sometimes we even lack contact with the orchestra. We cannot hear [the orchestra] well,” adds Cura to explain, on the other hand, why it seems that the singers are sometimes out of tune. “In Vienna, where we have done the opera before, since it is a co-production, the fact that the orchestra pit was higher helped balance the whole ensemble,” says the tenor.

In the second act, which takes place in the cemetery near the church--that is to say not situated in the “closed box” of the first act--both orchestral and vocal sound  seem to find an even better balance in London [than in Vienna], so that the phrasing becomes clearer and it is easier to understand the original Italian.

More experience

Cura, who made his debut with the same role at ROH in 1995, admits that from the vocal point of view he was singing at that time “with great spontaneity" whereas today he sings with “great prudence.”  With the experience he has gained over the years (he is currently forty-five) he says he now understands Stiffelio better.  And he considers him a “tremendous character.”

The opera is about a Protestant minister who returns home to find his wife has been unfaithful to him with another: Raffaele de Leuthold (sung by the Cuban Reinaldo Macías).

For Cura, although the opera may insinuate that the deceived husband offers pardons after the murder of the seducer by Lina’s father, the pastor has lost his faith and does not excuse the adulteress as do the parishioners (the choir). “I believe that the relationship between Stiffelio and Lina is irreparably broken,” says the tenor, for whom the protagonist is “a tortured, very confused character.” “That's why,” he adds, “I have darkened my voice, to make this person even more forebidding.”

 


 

Learning from a Maestro

 BBC Devon

Laura Joint


World famous tenor José Cura has been in Devon for a masterclass with 12 lucky opera singers culminating in a gala concert at Stover School.
 


Internationally renowned opera star José Cura spent two days in Devon over the May Bank Holiday, holding a masterclass with 12 talented young singers.

The Argentinian-born tenor, now based in Madrid, agreed to take the classes after becoming patron of professional touring company, New Devon Opera.

The opera company, based in South Devon, publicised the project in 2006 - and more than 100 singers from all over the world applied to be selected.

That number was whittled down to 38, who attended auditions in London on 24-26 April.

Of those, 12 lucky singers were selected for a José Cura masterclass in Devon on 6-7 May - and two of them are from the South West. They are Tyrone Piper from Bere Alston and Suzanne Manuell from Cornwall.

It's hoped the José Cura Opera Project will unearth a new generation of opera stars.

The public were able to eavesdrop on the classes at Jubilee Hall, Stover School, near Newton Abbot on 6 May. Then, on 7 May, the 12 singers performed mainly ensemble pieces in front of an audience including the Maestro himself.

José Cura took time out from performing in the Verdi opera, Stiffelio, at the Royal Opera House in London.

Linda Hughes, chair of New Devon Opera, says it was a real coup to bring José Cura to the county.

"This really puts Devon on the map," Linda told BBC Devon. "People from all over the world have taken an interest in this.  It's been a truly marvellous and unforgettable experience."

Linda attended the auditions in London and said all the singers felt inspired by José Cura: "The feedback from the singers was fantastic," said Linda.

"Their feet aren't touching the ground. José listened to them all and gave them feedback.

"He is so charismatic - he's probably the top singer in the romantic repertoire at the moment. And I think he is enjoying this fantastically - I don't know where he gets his energy from."

Linda hopes that the event can be repeated in the future - but on an even bigger scale.  New Devon Opera was formed in 2004 and auditions for performers locally and nationally. It is a not-for-profit charity.

In a classic case of 'if you don't ask, you don't get,' Linda approached José Cura about the role of patron.

"I was speaking to him at the Royal Opera House and I asked him. And he said yes!".

 


 

 SIG

Published: October 19, 2007 5:20 p.m.

 

Jose Cura, tenor and maestro— the two jobs are combined in a single spectacular.  José Cura won fame as a tenor and now wants to become known as a conductor.  Proof is in the concert this Friday, The proof is in concert this Friday, Teatro San Carlos, in Lisbon.   

José Cura has not turned his back on music, but during the performance at San Carlos the voice given will not be that of the Argentine tenor but that of the Portuguese Symphony Orchestra.

Cura says that when he was a young musician he wanted to be an orchestra conductor and not a singer—and states that if he had to choose, he would be maestro.   

However, it was as a tenor that he became world famous and won the right to do whatever he likes without having to worry about financial matters.  

According to José Cura, the two professions are very different:  “The director has a more intellectual work, he has to coordinate many people, while the singer is only responsible for himself.”

In Teatro San Carlos, José Cura will direct one of the major works of Beethoven with the intensity and the drama that characterizes him as an opera singer.

He says that addressing the 9th Symphony of Beethoven as a conductor is much like it is for a tenor to sing Verdi’s Otello. “It is the very top of what you can dream.  And I will lead it [the symphony] as I believe Beethoven would like it to be conducted,” Cura says.

José Cura will also sing some opera arias during the first part of the concert as part of the half and half format invented by the tenor and conductor.

 

 

 


 

NANCY Master Class

Forum Opéra

 

Concert lyrique final des master classes de José Cura

Prélude, ouverture, airs et duos d’opéras de :

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Camille Saint-Saëns 1835-1921
Jules Massenet 1842-1912
Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919)
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

José Cura, ténor, Artistes lyriques
Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy
Directions musicales : José Cura; Mario De Rose

Nancy, Opéra national de Nancy et de Lorraine,
Dimanche 2 septembre 2007

 

[gist translation]

 

 

The operatic tradition of the City of Dukes de Lorraine has been well established for years and many natives of Nancy remember - and have carefully preserve the programs - the fabulous lyric seasons of the [19]50s, when a new spectacle would be presented every week!  It was not rare to attend, to list only two titles, Postillon de Longjumeau by Adolphe Adams or La Poupée by Edmond Audran.  Over the years the city has not been able to preserve such recurrences of opera magic but has continued to treat the public with high quality entertainment presented by artists of national and international fame.

Indeed, it was a frequent occurrence to hear those to whom we added, after their names, “from the opera” to indicate they were glorious residents of the Paris Opera--Mado Robin, Jacqueline Brumaire, Régine Crespin, Guy Chauvet, Henri Legay, Michel Dens, Gabriel Baquier, Alain Vanzo.   The Opera of Nancy also welcomed great international stars and we regularly found Piero Cappuccilli, Rolando Panerai, Nicola Rossi Lemeni, Sesto Bruscantini, Paolo Montarsolo, Ruggero Raimondi, and Fedora Barbieri alongside other artists from Europe and even from Asia. Sometimes the biggest of the big pass through Nancy, such as Lucia Valentini Terrani and, before unrolling the red carpet for José Cura, a great singer of today, his illustrious predecessor-tenors: Giacomo Lauri Volpi, Luis Mariano and Carlo Bergonzi.

It was a time when the people supported this opera and in the late 60s the first association promoting lectures and brochures to represent the works on the opera’s season, as well as hosting open receptions with the artists, was born. Today, the city has four (!) [of these associations] and one of them, Nancy Opéra Passion, had a surprise for the public that reflected the splendours of the not-so-distant past. …..We can see what creates the ‘passion’ in the title of the association:  bring an artist of the calibre of José Cura, who returns to France after an absence of six years, and allow us, a fabulous once-in-a-lifetime chance, to “draw near this immense artist,” according to the President [of the association, Jacques Delfosse].

[...]

Now it is time to exclaim, much as Tonio from Pagliacci comes in front of the curtain to explain in Leoncavallo's brilliant conceived Prologue: "Andiam, incominciate!” (Let us go, begin!).

It is precisely the Prelude from Pagliacci that the orchestra attacks, spread out widely and in an impressive way for the public most familiar with it jammed into its “Golfo mistico,” to use once more the attractive Italian expression for the orchestra pit.  Curiously, it is not José Cura who directs…we know, however, of the double talent of this artist, the one who becomes a conductor to be more still, if one can say so, to listen to the singers.

We notice the energy and heat with which Mario De Rose (José Cura’s assistant) attacks and drives the tormented music of Leoncavallo, but what are they going to do as the prelude breaks off so that the baritone can appear in front of the curtain? We get the answer and a surprise:  it is no less than José Cura, the great tenor, who sings the part of the baritone!  In doing so he takes up the practice of outstanding tenors such as the incomparable Mario Del Monaco, tenors whose span of vocal registers allows them this performance.

We discover just like that the measure of this Artist:  the exceptional cream and quality of the timbre, combined with perfect control of vocal emission and a warmly Latin vibration and an interpreter who obviously ‘lives’ what he sings.  One does not need more to conquer this curious public, even if he is already known, and it did not end the evening's surprises. . . . .

With surprising ease, José Cura addresses the public, jokes with them and then introduces the first artist, Stéphanie Vernerin, from France, who sings with attractive fruity tones Musetta’s waltz from La Bohéme (G. Puccini).   One hardly recovers from the quality of the timbre and the singing of this young soprano, who began in 2004, when José Cura underlines the peculiarity of the bass which he introduces.  Jan St’ Ava come from the Czech Republic and is only nineteen years old but nevertheless has a voice with a cavernous low register enhanced by a brilliant middle and with the capability of bringing to life "Vecchia zimarra", the famous, if brief, intense aria of the philosopher Colline from La Bohéme.

It was again Puccini whom we hear next and Marie Karall (France), having only begun studying last year, astonishes us with a big voice, full in all the registers and giving again grace and passion to "O Mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi.  For the public who did not attend the master class the day before, no one could have suspected the miracle wrought by the “Maestro.” This soprano had arrived with a narrow, badly placed and poorly controlled voice.  José Cura, in trying to remedy this disaster, eventually said to her:  “Imagine you sing Tosca!”  And the artist, finally breaking free of herself and releasing her voice, succeeded in reaching the magnificent notes.

The tenor Avi Klemberg (France) has been working for four years but it is not only he who sings.  It is José Cura, who not only conducts the orchestra with love but also assumes the part of the baritone (!) at the beginning of the aria.  It is the brief but warm “Addio fiorito asil,” from the always charming Puccini (Madama Butterfly), which Klemberg sings in a beautiful lyric tenor with delicate high notes,  reliably and with confidence.

Maria Bisso, though Spanish, is a fellow countryman of José Cura since she was born in Buenos Aires.  She took a training course at that city’s famous “Teatro Colón,” a real bastion of Italian opera in Latin America, and won the 2001 International Competition Maria de São Paulo in Brazil. She sang nothing less than "Regnava nel silenzio,” the opening soprano aria in Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti. 

The means of expression explains more than anything the particular difficulty in this aria, taken straight from the Italian romantic spirit: a dreamy and delicate song but at the same time passionate, a prisoner of the era, so to speak, of vocal exercises and very shrill sections in musical expression.  Thus we are astonished that this substantial, firm, almost hard, voice was capable of such well-driven vocalism and assured high notes and ‘density.’ The contrast is most striking when compared with the next artist, a French mezzo-soprano of Italian origin, Alexia Ercolani, who began study in 2003.  The aria “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Samson et Dalila (C. Saint-Saëns) places emphasis on the lower register and she is endowed with an impressive vibrato which blurs in the well-projected higher notes…and what a Samson responds to her!  The conductor, José Cura, who in jest, replaces the lover’s final response “Dalila!  I love you!” with an ecstatic but well good balance:  “Alexia!  I love you!”

From South Korea comes baritone Changhan Lim who has worked in France since 2003 with such artists as Elisabeth Vidal, André Cognet and Michèle Command and who has already sung on stage in La Bohéme, Carmen, Cavalleria rusticana and in the title role in Don Giovanni. A beautiful lower register and a luxurious middle as well as [vocal] suppleness, all the attributes of a valued baritone, are here put into service in the aria “Vision fugitive” from Hérodiade by Massenet, and leads us to predict a beautiful career.

A duet rarely performed in concert finishes the first half.  Drawn from Pagliacci, the duet between Nedda and Silvio allows us to hear again soprano Maria Bisso, impeccable in the old-fashioned coloratura of Nedda, and to discover a young, local baritone, since Benjamin Colin was born in Nancy.  Also a student of Michèle Command, he began in both opera and operetta; one feels in his performance brave work, effort and concentration in spite of his difficulties in pronouncing Italian, a curious yet perceptible defect, considering the mother tongues are “cousins,” noticeable in French singers. He is now part—just consecrated—of the Chœurs de l’Opéra national de Nancy and Lorraine.

After the break a beautiful surprised awaited the public when José Cura announced a favorite opening of opera concerts:  I Vespri Siciliani (or rather Les Vêpres siciliennes, because the original French version is being given more and more often) of Giuseppe Verdi.

We had been, up to now, able to appreciate the art of conducting by José Cura, who does not enslave the singers as we could accuse some conductors of doing but rather serves the singers as the composer [would]. With this masterly opening, we now had the measure of this chef-d’orchestre in opera, renewing an ever more distant tradition, as well as the fashion of today, to conduct quickly, believing that speed ‘equals’ dramatic. One result is that we often end up with a dry interpretation, empty of poetry and burnt wings of Musique.  José Cura, however, let the orchestra breathe (and God knows how much Verdi needs to breathe:  we speak of the sight of panting Verdiens).  Of course, the poignant motive for the father-son duet played here by cellos is already opera par excellence, but it is still necessary to know how to let them sing. As for the martial crescendo, more usually solid or booming, we heard it amazingly produced, in the style of Franco Capuana, supple and warm like Gianandrea Gavazzeni.  In brief, much like Fernando Previtali, José Cura made the entire overture vibrate with a theatrical sense…

At the end of the burst of amply deserved applause, it was touching to hear José Cura, as if speaking to himself, as a dreamer still under the spell (nevertheless obtained by him!), murmur, ‘What an orchestra, my God!”,  and then still pensive and in a hushed voice, to the first rows, “This belongs to you!  It must be preserved!”

But why does he not turn around completely to receive the applause?  It is because an even more beautiful picture awaits us: Cura eventually steps down from the podium, joins the first instrumentalists and then faces the public, one with the orchestra.

The second part of the concert opened with more Verdi, the great baritone aria from Don Rodrigo di Posa in Don Carlo. Although the piece is usually called “Mort de Posa” because the character is shot during this scene in the drama, we could enjoy José Cura’s joke in which he introduces it as follows: “The death of Rodrigo, but without the death!” Such perhaps was his intention, but it could also mean that the baritone was going to sing only the first of two arias, which make up what we would call a double ‘aria.’  Andrej Benes, who come from the Czech Republic, had the luck to meet in 2004 (the year of his debut) one of the greatest baritones of the 20th century, Giuseppe Taddei.  We were struck to discover the ‘purified’ tone of D. Fischer Dieskau, with the German singer's characteristic clarity of emission, and at the same time,with an astonishingly assured high notes.  As for the counterpart envisioned by Verdi for Don Carlo, also present at this moment in the opera, we heard them coming from another mouth and, once we recovered from the surprising effect which they produced when seeming to come our of nowhere, we said to ourselves:  “But of course!  José Cura does Don Carlo—and what a Don Carlo!”

The captivating Verdi was always honored for the following piece, the dazzling Finale to the first Act of La TraviataAude Priya Engel (France), who left the Academy of Toulouse in 2002, has already sung this work, as well as in La Bohéme and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  Her blazing timbre “leaves” in the high notes in a surprising way but the astonishing mastery she has is also there. She also surmounted the difficulties of the final cabaletta “Sempre libera,” of which it is absolutely necessary for us to underline the quietly mischievous tempo (of another era!) which José Cura imprints with his orchestra.  We know that in this piece Alfred intervenes, off-stage under Violetta’s window, a detail that often makes us smile in fascination according to how near or far the theater relegates the poor tenor, sometimes almost in the cellar, as someone once commented in humor. Well, this time it starts straightforwardly and especially since Alfredo is present on stage, a brilliant Alfredo, high notes blazing, José Cura putting into practice as well the words which he sings:  “Amore è palpito…” while by his side, his Violetta, all the more stimulated, one must say, vocally ignites.

Next is the first part of Alfredo’s aria “De’ miei bollenti spiriti” sung by tenor Thomas Blondelle from Belgium.  A young graduate of the Conservatory of Bruges, he has received numerous prizes since 2006.  His tone is clear and he is endowed with such confidence that we were amazed at the strength in which he ‘lives’ his singing and, though this is not always the case with this aria, vibrates literally with the words he sings:  “De’miei bollenti spiriti / Il giovanil ardore : De mon esprit bouillant, / La juvénile ardeur.”

Very deserving, a young soprano moves onstage gracefully but without affectation and José Cura explains that Gabrijela Ubavic, from Serbia, is ill but, in the absence of being able to really perform, she is still anxious to take part.  She will sing only half of the aria “Addio del passato” (La Traviata), which means she had the praiseworthy intention to interpret the da capo which is very often cut.  José Cura consequently requested the indulgence of the audience for her.  Gabrijela Ubavic began in 2002 at the National Opera of Belgrade and has performed in Europe since then.  We are stuck at once by the consistency of her tone, luxuriously copper-colored, so to speak, rich and full but very docile, effortless.  We learn with astonishment from the program that she also sings roles requiring great vocal agility, like Gilda (Rigoletto) and Norina (Don Pasquale). Faced with such a quality of tone and song, we think with shivers of what must be the level of performance from this opera singer when she is in top form.

Finally, Julija Samsonova from Lithuania comes to sing us the last piece from the participants in the master class.  Leaving the Academy Rossini de Pesaro, she began in 2005 with the role of Corinna in Il Viaggio a Reims by Rossini at the prestigious Rossini Opera Festival, which the city has dedicated to this composer.  Here she sang Desdemona’s aria from Verdi’s Otello, the curious “Air du Saule.” Samsonova displays a velvet timbre in brilliant complexions, a beautiful sound with melodious low register, superb piani and control of tone.  An exemplary legato makes the ‘passages’ unperceivable and leaves the listener breathless. It must also be said that the orchestra formed a single body in its exceptional interpretation, José Cura chiseling marvelous subtleties from the “old man’ Verdi, like the violins in their highest notes concluding “Ave Maria.” 

José Cura, so invested and so touched by what he heard that tears come to his eyes, wonders how he is going to sing now that it is his turn, at the conclusion of the concert!

He concentrates and forgets the fatigue and heat while Maestro Rose makes his entrance.  The piece is nothing less than the finale of Otello, in which the hero contemplates his Desdemona, whom he has just straggled in unjustified jealousy before killing himself.  José Cura’s Otello roars at first, with a warm strength that is always phenomenally harmonious, filling the entire auditorium of the Opera, which is held silent and continues to hold its breath…Almost as much as the great tenor, whose astonishing emission in mezza-voce captivates the audience.  He continues the aria, always balanced between beautiful delicacy and painful intensity lived every inch…Then when Verdi greets his public—in the last dramatic flight of the orchestra, typical of its style, Otello-José Cura still cries out again:  “Un bacio… un bacio ancora… ah !… un altro bacio…” and then his voice dies out gently, and the orchestra with it.

Under his spell, the audience of the Opera of Nancy waits while the impalpable magic of the opera hangs over it before bursting into applause and then into an ovation during which José Cura invites all the artist to rejoin him joyfully on the stage.  Shortly after, the ‘Maestro’ stops the ovation with a raised arm and the public expects the announcement of an encore…perhaps the famous Brindisi from La Traviata, often selected at the end of a concert, or at least some words of greeting, of wishes, but no, José Cura declares simply with the ‘little bit direct’ carelessness which characterizes him:  “Now, we will all eat!” Then they really step off the stage, leaving the once more public astonished (this time having too little to celebrate to suit its taste) but profoundly moved.  [Yonel BULDRINI]

 


 

 

The Lessons of the Master

 L'Est Republicain

Sept 2007

To be guided by Jose Cura, internationally known tenor and conductor: for fourteen young singers it’s a dream come true.

 

“There is no one way of singing, and there’s not one person who sings like another. Everyone must find his own approach.” Helping young people find their own style of singing, that’s how the Argentine tenor and conductor José Cura sees his role as teacher. During public Master classes presented by the Nancy Opera this week-end, he expressed his “tender feelings for those who do their best, for all those who make sacrifices in order to improve their performance.” With humor and patience he guided his students, took them up again, corrected them, and then congratulated them when they finally integrated his advice.

 

Great Generosity

 

For Marie Karall, a young singer who has followed his Master classes, “it is a chance for young people like us to rub elbows with a true artist. He knows and has experienced all that’s problematic and can provide us with all the keys for anticipating problems and improving. José Cura is someone who has the ability to see errors very quickly and consequently to correct us swiftly.” What was a pleasant surprise to the young woman was his “great generosity and his incredible ear for others.” “He is as rigorous and meticulous as he is passionate, and he has a great love for music but also for young people. He is capable of putting himself on our level,” she remarked. Besides the good advice from the Maestro, what Marie particularly appreciated was to be able to perform for the first time in her life with an orchestra in a big opera house. “Many young people, who debut in this profession, must begin on small stages. For me, singing under these conditions was a real pleasure.”

 

Nancy Master Class and Concert Sept 1 & 2 - from Hala

 

 


 

José Cura Show at the Opera

 L'Est Republicain

The teacher and his students gave a concert late yesterday afternoon. Discovering new voices.

 

José Cura in the role of singing professor, conductor, and ‘Monsieur Loyal’ late yesterday afternoon on the stage of the l'Opéra de Nancy at the invitation of the ‘Nancy Opéra Passion’ Association: The great Argentine tenor, who had not performed in France in several years, initiated his return to the country with a master-class for thirteen young singers. Yesterday’s concert was the result of the previous day’s work sessions.

 

Chatting with the audience, the tenor called out to a small child to ask him for his name, then asked his students to refuse to reveal their identity, address, and phone number, undoubtedly to put them at ease.  Remembered from the first half, begun about thirty minutes late due to the rush at the ticket counters: The Prologue from Pagliacci with the maestro, the performance of the young 19-year-old Czech who offered an aria from La Bohéme in a powerful, clear, and well positioned bass voice, also the aria of Hérode from Massenet’s Hérodiade, sung by Korean baritone Changham Lim with great presence and excellent diction—a lesson for the Frenchwoman who preceded him on stage and from whom we had difficulty understanding the words in the duet from  Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns. With a booming "Hello, colleague", the maestro then welcomed the French tenor Avi Klemberg, who bravely managed the Pinkerton aria from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly.  It is regrettable that Argentine Maria Biso chose to perform Lucia di Lammermoor since the timbre of her voice did not correspond well at all with the hallucinatory nature of the character.  The baritone from Nancy, Benjamin Colin, a former student of Arcadi Volodos at the Conservatory of Nancy, sang a duet from Pagliacci with little power but with a well-placed voice.

 

The second half of the concert was far more interesting, with the overture from Verdi’s I Vêpres siciliennes, played superbly by the Orchestre de Nancy under the baton of José Cura:  atmosphere, changes in color, breathing—it was all there. Although unwell, the Serb Gabriela Ubavic managed a convincing Traviata, and the Belgian Thomas Blondelle a very respectable Alfredo.  Real emotion came, however, only with Lithuanian Julija Samsonova who splendidly carried off the role of Desdemona.

 

As for the maestro, he stirred every soul in the room with an Otello whose death he experienced with his entire being. As a singer but also as an actor. True art, indeed!

 

An evening that had begun like something out of "Dimanche Martin" thus came to an end with profoundness and dramatic intensity.

 


 

Nancy Master Class and Concert Sept 1 & 2 - from Hala

 


 

José Cura, Instinctive and Ardent Argentine Tenor

 

A red-hot master class with José Cura yesterday at the Opéra de Nancy.  The Argentine tenor demands maximum emotional risks of young artists.  Today, the singer will offer a special recital.

 

After a six-year absence from France, the Argentine tenor José Cura chose the stage of the Opéra de Nancy to offer a recital of some of the most beautiful arias in the repertoire.  He will be accompanied by some of the most promising young talents of the international operatic stage.

 

Yesterday, a handful of privileged people attended the rehearsals/coaching sessions of the artist, thanks to the initiative of the Nancy Opéra Passion--a master class which takes your breath away and bowls you over all at the same time.

 

Jeans, a black T-shirt, small spectacles perched on the tip of his nose, Latin and even a bit macho: that’s José Cura conducting the orchestra as he concentrates on a frail 23-year-old.  Alexia Ercolani is a magnificent mezzo-soprano.  Her task is to sing Mon coeur, the sublime duet from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, with him.  It is not [vocal] technique that José Cura is interested in; it is the expression of an emotion.  He will never stop until he reaches his goals.  The singing lesson . . . passion!

 

First of all, he reassures the singer, relaxes her, whispering lines in her ear.  The orchestra of the Nancy opera is attentive.  José Cura makes them understand the music must be fluid, moving from one group of instruments to another like a warm feeling.  Then, suddenly, he looks at Alexia, urging her to look deep into his eyes.  This is a love duet. It must be ardent, it must be deeply moving.  Everything is in the breath.  The singer is still reserved. He stops; breaks the spell.

 

It’s just the carnality, only the ‘perversion’, that you lack

 

The next moment, he takes her by the shoulder.  He is massive, powerful; she is tiny.  Little by little she relaxes; her voice fills the auditorium.  One can feel that she’s gaining confidence, taking some pleasure while he hums and locks eyes with her.  “Put some heat into it, heat it up," he tells her bluntly, "Come on!”  Again, he stops.  “Listen, understand:  This is not a woman talking to a guy, no.  This here is not a woman, this is a female… you get the nuance?  It is not easy being Dalila.  I know. You have the voice, the look….”  He puts his hand on Alexia’s forehead.  “You lack only the ‘perversion’.”  The young woman has gotten it; she surrenders herself, lets herself go.  José Cura applauds.

 

A little later, biting with relish into a very juicy fig, he explains his approach.  “I do not have the time to go into the musical detail and teach an academic course.  I have only one day to awaken their curiosity, to activate that sixth sense which the performer has in him.” 

 

The sensuality of art

 

In search of passion, of emotion on the stage, he gives his all shamelessly.  Endowed with an animal magnetism that he does not attempt to curb, he even demands “the sensuality of art.  Art is nothing but that.  It is necessary to put technique at the service of the senses.  What happens too often is the opposite.  I am saying that the artist must strip, must bare his soul.”  

 

His –hot– Latin temperament, his vocal ease allow him to find maximum expressivity, something that turns a room upside down – and women in the audience in particular.  “Right now, Alexia, I wanted to get all this sensuality of hers gone; rather, I wanted to go into the sexuality of the character.  Sometimes people have difficulty doing this in public.  It is a question of upbringing. But when you are on stage, you are at the service of a character.  Totally, body and soul.  Otherwise, nothing will happen.”   

 

 


 

Nancy Master Class and Concert Sept 1 & 2 - from Hala

 

 


 

Nancy Master Class

 

Terra Actualidad - EFE

22 August 2007

Soprano Maria Bisso will study with José Cura in Nancy

The Spanish-Argentine soprano is one of fourteen singers from different countries who will take part in the master class that Argentine tenor José Cura offers on 1 and 2 September in Nancy, in the east of France, according to reports from the event’s promoter.

The other thirteen who have been selected are Julija Samsonova from Lithuania, Gabrijela Ubavic from Serbia, Jan St'Ava and Andrej Benes from the Czech Republic, Thomas Blondelle from Belgium, Changahn Lim from South Korean, and Eva Gazinate, Benjamin Colin, Aude Priya Engel, Alexia Ercolani, Eva Gazinate, Marie Karall, Avi Klemberg and Stephanie Varnerin from France.

Together with José Cura, they will work on the interpretation and the construction of roles.

The master class will be open to the public and will conclude with a concert provided by the Maestro and his pupils at the Opera Nacional de Lorena, accompanied by Orchestra Sinfónica and Lírica de Nancy.

After an absence from the French stage of six years, this will be ‘an exceptional occasion,’ according to the organizers, to hear José Cura, who will present his interpretation of the ‘Prologue’ from I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo and  ‘Niun mi tema' from Verdi’s Otello.

The tenor will also sing more Verdi, but this time the duet 'Son Io mio Carlo...per me giunto’ from Don Carlo with Czech baritone Andrej Benes, and then sing ‘Mon coeur’ from Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns with French mezzo-soprano Alexia Ercolani.

Maria Bisso is expected to sing 'Regnava nel silenzio', a fragment from ‘Lucia di Lammermoor' by Donizetti.

 


 

Acclaimed Argentine Tenor to offer Two Masterclasses in Nancy

La Prensa / Terra

 5-13-2007

José Cura as teacher

Although he has not sung in France for over six years—for reasons he can’t explain—he is driven to share his knowledge with the next generation.

The Argentine tenor José Cura, who in September will offer two masterclasses in the French location of Nancy, says he feels a need to teach the younger interpreters.

“All artists, after achieving a certain level of experience, have an obligation to give something back to the future generations. On the one hand because we owe much to those who came before and on the other in an effort to help avoid the Calvary through which I passed,” said Cura during a press conference in Paris.

The singer made reference to his difficult beginnings, when bad advice forced him into the wrong repertoire and nearly ended his career.

Cura, who has not performed in France since 2001, will return to the country in which he lived for five years to offer masterclasses on 1 and 2 September, followed by a concert whose profits will be targeted to benefit charities. 

The Argentine tenor and conductor says he will not try to “teach how to sing” but instead will convey to his students his experiences and the importance of bringing passion to the profession.

Transmitting Passion

“I am not the Pope, I do not teach dogma, I merely transmit my experiences.  The beauty and the success of a voice is somewhat subjective but there is nothing subjective about a human’s commitment, both artistically and professionally.  It is something I take very seriously and it has become my cause," he commented.

Cura will focus on “the importance of feeling the character being interpreted,” because, he says, “in the theatre it is necessary to offer something special in the interpretation, otherwise people will put on a CD, stay home and save the money a ticket would cost.”

The tenor does not deny the importance of good vocal technique but insists that technique should be transparent. 

“One of the best compliments I receive is when they say I do not have technique.  What that means is that my technique is not obvious and I am one of those who thinks that if you notice [technique] while the singer is performing then he is interpreting badly," he said.  

Stubborn Artist

Cura believes that current opera productions require tenors to sing too forcefully because scores originally designed for 50 instruments are now being played by 90.  “It is the heritage of a few people who destroyed it 50 years ago to stay in favor with the press,” he says.

He feels there is an advantage to students with him being both singer and conductor.

Cura did not dwell on the reasons for his absence from France for six years, though he does remember that the critics of his final performance were ferocious. “The last time I was here they said I was finished.  Six years later I am back and ready to continue the battle.”

The singer confesses he does not know why no one has called him to return to France, a country in which he lived for five year and where his youngest child was born.  “I have no bad memories of France but if she has bad memories of me, then there is nothing I can do about it.  If I return to perform, it will be the same as before, because with age I have become even more stubborn.  I am not going to force anyone to hire me.  I have more work now than I can do,” he says.

 


Opera Needs to Connect to the Present

JAVIER PÉREZ SENZ - Barcelona - 12/10/2007

El Pais

José Cura (Rosario, Argentina, 1962), tenor.  He is also a conductor, stage director and has his own record label.  Cura does not conceive of opera as a simple musical exhibition and claims the right to seek his own interpretation of a character without yielding to tradition. The Argentine tenor, now living in Spain, stars in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier at the Liceu of Barcelona until 17 October; although he lives in Madrid, it has been over seven years since he last worked at the Teatro Real, following a controversial clash with the public after a performance of Il Trovatore.  “It is not enough to sing. We must get into the skin of the character, look for nuances and vocal colors that define his state of mind,” he says.

Question:  In opera it continues to be rare to see singers who, as well as sing, take the risk and give their all in a theatrical interpretation of a character.  Is the cult of the voice still prevalent in the seats?

José Cura:  Resistance to embracing the theatrical dimension of opera does not come from the younger generation but from that of my father’s, those who now fill the theaters.  It is a public blind to theatrical innovations because of how they learned to love opera, and they live in the past with strong emotional nostalgia.  I respect that, but I also claim the right, as a singer, not to do that, not to live anchored in the past, not to always do the same thing.  Opera must connect to the present.

Question:  How do you prepare for a role?

José Cura:  With a conductor’s mentality and also with that of a stage director.  I am a composer and I like to analyze the score to find the key to every scene, using every nuance to shape the feelings of the character.  I like researching, reflecting on the personality of the role that I sing, and sharing my ideas and findings with the directors and the other singers.  If I have confidence in them, I will suggest they try new things to deepen the relationship of the characters on stage.

Question:  Maria Callas fought for change the theatrical expression of singing and today, thirty years after her death, there is no similar reference in the opera world.

José Cura:  But many continue to follow her example.  Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice pure vocal beauty to achieve theatrical truth.  You cannot die as Otello, with a dagger nailed to your stomach, singing as if it were nothing at all.  In singing, this agony has to be reflected, with a darker voice, suffocated.  The opera is theater, governed by a musical thought but a theater that requires the singer to also be an actor.  Of course, today nobody questioned the interpretive revolution created by Maria Callas but it worth recalling that she died alone, bitter and forgotten.  And the public who today venerates her is the child of the public who denigrated her.

Question:  How can opera in the 21st century compete against macroconcerts, cinema, or the new technologies to attract an audience?

José Cura:  The opera, the ballet, and the pure theater are the only spectacles in which the artist sits alone and without network.  The audience can connect to what human beings can do on their own, without gadgets.  That is why it is so cruel for a viewer who is ready to judge an artist by comparison with what he has heard on a CD.  There are many voices that impress on disk, and then later, in the theater, not listening to them.

Question:  Since you are a famous tenor, may people do not take your conducting career seriously.   

José Cura:  I was born a musician and was a guitarist and conductor before I was a singer.  I discovered the possibilities of my voice at the age of 28 and then started my career as a soloist, conductor, and composer.  I know there are singers who make a career with minimal music training, some have even triumphed without knowing how to read a score, and they sing very well without any more knowledge.  In my case, however, music is my passion and everything I do when singing on stage, as strange or bizarre as it may seem, is justified in the music, because it responds to nuances and indications in the score.  As a conductor, I have the respect of the orchestras with which I work and would not be hired if the musical results were bad.  On 19 October I will lead the inaugural concert of the season at the Teatro San Carlos de Lisboa with an opera gala in the first half and then Beethoven’s Ninth in the second. 

Question:  And you are also fortunate in stage direction.

José Cura:  My fundamental job is as a tenor, because I am in the prime of my career.  But I enjoy doing more things, not by whim but rather by artistic necessity.  I am passionate about conducting orchestras and each time I direct it tempts me more and more.  I have already had several experiences and now I am preparing the scenery and staging of Un ballo in maschera which I will direct for the Cologne Opera in 2008. 

Question:  Since your controversial clash with the audience in the Teatro Real in 2000 you have not sung again in that venue.  It must be difficult to perform in major theaters around the world and not step on stage at the one in the city where you live.

José Cura:  Yes, it is a strange situation.  For my part, the controversy is closed and forgotten.  Honestly, I long for the sensation of singing in the theater of the city in which I live and being able to sleep in my house after a performance.  I hope to return some day to the Teatro Real.  Its artistic director, Antonio Moral, came to see me during the Otello performances in the Liceu in 2006 and said he would send me a proposal but I have never received it.  With the Liceu, I have signed a new contract to do Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci in 2011.  The truth is that I do not have many contracts in Spain and my calendar for 2008 lists only a performance of Samson et Dalila in Santander.

 

 


Opera Rara

 

Opera Rara Bel Canto Prize, 4 May 2007

 

Opera Rara Patric Schmid Bel Canto Prize

Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music 4 May 2007

 Serena Fenwick

[Excerpt]

In complete contrast to my previous evening at the joyous Guildhall Gold Medal concert, I now joined the aesthetically rarefied realm of the Opera Rara Bel Canto competition. The participants, all students of RAM, had taken part in a preparatory training course. Each offered two arias, which included some real gems of obscurity, and were then required to take part in an ensemble piece. None of the singers seemed particularly comfortable with the style, and it probably did not bring out the best in them.

The winner was soprano Julia Sporsen the most experienced singer in the competition and a finalist last year. She offered a very showy aria from Il Pirata which Callas was notoriously fond of performing and an interesting rarity from Mayr's Medea in Corinto . She held her ensemble trio together very effectively.

Second prize went to Welsh mezzo Caryl Hughes, looking cheerful in a bright red dress and singing with her usual accuracy and attention to detail. She had Una voce poco fa comfortably sung in and showed off some commendably good French in an aria from Donizetti's Dom Sebastien.

Opera Rara had been meticulous in supplying full texts and translations, and the repertoire certainly provided food for thought.

1st Prize – Julia Sporsen - soprano
2nd Prize – Caryl Hughes – mezzo soprano
Other Finalists – Lan Wei – soprano; George von Bergen – baritone; Richard Rowe – tenor; Dong Jun Wang – baritone


Jury: Chevalier José Cura; Sir Peter Moores; Patricia Bardon; Simon Keenlyside; Edward Gardner

 

 


 

Samson Was a Terrorist

 

Clarin

June 2007

Sandra de la Fuente

 

The last time he gave a performance during the Teatro Colón’s season was in 1999. Tomorrow, José Cura will star in “Samson and Dalila” at the Coliseo. Today, he reflects on the work…

 

 

José Cura in Argentina, Summer 2007After an eight year absence, the Rosarino tenor José Cura returns to Buenos Aires in a concert version of Camille Saint-Saens’ opera Samson and Dalila, which will be presented tomorrow at the Coliseo as part of the Colón’s season. Recognized as one of the great voices of today on the international scene, José Cura is a very unusual artist who, besides singing, conducts orchestras, composes, and also has recently started to make incursions into stage management/directing.

 

 In spite of his established reputation as singer in the leading theaters of the world, the Colón has been elusive for him. Apart from Otello in 1999, there has been virtually no performance of his at the Teatro. “My absence coincides with a turbulent time in this country. During that period, the Colón did not have consistency in its scheduling which complicated the hiring of artists who book their calendars five or six years in advance. The question they always asked me was: ‘Can you be here the day after tomorrow?’” explains Cura in an exclusive interview with Clarin. “Eventually, after Marcelo Lombardero took over, the Colón became more stable, particularly concerning its image abroad. During the great crisis, the Colón was spoken of as a theater to which it was better not to come. Now, European musicians are beginning to say it is worth the trouble of going back to the Colón.”

 

What is gained and what is lost in this concert version of Samson?

 

Any opera loses in a concert version; when there is no dramatization, the opera can lose its impact. But Samson and Dalila borrows much from oratorio, so one doesn’t miss the theatrical aspect as much as in a work of verismo. But in this production, we will not be standing like sticks behind a music stand; neither will we wear tuxedos. Though there is no set, we will enter and exit according to when we have to sing. It will be dynamic, with gestures and even lighting that will produce a certain atmosphere.

 

What is your idea of Samson?

 

I believe there are two ways to interpret the role. One where Samson is prophetic, good, Christian. To me, this view seems erroneous. Samson was a judge and in his day, judges were military leaders; they defended one people and subjected another; they were men that were essentially violent, revolutionaries. Samson was killing as if he were breaking off a piece of bread. He killed a lion with his bare hands and pulled down a temple, sacrificing himself. That act turned him into history’s foremost terrorist. He was killing in the name of God—some contradiction in terms!—and sacrificed himself so as to kill in the name of God. His legend is about 3,500 years old and has a modern ring to it that is as sad as it is shocking. My view of Samson has been criticized many times for lack of spirituality. That’s right, it does lack the spirituality of today, but it has the spirituality of 1,500 BC when the lex talionis (the law of retaliation, of an eye for an eye) was the rule.

 

It is very hard to think that an aggressive personality like that can be in accord with the music of this opera.

 

That’s where the danger is. One needs to interpret the text, not the music. The music adorns the text, but that embellishment needs to be used to advantage; good use can be very interesting, because beautiful music which contains a tremendous, i.e. a dreadful text may take a turn toward the ironic.

 

Translation: Monica B.

 

 


 

Something to sing about!

By Laura Joint

BBC Devon

Aug 2006


Internationally renowned tenor José Cura has agreed to be Patron of New Devon Opera - and he's coming to the county to lead an opera masterclass.

A Devon opera company has something to sing out loud about, after internationally famous tenor José Cura agreed to become its new patron.

New Devon Opera, currently enjoying its second full season, approached the Argentinian-born singer about the role - and he said 'yes' straight away.

And he will also be leading a masterclass with around a dozen singers. That will take place in Devon in the spring of 2007, with the singers then performing in a special concert.

Ivybridge-based New Devon Opera is a professional touring company but is a not-for-profit charity. So it uses professional performers, but financially is reliant on ticket sales and donations - although there are plans to apply for Arts Council funding.

In 2005 - its first season - the company performed The Magic Flute at venues across Devon.

This summer, the chosen opera is Rossini's The Barber of Seville, with venues at Kingsbridge, Dartmouth, Exmouth and Chudleigh.

The company auditions for the roles and this year, three of the principal singers are from Devon. Other performers are from elsewhere in the South West and London, while the community chorus is selected from local groups.

Chair of New Devon Opera, Linda Hughes, explains how she managed to sign up José Cura as Patron: "I was speaking to him at the Royal Opera House and I asked him. And he said yes!

"We're thrilled. He's a mega international star."

The singer, now based in Madrid, was only too happy to oblige when asked to become Patron. He said: "I truly hope that New Devon Opera enjoys economic success which will allow the company to develop in a strong and confident way."

And it gets better, because the tenor is coming to Devon to lead a masterclass with a group of singers who successfully audition for places.

Applications must be submitted by 30th November 2006 and is open to singers nationally. Anthony Legge, Director of Opera at the Royal Academy, will head a team which will draw up a short-list of some 25 singers.

Auditions will be held in London on 24-26 April 2007, and the 25 or so selected singers will be heard by José Cura. He will choose 10-12 singers and work with them in late April and early May 2007.

Then, on 6th May, the public will be able to watch him hold a masterclass with the singers at a venue in South Devon which has yet to be named.

Finally, on 7th May, the singers will give a public concert of their work and José Cura will select a winner.

Over the same weekend, 5-6 May, Anthony Legge is running a repetiteur course in Devon.

Cura himself will not be singing at the events in South Devon.

"He's giving us seven days of his time, which is fantastic," said Linda. "We're advertising nationally and locally and I've contacted major agents and opera companies, so I've had some names from them.

"If we can make this successful, we think we can get him here to do it as an even bigger national event."

Starting from scratch has been hard work for New Devon Opera, and Linda is hoping the company can build on the start it has made.

"So far things have gone well. We are developing an audience base - we have a mailing list of around 400 people - and the reception we have received at shows is fantastic.

"Next year, we are doing Tosca and we've been invited to perform in Buckinghamshire for that.

"We need to be able to show what we can do in order to get grants - what we're doing is a risk and it's an expensive business.

"We're taking it step by step. But we are building on the start we've made."

 


 

José Cura, the Return of the Prodigal Son

 

LaNacion

June 2007

 

He will star in the opera Samson and Dalila

 

One of the main items of interest in the current classical music schedule of the city of Buenos Aires is without a doubt the return of one of its prodigal sons, the Rosarino tenor José Cura, after an eight year absence from the country. Living in Europe for the past 16 years (currently in Spain), Cura’s name is synonymous with success in portraying the dramatic characters of the operatic repertoire, something which naturally turns him into one of the most sought-after tenors in the world and one of the most popular figures in his field. It also doesn’t hurt that on top of a phenomenal voice, José Cura has an excellent physique for his type of role as well as an exceptional professional foundation, which is both complete and multi-faceted. The arrival in Buenos Aires of one of opera’s most dazzling international opera stars puts the seal of the best in the world of opera on the Teatro Colón’s season with a role that is custom-made for him: the character of Samson in the Romantic-era opera “Samson and Dalila”. Together with Cecilia Díaz and the cast, chorus and orchestra of the Teatro Colón, the tenor will appear tomorrow evening at 8:30 in a concert version at the Coliseo.

 

The Titan of Opera

 

In the fifteen years of his successful international career, José Cura has frequented not only the most prestigious halls and theaters in the classical music world (Met, Covent Garden, LaScala, Opera National in Paris, Staatsoper in Vienna, Hamburg and Zurich, and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin among others) but has also been present on remote stages, has visited countries far removed from the traditional circuit, has conquered exotic audiences as to opera and untiringly carried the art of music and theater to inconceivable corners of the world. At his side sing the most glamorous divas and direct the most celebrated conductors. Parallel to his intense activity in the theater (as conductor, singer and régisseur), he exploits his ample qualities as communicator and showman with surprising ease, offering recitals and shows—some of them on outdoor stages in front of thousands of people—in which he combines singing with orchestral conducting (in an original format he himself calls ‘half and half’), something that has earned him both the criticism from the most conservative sectors of the music media and the admiration of his fans, as well as an  unusual popularity for an artist in the classical genre.

 

When José Cura began to be mentioned on the front pages of the music media of the world, the legendary figure of Samson was among the first roles to be associated with the name and image of the Argentine tenor. Not only the qualities of the timbre and the character of his voice, but also the exuberance of his personality, his charisma and imposing stage presence permitted him to be proclaimed—along with other great characters that he portrays with equal empathy such as Otello, Canio, Don Carlo and Turridu—the ideal interpreter of the biblical hero for several generations.

 

Some years have elapsed since then; quite to the contrary of what often happens with a career that takes off too quickly and with excessive fanfare only to become exhausted by the media frenzy, all the predictions that accompanied José Cura’s spectacular international rise have come to fruition in a career beyond measure. In the following interview, the tenor refers to different interpretative aspects of the role of Samson.

 

---What does one do about the voice with respect to the traditional classification for Samson?

 

---If one would like to interpret Samson in the spirit which is strictly understood as stylized French music, in a historic sense, we would have to start with a voice that I would not say is light but one with much less attack. It is very different to do the role as it was conceived in around 1890. If we want to, on the other hand, perform a modern Samson in light of the acoustic problems and issues that we live with, the difference in the conception as to the vocal aspect is enormous. More than relegating the role to a classification based on the number of decibels produced, I prefer to think of it on the basis of psychological coloring which is (to be sure) a determining factor in the profile of the character.

 

---What are those acoustic problems?

 

---The size of the theater today is enormous. Then, there is the fact that the orchestra sounds very loud due to the harmonic density of the modern instruments. A third point, (and) a more dramatic one, is the rise of the diapason. The majority of the operas which we perform today were written between 1800 and 1900. During that period, the diapason oscillated between 432 and 435 cycles, which means that, when we compare it with the diapason that we use today, which is almost at 445, even up to 450 cycles, we have an increase in the tone by a third, even up to a half tone. In short, this has caused an important modification in how we sing as compared to the past. The logic of these conditions causes the vocalizing (singing) of certain dramatic characters to be awarded to voices which are much stronger and more robust.

 

---With respect to the tessitura in which Samson is written, it is for a dark and baritonal tenor who sings most of the opera in the middle register (medio-grave). How do you decide the delivery of the high notes over the orchestra and chorus?

 

---With a high note that has much density (spessore), that is broad and large. We are talking about a mythological hero who bases his entire legend on his physical power; therefore, it would be ridiculous for the character to sing these notes with the same sound value as, for example, a high note of the tenor in “La bohème”. The more beautiful and correct the sound is, the more it lacks dramatic intensity. This is the great vocal challenge of Samson and of all the roles of the dramatic tenor in general.

 

---What is your perception of the character with respect to vocal brilliance?

 

---Samson has clearly defined moments in which he is able to shine for very different reasons. In the first act, he is aggressive, a warrior of the Old Testament. In the second act, the aggression changes to sensuality and extreme insecurity in relation with himself, with God and with the feminine. In the third act, which is spiritually the most interesting, is where Samson redefines himself.  In the entire first part of this act, Samson ought to sing media voce. In the second part this changes on the other hand, and we have again another type of singing. It is the moment of redemption understood within the framework of a culture that existed 1500 years before Christ. The possibilities to shine are extensive and manifold.

 

---Does this role give you a feeling of satisfaction?

 

---Very much so! Samson is one of the roles that I am indebted to the most for really making me shine on stage. He is one of the characters that have given me the greatest satisfaction throughout of my career.

 

Translation: Monica B.

 


 

Two Rosario Musicians

La Capital

Marcelo Menichetti

Tenor José Cura and pianist Eduardo Delgado will offer a concert today at 2100, at Auditorio Fundación Astengo, Mitre 754. The Rosarinos artists will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Mozarteum Argentino Filial Rosario.

On this occasion they will present a program that includes the spiritual “Were You There”, “Cantata” by John Carter, “For a dead infant” as a piano solo, “Soneto IV” by Carlo Guastavino and the works of Gabriel Fauré “Prison” and “Chason dámour”.  After ‘Balada en sol menor Op. 23” by Maurice Ravel for solo piano, “Sonetos”,  seven musical works composed by José Cura based on the poems of Pablo Neruda, will be presented.

In the second part of the concert the artists will perform “Nocturno” by Alberto Muzzio and “Canción del árbol del olvido” by Alberto Ginastera, with more selections from the works of  Carlos Guastavino including “Se equivocó la paloma”, “La rosa y el sauce”, “Campanilla”, “Canción de perico”, “El único camino”, Elegía para un gorrión” and “Canción del carretero”. Finally there will be the “Canción a la bandera” by Héctor Panizza and, for solo piano, “Sonatina” by Carlos Guastavino and “Adiós Nonino” by Astor Piazzolla.

During rehearsal prior to the presentation, the artists talked with La Capital about their pleasure at the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of the Mozarteum Argentino Filial Rosario and at the same time to perform together in front of their hometown.  “This recital is the first time we have worked together,” declared Delgado.  “Before this, we did the CD Anhelo (1999), in which the guitarist Ernesto Bitetti also participated,” he explained.

Cura performed a series of “Samsons” in concert version at the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires that received very good reviews.  “There is great payback in the spectacle and more than anything else the emotions of singing with all my companions from the Colón after an absence of eight years,” explains the singer, “created an emotional charge of such great energy that it shocked the audience.”

Delgado is happy to share the celebration:  "I feel very honored to do this with José, because he is an international figure who performs in all the great theaters in the world and the chosen schedule is of our music, which is so beautiful,” he said.

The pianist, who has recorded all the work of Alberto Ginastera and is now preparing for a concert he will give in London next November, emphasized that next to Cura, the star of the performance will be "a concert of chamber music, not of song and piano.  The piano and the voice become two instruments in dialogue and with José I have a very special musical understanding". 

Both musicians reveal a state of mind with a degree of anxiety they do not try to hide.  “We artists are like football players because when we enter the field, it doesn’t matter to the people that we have played well and scored ten goals before:  it is what you do for them now,” Cura explains.   

 


 

Carmen pursinge

(review)

Cotidianul

Cristiana Visan

10 Septembrie 2007

Melomanii care au mers simbata seara la Opera au avut parte de un spectacol de zile mari.

Opera Nationala din Bucuresti a oferit simbata, in cadrul Festivalului ,,Enescu’’, un spectacol din repertoriul propriu, insa cu patru invitati din strainatate, iar numele lui José Cura a umplut cele aproape o mie de locuri din sala.

Daca multi se asteptau sa vada o “Carmen” mai romantica, reprezentatia de simbata i-a luat prin surprindere. Viziunea lui Cura, in absolut acord cu cea a sopranei israeliene Hadar Halevy, a facut din opera lui Bizet un spectacol pasional si pasionant, punind un accent particular asupra personajului Don José. Din punctul lui de vedere, ilustrat cu brio la Bucuresti, “Carmen”, desi e o opera franceza, surprinde tocmai prin violenta personajelor sale din lumea colorata a Sevillei.

Don José al lui Cura este un barbat arogant, insa in acord cu tipologia fireasca a acelor vremuri, in care atitudinile machiste nu puteau tolera cu usurinta un comportament atit de liber si de puternic precum cel al lui Carmen, care il umileste, il seduce, il fascineaza si il mai umileste o data pe soldatul spaniol: pentru Cura, crima din finalul operei nu este un act de gelozie, ci raspunsul firesc al unui barbat puternic in fata umilintei la care a fost supus. Doua scene in particular le-au taiat rasuflarea spectatorilor: cea din actul al treilea, cind Don José este chemat de Micaela la capatiiul mamei sale suferinde - violenta cu care Cura o trage dupa el pe Halevy aproape ca se citea pe chipul sopranei - si scena finala a crimei, cind intensitatea interpretarii sale a sters orice urma de teatralitate, de parca nervul si singele clocotitor ale lui Don José ar fi adus pe scena, cumva, singele acelei Carmen pe care a ucis-o.

Carmen insasi nu e un personaj romantic, iar Hadar Halevy a facut o demonstratie de forta la Opera din Bucuresti: Carmen e nu atit senzuala, cit sexuala, e carnala la limita obscenitatii, eliminind posibilitatea unui rafinament care nu si-ar avea locul la o tiganca lucratoare intr-o manufactura de tutun. Una dintre revelatiile serii pentru publicul bucurestean - sau poate chiar una dintre revelatiile festivalului - a fost soprana Nicoleta Ardelean, care a cistigat aplauze atit la Gala de deschidere de pe 1 septembrie, cit si in rolul Micaelei din “Carmen”.

 


 

Callas in varianta masculina canta la Opera Nationala
 

8 Septembrie 2007
Mihaela Soare, Radio Romania Muzical

Unul dintre cei mai bine cotati tenori ai momentului, Jose Cura, va evolua in aceasta seara, de la ora 18.00, in „Carmen” de Bizet, la Opera Nationala.

Cu un fizic de veritabil gladiator, in varsta de 45 de ani, argentinianul Jose Cura a fost numit de presa internationala „o creatie a teatrului, o versiune masculina a Mariei Callas”.

Cariera sa a inceput odata cu parasirea locului natal, Rosario, din Argentina, si stabilirea la Verona, unde a debutat la aproape 30 de ani. Treptat, vocea sa puternica, cu accente dramatice si temperamentul exploziv l-au impus intr-un vast repertoriu. I-a interpretat pe Othello, Turandot, Stiffelio, Samson si, acum, il intruchipeaza pe „Don Jose”, in „Carmen”.

Cure a tinut joi seara un moment de reculegere in memoria tenorului Luciano Pavarotti, in deschiderea concertului sustinut de Orchestra din Paris la Sala Palatului. Spectacolul din aceasta seara se anunta a fi unul dintre marile evenimente ale actualei editii a Festivalului „George Enescu”.

Reporter: Cativa dintre partenerii cu care cantati la Bucuresti sunt romani si inca nu ii cunoasteti. Cat de confortabil este acest lucru?
Jose Cura
: Poate fi dificil, intr-adevar, dar suntem norocosi intr-o privinta: avem o limba comuna, si aceasta este Muzica. Asa ca putem comunica foarte usor chiar daca nu vorbim aceeasi limba, nu avem aceleasi obiceiuri, aceleasi gusturi, chiar daca suntem personalitati diferite; dar stam pe scena, facem aceeasi muzica, devenim acelasi grup. Asta e minunat in a face muzica.

Nu va place sa fiti comparat cu alti tenori. „Versiunea masculina a lui Callas” va satisface insa mai mult?
Bineinteles, este un alt mod de a compara. Nu se compara vocile, ceea ce este ceva... stupid, ci accesibilitatea pentru scena. Asta este ceva foarte diferit si ma face fericit.

Ce le spuneti tinerilor la cursurile de masterclass pe care le sustineti? Care sunt lucrurile cele mai importante, in sens bun sau rau, la care sa se astepte?
In primul rand, sa respecte adevarul, in acest sens sa evolueze. Nu este nimic urat pentru un artist decat sa joace prefacandu-se. Daca nu ai o prestatie in sensul realitatii sentimentelor, nimeni nu te vede. Poti sa ai cea mai buna tehnica, cea mai frumoasa voce, dar nimic nu se va intampla.

Publicul isi doreste ca un mare artist sa fie mereu perfect. Cat de dificil este sa rezisti unei asemenea cereri?
Este imposibil sa rezisti, asta face parte din joc. Un lucru bun, in cazul meu, este ca nu am fost niciodata perfect, dar ca sunt mereu profund implicat. Este adevarat ca oamenii asteapta mult de la tine pentru ca esti faimos si, de fiecare data cand esti in scena, ei doresc sa fii... in top, cel mai bun. Dar asta nu este mereu posibil, pentru ca esti.. o fiinta umana!
 


 

José Cura: “Piata muzicala e ca un supermarket, iar noi sintem ca o pasta de dinti”

Cotidianul

Christiana Visan

 8 Septembrie 2007

 Intr-o intilnire cu presa dinaintea spectacolului “Carmen” de simbata seara, Jose Cura (foto) a declarat ca mare lucru nu stia despre Festivalul “Enescu” si i-a invitat pe romani sa-si promoveze mai bine valorile.

E considerat cel mai electrizant tenor al momentului. A escaladat destul de repede ierarhia cintaretilor in voga prin anii nouazeci si marketingul teatrelor din metropolele culturale n-a intirziat sa-l promoveze drept noul sex-simbol al scenei de opera. E unul dintre putinii cintareti de opera ai caror admiratori sint de ordinul milioanelor – in cazul particular al lui Cura, vorbim despre o galerie cu o majoritate covarsitoare de admiratoare. In prima sa zi de repetitii la Bucuresti, tenorul a acceptat sa participe la o intilnire cu presa, ferindu-se pe cit posibil (asemeni multor alte staruri cu program calculat la singe) de posibilele obositoare interviuri. Cu toata faima lui Cura, organizatorii nu se asteptau ca jurnalistii sa ia cu asalt Foaierul galben al Operei Nationale, unde era programata intilnirea cu tenorul. Dar cum socoteala facuta bine din timp nu se potriveste intotdeauna cu mersul stirilor, s-a intimplat ca joi sa nu fie o zi ca oricare alta, ci tocmai ziua in care intra in fabrica mondiala de stiri disparitia celui mai popular tenor al ultimilor 15 ani. Asadar, un public de media ceva mai numeros pentru discutia pregatita la Opera.

Tenorul le-a facut insa o surpriza, atit organizatorilor, cit si jurnalistilor, anuntind in ultimul moment ca vine insotit de soprana Hadar Halevy, interpreta rolului Carmen, si de dirijorul Mario di Rossi. “Are cineva biografiile lor, cum facem?”, se aud vreo doua voci mai tinere, pregatite sa dea ochii cu un singur star. “Si cu traducerea cum ramane?”, vor sa stie niste voci mai putin tinere, care tocmai au aflat ca engleza a fost declarata limba de referinta a discutiei. Nu mai e mult timp oricum, Jose Cura isi face aparitia pe holul Operei, de-abia iesit dintr-un interviu cu televiziunea nationala. Dupa unii e mai inalt decat s-ar fi zis din poze, iar altii insista ca-i mai scund. In orice caz, nimeni n-a putut sa-i faca vreodata o descriere etnica lui Cura: matematic, e 25% italian, 25% spaniol si 50% libanez, dar pentru el, ce conteaza e tara in care s-a nascut, adica Argentina. Incepe in sfirsit si conferinta, lumea isi ocupa locul in sala, cu ochii pe cei trei artisti straini si pe Catalin Ionescu-Arbore, directorul Operei din Bucuresti. Cuvintul de inceput ii apartine Valentinei Sandu-Dediu, sefa Biroului de Presa al festivalului, care cere un moment de reculegere in memoria lui Pavarotti: o tacere de onoare, acompaniata de scartiiturile podelei pe care se strecoara citiva fotografi, grabiti sa prinda expresiile care mai de care mai solemne de pe chipurile celor prezenti.

Dupa cum era de asteptat, prima intrebare vine cu o mica intirziere de invitare reciproca la luarea cuvintului, si nu e deloc una surpriza: cum e cu Pavarotti. Intrebarea in sine nu-i ia pe neasteptate nici pe restul jurnalistilor din sala, nici pe tenorul care trebuie sa raspunda, dar faptul ca e primul subiect al intilnirii nu pare sa-l faca prea fericit: da, e o zi trista pentru comunitatea artistica, dar trebuie sa fim atenti sa nu ne folosim de Luciano doar ca sa facem stiri. “Ca om, sint fericit ca suferinta lui a luat sfirsit, de aceasta boala necrutatoare a murit si mama sotiei mele si un bun prieten”. Cum o declaratie mai metaforica e inca asteptata, Cura isi joaca bine rolul: “Daca Dumnezeu voia un inger, acum are una dintre cele mai bune voci cintind pentru el”. Punct. Gata cu Pavarotti. Urmeaza o mica schimbare de limba: se trece la spaniola, spre nemultumirea multora dintre cei prezenti. Cura raspunde linistit: daca vorbeste limba sa materna, are faima de a raspunde la intrebari cu accentul folosit de interlocutor. In cazul de fata, unul cit se poate de spaniol: da, e pentru prima data in Romania si spera ca nu va fi si ultima si nu, nu a apucat sa vada Bucurestiul – la urma urmei, e prima zi de repetitii si pe deasupra, si ziua mortii lui Pavarotti, deci nici pe departe o zi de bun augur pentru “umblat hai-hui prin oras”. Nu, nu-i cunoaste pe artistii alaturi de care va evolua: il stia pe dirijor, conational de-ai lui, dar pe minunata soprana a intilnit-o aici pentru prima oara.

Urmatorul interlocutor mai face o schimbare de limba, adresindu-i-se in italiana (alte oftaturi din sala). Cura ii raspunde imediat cum stau lucrurile cu artistii care se incumeta sa plece in turnee: sint putini, ca nu toata lumea poate, si oricum o fac pentru ca e vorba de opere cunoscute, altfel nici el n-ar incerca sa porneasca la drum cu un rol nou. “Carmen” ii e familiara de peste douazeci de ani, de cind a debutat ca dirijor, in Argentina, cu aceasta opera, pina in ’96, cind si-a facut debutul european ca Don Jose. “O stiu deja pe toate partile, pot ajunge cu cinci minute inainte de spectacol, intru si ma apuc imediat de Don Jose”. Cura crede in forta personajului si mai putin in necesitatea de a te adapta la sali si la distributii noi: “Pe o scena normala, doar n-o sa dai peste vreo farfurie zburatoare sau nu stiu ce chestii nebunesti, asa ca tu nu trebuie sa faci altceva decit sa-ti intri in rol, sa fii personajul”. Nu crede nici in nevoia de a pune lucrurile la punct prin repetitii de sincronizare: “Daca in cariera mea de 30 de ani as fi facut totul la fel, as fi deja un dezastru”.

Cura e un tenor de show si se vede: de data aceasta, scena e o conferinta de presa si si-a intrat imediat in rol. Arta, la urma urmei, e tot o afacere, dupa cum bine spune: “Piata muzicala e ca un supermarket, iar noi sintem ca o pasta de dinti. Unii dintre noi sint mai ceruti decit altii pentru ca unele paste de dinti sint mai bune decit altele”. Despre Enescu nu stia mai nimic inainte sa fie invitat la aceasta editie: desigur, nu vorbim despre compozitor, ci despre festival. Holender ii e prieten si a acceptat cu drag sa vina la Bucuresti, dar nu lasa mingea la fileu si da replica de onoare jurnalistilor romani: “Asta inseamna ca trebuie sa va faceti festivalul mai international; aveti muzicieni buni, faceti-i cunoscuti”.

E greu sa nu-l placi: are carisma, o dezinvoltura latina uluitoare si e in stare sa vorbeasca despre orice. Nu crede in prieteniile dintre tenori: ele exista, fireste, ca doar e si el prieten la catarama cu Marcelo Alvarez, argentinian de-ai lui, si cu Roberto Alagna. “Cu Marcelo iesim uneori, mancam ca doi porci si bem, desi el ma intrece, dar asta e, sintem argentinieni si cind vine vorba despre carne si vin bun...” Asadar, exista prieteni precum Pavarotti-Domingo-Carreras si intre tinerii tenori? Prieteniile sint ceva personal, muzica e insa o profesie: “Sintem toti colegi. Nu poti fi dusmanul soldatilor din tabara ta, dar presa creeaza uneori un antagonism teoretic pentru a vinde mai mult. Se vinde mai bine daca spui ca Jose Cura il uraste pe Alvarez, Alvarez il uraste pe Alagna, decit sa spui ca sint buni colegi”.

Se considera mai mult dirijor si compozitor decit cintaret. A studiat ani buni asa ceva inainte sa-si dea seama ca are o voce buna si ca-i va fi mult mai usor sa-si cistige un loc de cinste ca tenor. Il intreb ce a facut cu Recviemul Pacii, compus acum vreo douazeci de ani, dupa incheierea Razboiului Malvinelor, in care a fost cit pe-aici sa fie inrolat. “Ar fi trebuit sa am premiera in 2007, ca se implinesc 24 de ani de la terminarea razboiului, insa n-am gasit nici o institutie argentiniana dispusa sa ma sprijine”. Romanii ar spune: “tipic”. Nici o problema, si argentinienii spun la fel, iar autocritica lor patriotica e depasita numai de orgoliul pierderii unui conflict absurd: Cura vrea sa puna pe scena o opera cu doua coruri, unul britanic si unul argentinian. Usor de zis, greu de facut: ranile razboiului s-au inchis de mult, dar inca supureaza - la urma urmei, Malvinele britanice (Falklands) nu sint nici acum recunoscute ca teritoriu englezesc de numeroase state ONU. In orice caz, Cura nu-si pierde speranta pentru compozitia lui de suflet: “N-o s-o pun in scena altundeva daca nu pot in Argentina, dar sper macar sa apuc s-o fac inainte sa mor”.

Revine la limba engleza si revine la “Carmen”. Isi descrie personajul cu aceeasi pasiune cu care il interpreteaza. Nu crede intr-o “Carmen” romantata: “Opera a fost revolutionara la vremea aceea, iar Carmen a fost prima feminista. Ginditi-va, vorbim despre personaje colorate, din Sevilla acelei vremi: femeile acelea nu umbla dezbracate pentru ca sint curve, ci pentru ca acolo sint 50 de grade la umbra, au hainele umezite de transpiratie, iar asta se traduce printr-o mare confruntare sexuala”. Face un discurs feminist cu atit mai aprins cu cit el insusi e, dupa cum se declara in gluma acum citiva ani, un “mascul impunator”. Da, “Carmen” are un mesaj pe care lumea nu vrea sa-l vada astfel: ca femeia “poate fi libera, iar barbatul, un idiot”. Si, ca sa lamurim putin ce vrea si ce nu vrea lumea, declara opera lui Bizet drept “o mare opera, problema e ca-i prea cunoscuta”. Adica nu putini se ridica sa se proclame specialisti si cunoscatori.

Vine si momentul pentru ultima intrebare. In afara de Cura, ceilalti doi n-au mai colaborat cu artisti romani. Tenorul a cintat in “Traviata”, alaturi de Angela Gheorghiu, si a ramas impresionat de Leontina Vaduva, cu care a facut un documentar in ’96 despre viata lui Puccini. Si pentru ca trebuie sa incheie cu o gluma, prezinta povestea astfel: “In scena cind ea murea in “Boema”, ma misca pina la lacrimi. Regizorul a venit sa-mi spuna ca ar da mai bine daca as plinge, dar i-am zis: nu trebuie sa-mi ceri asa ceva, ca fata asta ma face sa pling tot timpul”.

Asadar, carismatic, vibrant, cuceritor. Pentru cine si-a luat deja bilet la reprezentatia cu “Carmen” de miine seara, satisfactia e pe jumatate garantata: Jose Cura a fost, pina acum, un Don Jose aproape perfect pe multe scene metropolitane, asa ca ropotele de aplauze la Opera din Bucuresti vor fi, probabil, prelungite.

 

 

 

Andrea Chénier in Bologna

il Resto del Carlino

Bologna, 12 January 2006

Andrea Chenier, an opera by Umberto Giordano, debuts Saturday (at 20.30) at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna under the direction of Giancarlo del Monaco.

The principal singers are tenor José Cura, soprano Maria Guleghina, and baritone Carl Guelfi, three friends, as they were introduced in the press conference by Vincenzo de Vivo, artistic director of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

‘In coming to the theater,’ said Cura, ‘my thoughts went to the last two legendary interpreters of Andrea, Franco Corelli and Mario del Monaco, and I have felt the heavy responsibility of having to make one’s debut in this role in the country of such great interpreters, and to find oneself in the hands of the son of one of them.  I added it all up and said, “I will find the first airplane and return to Argentina!” since the responsibility is so large and the role so loved by the Italians.  But then I find myself with colleagues with whom I have grown and safely in the hands of conductor Carlo Rizzi, I thought this was an ideal situation, and if health allows us to sing well, it will be very beautiful.’

‘Andrea Chenier is a work soaked in great lyricism, but with a very difficult, dramatic text, one that rises to proclaim revolution, and it is necessary to pay attention to this aspect, to lend as much credibility to the text as to the beautiful melodies. Andrea sings beautiful things but it remains a very difficult role.’

Asked about the [Italian government’s] economic cuts to the arts in the last months that may lead to the closing of some theaters across the country, Cura, a man who speaks honestly (‘I have a big mouth!’), said, ‘Nothing is more important than to support an art that was born in Italy and carried to the world by Italians.’

 


 

Cura: “A status seeker, cold-blooded and cynical: Calaf is a brute.”

 

José Cura, Prince Calaf, what kind of opera is Turandot?

We should stop referring to fables and look at reality, the reality of an epoch in which Freud probed the human psyche and Alban Berg wrote Wozzeck and the extraordinary Lulu. If we don’t look at the psychological make-up of the protagonists, if we don’t translate their behavior and actions into modern terms, we condemn the opera to certain death in that we let it turn into museum material.

 

That is not an easy probe. What do you read into the enigma of Turandot?

There is no Puccinian enigma; the confrontation, the showdown between Turandot’s world (i.e. a female world) and Calaf’s world (i.e. a male world), that is the great mystery. That’s the true “knot” in Turandot, the real crux of the matter; and we are at the peak of Freudian theories. The world of the female, Turandot’s, a world where she is revelling in emotions which she now disavows, and the world of the male, Calaf’s, who through his own selfish interest, his egoism, sets out to conquer a kingdom, giving not one thought to feelings: these are issues that go beyond that of love. This is not a fairytale about love.

 

But then, what kind of person is Calaf?

He is a ruthless man, cold-blooded, a status seeker, a cynic who shows absolutely no consideration for Liu’s devotion and sacrifice, let alone for the pain which he is going to cause his father. A brute, who perhaps feels sexually attracted to the lady that has caught his eye, but who develops no feelings of affection whatsoever for her.

 

An original interpretation.

My convictions and beliefs have undergone a ripening, maturing process, and I don’t like banalities and trivialities. That’s why I avoided the role of Calaf for many years. If one analyzes (the character of) Calaf, one finds in him the Pinkerton of Butterfly, a pedophile, who seduces a fifteen-year-old in order to satisfy his own sexual needs, all the while ignoring the pain he causes her. Let’s consider another example of mercilessness, of cruelty: Otello isn’t a noble character at all. He is a sick mercenary leader who betrays the Muslim faith and who falls victim to a rage which consumes him and induces him to kill Desdemona. And that’s that. Period.

 

Armando Caruso

 


To Thine Own Self Be True
An Interview With José Cura

 

 

I first saw José Cura on stage in March 2005, in a performance of Camille Saint-Saens’ Samson et Dalila at the Metropolitan Opera. I remember being astounded, discovering facets of Samson I never knew existed. Mr. Cura presented a character so rich in nuance and psychological detail that his portrayal transformed Samson into an accessible and understandable human being, establishing a deep connection with the audience. Having also heard some of Mr. Cura’s recorded work, I remain an impressed witness to his abiding commitment to uncovering the absolute truth of the character and the music—and through his interpretation, bringing this detailed truth to light.

From singing to conducting, from composing to running his own management and recording company, this astonishingly complete musician is a living example that everything is possible, as long as you stay true to your own talents and are willing to work hard without compromising. In addition, Mr. Cura proves that there is always time for everything—he generously donates his energy and knowledge to do master classes, to raise scholarship funds for singers, and to pursue yet another talent: photography.

In the words of the 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz, an artist is: “Someone who can pour light into a cup, then raise it to quench the thirst for truth.” José Cura is indeed a pure artist, by far one of the most truthful and uncompromising artists today, always maintaining his integrity intact, in art as well as in life.

(For more information about José Cura, please visit his website at www.josecura.com.)

Did you grow up in a musical environment?

I grew up in a musical environment, but not in an environment of musicians. My mother had no prejudices when it came to music. She would switch from Beethoven to Sinatra without any kind of discrimination. That kind of openness towards music is hard to find today.

At first, I knew only that there is good or bad music, it didn’t matter if it was pop or classical. My mother encouraged my open-minded view because my house was always full of good music of all kinds. My father used to play the piano for pure pleasure, having taken piano lessons, like many kids in the ‘50s.

When you began focusing on composition and conducting at the age of 12, were you aware that you had a voice? Did you like to sing?

I was singing since I was 12 or 13, in several groups: quartets, octets, etc. We did jazz [and] spirituals, among other styles. Then I sang in choirs, old music like Palestrina, for example. So I was always singing, but never in an operatic way. Yes, I was completely dedicated to composition and conducting; that is still my vocation. Of course, there can be a difference between vocation and profession. If you are lucky, your vocation is your profession. But I only started to sing lyrically when I was 21 or 22. I had problems; I couldn’t find a proper teacher.

What kind of problems did you have?

I think most singers know that to find the right teacher is a great problem. Certain people say: “Oh, today we don’t have any good teachers!” But these people also say that there are no good singers—so they are actually transferring the invented problem of not having good singers to saying that there are no good teachers. Well, let me tell you something: There have never been just good teachers or just bad teachers! You might already know that an extremely good teacher for somebody can be an awful teacher for somebody else.

The voice is not an instrument where you can easily “see” what is going wrong. Singing is a very empirical thing, so you never really know what is happening, unless there is an extremely rich and harmonious human communication between the teacher and the student. If the teacher is able to go inside the student’s being and give him or her a couple of clues about what to do or how to do it, then that teacher is the right one for that person. If you find a teacher who has a good chemistry with you, who understands your body and your voice, and on top of that is also a great technician, then of course, you are in heaven!

Personally, I had many problems, until I found somebody who, for one year, dared to “dig” inside my body, my cords, my larynx. This was when I was 26 or 27 in Argentina. Before that, every other teacher I had tried was damaging my voice badly.

When you found the right teacher, did you do a great deal of technical work with him?

Well, we worked for a year. I have always been a rebel in my life, self-taught in almost everything I do. I always wanted to carve my way, in my own style. But this teacher helped me discover and understand my instrument. He didn’t change it; he didn’t try to shape what was the rough prototype of my voice into an artist. So, from there on, I took charge of my own instrument, and kept asking myself: “Now that I understand how it feels, what do I have to do, what do I have to keep feeling? How do I have to mold my understanding of the voice into the musician that I am, in order to continue on my own path?”

Of course, when you do things alone, it takes a lot of time. It’s very dangerous, and you hit your head against the wall again and again! I was lucky, because I was always surrounded by great musicians, and by people with great ears who said to me: “This is not good; check it!” Or: “I don’t know what you have to do, but this doesn’t sound nice.”

It’s interesting, when you read the reviews of my career from the start to today, you understand that in the beginning, I was developing myself within the process of performing. I was trying to identify with my own way of expressing and my own body.

In the early reviews, for example, you read a lot that: “Cura doesn’t have a technique.” And I always thought: “Wait a minute, you cannot handle such a career as I have had from the beginning, and still be able to speak after singing a Samson or an Otello, if you don’t have a technique!” In a couple of years, you would be out, completely aphonic and unable to sing one note.

On the other hand, I am happy to attribute to the lines of those reviews, [which said] I don’t have a technique, the fact that I have my own technique! I think that singers can learn a lot from you when it comes facing unfair reviews.

The ideal for a singer is to have his or her own technique. Singers are not like instrumentalists. A singer is an entity in himself or herself. You cannot apply the same resources to everybody. That is the main challenge of being a singer, and of growing from rough material to a professional. And that is also the big challenge of finding a good teacher.

It’s not only about knowing where to place the notes and how to do scales—but it’s hard not to get trapped in that! Don’t you think that a teacher needs to make a singer aware of physical things that may inhibit the best result from that singer? Yes, but in moderation!

What happens a lot is that we forget the fact that singing is a natural thing. In order to sing, you have to breathe; in order to live, you have to breathe. Singing is a natural process that you need to develop, not invent.

 

So, you’re saying that the natural act of singing is already present in each singer, but it’s more or less disguised, and the work involves uncovering this natural gift rather than “building” it?

Exactly! For me, the key is this: We cannot invent singing, because there is nothing to invent. You need to develop what is inside the person. It’s like when you are an athlete, and you have a trainer who trains you how to run as fast as you can, to break the records and be one of the top athletes. He is not teaching you to run in the basic sense of: “one leg goes in front of the other one!” That’s a natural motion. We don’t have to invent that. He will teach you how to train your muscles, how to articulate your knees, in order to obtain the maximum result from that which is a natural thing for a human being, like running, in this case.

That is why teachers fail when they take somebody and they try to invent a voice. No! As a teacher, you have to take your time to understand what is there. Just start with that and try to get the best out of what your student already has!

What was your existing core, or your starting point?

I’ve always been an athlete, even close to being a professional, before the beginning of my career. My starting point was to understand that there is a direct relationship—not to say identical—between the body that you use for sports and the body you use for singing. It’s the same body. When you sing, you use muscles, blood, tendons, bones and fluids—all the things you use when you go to the gym, or when you play a tennis match.

A singer is not somebody with a crystal bird in the larynx, so [that] you can push a button and all of a sudden the voice comes out! No, it’s a physical thing. That’s why many things have to do with the cycle of glucose and lactic acid, things that people wouldn’t normally think about.

For example, there are singers who don’t understand what is going on when they start vocalizing, and after 10 minutes, they get hoarse and can’t speak anymore. Then they take a short break—and they can sing again, and they have no idea why. It’s very simple. You just burned the glucose in the muscle and you have lactic acid as garbage, and the liver needs to clear the lactic acid and add glucose again.

The same happens when you do push-ups, for example, and after the twelfth push-up, you can’t move anymore, because all your muscles are burning. But if you stop for five minutes, the lactic acid is replaced by glucose, and then you can do 10 more push-ups like a miracle. The body is just doing its job.

It’s the same with singing. Once you see this relationship, once you understand that it’s very much about muscles and blood and physicality, you will face the fears of having to sing with a completely different mind.

People say: “I have to warm up my voice.” You don’t warm up your voice, because the voice is an intangible thing. You warm up the muscles that produce a sound which you call ‘“voice.” You warm up those muscles in the same way an athlete would warm up his body for a competition, trying to put into motion the circuit of glucose and lactic acid, so that the energy will be there. Once you understand that, your whole life as a singer changes.

In the beginning you sang in Teatro Colón in the choir. How did that experience develop you as a singer?

I think that every singer who wants to be a soloist has to spend some years singing in the choir. That is some of the best training you can get. You learn how to be on stage. You learn about makeup, and costumes, and how to walk, how to follow the conductor. You can take some risks with your voice and experiment a little, because whatever happens, you are covered.

If you are a tenor in a big choir where there are 20 to 40 tenors, you can try diminuendo, crescendo and some things that if you were alone you wouldn’t dare to try, because you might be afraid your voice will break. So you can use the choir as a territory of experiences for the future. Not to mention that by singing in the choir of a big opera house, you have the chance of sharing the stage with great artists. You are there when they sing, and you see what they do. You learn how they breathe, and how they move their mouths. You are in rehearsals, you see their problems, you watch how they struggle to obtain a result, and you learn how to fix certain things. It’s a really great experience!

You made your operatic debut in a few small roles, until the bigger role of Jean in Miss Julie, in March 1993. Is that where your career started taking off?

Well, yes. It’s a weird thing, that a career takes off with a completely unknown opera that I’ve never repeated since. Some people who saw me then started to think about the possibility that “maybe this guy could be somebody interesting to follow.”

You were 30 at that time.

Yes. You’ve been counting the years. Mamma mia!

Do you think it’s better for a singer to start a little later, rather than throwing themselves out there at 22 or 23?

It’s not about when you start … it’s about what you have inside your head to deal with your life and your career, which has nothing to do with when you start, or with age. This is like getting married. If you feel that you have to get married at 22, even if everybody says that you are too young, then you get married at 22. I got married at 22! I’ve been married for 20 years—I have three kids and I am the happiest man. So, it worked!

On the contrary, I started to sing very late, and that worked too! It depends on when it comes. The train passes in front of you, and if you don’t jump on it, maybe there won’t be another train. But it has to happen at the right time. There are no rules. You just have to keep your senses on alert and be ready to jump if the occasion is there. And be intelligent enough to understand if you are up to the challenge of a certain occasion or not, because that can also be tricky.

When I did my debut in Otello, I was 34, and that was a daring thing to do. There I was with Maestro [Claudio] Abbado, live in front of the world, and I thought: “I cannot lose this chance!” So what I had to do was to sing Otello like a 34-year-old guy. I couldn’t intoxicate my interpretation with interpretations of 45-, 50- and 60-year-old tenors who have great experience with the role and whom I couldn’t compare to. Because if I did that, by the end of the first act, I would have been kaput! So I created a very lyrical Otello, based more on stage presence and acting, rather than the volume of the voice. Many said: “But this is not Otello, this is too lyric.” It was lyric, of course, but what can you do when you are 34?

It was your own interpretation.

It wasn’t a set interpretation that I will keep forever. It was a guy of 34 taking this risk in a role that is emblematic for a tenor; a role that is very dangerous and very difficult, and which you are mature for when you are 45.

It’s about taking calculated risks and surviving to tell about it. And that created a very nice image: The first tenor in the history of opera to make his debut in Otello at 34 in a live broadcast, which is absolutely daring and irresponsible!

Every tenor I know made his debut in Otello in a more or less hidden way, to be sure that they could cope with the role—and when they knew that they could do it, the second [Otello] was more in the open. I went for it at 34, and I did it in my way at that time. So what was at the time a surprise for critics, now it is understood as a demonstration of intelligence, to have done it like that and then to live and be here to speak with you about it!

 

You manage your career yourself through your own management agency. Did you have an agent when you started?

When I started I had agents like everybody—until I discovered certain traits in some of them …

Like what?

I will not go too much into detail because it’s not necessary. Actually, it would serve as advice for singers in terms of what to watch out for when they have an agent.

Singers have to [make sure] that the agent is honest. At the time, I was getting fed up with the image they were trying to create of me—“sex symbol of the opera”—something that is very nice at first glance, but then you understand that it is superficial. I didn’t spend 30 years of my life to become a musician and only be considered because I am kind of good-looking, for goodness’ sake! That is frustrating.

You are very good looking! And don’t tell me that doesn’t help at all!

Yeah, OK, but that is still frustrating. You are a woman and you know how it feels when people consider you because you are pretty, and they forget that you may also be intelligent, by the way. And that’s the case with a lot of good-looking women, and men. So, it took me several years to convince people of the fact that I was a serious musician, and that nothing that happens on stage or in my career is a result of coincidence, or chance, or the good luck of a purely gifted person, an overnight sensation—the typical media formula. On the contrary, it’s the result of 30 years of hard work!

Of course, thank God I have these talents, but I’ve worked very hard to develop them. If, on top of that, I am considered to be good-looking on stage and be a good actor, that makes me happy too. It’s the cherry on top of the cake, but it’s not the cake!

Then how do you see the importance of looks for this career?

Honestly, I think that if you look good, it is better. Not to the point that the looks will make your career if you are not a good singer, because then it is not better, it’s worse. But from my own experience, I can tell you there’s no way to sing roles such as Samson or Otello only with your good looks, because you won’t get to the end of the second act. OK, you are good-looking, but go on stage and show me what you can do! And then you will know the truth about a singer.

The paradox of opera is that for one reason or another, great voices don’t always go with great looks. You can make a very good actor out of a good-looking guy, even if he’s not good from the beginning. But you cannot put a voice in a good-looking guy, if the voice is not there.

This is where you need flexibility. If you have a great voice in front of you, the voice comes first. But there is another important fact to consider. I say this to everybody who has a great voice: Be careful not to rely on the fact that you have such a great voice, so that you do nothing more. Do not use that excuse to neglect the way you look, to start eating like a pig, to not dress properly, or not act well on stage! Because then you become a bad artist, you just become a voice, and you break the idea of the integral performer.

An integral performer is not somebody who is pretty. It’s somebody who is professional enough to obtain from his own body as much as his own body can give. And each one of us has to find his or her limit. There’s no way everybody can be good-looking, or smart, or fit. That’s not the point. What you have to do is just face yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself, and see what you can improve. Then you try to improve the way you look, and you get to the point when you know you tried your best and you are happy with yourself. But when you use having a great voice as a pretext to ignore the remaining aspects of what is to be a professional whose body is the instrument of work, then you are not a complete professional and you are giving a very bad example.

It’s not about how you look, or how pretty you are compared to somebody else. It’s about you, in honesty with your instrument, with your body, with yourself—not trying to be the best, but as good as you can be! Of course, there are medical problems which are difficult to deal with and have an effect on your looks, but in a normal situation, an ideal artist obtains from his instrument the best he can in every way. That is an artist’s responsibility.

When did you decide to start your own management company?

In 1999, certain things happened. I had a couple of very disgusting legal situations with people who wanted to obtain the most from me without doing anything. So I decided to cut with everybody and to be my own man. This cost me three to four years of nightmares.

From 1999 to the beginning of 2004, I [was] under the harshest of … attacks from many different sources: people calling theaters to convince artistic directors not to engage me, and journalists being paid to write that I was history, that I was a falling star. But we persisted very hard, and we created my own production company with a branch for my own management. … In 2001, we created my own record company, we have three records now in the catalog, and they’re very successful.

A few months ago, we added two new branches: one is productions/special events. Our company is open for theaters or international organizations who want to engage us to create and produce shows for them. After many colleagues have seen the way my company operates, they asked us: “Why don’t you open a managing branch for other singers?” So we did, and we are very happy with this new branch. We already have many very talented young artists.

Today, a lot of things are changing; subsidies are being taken away from theaters, and business has changed a lot. Record companies now are not doing as well as they were years ago. Certain agencies are selling their buildings because they cannot pay the rent anymore, and they are moving into small offices.

In the actual picture of how show business is reshaping itself, I am very happy to say that my company is among the pioneers of what is probably going to be the new way of doing show business. After four years of struggle, we are now successful and very happy with our work. We have expanded and moved into new offices, and we are building our own recording studio.

I never thought I would become an impresario, but here I am! And the funny thing is that now I am receiving calls from several theaters that want me to be artistic director. So that is opening to me much faster than I thought.
 

Between singing, conducting, managing your own company, recording, composing, do you even have time to sleep?

Well, I have a group of people working with me and for me. I don’t do everything! For example, I don’t manage the careers of the singers on my roster. I observe and I am consulted when somebody new is going to be part of the company. I’ve conducted a great deal in the past, and finally, I am coming back to what was supposed to be my vocation: to be a conductor. The singing was an accident in my life—a very happy accident—but not the reason why I became a musician.

This year I am conducting a lot, and making my debut in four or five new symphonic works. I’m conducting Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, [both] Kodai’s and Bruckner’s Te Deum, Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, Verdi’s Vespri Siciliani and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Do you have time for any hobbies?

Actually, I’ve always been interested in photography as my hobby, as my way out. I am a pretty good photographer. I don’t say that I am the Richard Avedon of the lyric panorama—but pictures can also be interesting to understand what goes through the head of the photographer. So in my case, maybe it could be the ultimate way for my fans to comprehend certain things. Now I have a Swiss publisher who has approached my company to ask for the possibility of releasing a book of my photographs, whenever I am ready for that. It’s a big step!

Do you compose for voice?

My favorite thing is to compose for voices and orchestra at the same time, mainly choral symphonic music, probably because it’s the most complete of the ways you write music. You have the best of all worlds: the orchestra and the voice, all together in one.

What is your philosophy of life in general?

One thing I can tell you—and this has been my challenge since the beginning—trying not to be overwhelmed by the fact that because I have been given several different talents, there is the danger of becoming mediocre in all of them. [I’m] following [the dictum of] Einstein, who said: “If you look for different results, do not always do the same things!”

Well, you know the expression: “Jack of all trades; master of none!” How do you avoid that?

By working very, very, very hard and giving time to each of my talents, sometimes giving more importance to one of them in a certain period and putting the other ones aside, and so on—alternating. On the other hand, if you discover that you have several talents and you put most of them aside to concentrate on one, at the end of your life, you will feel very bad. You will know that you gave up your other gifts, just for the fear of not being able to face them all… at the same time! Or what’s even worse, you gave them up for the comfort of not having to work double or triple in order to maintain all of them at the same level.

But if people do so many things at once, then how can they become excellent at something?

If you only do one thing and you want to be perfect just in that one, the “bad news” is that nobody is perfect. The very “bad news” is that there is always somebody who is better than you. So at the end of your life, you will turn around and you will see: “OK, I have not been perfect as I wanted, because it is impossible, but I’ve given up a lot of other chances because I was a coward.”

I am not trying to pontificate here. What I am saying is that each individual has to make his own decisions and take his own risks, and forget about what other people say when they judge your behavior. Just go for it, and be responsible for your achievements and for your mistakes.

I prefer to suffer today the attacks and the criticisms of people saying that I am doing too many things, rather than just doing one thing, and at the end of my life, having to face God and explain to him why I have put aside all the other talents he gave me. If I have to deal with somebody’s judgment, I prefer to deal with human beings rather than with God!

How do you balance all this activity and your family life?

My company is very close to my house, so when I am there, I am in both places at the same time. The company’s general administrator is my wife, so we are always working together for the company.

I am making many sacrifices to be in my house as much as possible. For example, last week I did my last performance in New York on Saturday. I took a plane on Sunday—I went to Madrid for five days, which is not around the corner exactly—and then I took a plane back to New York to finish the remaining performances. That is exhausting! I sang the performance two days ago with a big jet lag. But well, that’s the price you have to pay if you want to be a good parent, and I happily pay it.

What do you do for that? Try to be as healthy and as fit as you can, and to have the most reliable technique possible in order to face those demands. Not everybody is capable of identifying with what I do, because sometimes it is extreme. But it’s working very well, because my family is great and we’re very united. I am not a father who brings up his kids by telephone.

How old are your children?

Seventeen, 12, and 9.

Do you teach at all?

No, but I love to do master classes. I did a master class at Indiana University in Bloomington last year and it was beautiful! We had 500 kids there. It was two days, very intense, 5-6 hours each, and it was so sweet to see all that talent.

I also did a master class at the end of 2004 in Russia, in Yekaterinburg in the conservatory. They had 1,000 or more people attending—that was a killer! Such incredible voices and talented people.

It’s beautiful to see all these kids, both here and in Russia, and I am ready to fight whoever insists that there are no voices today as there were in the past. That is BS that certain people say only to prove that they are unique!

We are not unique! There are great voices out there, and we just need to find them and help them.

When you teach a master class, what is your approach?

I don’t have an approach. I am very instinctive, so I don’t have a plan or an idea when I go. I just take the temperature—so to speak—of the people, and I adapt to what I feel they need. Every person has different needs and wants to hear different things, so I just go there and say: ‘“Here I am; I am all yours!”

How do you prepare for roles?

Studying a lot, as usual.

Do you read related materials too?

Yes, of course, depending on the role. There are certain roles … you can really dig inside psychologically, like Don Carlo, Canio, Samson or Otello. There are other roles, like Calaf in Turandot for example, where if you have a nice presence and you sing well, it’s already enough. You can maybe find two or three colors, but it’s not such a rich character in terms of psychological background.

Then, if the character is very physical—like the Samson I am doing now, for example—I try to be as fit as I can to avoid accidents on stage, like twisting my back, for example, when they kick me around.

You are by far the most physical Samson I have ever seen.

When I am waiting to go on stage, between the millstone scene and after the Bacchanale, I am actually stretching and warming up as a dancer, to be ready for this very physical scene.

What kind of sports do you do right now?

I have no time for sports right now. I just try to do some push-ups sometimes to “keep the blood going.” Life in hotels, airplanes, and rehearsal rooms—which are almost always located three floors or more below ground level—is not the easiest thing to deal with if you want to stay more or less fit.

Any parting words of advice for our readers?

I would not say “good luck,” because I don’t believe in luck. I believe in being prepared. Luck is to be in the middle of the desert dying of thirst and all of a sudden having a short shower on your head. That is good luck! But if you don’t have a glass to gather the water, you lose the water. The glass has to be prepared.

Many people think that they didn’t have a career because they didn’t have the luck. Some say: “Oh, Mr. Cura, he’s very lucky, he’s been at the proper time in the proper place.”

No, no, no! Wait a minute! I moved from Argentina to Europe in 1991. I worked for two or three years in restaurants—my wife worked with me, washing dishes—and we did many things that a lot of people wouldn’t even think about doing. We had a very hard life. We lived in a garage for one year because we couldn’t pay the rent, and we heated the garage with a small fire, with me gathering wood in the middle of the night!

In 1990, one year before going to Europe, I was singing in commercial centers in Argentina, with my hat on the floor for coins! So don’t tell me about pure luck, because that is garbage! It is all about hard work! And then, be sure that through your hard work and preparation, the moment when you have that short shower on your head in the middle of the desert, you [are carrying] the biggest glass possible to gather as much water as you can.

That is my advice. Don’t live on dreams, don’t live thinking that one day somebody will knock on your door and say: “Hey, you’re the greatest on the earth, we are waiting for you—come!” That doesn’t exist. [That happens] only in movies—unless you do certain things that I don’t wish anybody to do, to make certain compromises at certain levels in order to start a career, compromises that could go from economical to physical ones. I know many of those situations, but I also know that all of them who started their careers by compromising lasted two or three years, and they were gone.

The advice of someone who’s been on stage for 30 years—15 of them professionally—is: Do not compromise! Just be as good as you can. And know where your limits are!

All the time I hear people saying: “I am the greatest artist on earth, but because nobody knows it, nobody gives me a chance.” That’s not true, because if you put many of those who say that on stage to do a solo, they can’t open their mouths for being too afraid or too unprepared. I am generalizing just for the sake of giving you an example, of course, but the problem remains.

Everyone can be great in the shower! My advice then? Speak less and do more!

 


The Cura for Airs and Graces


Sunday October 23rd 2005

Irish Independent

Ciara Dwyer
 

'IS THAT him?" asks the London cabbie as we pull into a side street in Covent Garden. Standing on the corner is the Argentinian tenor José Cura. A soft black leather jacket hangs from his muscular shoulders, his thick black hair is a groomed mess and he is wearing denims.

The shoppers who pass on the pavement are like pasty Lilliputians beside this glowing giant. He displaces air simply by standing there. It's like watching Marlon Brando in his prime - all that intensity and intelligence.

But I am too scared to enjoy the sight. I am 10 minutes late and everybody knows how some tenors have a reputation for being temperamental. "I couldn't wait any longer," says Cura, "I'm starving. I need food." He walks away from the door of the apartment, where we were to do the interview, and heads off down the street.

I gasp. Have I blown my big interview? I scurry after him.

Moments later, the star tenor is pushing a trolley around Tesco, throwing packets of pasta and mozzarella and a pizza into his basket, while I, like a helpless diva, totter along the aisles beside him.

José Cura is not your average tenor; for although he is extraordinarily talented, he is a very ordinary man. That morning he woke up in his Madrid home, had breakfast with his wife Silvia and their three children - José Ben, 17, Yazmin, 12, and Nicolas, 9. Then he got into his car, a Ford Focus, and dropped the kids to school before heading for the airport. Nicolas was the last to get out.

"Where are you going now?" the boy asked his father.

"London."

"And what are you going to sing?"

"La Fanciulla del West."

"OK. Ciao. Good luck."

Cura, the doting father, smiles as he relates the beautifully blasé way of his child. He lugs his plastic Tesco bags back to the apartment and tells me he is tired.

"All day yesterday I was doing my garden. Mowing the lawn and cutting hedges. At the moment we have no gardener and if I don't do it it will be a jungle. I was doing that from 10 in the morning till five, and in the middle I was on the phone, mowing with the headphone on, discussing contracts."

In less than six hours, he will be performing as Dick Johnson in the Royal Opera House's production of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West. And he has agreed to let me interview him before this.

Most opera singers don't stir before a performance. But Cura explains that that is not his way.

"The important thing is living and not spending your day finding alibis not to live: 'I have a performance tonight so I cannot move' - that is a very common thing. OK, some people need that. I find I do a much better performance when I enjoy my day. I forget about the performance until two hours before, when I need to get ready for it.

"The other day, there was a march for peace here. [It was a day he was due to perform.] So I went with my camera and stuck myself in the middle of the march, and started taking pictures. It was three hours before the performance. Then I went to the theatre and put my make-up on and sang."

Some might say that this is insane, not proper behaviour for a tenor, but José Cura has always done things his own way. Besides, he is not just a singer.

The 42-year-old has been conducting for the past 25 years. He doesn't think of himself as a singer but as a musician who happens to sing and conduct and compose.

Once, at a concert in London, he sang and conducted at the same time. Many years ago in La Scala, he was booed for singing an aria while lying down. And only last spring, he conducted Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, then as soon as it was over he put on make-up and costume and played the lead role in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Such adventurous ways are not always praised. But Cura's path reminds me of the writer Antonio Porchia's line: "They will say that you are on the wrong road, if it is your own."

"I am a daring artist," he tells me. "I am always investigating new ways of getting to the public. Not all of them work 100 per cent, but you study what does work, drop the useless and you develop. That's the way to grow in every human situation; if not, we would still be carving with stones. That's why for each generation since the beginning of time, you have two or three people who dare to challenge, and the other ones are just sitting there, either criticising or enjoying the results of your risks."

The newspapers have chronicled his work. "José Cura is a phenomenally gifted artist. Seldom can anyone have made the hideously difficult title role [Verdi's Otello] sound so easy to sing," wrote the London Times's Rodney Milnes. The Daily Telegraph's Paul Gent raved about his "charm and charisma to burn, a thrilling voice with a dark centre and an athletic build honed by martial arts". And when the tenor returned to the Metropolitan in February of this year with Saint-Saens's Samson and Dalila, the New York Times wrote of his "animal magnetism" and hailed his performance as the reason to take in the opera. I have seen José Cura in many operas over the years and concur with the critic who described him as "thrillingly dramatic". Quite simply, Cura is a creature of the theatre, a male version of Maria Callas. Images of his performances remain in my head. When he was Manrico in Il Trovatore, I watched his side profile as he smoked a cheroot on stage, while the choir sang the Anvil Chorus; the way he put out the candle with his palm in Otello, then sang with fury, his lion-face on fire, as his Desdemona lay sleeping on the bed; pulling the pillars down in Samson. His voice, with its rich baritonal quality, is exquisite. And yet José Cura's singing career started by accident. In his home town of Rosario, he had been conductor of a young group which did chamber operas. One night, he settled into his seat in the audience to watch a concert which he had helped prepare, only to be told that the tenor had taken ill. Instead of cancelling the show, Cura stood in.

"I was struggling, of course, because I was not a trained singer. But somebody heard me and said, 'You have to study, because there is some very interesting material to develop.' Fate is fate."

In 1988, Jose had no money, but the singing teacher Horacio Amauri insisted on lessons - money was not an issue. "A voice like yours comes to the earth two or three times a century," he told Cura. Then in 1991, José and Silvia with their first child, left Argentina for Italy to pursue the singing. Later on, they lived in France and eventually settled in Madrid.

"When we came to Europe we had some very tough years - working as waiters and cutting wood. It was tough but not scary. Today, I look back on it as an enriching period. I have always enjoyed my life, even when it was hard, because it's part of being alive. If you only enjoy your life when you are successful and well paid, then you are pathetic, because it's not the life that you are enjoying but the economical success of it."

Today, as a tenor at the pinnacle of his career, he is grateful that he had to struggle.

"To have an easy beginning is not advisable, because then you are a very tender thing. You have to make your muscles. You have to have what I call healthy rage. I have never accepted the mediocrity of giving up just because somebody says I will be at fault. If I have to do something, I do it and if I have to fight for it, I fight. Only the talent is given, but what you do with it is your own responsibility," he says.

Cura attributes his success to hard graft. "The average audience will never understand the work behind a performance. Take a dancer, for example. To do a jump, he has to use muscles, he may have a pain in his knee. But in those 10 seconds that he is in the air, the audience sees this amazing creature, flying and smiling as if he is making no effort. They say, 'Wow! He is so lucky to be able to do this.' Lucky, sh*t. He's been working 10 hours a day for 10 years to be able to do that. It has nothing to do with luck."

And so it is with opera.

"I work very very hard. I study a lot and am very well prepared. That is why I am self-confident. I have been criticised because I look like I don't make any effort when I sing. I make a lot of effort but I have worked very hard, trained myself in front of mirrors and cameras, to make it look effortless. It's like if you see an actor acting, then he is not a good actor."

José Cura is the full package - the former weight-lifter and black belt has the looks, the talent, the brains and a healthy sense of humour about life. But for years, his good looks proved a hindrance.

"I never said I was a heart-throb, but people are impressed according to their own sensibilities. It is like if you take a tennis ball and you throw it against a wall, or water or the sun. You are throwing the same ball but it bounces differently according to the type of surface. "

Now that Cura is going grey, and putting on a little weight, he is amused at changed perceptions. He tells me about a concert he conducted recently, where he heard the audience laugh when he put on his glasses.

"I turned around and said, 'Well, it happens to everybody sooner or later. Now that I wear spectacles, you will say that after all that, I was not a bad musician'."

If ageing means that he will be taken for the serious artist that he always was, then "getting old is good", he says. Now that he is in his prime as a tenor, he is happy to sing more than conduct, but when he gets older, he plans to tilt the scales in the other direction.

There was a time, a few years ago, when he was so disheartened with the opera world that Silvia, his staunchly loyal wife, told him they would sell the house, and get somewhere smaller, so he could be free and happy again. Luckily, he rediscovered his enthusiasm. Setting up his own production company and record label - Cuibar - helped. Now he is his own impresario, and Cuibar manages other artists too.

"It is extra headaches but it's nice. Life is about colours and moving and preparing for your future."

Cura is still talking but I am conscious of the clock. There is the matter of tonight's opera. He needs to rest.

After all these years he still strikes me as incredibly down-to-earth. In a world where singers can become precious, how has he remained so grounded?

"You only stay grounded if you want to be. If it wasn't for the support of my family - my wife, my kids, my parents - I wouldn't have got so far. It depends on the kind of family you have. If you have an iron ball on your leg, you will move eventually but each step will be a nightmare. On the contrary, if your family is like a balloon, you just get everybody on board and you fly together. "

That evening in La Fanciulla del West, I watched José Cura on stage as a cowboy, with spurs, hat and gun. As always, his singing looked effortless, but sounded sublime.

"When I am on stage I give my blood," he told me that afternoon. On that Covent Garden stage, I watched him bleed. His dynamism was mesmerising. It was like watching history being made. I sat in the audience, glowing like a proud mother. For I am privileged to have met this man who has been touched by the gods, to have heard his story and to have shopped with him in Tesco.

 


Idol of the Public

José Cura: “Otello is a very hard role but it has compensations”

El Periodico

The Argentine tenor performs the Verdi opera in the Liceu

Marta Cervera

BARCELONA

4 February 2006

 

 

 

 

 

"He is a toad from a different swamp..."

 

 

 

 

   

 

 The Verdi opera many consider his best, Otello, based, like Falstaff and Macbeth, on a Shakespearean play, will return to the Liceu on Thursday with Argentine tenor José Cura in the title role. It is a co-production of the Monnaie of Brussels and the Grand Théâtre of Geneva, with a modern staging by Willy Decker and with Antoni Ros-Marbà conducting the Orquestra Simfònica of the Great Teatre of the Liceu.

Cura, whom the public of Liceu de Barcelona has adored since his debut as a substitute for an indisposed José Carreras in Samson and Dalila, this time portrays the jealous Moor who kills his wife, one of his most critically acclaimed roles. He made his debut in Otello in 1997 and today, with more than a dozen different productions behind him, he continues to discover new nuances in each staging. “Otello is a very hard role, but it has compensations.  I enjoy it,” says Cura, who thrives on challenges and who, besides singing, also conducts orchestras.

“Obvious, Otello demands much sacrifice. The vocal effort is great but the psychological effort is even more exhausting to me.” Even though he has not passed through the Actor's Studio, Cura has trust in the character and gives himself over to it completely. “I put all my energy into the role and that leaves me drained because the psychological complications of Otello are enormous.” And he thanked the Liceu for the "delicacy" of giving him two days of rest between performances. “The voice you recover with a good night of sleep; the other, the soul, the mind, no.” That is especially true when, as in this case, the weight of the success of the performance falls to the singers, who must act on a completely empty stage and on an incline that complicates the actor’s movements.  “The ramp is uncomfortable and hard. One assumes that if one manages to tame it, the public will forget that it is inclined,” Cura said in resignation. He defended director Willie Becker.  “The masterworks like Otello, where there is not a single note or word more than necessary, allow an empty stage.”  But in other occasions, “minimalism camouflages the lack of ideas.”

Cura defines his character as an insecure man, explained to a great extent by Otello being the only black in a society of whites and also married to a princess. “He is a toad from a different swamp, as we say in Argentina,” he points out, “He is a great general and skilled swordsman but does not have the courage to face both guilty parties and ask them directly what there is between them.”

He sees Otello as a man without honor or nobility. “He is a mercenary, a paid assassin. A traitor who becomes a Christian for convenience.” And, he adds: “He does not have anything of a nobleman about him, but that legend has grown due to the nobility of the great interpreters who have sung him, like Domingo and Del Monaco.” Distrusting by nature, Otello falls easily into the trap set by Iago (Ataneli Side), who constantly feeds the lie that Desdémona (Krassimira Stoyanova) has been unfaithful with Cassio (Vittorio Grigolo). “Otello is as bad as Iago or even more so,” said Cura.  “I see Iago as the dark side of Otello, for that reason Otello allows Iago to destroy him.”

The tenor did not want to comment on his relations with Teatro Real, where in 2000 he clashed with the public. Yes, he explained that his plan to direct the Coliseo of the Three Cultures in Madrid is still in the air.

With respect to the Liceu, he retains his commitment to open the 2007-08 season with Andrea Chénier. “The public here has adopted me.”

 


 

 

José Cura removes all nobility from Verdi’s Otello

El Pais

The tenor will sing the opera inspired by Shakespeare in Barcelona’s Liceu

LOURDES MORGADES  -  Barcelona

 EL PAÍS  -  Espectáculos

 04-02-2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Iago is nothing more than Otello's darker side."

 

 

   

As a good dramatic tenor, José Cura (Rosario, Argentina, 1962) has derived many artistic satisfactions from the role of Verdi’s Otello.   Starting next Thursday he sings it in Barcelona’s Liceu with to the Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova and under the stage direction of Willy Decker and musical direction of Antoni Ros Marbà.  Satisfaction comes to the singer and actor as he looks into the psychology of a person with whom he has little sympathy. “He is not a hero, he is a mercenary. There is no type of nobility in him. He is as bad as or worse than Iago. In fact, I believe that Iago is nothing more than Otello's darker side.”

"The role of Otello is one I have sung many times and yet it always surprises me when I return to it.  He is very complex psychologically.  My relation with him began in 1997 and since then this character stays with me with the luck of a well-made marriage.  It is a relationship in which I find new delights in interpretation with each production," says the tenor.

Enthusiastic, vehement and intuitive, José Cura is a permanent volcano in boiling that wastes energy on the scene and outside. "Of the physical exhaustion after playing an operatic role such as Otello I recover with only a day of rest," he says, "but with the psychological implication of this character, and I imply much, I must take more time." In the nine years since he first sang this Verdi opera, the tenor has been developing his idea of the role, which he sees through the eyes of actors and directors like Laurence Oliver, Orson Welles or Kenneth Branagh, to draw a psychological profile which leaves little room for affection.

“The danger of Otello is that the audience confuses the nobility of some of the great tenors who have interpreted him, singers such as Ramon Vinay, Mario Del Monaco or Plácido Domingo, with the character. Because Otello is not a hero, he is not a noble person.  He is a mercenary, a man who earns his living by being a military machine; a Muslim who abandons his religion out of self-interest and who then takes the lead in the fight against his own.  I find no nobility in any of this,” proclaims the tenor, who even sees the evildoer Iago as one more aspect of Otello.  “He is as bad as or worse than he. The truth is that I see Iago like the dark side of Otello, the man through whom the Venetian general discovers his own destructive nature,” he comments.

José Cura says that his present vision of the character does not always agree with that of the director of the production for which he has been contracted to sing but until now no director has been able to change his mind. In the Liceu, the 1997 co-production of the Monnaie of Brussels and Grand Théâtre of Geneva directed by Willy Decker appears to leave the stage empty with a giant cross as the only scenic element. “It is a closed space that creates a sort of psychological prison for the characters while at the same time focusing all the attention on them, which forces the singers to be always alert.  Putting the action into a modern concept requires the singer to give the best of himself as an actor. But let nobody be deceived, no singer is a Robert de Niro or Anthony Hopkins,” he warns.

The tenor says he is in love with the Liceu and will return to the theater after this Otello to inaugurate season 2007-2008 with Andrea Chenier, but the reestablishment of his broken relationship with the Teatro Real after his clash with the public in 2000 at the Madrid theater still seems distant. Yesterday, in his press conference in Barcelona, he refused to respond to questions on his return to the Real or his relationship with the new direction of the theater. Yes, he explained, he has received an offer, without specifying which theater, to sing Wagner’s Parsifal in 2008, but he does not know if he will accept because he says that what frightens him most about this opera is the language: German.

 

 


 

 

 

The tenor José Cura portrays Otello at the Liceu

Terra Actualidad - Europa Press

4 February 2006

The Argentine tenor José Cura will portray Otello in the Gran Teatre del Liceu beginning February 9 in a production that gambles that a barren stage will further the psychological investigation into the characters.

Cura explained today that, although he has participated in “between 12 and 15 different productions” of Otello, one of Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpieces, “it never stops surprising me” and “I always learn something new.”  

Nevertheless, on this occasion the tenor will bring to the Liceu “my only Otello” of the season, since the role is “very difficult” from both a vocal and psychological point of view, a fact that has led the Liceu to schedule performances every two days.

The opera, with a libretto by Arrigo Boito based on the play of William Shakespeare, takes place at the end of fifteenth century in the harbor city of Cyprus, dominated then by the Republic of Venice. Otello, a military man of Arab descent to the service of Venice, has conquered the heart of Desdemona (Krassimira Stoyanova), the young daughter of Venetian senator Brabantio, in spite of his dark skin and they have secretly married. The character feels insecure -- "a traitor always thinks that he will be betrayed" - - and he feels almost unworthy of the beautiful wife and so is open to the evil suggested by the official Iago (lado Ataneli).

The tragedy is transformed into a disquieting psychological drama and culminates with the murder of Desdemona at hands of a jealous Otello and his suicide when he finally understands the truth, which in Cura’s opinion demonstrates the “pathos” of the character and his “lack of heroism.”

At the moment that he murders Desdemona, the tenor says he wants the public to understand the sensation that “I suffer,” and that “I love her and for that reason I kill her,” reasons that Desdemona seems to understand at the moment of her death.

José Cura, who made debut with Otello in 1997, says that this character “is not noble or heroic” since “he comes to kill all in a Muslim town while he himself is a converted Muslim.”  “He betrays his own religion and his own race,” stressed the tenor.

With respect to the staging of this production, Cura commented that the only element on stage is "a great cross", that each character "uses in his own way" and that it ends up as the deathbed of Desdemona.

The tenor is in favor of “minimalism” when it focuses greater attention on the character and as long as “it is synonymous with quality and not of lack of ideas.”  

After his stay at the Liceu, José Cura, who at the moment does not plan to conduct any operas in Spain, will move to Zurich for Turandot and later to the Vienna Opera to conduct Madam Butterfly.

Otello premiered at the Liceu in 1890 and it was last seen in the Barcelonan theater in 1988, is scheduled through 27 February.

 


 

The Argentine tenor José Cura says the role of Otello is demanding physically and psychologically

 

Barcelona, 4 Feb (EFE) - the Argentine tenor José Cura will make his debut at the Liceu in Verdi’s Otello, a role, he says, that is “very demanding physically and psychologically.”

 

Cura, who first sang in the Barcelonan theater in Samson et Dalila in season 2000-2001 when he replaced José Carreras at the last minute when Carreras fell ill, commented during his press conference that “in exchange for that favor to the Liceu, the public here adopted me and a history of affection began which I hope lasts many years.”

The Argentine singer dismissed those flattering praises that place him as the greatest interpreter of Otello in the world: “There are good interpreters in the world who compete for a role, as happens in cinema. And each of them gives the role different color and tone.”

Cura admits that “the character in Verdi’s opera is very hard and exhausting, as much physical as psychological” and, therefore, he is thankful to the Liceu that they have spaced the performances with two days of rest.

José Cura, who sang his first Otello in 1997, remembers “almost ten years and twelve or fifteen different productions,” during which he was always discovering something new--these findings are the secret of why he never gets tired of the character or the opera.

The Argentine tenor recalls that the culminating point in his relationship with Otello took place in 2001, in the Year of Verdi, when he did many performances of the opera that were responsible for his “ripening of the role,” but “after that savagery I have not done more than eight performances of Otello a year.”

For Cura, the character that came from Shakespeare’s pen “is neither a hero nor a nobleman, but a mercenary who earns a living as a military machine in the service of the enemy.”

Cura clarifies that “Otello does not take any actions that are the least heroic, especially if we remember that he was a Turk who converted to Christianity for political interests and a Muslim who kills Turkish Muslims. Thus he can never be a hero, but rather a traitor to his people and his religion.”

He attributes the positive musical reading of this blood-thirsty character over the years to “the nobility of the singers who have given him life, Placido Domingo or Mario Del Monaco.”

Perhaps because of the popularity of psychiatry in his country of origin, Cura applied psychoanalysis to Otello and remarks that “at the beginning of the fourth act, the character removes the mask of Christianity, returns to his origins and becomes more barren, colder and more reflective.  Then when he discovers the deceit (of Iago) and his mistakes, he understands that he has no other escape but suicide, an act of cowardice but also an act of love.”

According to Cura, the staging of the opera at the Liceu, directed by Willy Decker, is minimalist: “There is nothing in the scene, located on a ramp, which gives the sensation of being a psychological prison that prevents the characters from escaping their destiny".

The only symbolic element that the audience will see is a cross that, based on the character, becomes a weapon, a religious object, or Desdémona’s deathbed.

This minimalist staging has, in the opinion of the tenor, one great advantage: “The attention of the public will not be distracted and instead is centered exclusively in the performance of the characters.”

Cura, who is considering contracts for 2011, thinks about the next years to focus his attention on conducting and to incorporate some new roles in his singing repertoire like Neró, Peter Grimes or Parsifal.

 


 

A Dream of a Tenor 

Guia del ocio

With a powerful, homogenous and very beautiful voice, José Cura is a singer with strong temperament and an excellent actor who also offers great stage presence.  As it turns out, he is also the perfect interpreter of the role which many dramatic tenors only dreams about: Otello, the main character in an extraordinary opera by Giuseppe Verdi.

Cura will be accompanied by two accomplished singers, soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, who made her debut in Barcelona and baritone Lado Atanelli, who had a great success at the Liceu in the role of Renato in Un ballo in maschera.

From the 9th till 27th of February, the Liceu will welcome Otello, conducted by Antoni Ros-Marbà, who   conducted this work here 16 years ago. Of the eleven performances, four will an have alternative cast:  the principal roles in which will be Valencian soprano Anna Ibarra, tenor Gabriel Sadé and baritones Valeri Alexeev and Carlo Guelfi.

 


 

'No solo de celos vive Otelo'
 

Pablo Meléndez-Haddad

ABC

William Shakespeare, Arrigo Boito and Giuseppe Verdi. Three great names of western culture who for centuries have been the voices of treason, death and violence thanks to the fatality that accompanies the Moor by Venice: Otello.  If the character represents the pinnacle of Shakespearean creation, it has perhaps become something even more in the world of opera, since he is the basis for two great masterpieces: one by Rossini and, more importantly, one by Verdi; indeed, it is the latter that returns to the Liceu next Thursday in a production by Willy Decker, with set design and costumes by John Macfarlane.

On stage will be Argentinean José Cura, a tenor who may cause many sighs in the stalls when he assumes this role. It has taken him several years to build a strong relationship with Liceu since his first, brief appearance when he replaced José Carreras in a production of Samson et Dalila until [last year] when he presented a passionate reading of Corsaro in a concert version of the Verdi opera.

"But this is the occasion I consider to be my debut," declared Cura to ABCD Arts and Letters. "Now I will be able to offer my take on this complex character, as well as accompany the debut of Kasimira Stoyanova in the role of Desdemona. I believe this will be the tenth soprano I accompanied in this baptism," continued the tenor who lives in Madrid.

José Cura believes certain superficiality exist in the analysis of the character of Otello.  "One does not think about what is behind his attitude. People go directly to the problem of jealousy, attributing this feeling as the only reason for the murder of Desdemona. If this were true, the story would be limited and lose a great deal of its importance. To make this mess over a handkerchief? No. I prefer to emphasize the character’s insecurity and attitudes which typify the behavior of a traitor."

The tenor eliminates the nobility, the heroism and loyalty, admirable characteristics that stand out in the interpretation of some of greatest singers, from his analysis. "It is important to remember that Otello is a traitor in all ways:  he betrays his faith, his race, his beliefs; he becomes a Christian for convenience, he transforms himself into a mercenary and he is contracted to attack his brothers, the Muslims. If we were to modernize the situation, it would be very difficult to understand, because nowadays it is very improbable that an Islamist would attack his own faith.  For that reason I believe that Desdémona has to know very little or nothing.  A traitor sees only treason on every side; an assassin sees only assassins and a mercenary sees only mercenaries. There is basically a reflection that makes one feel that everyone is just like he is.  Otello is blinded by the possibility of treason and reacts with the logic of his original culture.  If he were a Christian he would have killed Desdemona captured in an act of madness, not as he does, slowly, and without shaking hands, because he is a customary general to the war, to death and killing. They pay him to do that. He is a professional."

In José Cura’s reasoning there is little patience for this the sort violence. "In Otello’s eyes, he is not guilty in judging the hypothetical treason of his woman. He accepts it as fact, and therefore he feels he should not be punished for the murder, considers that he has the right to do it, that is the logical thing to do in his situation, that he has no other choice.  His big mistake was in not having the courage to face Desdemona and Casio together, watching with his eyes, as they deny their infidelity to him. Otello does not look for the truth because he is essentially a traitor...”

This situation, according to the singer, is translated very well in the score, "Mainly in the third act, psychologically the best one to understand the point of view of the character. In the first part of that act, Otello gets to behave as if he were the proper Iago.”  By all these arguments Cura says, “My Otello lacks nobility and heroism, something that is sometimes commented on.  And yes, I believe that this is the right approach.  I do not attempt to be noble or heroic in my interpretation, but a mercenary and a traitor to his faith and his people." In spite of this, the tenor knows that the character creates empathy with the public, "because it is also true that he has a certain destiny written in his hand: he is not the only one guilty of his destiny. Apparently, Otello was the son of a very important tribal leader, kidnapped by slave dealers. Thus there is a little justification the fact of to have been bred to transform himself into a bounty hunter [murderer for money], as happens in as many Christian societies as Muslim. For that reason, the opera of Verdi and the work of Shakespeare remains a reflection of our own society."

A Trapped Animal. José Cura defends the production of Willy Decker. "The cruelty of watching an animal trapped in its destiny is emphasized, which has been assigned to my character, I agree with. From the eye of the spectator this is a difficult production to endure because it is rigid, presenting four oppressive walls and a cross as the only prop, but I believe that the staging transmits the mood of the character well in suggesting a cruel confinement, that can be the representation of his false Christian faith, his betrayed Muslim faith or his racial fight.  It forces me to make Otello very feline in the way he moves around the stage because it is very sloped and prevents him from walking with nobility, something I am already good at. The cross is used as a crutch, a shoulder to cry on, a strongpoint. The production is disturbing in the beginning, but in the end the staging is useful in projecting the vision I have of this character."

Otello, premiered in Teatro de la Scala de Milán on 5 February 1887, arrived at the Liceu on 18 November 1890 for the first time, and did not reappear until season 1987-88, when, as now, Antoni Ros Marbà was on the podium.

 

 


 

“My Otello is a traitor, not noble”

The singer is considered the best interpreter of the famous "Moor of Venice,” a character who has become the archetype of the jealous man and victim of manipulation

P. M.

7 Feb 2006

ABC

 

BARCELONA. Promoting the best Otello of the moment was a marketing ploy the Liceu could not let pass, and in introducing José Cura, Joan Matabosch, the Liceu’s artistic director, said: "We are very proud to have with us the best interpreter of this role at this time.”

The main character in the opera Otello (1887), a product of Verdi’s [artistic] maturity, is one of the signature roles of the Argentine singer, currently living in Madrid, whose relation with the Liceu began almost by accident when he arrived in March 2001 to replace José Carreras shortly before the opening of "Samson et Dalila."

One unforgettable night

After that unforgettable night –- one so memorable that with only that one performance the "Grup de Liceístes de 4. i 5è. Pis" awarded him the prize as the best singer of the season -- Cura made his official debut in January 2005, singing Il Corsaro, also by Verdi, but in concert version. This will be the first time he sings a staged opera with appropriate rehearsals, an occasion that allows visitors to the Liceu to enjoy the interpreter’s personality, when beginning next Thursday he steps into the skin of the archetype Verdian-Shakesperian character, alternating the role with Gabriel Sadé, under the musical direction of Antoni Ros Marbà, and appearing with Lado Ataneli as Iago and Krasimira Stoyanova as Desdemona, this last alternating with Ana Ibarra.

"It is a very difficult role, but it rewards the interpreter," Cura said. "I have been in 15 different productions and whenever I play the role I discover something new. That is why I am not surprised.”  Theaters compete to sign him for the role but he tries to take a rational approach to accepting offers for a character "who exhausts not only physically but also psychologically. In 2001, when the Verdi Year was celebrated, I sang in six or seven different productions and that was insane, but it helped me matured in the role. Now I try to sing no more than ten performances a year."

Cura says that Otello is a traitor to his faith, his people and his motherland, "for those reasons I do not consider him a noble man. But it is true that many of the great tenors, all of them noble interpreters, like Domingo, Vickers or Vinay, contributed a portion of themselves to the nobility to the character.  But in my interpretation, for all those reasons, he is not a hero. He is a mercenary, a military machine."

The Verdi opera being stage at the Liceu is the production Willy Decker designed for the Monnaie of Brussels that "puts it in the modern mode, crude, with almost nothing on the stage.  There are four walls that become a psychological prison for my character and, of course, for all the other actors.”

Schematic stage

“The only scenic element that appears on stage is a great cross that is broken, that becomes an arm that serves to support us.  When there is only us in the scene, we can never lower our guard.  That is a disadvantage that in the end is transformed into an advantage, because it demands an absolute commitment from us.”  This sort of success is not always obtained, says Cura, "because minimalism can hide a complete lack of ideas, but that is not true in this case.  It works for this opera but not for all, since not all are as brilliant as Otello, in which nothing is too excessive or lacking. For that reason limited staging like this one can be understood without great difficulty.   The tension is placed on the actors."

Another one of his talent as an artist is that of conductor, for which he has still not been offered a contract in Spain.

"I conducted two concerts with the Filarmónica Arturo Toscanini de Milán, with whom I also conducted I vespri siciliani. This year I make my debut on the podium of the Staatsoper in Vienna with Madam Butterfly. But I have not received offers of this sort in Spain." If his repertoire as conductor is growing, the same is also true of his operatic roles. "I recently added Fanciulla, Hérodiade and Turandot, reasons there is very little left in my Italian-French repertoire. Nerone has been offered to me as have the leads in Britton’s Peter Grimes and Wagner’s Parsifal and both are tempting. I will do the Nerone but I am afraid of the Grimes because musically it is very difficult, and Parsifal because of the language.  I do not speak German and to make my debut in Wagner, which I find appealing, I must do under optimal conditions."

Andrea Chénier in the dressing room

Next year, Barcelona will be able to see Cura in another of his great roles, Andrea Chénier, in the opera by Giordano of the same name.  That opera will inaugurate season 2007-08.

The Argentine singer declined to talk about the problems he had in Teatro Real in 2000 or to say anything about any conversations with the new director of the Madrid theater.  However, following the departure of Montserrat Caballé, Cura confirmed that he has broken contact "completely" with the Coliseo of the Three Cultures that was going to be built in Madrid by Jose Luis Moreno, whose offer of musical direction Cura had accepted. "Now all that is stopped. I will see what happens if Moreno contacts me but at the moment I don’t know anything."

 


 

 

José Cura, tenor: "I am a shark excited by blood"

The singer matches Placido Domingo in the challenge of singing two different roles in the same evening at the Arena di Verona

La Razón

Gema Pajares

Translated by Dana

Madrid. Arena di Verona opened its season last week. To the always attractive poster advertising the summer festival was added an additional enticement at the last moment:  it was announced a few days before the opening that the Argentine tenor José Cura, one of the leads on the poster for “Pagliacci” (in which he sings Canio), would also assume the role of Turiddu from “Cavalleria rusticana,” a role which he had not sung for six years.  Illness had forced Vincenzo La Scola to withdraw from the production “in extremis” which in turn offered the Argentinean the opportunity for the unusual doubleheader. In the more than 80 years of the history of this amphitheatre (with a 14,000 seat capacity), very few voices have dared this challenge. Cura’s name is now united with those of Placido Domingo (who sang both roles in 1975), Mario del Monaco and Beniamino Gigli.

José Cura stars as Canio in Pagliacci in Verona

 

José Cura, as Canio, during a performance of “Pagliacci“ by  Leoncavallo at Arena di Verona

 

 

- Will you sing the double roles in all performances?
- I will sing the five in July. In August I will disappear from the world.

- I imagine that you were petrified when asked to do Turiddu.
- It was a last minute decision. I was landing in Verona having come from Tokyo on the 20th.  I arrived with echoes of “Andrea Chenier” in my ears.  June 21 was the pre-general rehearsal and on June 22, the general.  The season started on 24 June and I hadn’t sung “Cavalleria rusticana” in six years. It was a race against time. Temperature: 44 degrees.

- You really had only had two options: sing or run.
- That’s right. But we are speaking of the opening night of the most important open air theatre in the world. The day of opening is always a swarm, and this time was no different. I simply threw myself into the Arena with a knife between my teeth and yelled “banzai,” as the Japanese do.  I could not abandon the theater. Here I sang my first production in 1992 and here I lived for five years. My emotional attachment to this arena is great. I felt that this was one way I could pay my debts. The Arena opened its arms to me once and now I couldn’t say no when they needed me. How could I have left running?

-  Did you consider the possibility that the challenge could become a setback?
- No matter how much love and courage you put into a performance it still could turn out badly. The head that rolls is yours. Luckily the ovations have been enormous. The theater was full: 13,500 people were at the opening and the applause made me shiver.  I knew I had performed with my heart.

- Once again José Cura put the public of Verona in his pocket.
- You never put anybody in your pocket.  You have to remember one thing:  the physical distance [in the arena] is enormous. The spectator is far away, so far that at the very closest 90 meters separate us, and it is very difficult to perceive the heat, to feel the energy, to be conscious if you are pleasing or not when you are on stage. In addition, the temperature was 44 degrees and the humidity was 80 percent when the performance started. The seats are of marble, and stone begins to cool off at midnight. The heat is unbearable.

- Turiddu and Canio are totally different.
- Yes, there are differences, in age (one is 20, the other, 40), in psychology, in experiences, all of which demand accommodations with the voice, but I am a shark and I am excited by blood.

- Where do you feel more comfortable, on stage or in the pit conducting the orchestra?
- I am focusing more on my role as tenor. So many years I have fought for it, fifteen already, that I want to enjoy this period of artistic and personal maturity. When you are no longer in vocal fullness, then that is the right moment to grasp the baton. Let me put it this way, the moment the singer stops being effective is the same moment the conductor returns to the orchestra.

- You return to the Liceu Barcelona in 2007, nevertheless for Teatro Real you don’t have a date in your calendar.
- I open the season in Barcelona with “Andrea Chenier” in 2007, and in 2011 I will perform two roles. There is no chance in Madrid, where I can only sing in my house, sleep in my bed, and not perform for my many friends. I passed the new artistic director (Antonio Moral), but we hardly greeted each other and didn’t talk about anything. So it seems that Madrid has to wait. Hated and loved.

- You are a tenor who is as much loved as criticized.  Do you regret anything?

-No, I don’t regret anything [professionally], even the fact that newspapers criticize me with extreme prejudice. When I sang “Otello” they wrote this was the end of Cura and that I should retire. I hope I still have some professional years ahead of me! My only regret is that I am so often far away from my family.

- 2008 it is going to be an important year.
- I will make my debut in “Le Cid”, by Massenet in Zurich and I am researching “Peter Grimes,” which I have enormous desire to do. It is an opera in which I would like to make my debut in within four years.

After taking a vacation in August, I will sing “Le Villi” in Vienna and “Fanciulla del West” in Berlin in September, “Turandot” in October in Turin, “Tosca” in New York and then I will close the year with “Don Carlo” in Vienna. In 2007 I will visit Barcelona, London, Lisbon, Berlin, Cologne.

- The operatic situation in Italy remains worrisome. Is the budget cut of the previous government still affecting it?
- I would say it is as much a scandal as it is serious problem. The cuts have been tremendous; in some cases they have reached 45 percent. I believe that this will bring consequences in the long term. Right now the damage is not readily apparent because we are still eating off the reserves that are in the moneybox, but what will happen when the box empties? We will see if this new government is able to fulfill its promise and can give back funds.
   
In first person
He defines the idea of a Renaissance man: singer, conductor, photographer, painter, José Cura (Rosario, Argentina, 1962), is one of the  most distinguished Latin American tenors of his generation and an “Otello”  without equal, something that he plays down. He knows he raises passions and an almost equal amount of criticism everywhere in the world. In Madrid, where he lives, he still experiences rudeness from some because of an incident at the Teatro Real when he sang “Il trovatore” in 2000; he has not returned to the theater since. Visceral, energetic, vehement, his name has been associated with a pharaoh-like project, the Coliseo of Three Cultures, designed as an operatic complex that was going to be built in Madrid and where he was invited to participate as musical director: “Everything relating to me stopped in 2004. I know nothing new. If negotiations were to begin now, it would be necessary to start at zero.  Moreover I do not know if I could maintain a continuous relationship with the theater,” said the artist.

  


 

Life, love and opera - a tenor's worth


One of the world's most celebrated tenors, José Cura, opens the Belfast Festival at Queen's tomorrow night. Here, our classical music correspondent Rathcol catches up with the mellow maestro at his home in Madrid, and finds him insisting that good music is just like good wine and good sex - you just need to take your time.
 

Belfast Telegraph

19 October 2006

Maestro Cura, can I ask you a few questions about your forthcoming concert in Belfast? "Well, ok, yes, but I must tell you that I am drunk."

The interviewer's feeling of opportunity in such a situation is only equaled by that of apprehension. But there was nothing to fear here, of course.

"I've just come from a family celebration," he goes on. "But no, I'm joking of course, I'm fine."

In fact, talking to José Cura, on the phone from Madrid, after his lengthy and relaxed, typically Spanish lunch, proves to be the perfect time to enjoy the loquacious famous tenor.

Cura, one of the world's most celebrated singers, performs in Belfast at the Waterfront Hall tomorrow night, opening the 44th Belfast Festival at Queen's. I ask him about the music he'll be singing (including favourites from Puccini and Verdi) and how he chooses his concert hall programmes.

"Ah you've touched on a delicate point," he says. "The programme is a difficult thing to handle. As a curious artist you want to do strange and new things, but you also compromise with the great hits. This is the first time ever I sing in Belfast. I will give the people what they want to hear, and when I return I'll do something more rare."

It's easy to feel an instant friendship with this man; he hasn't yet set foot in the country, but he's talking about return visits, and throughout the interview he talks about building relationships.

Verdi and Puccini are the two main musical figures in any tenor's life. I seek out differences of approach for these two Italian masters, but Cura's musicality is a simpler, more direct form of expression.

"I approach everything the same way," he says. "From a strict musical and dramaturgical point of view. There is a problem with these concerts. What you have is little excerpts of theatrical pieces, of operas, and these pieces are out of context. You only have 50% of the product.

"What you have to do, in two, three, four minutes, is transmit the psychology of the character. This is the challenge. I like to interact with the audience and joke with the audience. The sensation of these concerts is completely different to the opera house - you don't have a single psychology in the one evening."

We move on to his Argentinian heritage. "Argentina plays a normal part in a well-balanced life," he says. "It's my country. It's like a mother, your mother is always your mother and always has a special place in your heart. After eight years I return to sing in Buenos Aires this year. It will be very special, but I am thoroughly European now."

I mention that Argentinian music, especially in the hands of tango master Ástor Piazzola, is very popular in Ireland at the moment ... "Ah yes, it has a very strong folk connotation," he says. "It's classical music written with our folkloric blend or smell. Like Kodaly or Bartok.

"It's like in Ireland and Scotland, there is a body relation with the rhythm and the drama is very strong."

Talking to Cura you realise that so many of his answers are easy, self-evident. This is what great artists do. They see a clear picture, a viable route, and they use it.

Take this answer: I ask Cura why, demanded as he is across the world as a singer, he chooses to conduct.

"To move a little bit the air," he says, charmingly, in English which is perfectly clear, yet thoroughly Spanish. "To include some change in the concerts. The point is, not a lot of people know I started my career as a conductor - I was 15 years old - and as a composer. I was 30 years old when I became a singer, when I became a famous larynx."

Cura is proud of his all round musicianship.

"I will conduct Giordano's Siberia, I think this is the first time it is performed in Belfast. We have a local premiere."

And the composition? "Composition is a complement to being a good singer," he says, "at the moment I'm revisiting an opera I wrote for children based on a Hans Christian Anderson story." He promises to let me know how it goes.

The subject which energises Cura the most is the role of opera in society and, in particular, the charge that the art form is elitist.

"It's one thing what people think opera is -people think opera is only for the elite. That's b******t," he insists. "Going to a football match is just as much about money. If you need that to excuse yourself, then you need to move to something else.

"Obviously, if you want to see Ireland play France then you will pay more, like going to La Scala, and with a local team you pay less.

"Classical is a dangerous word. It's an artform with very strong connotations of technique and intellect. It's true, you can't digest it like a hamburger.

"It's like looking at a famous painting ... you have to think about this. It's the same as classical music. It's not an obvious music... it's not pre-cooked and frozen.

"You open a good bottle of wine, you can't just drink it at once. You have to wait for three hours. People want everything in two minutes with minimum effort. You need the chance to prepare yourself.

"Opera, wine, sex - the common factor is patience. You need to take your time."

To finish, I tell him about the opera scene in Ireland. The trouble we've had in the past and the fact that, despite excellent work by companies like the Dublin based Opera Theatre Company, there has too often been a lack of vision and commitment from the people holding the purse strings, especially in the north.

His closing remark is typically magnanimous: "If I can be of any help, then please ask."

It seems that Belfast could have a new and influential friend.

 


 

ONE EVENING WITH JOSÉ CURA...

Réjane Suttheimer

Elite Tours

May 2006

Translated by Dana

In the middle of May 2006 the heads of state and government of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean met in Vienna to discuss the political and economic relations of trade. At the same time non-government organizations also met to demonstrate alternatives to the official policy. In the middle of the conflict of these political summits the festival Onda Latina was organized, during which one of the most famous artists of Latin America, José Cura, was honored for his brilliant career and his untiring support of young artists and talents.

Onda Latina joined with Elite Tours for this special meeting to enjoy, together with the Maestro, the concert of the Duo Klaus Paier (Bandoneón and accordion) & Gerhard Preinfalk (clarinet), two outstanding composers and musicians. Maestro Cura even offered a small musical contribution: the “Sonetos de Amor y Muerte,” written by Nobel prizewinner Pablo Neruda and composed by José Cura.

He was accompanied by the Italian pianist Speranza Scappucci.

A brief Tango Exhibition with Elizabeth and Christian from Buenos Aires ended the successful evening and then friends and fans of José Cura had had the chance to get the autograph from the star.


Question from Réjane Suttheimer: Dear Maestro Cura, first of all I would like to thank you for this interview.  It is a big honour for me and our readers will be very pleased to read it.

Here is my first question: You sing tomorrow, on 15 May, “Le Villi” in the State opera and conduct the day after tomorrow “Madame Butterfly.” What is the difference for you between singing and conducting? Is there any emotional difference?

José Cura: On the emotional level both are equal for me. If someone is emotional and sacrifices everything--no matter whether as a conductor or as a singer--one gives everything.

The difference lies in the responsibility. The singer is primarily responsible for himself in his role and afterwards for his colleagues. The responsibility of a conductor is just the opposite.  He is responsible for all! It is simply turned around, a conductor is like a mediator, or if you prefer like a fuse (seen from electric point of view). The opera conductor is the junction between stage and pit. Because from the stage one does not see into the orchestra and the orchestra does not see onto the stage, the only one who sees both sides is the conductor. He is the connection, the mediator, between these two levels. And, because of the enormous concentration and even more because of the enormous responsibility, this is very stressful and exhausting.

R-S: You conduct for the first time at the Viennese State opera. How is it for you?

JC: I have conducted “Butterfly” quite often in the past, of course, but this is the first time I have conducted it in Vienna. Emotionally it is very delicate situation, because the conductor’s podium in the State opera pit is a very hot podium! All the great conductors, from Mahler to the present ones, have stood at this desk. Every time you stand there, you could say, well, at home we would say that you have ants in the back! (laughs) It is a big responsibility! Because of budget restrictions in the arts it is becoming more difficult to get the proper number of rehearsals. One actually always works on the edge, because there are too few rehearsals. I had only one and a half rehearsals. That is, one three hour rehearsal for a two and a half hour opera, where one 25 minute break is intended! It is therefore not actually a rehearsal but a quick run through without the possibility to correct anything.  And all this naturally increases the stress enormously.

R-S:  When you are studying a new role, do you get advice from anybody? Many singers work on new roles, even after years, with their vocal coaches.

JC:  On one hand, I should say yes so people won’t consider me arrogant. But on the other hand I don’t want to lie.  I haven’t had a teacher for more than 15 years. That was my decision. I wanted to develop my own style, my own sound and I didn’t want to be dependent on anyone.

That is why I don’t have my own Maestro but I get advice from everybody I work with.  When you work with great colleagues you say "What do you think, how was it?" or "This doesn’t sound good."  Even when great conductor says, "You know, I didn’t like this or that.”

From your own experience but mainly when you work with good colleagues, in good houses and with good conductors, it is this that makes you more secure than being dependent on   Maestro. But this is matter of opinion.

R-S:  Apropos of critics, who is your harshest critic?  Your wife? Yourself?

JC:  (Laughs) Probably myself!  There is not a single performance at the end of which I can’t say nothing went wrong or I didn’t like something.  And all those who are around me will say:  "No, it was good, stay calm, everything will work out fine."

But those who are most ruthless with me, because they can afford it, are my relatives, my wife, my assistants, my secretary.   They say the things as they are.  And this is only right. Because if you are a recognized person, famous, loved or hated, than you run the danger of living in the clouds.

R-S: Your occupation affects your private and family life. As you have already mentioned before, you are lot on the way. How do you and your wife deal with it?

JC: It is difficult, however not impossible.  Six or seven years  ago it was more difficult, as  my fee per performance was not as high as it is now and so, even if I had two free days between performances, I couldn’t afforded the  luxury  of getting on a plane and fly home.  It is much simpler now. As soon as I have 2 days free between performances, I jump on the airplane and fly home.  Especially when you are in Europe and can get home in two or three hours. No, actually, I am not away from my home more than a week.

R-S: How do your plans look like? Would you prefer to conduct and compose more than to sing? What do you intend?

JC: Actually of all something! I have further plans within all ranges.  At the end of this or the beginning of next year my first book with photographs may come out. A Swiss publishing house wanted the copyright to publish it. I have taken photographs for nearly 25 years. It began as a hobby and with the time developed further--not as a profession but photography is like a safety valve that allows me to switch off my profession. Since I don’t need to dedicate myself to the photography  commercially ,  I don’t  earn my living  by it, I don’t take portraits. I can concentrate and dedicate on social photographs. My pictures are mainly of people and people’s behavior around world, from Japan to the United States. The publisher said something interesting to me: “These photos interest me, because by them one understands what goes on in the head of the photographer. And that you are who you are, it gives your fans the possibility to see the world with your eyes.”  I liked a lot what he had said and here we are ready to do the book.

R-S: I find personally that your voice has a very soft, warm and actually dark timbre, like a baritone. At least it seemed to me in “Il Trovatore” in 2002. I know many singers who began their career as tenors and later changed to baritone. Do you still feel comfortable with the high notes?

JC: Funnily enough- and do not ask me why, because I do not know, but in the course of years my voice became much darker.  You mentioned “Il Trovatore” at Covent Garden from 2002. If you hear my voice singing the sonnets this evening, you will say that it has become even deeper in the meantime. I really sound like a baritone, like a deep baritone. But strange enough, the deeper my voice becomes, the easier it feels to me to hit the higher notes! I do not know what is happening, I can’t complain! Apparently the vocal cords adapt and between 40 and 50 a man reaches his optimal peak vocally, which goes well with my age. It is quite possible that I will lose the notes later and end my career as a baritone, but right now I have the high notes that I never had before!

R-S: And which are your projects as singer in the future? Some of your fans follow you around the world to see and hear you!

JC: Oh, I have many plans. I will open the season in Verona this summer.  In September I will return to Vienna with “Le Villi” again.  In October I will be at the Metropolitan Opera NYC with “Tosca,” then I will have a whole series of performances of “Don Carlo” in Zurich. Then I am again in Vienna. In January 2007 I have “I Pagliacci” in Berlin; in February 2007 I have a tour in Germany with an evening of sons and in April and May of the coming year I go to London with “Stiffelio”  in a production which I was actually finished with, but they asked me if I would like to do it one last time. In September 2007 I will be also in Barcelona again, with “Andréa Chenier.” Yes, and so I could go on until the year 2011! (Laughs)

R-S: Finally the last question:  opera is nearly always about love and passion. How you would define love?

JC: A difficult question! I do not believe that one can define love.  Anyone can define love one day will also be able to solve all the problems of mankind! (Laughs) I believe love cannot be defined; one can only celebrate it either with music or with words.

R-S: Maestro Cura, thank you very much for the discussion!

 


 

Restless Cura

La Nacion

BERLIN. Restless, non-conforming, and talented. This is the way José Cura is known in the world of opera, as a versatile singer whose prestige and fame has spread increasingly towards other areas of the musical business. Although his beginnings in the Rosario's conservatory focused on the guitar, conducting and composition, it was opera singing (a discipline to which he came later) that took him to the center of the international scene. Today, with a wide path and as one of the most sought after tenors in the world, José Cura often presents examples of his multiple vocations and of the solid preparation upon which rests one of the most unique opera careers of the moment.

Among them, for example, was the acid test in conducting a production of Madama Butterfly recently at the Vienna State Opera. "Nobody saw me as a tenor who was trying to conduct,” he told LA NACION.  “All the best from Mahler to Karajan have appeared there, so the fact that I was accepted professionally by this orchestra and the public who has seen and listened to all the great ones is very important and very flattering to me."

Then, in addition to his schedule as a singer and a businessman who heads his own company, and only to enumerate the whirlwind of his activities, there is the composition of an opera for children that will be presented in a German theater and the publication of two books by an Italian publisher (in one Cura analyzes his repertoire as an interpreter and in the other he presents a collection of his photographs).  To these you can add two more novelties:  one is his debut as director in 2008 in a production of Un ballo in maschera in the Staadtsoper of Cologne, Germany (a project about which we cannot reveal major details before it is announced in the local press), and his long-awaited return to an Argentine stage in 2007, after almost a decade of absence from his country.

Between performances of La fanciulla del West in Deutsche Oper of Berlin, José Cura agreed to give us an interview.

 
 
Versatile artist


- What is your motivation to look for new horizons? Does the routine as a singer bother you?

- In my case, because I am very restless, yes. To sing the same role, the same music, in the same theater, the same production and even with the same colleagues... It is necessary to charge the batteries for that.  To tell the truth, many artists seem satisfied with this tranquil life without surprises in which everything is predictable. If one accepts this as a way of making a living and wants nothing more than this, then it is fine. But if you want something more and arrive at the theater proposing this or that, they say to you: ‘Uf! Cura is here with his wish to change everything!’

- But you can do that because you are famous tenor. Theatres usually don’t allow singers to change the production as you did with La fanciulla....

- Independent of whatever label you carry, every singer has professional authority. I love the challenges and the madness, but I cannot support a true error in concept because for me there is a rule: on stage you can feel strange or awkward but you should never feel like an idiot. In Act II of this Fanciulla the director asked me to appear in a impeccable white, newly ironed suit with a frilly pink shirt ... "I will put it on,” I told her, “if you can explain why and convince me that it is possible for a bandit who is running from the law to appear dressed like that in the middle of nowhere. Then she tells me that Dick Johnson does not carry a gun... This is an illogical approach! To a gunman the gun is a necessity.  It is what makes him dangerous, what he uses to threaten others. What I finally did was hide the gun and, without saying anything the baritone and I reached an agreement.  We worked out the new scene together and it was that determination that
established the relationship between the two characters.

- There was a rumor that you would play Sigmund at Bayreuth.  Are you going to sing Wagner? Have you started studying German?

- No. Actually, I am not going to sing Wagner. Yes, there was a half invitation from Bayreuth to make my debut in The
Valkyries in 5 years. I thought that this would be the final motivation to study the language because I do not support the idea of singing just phonetically, but we did not agree from the contractual point of view, so for the time being there is no Wagner.

- Do you think you might leave singing and devote yourself more to conducting?

- It would be foolish to leave this capital now when I finally got possession of it, because I have reached the point in which I can be relaxed on stage, I already know how to sing and I can sing with almost no suffering.

- How were you suffering?

- Never psychologically, but physically. The color of my voice has always been suitable for the dramatic roles, but my muscles and my voice as body needed many years (to mature) so what was musically and artistically clear from the beginning can now be
heard and seen and reflected in an integrated, clear voice and with equal result in all ranges.  Earlier they were not matching, and that is normal in the big voices. And when the result must come from muscular adaptation to support a theoretical concept that you already learned, what is lacking only is the passage of time.


 Return with glory

- What do you plan your performance in Argentina?

- Although the contract is not yet signed, I trust [Marcelo] Lombardero because the proposal for my return for a season at the Colón came directly from him. We will do a concert version of Samson and Dalila, with a completely Argentine cast in Colón, between end of June and beginning of July.

- For how long you have you not sung in your own country and do you regret this absence?

- From 1999, practically my whole career. I want to meet the public and my companions and one of the things that most attracts me to return is the possibility of doing something with Argentine singers. Regarding my absence, and this is a conclusion I came to only after traveling around the world, I believe that the problem with Argentina is a lack of national pride. As a result of this syndrome, we Argentinians are forced to leave with great pain in the soul to work in places where we are appreciated. There is an absence of the same sort of nationalistic pride that, for example, Englishmen have when they defend their own people at any cost.

- And how do you see the Argentinian?

- He does exactly the opposite. When one of his triumphs, he goes looking for some shortcoming or defect to bring him down, especially in the eyes of foreigners. Imagine how a person feels who is applauded everywhere in the whole world except in his own country... It is a kind of failure. It is as if everyone says how wonderful this one is except his parents.  His own parents even discredit him in front of others. It is just as in a family: if someone is smart, he does not go about ranting about his wife and his children; on the contrary, they are his principal allies. You must never betray them because it would be a serious mistake. As for the country, it is somehow sad, and as for society it means a sort of defeat.

- Which has been your experience in this sense?

- The experience was not very pleasant the last time I was there. But I stopped worrying some time ago, since 1999 when I came back fighting to give the people what I had to offer. I left the country with a knife in my back ... from my own people. I learned this in proper flesh. But I will come back, smiling and happy, without trying to tilt at windmills again. I would like to be wrong and when people read this note they will say to me: “No, José, you are mistaken! When you come, we will start working together to improve things!" This would be a big dream come true!

 


 

 

TROPPO ZUCCHERO?

Weiner Staatsoper
José Cura conducts for the first time in Wiener Staatsoper

 

 José Cura, born in 1962 in Argentina, has long been one of the most popular tenors in the world. He began his career as a conductor, composer and pianist and learned to sing only within the scope of his conducting studies. He made his debut as an opera singer in 1992 and since then Cura has been a guest in major opera-houses around the world.  In 1996 he debuted as Mario Cavaradossi (Tosca) in the Vienna State opera.  We were able to see him here as Otello, Don José (Carmen), Canio (Pagliacci), and Andrea Chénier. In May, José Cura debuts as a conductor with Madame Butterfly in the State Opera; we will also enjoy him again as Roberto in Puccini’s first opera Le Villi.

José Cura spoke with Julia Engenderer (translated by Dana):

You will conduct for the first time in the Vienna State Opera. How do you prepare for a work which you conduct?

In the same way that I prepare as a singer--by careful study. The difference lies in the responsibility. As a singer you are responsible only for yourself, as a conductor for the whole ensemble.

Do you listen to different recordings of the opera or does this bother you?

Usually I avoid it. However, I listen to my own recordings to learn from my mistakes. With Puccini everything exists in the score so that if you follow the score, then you are safe.

You began, actually, as a conductor and pianist. Why did you come relatively late to singing?

This happened during my conducting studies. One of my teachers advised me to learn to sing to become a better conductor. I wanted to understand the phrasing and the breathing of singers. Without planning it in the beginning one thing led to another and one day I was a full-time singer.

Why have you decided, in the end to be a full-time singer and conductor less?

This was, actually, a social decision. I was studying in Argentina during the final phase of the military regime and at that time there was no future for me. I came to Europe and here it was simply easier to find work as a singer, especially as a tenor. I had small engagements as a conductor but I got more and more offers as a singer and this is the reason why I am now what I am — a singer.

Do you regret that you now have such little time to conduct?

Actually, there is nothing to regret if one is lucky and successful.  Perhaps I would like to have more time to work as a conductor. On the other hand, the career of a singer is much shorter in comparison. As a conductor one has the right experience and maturity only when older, at the age of 60 or so, so I think I still have enough time to transform slowly from singer to conductor as I grow older.

In the State Opera you appear one evening as a singer, next as a conductor. How do you manage this role change?

This is very difficult for me, but it is possible because Le Villi is such a short opera. With Otello, for example, this would be impossible.

 How does your work as a singer influence your work as a conductor and vice versa?

I love long phrasings and big curves in the orchestra, I love it when the orchestra breathes with the singers. Therefore, I would say that the singer influences the conductor more than the conductor the singer. Vice versa if I stand on the stage I try to follow the music with great discipline, and maybe that is the influence of the conductor on the singer. The advantage is that you always know what goes on when you know both sides.

That means you try to accompany the singers?

As a conductor I treat the singers in such a way as I would like to be treated as a singer. That is to give enough space to the singer for good breathing, to give him the feeling of being in good hands. However, I also try to make it clear to the singers that they are part of an ensemble and do not stand alone on the stage with the orchestra and the conductor running after them and trying to understand what the singer plans to do the next minute.

What would you reply to somebody who states that opera is an antiquated art form which  the world doesn’t need  any  more —  like the above mentioned  work  Puccini’s Madame Butterfly?

It is not true that things from the past have no right to exist. If we extinguish the past, we have no base upon which to stand and so fall down. This is like a building from which one removes the cellar — without the cellar the entire structure collapses. If one tries to look at opera, however, as if it were a science fiction film, then one begins to force things and then nothing fits. One must view and enjoy each piece of art it was meant to be and not to try to do it differently. This would be wrong.

Le Villi was Puccini’s first opera. How has his music of Le Villi developed to Madame Butterfly?

Tremendously. Le Villi still has a very easy orchestration, the harmonies are almost naive. Puccini developed [musically] in very short time, whereas other composers needed 30 years. Verdi needed even longer. He was like a good wine which matures slowly. If Puccini lived to the age of Verdi he would have met Stockhausen and Penderecki and who knows what he would have written then for music. That Puccini is somebody whom we will never know.

Madame Butterfly was not successful at first. Was it performed for the first time at the wrong time, or was it improved with the different versions?

 La traviata was also booed at first and now is Verdi's best known opera. We know only what we read and what people of that time have said. Toscanini wrote in a letter to Puccini: ' Dear Giacomo, there is too much sugar in this opera.' 'Troppo zucchero,’ he wrote.

Is it true? Is there "troppo zucchero" really in it?

No, I don’t think so. I am an emotional person and, therefore, I like sugar. Actually, this is a very cruel story and, unfortunately, a prophecy. Pinkerton was in Nagasaki as what we now call a sex tourist.

How was the work with Karoline Gruber in Le Villi?

She is an intelligent and sensitive director. I am not persuaded that her direction has a lot to do with the work.  I have already told her this. However, it was a very intelligent solution.

What do you expect from a director with whom you work?

I expect the same as from a conductor, namely that I work with somebody who knows the opera better than I do. He might teach me something. If one must work with somebody who is not prepared, one has the feeling of pulling something too heavy.

You have already sung many big roles. Is there a role outside your repertoire which interests you?

There is not so much for me except for the German repertoire which I don’t plan, however, at the moment, because I have a fear of German language. What I would do with pleasure is Nerone of Boito. I have also had offers for Peter Grimes, but I don’t believe I am ready for it yet.

You were thinking about managing an opera-house. What has become of it?

At the moment I simply do not have time for it. Maybe I will in ten years. Then I would take over the musical management of a house with pleasure. The artistic management would probably have too much bureaucracy for me.

 


 

The Argentine tenor opened the season with Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci

 “I have engagements until 2011 but next summer I will take a break to be with my family”

Cura, star of the Arena:  “I faced two challenges”

Engaged only for the role of Canio, Cura has been forced to interpret two works in the same evening. “It is enormously hard work, repaid by the applause. La Scala? They do not call.”

Avvenire

Pierachille Dolfini

July 2006

“The great heat: I spent all evening getting water and integrators to recover the lost liquids.”

That is the first thing tenor José Cura recalls about his debut at Arena di Verona after taking the lead roles in both Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci. And there was more: “A few minutes before the start – I was told - the thermometer on the stage of the Arena registered 40 degrees.”  In the mind of the Argentine tenor, one of the most popular singers in the world, it is not the thundering applause or the emotions of an opening night that lingers but memories of “the great heat.”

In addition to the high temperatures, Maestro Cura faced yet another challenge:  prepared for Pagliacci, Cura also ended up singing Cavalleria rusticana after Vincenza la Scola was forced to cancel.  Someone should speak [to the Arena] about planning…

“When I discovered I had to do both Turiddu and Canio in the same evening, I had to figure out how to manage my energy.  Certainly it was a surprise when I arrived at the Arena:  I had just returned from Japan, where I had been on tour in Andrea Chénier with the Teatro Communal di Bologna, and I had to go onstage for the pre-general rehearsal, still suffering from jet lag. And it had been seven years since I had last been in Cavalleria, since I had last sung Turiddu.”

How has it gone?

“It has been beautiful to rediscover in the vocal chords a character like that of Mascagni’s and to confront this opera in a new light, one that has been given a “symphonic” reading from the orchestra’s conductor, Lü Jia.”

On purpose, before the Intermezzo of Cavalleria, the Chinese maestro put down the baton and asked the public for silence.

“The public continued to make noise as too many latecomers continued to enter the Arena.  Even worse was the attitude of those who, before the end of the work, hurdle toward the exits.”

I heard that at the end of Pagliacci, when Canio races across the stage, he had to slalom between spectators. 

“Blinded by the lights, I collided with someone.  It was a disagreeable episode that kept me from enjoying the evening until the end of the applause.”

Which of the other works from the playbill at the Arena would you like to sing here?

I would sing Tosca under the direction of De Ana. I am confident that, being a new production, it will be resumed in the upcoming seasons.  I can see myself in the rotation.”

In you calendar of performances, it says that summer 2007 will be “a sabbatical with the family.”

“It will be a little time to away from the world to spend time with my family, my wife and children.”

Where are you going and what are you doing?

I go to the Metropolitan with Tosca and I return to London in Stiffelio, which I sang there in 1995 giving me the start of my international career.”

In Italy, however, we don't see you often.

“I would like to sing here more often, I don’t deny it.  I have received some invitations, but much too late:  I have signed contracts until 2011 and it is hard to find spots for theaters who program from one year to the next.  I will be to Turin in October to inaugurate the season with Turandot and in 2008, I will be in Edgar. I will return to Bologna with Samson et Dalila, my warhorse that I have not sung in Italy since 1997.”

And La Scala?

“We are not currently in negotiations for anything.  Not to be on the marquee at La Scala, when I sing at all the greatest theaters in the world, does not seem a failure to me but something to regret.  I think that sooner or later they will invite me.”

 

 


 

Interview 15/4/2006

 

Without Make-up: The Real José Cura

 

From Gay.Tv

 

José Cura: Without The Make-up

 

He has been on the stages of theatres the world over. These days, he also gives himself to conducting. Here’s a look at his private side, at his passions and his fears.

 

His principal character trait?

Obstinacy.

 

His principal flaw?

The same: being too stubborn.

 

Sign of the Zodiac?

Sagittarius. Pisces ascendant.

 

Superstitions?

Absolutely not.

 

What did he always want to be when he grew up?

An adult. The kind of man we call “serious”; in reality I have remained the perpetual child.

 

Ever screamed revenge?

Only in operas. In real life, that doesn’t lead to anything.

 

The book that has left a mark on you?

The Mediocre Man. A book by José Ingenieros, an Argentinean philosopher. I reread some chapters, some parts of it often.

 

What is lacking the most in your life at present?

Certainly the time for everything that I do and would like to do. It seems to me that I never have enough of it.

 

What importance do you attribute to money?

I believe the right and proper one: I have known how it is to live without and now that, thank God, I’m not wanting, I realize there is a great deal of difference.

 

What are you worried about?

It bothers me to think of not being present for what’s going on in my family, however big or small these things may be: from my son’s ballgame to my teenage daughter’s first love. In essence, it worries me to be an absentee father.

 

What kind of authority and power would you like to have? A political role?

Political; absolutely not! I have been offered posts as artistic director and other positions in the music field, but at present, I intend to make more music, to sing and conduct.

 

Who or what embarrasses you?

More than embarrassed I feel irritated about those who consider my career for the most part tied to being, shall we say… “fairly good-looking”. I believe that I have proven myself a serious professional, the ‘afterlife’, so to speak, of my strengths and weaknesses. My looks already show the marks of time. I’m getting greyer all the time; the process is relentless.

 

The circumstance that’s the most relaxing and calming?

To be at home….I also would like to succeed in staying put at the house for 15 days in a row!

 

Favorite subject in school?

I must confess that I did not like school much. I used to be an ‘anarchist’; I used to escape the rules that school imposes on you. However, I mainly loved subjects, material that dealt with the humanities.

 

Favorite city?

I don’t have a favorite city. I am a citizen of the world. A true gypsy.

 

Favorite color?

Red.

 

The ideal vacation?

To be at home.

 

Day or night person?

With the type work I do, I find myself living at night to a great extend. But by nature, I am not a night owl.

 

The film you like best?

I have always liked Spielberg’s “Hook” very much and still do.  As a father, it has made me think a lot, and I would recommend it to all fathers.

 

The season of the year?

Spring.

 

Your relationship to food?

A note of regret. Just now that I have gone on a diet again, it is a, shall we say…delicate subject. It is clear that I have a very good relationship with food.

 

Favorite dish?

Nothing fancy. Plain pasta but literally smothered in aged Parmesan…you could say that I eat Parmesan with a little pasta for decoration.

 

Red or white wine?

Red wine for sure. I would say a full-bodied wine like the “Barolo”.

 

Favorite singer?

I have loved Karen Carpenter, the voice of the group “The Carpenters”, best. I confess, I wept when I learned that she was dead.

 

Your relationship to television?

I only watch the news.

 

What should never be missing from your bedside table?

Disney cartoons. Reading “Topolino” is very relaxing to me.

 

And in your dressing room?

I’m Spartan. No particular object. Only a bottle of water and one of tea.

 

How would you want to die?

If possible of old age, but I would add two options: one-an “heroic” death, battling an illness. The other, let’s say, an ‘easier’ and more painless death: in my sleep.

 

Your frame of mind at present?

Positive to the max.

 

Your motto?

Carpe diem—Seize the day and make the most of it.

 

 

 

“It Is My Calling To Conduct”

 

He is considered to be one of the best tenors today and rightfully so.

However, José Cura sees himself as a conductor.

And there, too, he wants to be among the best.

An interview with surprising twists and turns.

 

M&T: José Cura, your appearances as a conductor are becoming ever more frequent. What is it about conducting that fascinates you?

José Cura: Many people don’t know this, but my first job was that of a conductor. I have been conducting since I was 15, which means that I had already been a conductor for 15 years before I became a singer. I studied conducting, and only very late in my life did I become a tenor.

M&T: Why did you become a singer?

José Cura: That was the first course of action that made it possible for me to leave my country and study and work in Europe. I couldn’t have done it as a conductor. But conducting is my true passion and love. I like being a tenor, I want to sing, and I enjoy being a tenor specifically of the type that I am.

M&T: What makes you special?

José Cura: There are people who want to stick me into a box where they’d like tenors to be, but I don’t really behave like a tenor.

M&T: Do you mean on or off stage?

José Cura: On stage I surely don’t behave like your typical, conventional tenor, and when I put on a concert, I am not a showman or someone who is laughably dressed like a penguin. People are sometimes confused by that, and they don’t have a clue as to which compartment they ought to put me in.

M&T: That doesn’t exactly sound like something to flatter your colleagues.

José Cura: I don’t mean to ridicule my colleagues; rather, I simply do not consider myself to be an average tenor. I am a musician who is able to sing in the range of a tenor. Conducting is my life, my true calling, and that’s why I do it as often as I can.

M&T: Well, there aren’t very many tenors in the world of opera, especially not of the type that you are, with a talent for the dramatic repertoire. On the other hand, there are lots of conductors.

José Cura: But not many good ones!

M&T: Might one conclude that you consider yourself to be one of the few that are good?

José Cura: Sorry to say it: yes. I am much better as a conductor that as a tenor. That’s really the case, also when viewed from a distance. The thing is: The way I sing, the way I move and the way I look, I can impress people much more easily as a tenor. To make an impression as a conductor is much more difficult. Naturally, you can wave your arms around wildly and make faces, but that doesn’t sustain you for long. On the other hand, the vast majority in an audience is unable to truly assess (the performance of) a conductor and the role he plays in the success of a performance. But when a guy sings, they’re lying in their chairs, knocked flat.

M&T: And that you want to deprive your fans of in the future?

José Cura: I indeed will keep on singing opera; I do sing frequently, work up and rehearse new roles, develop new productions, take on new challenges. And I do like all of that--I’m not an unhappy tenor. But on the other hand, I really want to conduct as often as possible. I have just recorded Dvorak’s symphony From the New World, and my Rachmaninov CD has gotten very good reviews. It is said to be one of the best recordings of this symphony. Therefore, I surely cannot be such a poor conductor.

M&T: Will you record other symphonies?

José Cura: Yes, Tchaikovsky’s 5th, the ‘Misa Criolla” by Ramirez and probably also works by Janacek.

M&T: On your homepage, you indicate plans for your Centenary Tribute Collection, which celebrates composers’ 100th anniversaries, all the way to Mahler in 2011. To you also a high point for a conductor?

José Cura: By all means. That’s why I’m glad that it’s still six years away. So I still have a little time.

M&T: What is it about conducting that fascinates you? Is it a question of power and control?

José Cura: No, that’s not it at all. I can exercise much more power as the First Tenor at an Opera House than as the conductor—in the negative sense of the word (power), mind you. No, I truly consider myself to be a conductor, a musician who conducts. I became a singer for economic reasons only. And after so many years of singing, I feel called to put the same strength and energy that I used to put into working out and polishing my opera roles, into symphonic music.

M&T: Are you tired of the opera repertoire?

José Cura: The symphonies of Rachmaninov or Dvorak are indeed works that are central, and the attraction, the allure is not in the dramatic impetus, but rather in the subtext, in the extraction and chiseling out of the subtleties and nuances in cooperation with the orchestra’s musicians. The fascination lies in passing these messages on to the listener.

M&T: How do you approach a symphonic work?

José Cura: Just like every other conductor does. First you analyze it: form, harmonies, instrumentation, also the technical side, you might say, the ‘cold’ side. You’ve got to learn what’s going on to start with. And then there is the far more important aspect: you have to find the subtext. Every work of art has a subtext; it doesn’t matter whether it is a picture, a play or, well, music. One finds allusions to the subtexts in the testimony of the composers, in their letters, in their rough drafts and outlines, but also in the tensions and musical references in the score. The message is hidden underneath the form. It isn’t always the same message for every person. Sometimes there are even several different ones. It is possible that what I find differs from what you might find; that’s why one interpretation might be more to the liking of some listener and less to the liking of others.

M&T: That’s what makes the whole thing interesting.

José Cura: Exactly. You surely don’t want to hear the same thing over and over, every time you attend a concert or an opera. You go to hear and experience the uniquely personal sides of an interpretation. You don’t go to listen to a string of beautiful notes played in perfect succession, something that can be pulled off easily with a little bit of preparation. Rather, you want to be brought face to face with what’s behind it all; really become engaged.

M&T: What is the absolutely requisite key to communicating these insights, which you have worked out for yourself on an intellectual and emotional level, to an orchestra of 100 musicians?

José Cura: That is probably the most difficult aspect of the job of a conductor, as I see it. It’s also what makes it so delicate and difficult to work together with an orchestra for only a short period of time. The technical questions are taken care of in one rehearsal, but if you do not yet know each other, then it’s almost always difficult at the outset to find common ground. You often have to stand there almost like a policeman and demand to get exactly what you’ve been asking for, so there is no chance for misunderstandings to crop up. And it’s only in time that the musicians are able to sense things, even before I spell them out. And conversely, I can then depend on things coming out the way I want them to, without having to repeat myself constantly.

M&T: What above all else does it take for that? Competence? Authority? Charisma?

José Cura: It takes time. That’s why the most difficult, problematic conducting work is that of the guest conductor. But on the other hand, it is sometimes also really nice for both sides: Sort of like a breeze of fresh air for a few days; like vacation time with new impressions. And just as you look forward to your own home after a holiday, so it is here, too. But you have had experiences in the meantime, perhaps even learned something. That’s why there is always a degree of curiosity involved in doing a stint as a guest conductor.

M&T: Curiosity on your part, minimalism on the part of the orchestra’s musicians?

José Cura: No, no. With a good conductor, minimalism will last exactly two minutes. Naturally, the first time I come to work with an orchestra, the musicians perceive me to be a tenor with a baton and not a conductor. And they’ll play accordingly--like they would for a tenor with a baton. But only for two minutes.

M&T: And what do you do to change that at once, to nip it in the bud?

José Cura: That’s quite easy: All those people that sit in front of me are after all musicians and they naturally notice that I am someone who has been conducting for many years, that I come thoroughly equipped with the skills and the know how of a conductor. A professional musician is able to discern that within a few minutes. If a conductor doesn’t manage to establish authority at the first rehearsal, he’ll never do it.

M&T: What about this situation in reverse, at the opera, when you sing and a new maestro is introduced?

 

José Cura: (It’s) exactly the same: After two minutes I know whether I can depend on him; whether he understands his job. If he doesn’t, then you begin to take matters into your own hands; if he does, then you put yourself into his hands willingly. It is sometimes really funny to sense that, to track that like a scanner. It’s naturally something that’s reciprocal; each feels out the other, and as I said, after a few minutes, the result is clear. You know how far you can go, what you are able to demand, what you can expect.

M&T: Are you more critical as far as conductors are concerned because you have a better understanding of conducting than your fellow singers?

José Cura: Critical isn’t the right word. On principle, I am very open, also to other opinions. There is an advantage to this in that I sometimes see developing problems faster; that I can detect and see through situations better because I know what I am able to take into account.

 

M&T: On your tour through Switzerland, you will conduct Dvorak’s 9thSymphony.  Do you think the Swiss will like your (reading of) Dvorak?

José Cura: We’ll see. This is naturally not my own orchestra; I have not had a chance to get to know it. But they are, from what I have heard and read, very good, very dedicated young musicians, and I think we’ll be able to work well together. I suppose that the last concerts are going to fulfill our expectations more than the first ones because by then we will have been together for 15 days and will have surely reached a high level of mutual understanding and insight. And the Dvorak symphony is so magnificent that I am not worried. We didn’t want to play a symphony that was too solemn and dramatic, because it is Christmas time and people don’t want to hear anything that’s too heavy. No one wants to be sad at that time of the year.

 

M&T: And in the first part, talking about the arias by Verdi, Puccini and Meyerbeer, are you going to do both, sing and conduct?

 

José Cura: No. There is another conductor for that. In a concert setting, that kind of thing doesn’t work. When I record, I am able to sing into the microphones and conduct simultaneously because I have the orchestra in front of me; I’m facing the musicians. With a good orchestra, you don’t have to mark too much as a rule. But it’s not a workable (situation) in a concert where I must naturally sing toward the audience. I have indeed done it before, as an encore for example, but it is an awkward and delicate matter that needs several rehearsals for everyone to be in complete accord, almost blindly so. And in one critical review they wrote that I looked like a huge, clumsy bird. Facing the audience with arms flapping is indeed a rather silly sight.

  

M&T: What were your considerations in putting the aria part of your program together?

 

José Cura: I left that up to the organizers. I made about twelve suggestions, and they selected from among those. This is my first tour in Switzerland. Apart from my appearances at the Zurich Opera House, one does not know me. But I believe the audience is going to be nice, amiable, and warm-hearted and is coming to the concert for pleasure and enjoyment. Naturally, there is this aspect of giving commentaries and criticisms as always, but I should think that in the German speaking countries, this is not the primary reason for coming-quite in contrast to England and especially Italy.

 

M&T: And in Italy, how do you handle it there?

 

José Cura: No one is absolute, perfect; in this line of work, one has to live with a great variety of opinions. And no matter where it is: after the first aria, I know how the entire evening will go.

 

M&T: And a successful appearance in the second part cannot change this first impression?

 

José Cura: Perhaps little by little. But the first impression is dreadfully strong. When the members of the audience take me into their hearts, embrace me right away, it becomes quite easy for me to animate them, thrill them and transmit my feelings. If not, it becomes very difficult. But I have rarely had that experience. This can happen primarily when you sing unknown selections to which people cannot relate so readily.

 

M&T: Here in Zurich you have just sung (the part of) an unknown but fascinating Verdi character, Stiffelio.

 

José Cura: He is indeed a very different, unconventional figure not only in Verdi but the entire repertoire. The other characters fit within the norms of Verdi baritones or sopranos. Stiffelio by comparison is-as seen from my vantage point- a very dubious, shady character, sort of a combination of Calvin and Rasputin. (He’s) hostile to pleasure and very fanatical like Calvin but on the other hand sexually driven like Rasputin. Gloomy and unbending, but underneath the surface, passion is ablaze. He looks good, and he doesn’t have his hormones under control. And the mixture makes this human being a walking bomb. This is not about religion; his fanaticism provides him a means to block his sensuality. In the end, he explodes. A grim, black and gloomy figure of which there are only a few in (all of) opera. Because most find salvation or forgiveness in the end. Stiffelio does not: He pretends to forgive, but he doesn’t really. I love this figure.

 

M&T: Even though Verdi has given him no aria (to sing)?

 

José Cura: Precisely for that reason: Stiffelio has no music just for music’s sake. With the soprano and the baritone, we have moments where the action stops and the music stands alone-but not so with the tenor. Everything he sings has a dramatic reason. For me that’s naturally wonderful because every time I take the stage, I fight the cliché of the tenor who just stands there and shouts at the top of his lungs. I hate that.

 

M&T: So do we.

 

José Cura: But not everyone else by a long shot. Believe you me, there are many, many people who do not want to see or hear anything else.

 

M&T: If you have such strongly held ideas, such intense notions about a character, what does the cooperation with a director look like? How is it affected?

 

José Cura: Cesare Lievi came (to this) without preconceived notions; nothing was etched in stone. Many details seen on stage were ideas of mine that took shape in the course of rehearsals. And I’m really proud of that. I make suggestions during rehearsals on how something might be depicted and performed. And Lievi took those and developed them and brought them into accord with the other figures. That’s the way all good directors work, including those that have very definite ideas or want to provoke, something that I find totally ok: they set the general direction, provide the big picture. But how the characters act in detail, those finer points are worked out together with the singers, and it is the task of the actor to develop that. Just like in movies: The director says, this and this happened; now show me how your character feels in this situation and how he reacts. In opera, there are directors as it is who leave this task entirely in the hands of the singers and work almost exclusively toward the big picture.

 

M&T: The staging of ‘Otello’ by Sven-Eric Bechtolf was quite controversial. How did you experience it?

 

José Cura: I must say that we discussed (things) a lot. With the result that I was pretty satisfied-as far as the figures and their play/interaction is concerned- but generally, I did not like the production. I found it contrived and sometimes a bit ridiculous. In spite of that, I realized that this staging helped the audience to focus above all on the singers, and that gave us considerable possibilities. When you have this kind of a production and bad actors on top of that, then things go awry. But I think Bechtolf was able to take liberties with this venture because he had singers in Raimondi, Dessí and me, in whom he sensed the charisma of stage personalities.

 

Reinmar Wagner/ translation by Monica B.

 


 

Tenor José Cura's Heart Remains in Argentina

 

La Nueva Provincia Interview

May 12, 2005

 

Translated by Monica B

 

Berlin (EFE)-Tenor and conductor José Cura assured EFE in an interview today that even though he resides in Spain, and has not stepped on home soil since “Otello” at the Teatro Colón in 1999, his heart is in Argentina, and with the Argentinean people.

 

Aurora, my latest CD of arias, was dedicated to all Argentineans, and I even put the blue and white flag on the inside. But the people there don’t know that, because it never made it to the domestic market for lack of a distributor,” the tenor, who is performing at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin these days, stated.

 

Cura gave his debut in the German capital on April 27 as Canio in the premiere of a “Pagliacci” production directed by David Pountney (Great Britain), who was ostensibly booed by the audience.

 

“My expression at the curtain call after the performance was perhaps serious, but that was nothing personal, for my performance was applauded. It’s that I can’t bear soccer field reactions in a theater,” explained the tenor, who avoided drawing parallels to the trouble he was involved in five years ago at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

 

“If the members of the audience want to show their displeasure, the most polite and also perhaps the most effective way would be absolute silence. No one can imagine how painfully distressing coming out to take one’s bows after a performance and not getting any reaction from the audience would be—and how effective,” he pointed out.

 

Pountney endured the barrage stoically, “possibly because he is British, and digested it later at home. I am Latin (in temperament) and it’s already known…” Cura added, in reference-the last of the entire interview-to his confrontation with a segment of the audience at the Teatro Real.

 

At last, Berlin

 

Cura, who will return to the Deutsche Oper next year as Dick Johnson—the thief who is redeemed by the love of Minnie, the main character of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Fanciulla del West’—was the only one of the great Latin-American tenors who had not yet made his debut in Berlin.

 

During the last year, the Mexicans Ramón Vargas and Rolando Villazón, the Peruvian Juan Diego Flórez and the Argentine Dario Volonté, whose names make you think of Latin America as a ‘quarry’, came this way.

 

“There are great voices in Latin America, and Argentina, for example, is in the count with excellent contraltos. But I find it strange that in Europe they are surprised to learn about this so-called ‘boom’,” Cura confessed. For him the explanation is much simpler: “It’s socio-economic”.

 

“The same phenomenon that can be seen in Russia is occurring in Latin America. It’s that young people with a natural inclination (toward the arts) are willing to invest ten years of their lives in a project which, just maybe, will turn out well for them. In the rich countries, they have everything; there is less of a willingness to make this investment in terms of one’s life. Four years in front of a computer and you are an engineer,” he opines.

 

Motivated by necessity

 

For Cura, the secret is: “the driving force that dire need—having sung ‘for four rubles’ in theaters or in the street, something that I have done myself—turns into. There has to be this feeling, a rage of despair, that’s eating at your insides; it pushes you to cross the Atlantic.” Cura still has that, although in a way that’s calmed down a lot.

 

“Until I created my own company in 2000, I had a lot of people feeding off of me. Today, I am in charge of my own calendar, I am my own boss. Before, I had 100 performances per year; now, I sing 50.”

 

“In the time that remains, I compose, conduct, attend to company business and spend time with my family,” added the tenor, who has a “closed” calendar that has him booked out until 2009, although with some blank spaces for events of relevance like, for example, the Festival in Verona. 

 

“That explains why I have still not returned to the Teatro Colón; because I am closing the calendar with a number of way-in-advance bookings, and for financial reasons, the Colón only draws up plans for the short or medium term,” he pointed out.

 

In Berlin, Cura has not met up with Maestro Daniel Barenboim, another Argentine who is especially close to the Colón. He is the General Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, “a man of supernatural genius,” said the tenor.

 

“Barenboim is unique,” the singer, who has not yet worked with the Maestro even though they do see each other occasionally, emphasized.

 

“Once, I mentioned to him that I wasn’t managing to get my CD sold in Argentina. And he replied: ‘Don’t worry; my CD of tangos doesn’t sell either,’” the tenor, who is preparing ‘a surprise’ for his public, related by way of anecdote. He gave as clues: expanding his repertoire to characters without ‘pesto and mozzarella’ and works that would be more nourishing to the intellect, although under no circumstances Wagner.

 

“I would not sing Wagner in a language that I do not have a good command of. Besides, it’s schmaltzy; the preludio of ‘Tristan and Isolde’ has possibilities for a Latin American soap opera,” he pointed out.

 

The surprise could also be an experience as a ‘theater performer’. “They’ve been tempting me for several years, and I’m taking on one of these,” he forewarned.

 


 

José  Cura in Barcelona - Si!

 

José Cura affirms his relationship with El Liceu

El Pais / 29 Jan 2005

He was confronted with the public at Teatro Real Madrid in 2000 and fell in love with el Liceu in 2001, when he replaced the ill José Carreras in Samson et Dalila at the last moment. But while the disillusionment  between the Real and the Argentinean tenor José Cura ( Rosario1962) continues: “I will return only in the appropriate opera and production," he affirms that his love at first sight with el Liceu continues to flourish. "If things go well I predict a long relationship with the public of Liceu in the future 10 years," said Cura during the press conference yesterday, where he talked about Verdi´s Corsaro, the role he will be singing in el Liceu  from Monday (31 January) until 6 February.


 

The Argentinian José Cura opens Il corsaro by Verdi in Liceu

El Periódico

31 January 2005

ROGER PASCUAL

The tenor plays the leading role in the performance of the work never performed in Barcelona

José Cura ( Rosario 1962) could be reproached  for many things, but never for being a tame tenor. On the contrary. He is one of those artists who leave their mark on everything they do. This he demonstrated in December 2000, when after having been booed by part of the audience in stalls at Teatro Real, he stopped the performance and stood up to them.

Therefore, while admitting he has heard the rumors that those who did the booing are preparing  “something” for the premiere of Corsaro tonight in Liceu, he seems to be very calm. “Something like that is not possible in Barcelona,” says Cura, who hopes that the performances of Corsaro and those of Otello next year will help him create a link with the public that will allow him “to be a nuisance here for a long time.”

Inspired by Byron

Inspired by Lord Byron’s poem, the opera Il Corsaro, which has never been presented in Liceu, has never been well received by critics, starting with its own composer, Giuseppe Verdi.  “It is necessary to see this as a transitional work, one in which he (Verdi) played with ideas he later developed in Traviata and Otello.” As a tenor he considers it,  “a very demanding play since it combines moments which require very low registers while having a very solid orchestra and other very light moments in which one is scarcely accompanied by a harp, a violin or a flute." 

Together with Cura, Joseph Ribot, Marina Mescheryakova, Susan Neves, CarloGuelfi and José Manuel Zapata form the cast of this concert version of the work, conducted by Marco Guidarini.

Cura and Plácido Domingo, who is performing Parsifal, will share the evenings in the theatre in Barcelona this week. The fact does have significance, if we keep in mind that since the first time Cura stepped on stage he has been compared with Domingo. “If I was one tenth so legendary and mythical as he has been and is, I could sleep in peace,” assures Cura, who placed the recently deceased Victoria de los Angeles on the Olympus of lyric singers.

The artist, who started to sing when he was 12 years old, to conduct when he was 15 and made his debut in opera at 30, hopes to “balance my career.”  And that is why he plans to strengthen his role as a conductor and to try the field of directing, whether José Luis Moreno’s plans to construct the Coliseo de las Tres Culturas finally bears fruit. “It is a grandiose project.  We shall see how it develops. But he (Moreno) always succeeds, so I don’t believe this is going to be the first failure in his career.”

True to his fame of enfant terrible, he avoided the regular circle of distribution for his latest disc and went, instead, for the Internet: “The most logical would be if the outlets placed the horses by quality and not by the reputation of their handlers.”

Finally the singer offered clues to understand the boom of great tenors from South America, such as Juan Diego Flores and Marcelo Alvarez.  “In these countries there still exists the need to fight, to get angry, to get ahead, while in the countries of the first world that need no longer exists. The young people here are settled in comfort.”

Thanks to Marion and Rosanna for sending and to Dana and Lilian for translating

 

 


José Cura is the main character of premiere of Verdi´s Il Corsaro at el Liceu

La Vanguadia / 29 Jan 2005

Marino Rodriguez

 The official debut of the Argentinian tenor in the Gran Teatre  

Inserted between performances of Parsifal, the Liceu offers the concert version of Il Corsaro, one of the few Verdi operas that haven't been performed in the theater before (next week, Monday, Thursday and Sunday). Together with this circumstance, the other big attraction is the participation of the Argentinian tenor, José Cura, who, in this tragic and romantic melodrama inspired by Lord Byron´s poem of the same name, sings the main character Corrado, the captain of the corsairs. He will be accompanied  by  Susan Neves, Marina Mescheryakova, Carlo Guelfi, Josep Ribot and José Manuel Zapata, under the baton of Marco Guidarini.

Cura (42 years) is one of the most outstanding tenors of his generation. This production is considered his official debut in Liceu, although he participated unexpectedly when he agreed to stand in for José Carreras, who fell ill overnight, in the role in Samson and Dalila in 2001. Although he was on stage for only one performance, Cura was so triumphal that he was awarded the annual prize by the Members of Liceu as the best singer of that season.

Marked repeatedly as one of the  replacements of the three tenors, Cura is most often compared with Placido Domingo--Otello is one of his greatest roles, he conducts symphony orchestras, he plans to run an opera theatre…. "If I manage to do one tenth of what he had achieved I would be satisfied. The fact I am compared with him is a great honour for me, but I don´t see it as realistic.We are two different people, two different artists. He is also the age of my father.

"This is not meant to be disrespectful.  He is more than 60 years old and sings better than when he was 50. I want to say he is already a living legend. We shall see what happens to me during next 30 years…."

Cura offered his opinion about Il Corsaro.  "It is clear this is not a masterpiece but it is very interesting work and everybody who is keen on opera should hear it once. Verdi tested many things in it that he used later.  So there are bars from Traviata, phrases from Don Carlo and colours from Otello. It is not an easy role for tenor but it contains some serious moments with dense orchestration and light ones with  limited instrumentation …. Although no opera works one hundred percent in a concert, I believe in this case, Corsaro is a good option to perform like that."

Cura has been living in Madrid since 1998. He hasn´t visited Argentina for years.  "I am very disconnected from  the political situation in my country."  He describes himself as an artist who likes change and likes to try to do thing differently and as a lover of the show.  "There are many kinds of public and that is why there are many kinds of shows. The intelligent artist is one who can adjust to that."

 


José Cura Interprets Verdi's Il corsaro at Liceu

 

 La Razon Digital

29 January 2005

Argentine tenor José Cura spent a lot of time with the media yesterday, talking about Il Corsaro, the work he  will sing on Monday in Liceu. He also explained why, though he has received various offers from Teatro Real, he will not be singing in the capital for the time being.

In presenting himself to the media, José Cura said,  “We open Il Corsaro right after the elections in Iraq. It will be a very special date.”  The tenor presents the concert version of Verdi´s opera on Monday, Thursday and on Sunday, 6 February. This is one works that not even the composer highly valued, Cura explained. “The fact that Verdi criticized it is nothing new. But when he wrote it he didn’t have the perspective this would be his future career. Anyway, in Il Corsaro he warmed up for what came later. There are colours and contrasts which we see in La Traviata and Otello,” remarked Cura in Barcelona yesterday.  The Argentinian tenor admitted that he feels very comfortable playing at the Liceu and that he defines himself to be “for now, an exclusive singer in Barcelona,“ adding jokingly that he doesn’t have any offers to act in other Spanish cities.

On the other hand, José Cura admitted that he has heard indirect gossip that something is being prepared for the premiere, in the sense that some in the theater might boycott his acting, though he doesn’t consider this rumored threat significant.

As to his future projects, Cura says he is still in negotiations, after the resignation of Montserrat Caballé, to work on the José Luis Moreno project, Coliseo de las Tres Culturas.  “I realize this is a project of Pharoh proportions. Moreno offered me both the post of Artistic and Musical Director. But it is possible that finally I will take charge just of the music section.”

Cura is still not sure when he will return to sing in Teatro Real. He indicated that he has had contact with the new management, “But I wish a return that won’t cause controversy.”  For this reason he has decided that the propositions he has received so far, “Haven't seemed right for me.  In some of the experimental productions, I would be taking my life in my hands.” After weighing options, the Argentinian tenor won’t rule out that he will soon have a resolution as he continues to have conversations with Emilio Sagi, the person in charge of the Madrid theater.

 


 

José Cura

 “The routine in the life of a singer turns out to be traumatic.”

El Cultural 

Carlos Fortezza

 

The Argentinian tenor José Cura (Rosario 1962) will play the leading role in Il Corsaro by Verdi in Liceu on Monday, 31 January. He will return here next year with Otello. The singer talks with El Cultural about his relationship with el Real, the project of Teatro de las Tres Culturas and his career as a conductor.

After winning Operalia in 1994, his arrival in the world of singing was something of an event,   “Something that was formed as part of the marketing machinery of the market and something you cannot control. Someone is in fashion, then time passes and one gets to the same level or even better. Then came Alagna, they got tired of him and moved to another. Now it is Floréz’ turn, but he will pass as well and then it will be the turn of somebody new.” Since then he has been concentrating on being “a good singer” because “once all the artificial fireworks pass away, they will see you as 'a serious and respected artist.'” He has become one of the most famous dramatic tenors of his generation. He is able to absorb all his talents and combine his singing career with conducting, “a time when my voice rests and vice versa, which is very important. These are vocations that can be done in parallel.”

EL:  It is hard to be taken seriously as a conductor being a singer, yet the same doesn’t apply to a pianist or violinist.

JC:  These are the prejudices of the past. Throughout history, with rare exceptions, the singer was the person who was known for his voice and that was that.  If by any chance he understood what was going on in the pit, it was better. If he didn’t, nothing happened. This is less common now, as the singers are more prepared.

EL:  Does conducting help you to escape from sometimes-terrible routine of a singer?

JC:  Without doubt. I try not to sing as many performances as I used to do. With nearly one hundred singing dates a year, it ended up being traumatic. And not just from the physical point of view—as an artist you end up entering the stage saying, “Uf, not again!”  Now I do about 50 dates. The voice is infinitely grateful. Also, conducting is the way to plan for the day when I decide to retire from singing.”

EL:  The boom of the voices from Latin America, is it a pure coincidence or are you a special race?

JC:  The condition of life in America is very different from those in Europe. To become a serious musician (in America), you must invest at least ten or fifteen years of your life before you are able to say now I reached maturity, now I have the authority to be well regarded. How many young people in Europe are willing to invest so much time? There are times in life that you need the strength, the healthy rage that comes from despair. That is why so many singers come from there or from the former Soviet Union. They know they have to fight--if they don’t, they won’t eat.

EL:  You bring spectacle to the opera, is it what the theatre lovers want?

If I look at the success that I have had, I have to say, yes, but I know there are people who don’t like the way in which I approach my characters. Just like many of the public, I like to see a passionate and devoted artist.  If I have to listen to an excellent interpretation sung without heart I prefer to stay at home and listen to a CD.

EL:   Is that the reason why you prefer live recordings?

JC:  Live recordings are necessary for economical reasons, because they are so much cheaper. On the other hand, to be an “animal” on stage I prefer the risks a live performance brings.  Live, I can display all my potential for strength and charisma. If one is not the type of the artist who equates perfectionism with quality but with charisma, meaning and emotions, then in that case live recording is better for him.

EL:  You will return to Liceu with Otello, the warhorse of your repertoire.

JC:  Those who have seen my Otello understand what I want to transmit, with an original way of treating the voice and moving the body. My interpretation is based more on the theatrical message, more on Shakespeare not just on Verdi. In this sense I identify a lot with the Otello of Ramon Vinay, one that was not based on the beauty and infallibility of the voice but more on the message which gets through to us not only with a beautiful timbre but through the creation of a distressed and terrible Otello.

EL:  You have already forgotten the incident of Teatro Real but you don’t sing there.

JC:  The first thing Sagi did after taking charge was to come to my house for lunch to see what we can do for my return. Until now, the right opportunity hasn’t turned up. I forgot about the incident within a few days, as soon as I learned that the motivation behind the attack were extraneous.

EL:  Will you manage Moreno´s Teatro de las Tres Culturas?

JC:  I have a great desire to do so but the contract hasn’t been signed yet. Mr. Moreno offered me the position of Musical director, while Montserrat Caballé was supposed to be the Artistic director. She later resigned and I was offered both posts, which I accepted. We are now looking for the best way to carry out the project. When we open, I will be 46 or 47 years old. It will be a project to face in the beginning of the maturity of the artist and of the man, a new stage. 

 


 

Cura sings Puccini and Thinks about his Month of Conducting
 

Univision

Joaquín Rábago

13 September 2005

London, September 13 (EFE).  The Argentine tenor José Cura may be singing in London in Puccini’s "Fanciulla del West" this Thursday but he is already thinking ahead to December when he will be picking up the baton to direct the Orchestra della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini in a series of concerts.

 

In an interview with EFE after the general rehearsal in the British capital, Cura reminisced about the fact that the Royal Opera at Covent Garden has been part of his performing history almost from the time of his debut in principal roles in Europe. The first time he acted at the theater, he remembered, was as cover for Spanish tenor José Carreras in "Fedora" by Umberto Giordano and since then he has been coming almost every year, except for when the theater was closed for repairs.

 

Cura says he feels completely at ease with his role as the bandit known as Dick Johnson who falls in love with bar-owner Minnie, sung by soprano Andrea Gruber.

 

It is a role "in which a Latin American sits in his own sauce, without having to resort to tricks: it is enough to use my own natural gestures" because the bandit is actually a mestizo, born of Spanish and American blood, he says.

 

"I fit into the role most comfortably. From the vocal point of view, it is neither Samson nor Otello, although there are two or three very dangerous points in the second act aria," he admits.

 

The Argentine tenor will soon interpret Puccini’s earliest opera, "Le Villi," in a new production of the Staatsoper in Vienna, which until now did not have the work in its repertoire.

 

"Then, in December, I will not sing. I direct the whole month.  It will be a complete immersion with the Orchestra della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini," of Parma (Italy), says Cura, who praises the flexibilty of this group.

 

Cura will conduct the orchestra in two works by Rachmaninov, the second piano concerto and his second symphony, in addition to I Vespri Siciliano by Verdi.

 

The tenor, who has conducted other orchestras such as Sinfonía Varsovia and the London Philharmonia, says he is continuing in his role as conductor as opposed to the veteran Plácido Domingo, who also alternates between singing and orchestral direction.

 

"I devoted myself to being a conductor from the beginning, starting when I was fifteen and continuing until I was almost in my thirties, when I began to sing," which is the reverse of Domingo’s development, he says.

 

The Argentine musician explains he tries to conduct works that he does not sing and expresses his preference for the big symphonies of German composers, the works of Italians as such as Respighi and Hungarians such as Zoltan Kodaly.

 

When he conducts opera, he is most concerned with “helping the dramatic situation,” and this aspect is one of the things he most admires about Antonio Pappano, who is directing him now in "Fanciulla del West."

 

"He is alert to the strict requirements of the composer but he leaves space that allows every interpreter to feels at ease in his character," states Cura, who adds, "The opposite approach is the death of the interpreter."

 

Cura is optimistic about the future of opera and states that in opera, as in any artistic endeavor, "the key is sincerity in the moment," to achieve “an effect that shakes the public."

 

One of the biggest difficulties is, nevertheless, financial, "and that is not in our hands,” says Cura, who would like to see European countries approve a law supporting artistic patronage.

 

Asked when is he going to sing in Madrid Teatro Real, where, in December 2000, a scandal erupted when Cura stood up to a few in the audience who reproached him for not singing a note that does not appear in Verdi’s score for ‘Il Trovatore,’ Cura says that at the moment " there is no project. "

 

"We have had conversations (with the Teatro Real management), but we have not reached agreement," says Cura, who admits that it makes him sad because "it would be very comfortable to sing in house," since he lives in the Spanish capital.

 

"In contrast, Barcelona moves much more rapidly and we are already discussing the program for the 2009-10 season," says the singer, who add that the Liceu is "a beautiful theater" and "the people very affectionate.”

 


 

 

How Handsome May a Tenor Be?

 

Berliner Zeitung  (April 23, 2005)

On the occasion of his Berlin debut as Pagliaccio, BZ spoke with José Cura, whose looks sometimes even outshine his voice.

 

Latin-lover alarm at the German Opera! José Cura, 42, one of the most handsome and one of the best tenors in the world, is going to give his Berlin opera debut today as Leoncavallo’s Pagliaccio. However, the guy, who after the dress rehearsal shows up for the BZ interview with wildly tousled hair, shirt and glasses, doesn’t look like an opera divo. And the Argentine indeed isn’t one. Rather, he is fire and spirit, i.e. an enthusiast. A world star with a passion.

 

Señor Cura, in “Pagliacci” everything revolves around life, art, and how art intrudes on life. Do you know about that kind of thing?

 

Naturally. What I am doing here is my job. A job that I love very much. But the trick is to know how to establish boundaries, draw the line. Because once you come off stage, you’re a nobody.

 

What do you do in order to leave the divo behind on the stage?

 

I’ve been married for 20 years and have three kids. They certainly see to it, that I keep my feet on the ground, that I don’t lose touch with reality. And if I did, they would kick me in the pants and say: come off it!

 

Pagliaccio is usually (portrayed as) an aging, jealous clown.

 

We see him as a brutally violent boss. As a type who abuses his power. And says: “I’ll make a star out of you, if you’ll sleep with me.” That kind of thing happens everywhere.

 

Have you had such offers?

 

A whole bunch. I declined them very politely--with the argument that I am a happily married man and a father.

 

 

(next to the small picture: He is about to kill her: José Cura as Pagliaccio with Nuccia Focile as Nedda)

 

Have your good looks helped you in the pursuit of your career goals?

 

If anything, rather the opposite. In the beginning, I was always the erotic tenor, the Sunny Boy, the Latin lover. That was nice, but also a paltry thing. I have been on stage for 30 years and have always been a serious musician. But if you’re rather good-looking, you must be an idiot.

 

Will you get better with the passing years, like a good wine?

 

Ask my wife (laughs).

 

What kind of a wine would you be?

 

If I were a wine, then a Spanish Rioja. Or an Italian Barolo.

 

Is getting older difficult?

 

Up to now, not yet. I am slowly turning grey, my hair is thinning; there’s less of it, but on the other hand more stomach. But my wife says she thinks I look more interesting. Then add the glasses to that. Now people suddenly say: “Hey, he is a pretty good musician.”

 

You studied conducting, composing, piano and voice. How come you chose singing as your career?

 

That was the fastest way to feed my family. I got married at 22, became a father at 25 and took the baby along to the fitness studio, where I had a part time job while I was a student. As a tenor, you earn more; that’s it. But my vocation is actually conducting. And I slowly want to get back to that.

 

You are about to sing in Berlin for the first time. The opera houses here are insolvent. Are you singing for less?

 

Opera houses all over the world are down and out. I have negotiated a compromise with the management of the Deutsche Oper: I’ll sing my debut for a little less; and instead, I come back repeatedly!

 

M. Kaden/ translation: Monica B.

 


 

José Cura:  Let's Get Physical

 

The Independent

20 September 2005

José Cura breezes in from his rehearsal at the Royal Opera House looking rather like an off-duty nightclub bouncer. The dark-eyed Argentinian superstar, a former rugby player and body-builder, could have been tailor-made for the tenor lead in La Fanciulla del West, Puccini's take on the gold rush, for which he received rave reviews last week. His character, Johnson, aka Ramerrez, is an escaped Latin bandit, by turns a "goody" and a "baddy" in the best tradition of spaghetti westerns, but - in the best tradition of romantic opera - ultimately redeemed by love. Cura has run the gamut of "goody" and "baddy" in terms of critical opinion over the years, but it's his passion that carries him beyond that. His treacly, seductive, dangerous voice can knock you into submission in seconds.

Fanciulla gives him plenty of opportunity to let that voice shine. It's rarely performed, yet filled with vintage Puccini melody. "I first sang the role in a concert performance in 1992," Cura recounts, "so it's been growing inside for 13 years." He's particularly glad to be singing it at Covent Garden: "This production is a real classic," he says. "I remember watching it on video years ago and thinking, 'Hey, look at that, if only one day...' And suddenly you find you're in the middle of the set."

Cura's path to stardom took even him by surprise. His musical life had a difficult beginning; his native Argentina - where he was born with roots a quarter Spanish, a quarter Italian and half Lebanese - is a loaded subject. He hasn't been back for seven years. He adores Argentinian music, and dedicated the second CD he made for his own label, Cuibar Phono Video, to his country: "The Argentinian flag even appeared in the booklet," he says. "But the only country I couldn't sell the CD was Argentina. As the Bible says, no man is a prophet in his own land." His label, though, is doing fine: Cura is "in conversation" with a major label interested in taking Cuibar Phono Video under its wing.

If Cura had grown up somewhere else, he might never have found his voice. He began to sing through luck and necessity. "When I was about 12, I decided I wanted to be a musician," he says. "Argentina at that time was leaving military oppression and becoming a democratic country, but in the middle it wasn't so easy; you had to decide to do something reasonably useful. It was a big fight to make my parents understand I wanted to be a musician in a country where that was a hopeless decision. The purpose was to become a conductor and a composer. I had vocal coaching to complement the conducting, and one of the coaches said to me, 'Hey, you have to use this voice'. Later, a teacher told me, 'You don't have to be a singer, but you must learn how to sing, because that will make you a better conductor'. That was the best advice I received.

"It is always difficult to find opportunities to conduct or to get a premiere for your compositions - but in Argentina at that time, it was hopeless. Singing is a discipline where you can find some way to survive: in a choir, an opera chorus, or a musical comedy. I started to sing as a way of surviving. And, well, here I am. I survived pretty well." Once he had won Placido Domingo's Operalia competition in 1994, there was no turning back.

Is that rarest musical instrument - a glorious tenor voice - down to nature, or nurture, with hours of hard slog every day? Forget "hours", says Cura - even "years" would understate what it takes. "You cannot hurry up the processes of developing your voice," he says. "If you want to become a lawyer in two years, you can do it if you study hard, but singing is both intellectual and physical: the body has to have time to get used to what your brain understands first. And you can't stay home and work alone until you're 'mature'; you become mature by being out on stage, exchanging experiences with other singers and working with good conductors and directors.

"You can't expect wine to be more mature if you leave it longer inside the grape. You have to take it out and work on it. There are no miracles. I'm 42; I've been singing for 20 years and now - finally - I'm starting to feel that I'm kind of in charge. There's no way to do that only in the shower."

Italian and French opera has long been home to Cura, but will he ever sing Wagner? "I've been wondering too," he laughs. "The problem is the language. I can read and understand German, but I have not mastered it. To produce a believable character, one desperately needs the undertext, and there's no way to have that if you're reading phonetics. After so many years, people are used to a certain standard whenever I go on stage, so I feel uncomfortable with the idea that I would be performing knowing that I'm not giving what I'm supposed to give. When I go on stage, I feel secure in what I'm doing - you can agree with it or not, but you cannot say I'm not convinced or secure. If I give up on that security, I'd be giving up on the major secret that has made my career not only a success but a healthy success: I've never lost my nerve on stage. And I'm not intending to do so."

Cura, meanwhile, has found his way back to conducting; another happy accident, he says, that came about a few years ago when he conducted the Sinfonia Varsovia "as a joke", but found himself invited to become the orchestra's principal guest conductor - "much to the delight of my vocal detractors, who'd found the perfect excuse to say I'm a better conductor than a singer". Next season includes a stint at the Vienna State Opera, conducting Puccini's Madama Butterfly. He divides his time between singing and conducting "about 75 per cent to 25 - the perfect balance to prevent the singing from becoming a routine".

But thanks to his roots in conducting and composing, this most romantic of operatic tenors cites his greatest musical passion as something different: "Mozart said that, 'After J S Bach, each note we write can only be a commentary'. If you analyse Bach's music, you realise you can only try to be as good as you can be, without pretending to be more, because after that, what can anybody say? The experience that most touched my soul was conducting, years ago, the St Matthew Passion. One thing I regret is that I cannot sing Bach, because his works are far away from my type of voice."

Still, an artist such as Cura is never going to be pigeonholed. "The mood nowadays is to put people into specialised boxes - it's the most comfortable way of keeping them under control," he says, "but those who have things to do will jump out. I'm not alone; many people are trying to make society less cold in terms of specialisation. I don't see myself doing just one thing for the sake of avoiding being pointed at. I would be frustrated and I prefer to take the risks." He grins. "Altogether, it's not going too badly."

 


José Cura Gives Back...

 

 

Press Release – for immediate release                                                 Friday, 23rd September

  

José Cura Masterclass Raises £10,000 for

British Youth Opera

Last night, £10,000 was raised for British Youth Opera – the UK Opera Training Company - at a gala showcase held at Lloyd’s.  The main attraction was a unique masterclass presented by Maestro José Cura. The audience consisted of opera lovers from the world of banking and business and the money raised will go towards the training of emerging professional singers, musicians and technical trainees.

Maestro Cura has the reputation within the opera profession not only as one of the world’s outstanding tenors, but also as a committed teacher keen to share his skills with young singers. He has generously donated his time to British Youth Opera whilst in London singing the lead tenor role in La Fanciulla del West at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

This project, run in association with the Royal Academy of Music featured young professional singers Kim Sheehan, Kishani Jayashinge, James Edwards and David Stout all of whom have taken part in past British Youth Opera Summer Seasons. The group worked on a selection of classic opera repertoire particularly chosen to suit and develop young voices. They were accompanied by Director of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music, Anthony Legge. 

Earlier in the week, Maestro Cura worked with this group of singers in front of an audience of some 150 young opera and music students from the London music colleges at the Royal Academy of Music.

Judith Butler, General Manager of British Youth Opera, said:

“British Youth Opera offers emerging opera singers, musicians and technical trainees the opportunity to hone their skills by taking part in our Summer Season of performances and our programme of workshops and masterclasses. We are extremely indebted to Maestro Cura for giving his time and expertise and for contributing with such enthusiasm to this training process. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to work with our colleagues at the Royal Academy of Music.”

José Cura said:

“I enthusiastically congratulate British Youth Opera´s goal and I am happy to offer a continuous  contribution to their activities. Only one who, like myself has carved his way relying on his own “fingernails”, can fully appreciate how much it means for a young artist to be backed-up  by an institution that gives both spiritual confidence and realistic opportunities to the  beginners.”

British Youth Opera provides a unique opportunity for young singers to perform in live performances and receive professional coaching in all aspects of opera. It has been the springboard for many of our great singers of today, including Katarina Karnéus, Rosemary Joshua, Garry Magee, Mark Stone, Peter Auty and Sally Matthews. It is funded through Arts Council England, Trusts and Foundations, private donations and sponsorship.  BYO needs to raise in excess of £300,000 per annum to support its annual programme.

 

*

José Cura Masterclass

British Youth Opera & Royal Academy of Music 19 September 2005

  

It's 9.30 pm on a Monday evening and one of the world's leading tenors is sitting, quite unselfconsciously, on the floor of the auditorium in the Sir Jack Lyon Theatre of the RAM completely absorbed in a group of young singers on stage who are working on a scene from La boheme. In fact they've been working together since about 3 o'clock that afternoon, at first in a closed session, before being joined by an audience of young opera and music students.

The Maestro is José Cura, who is in London to sing the lead tenor role in La Fanciulla del West at the Royal Opera House, and who has generously donated his time to another of his favourite activities, that of a committed teacher eager to share his skills with young singers. At the piano is Anthony Legge, Director of Opera at RAM.

Maestro Cura had greeted the audience with a few words of explanation. It's a group of young professionals he is working with, all have been studying for some time and are nearing the completion of their formal training. During the session he is going to concentrate on style and performance, not technical matters – these are best tackled on an individual basis with your singing teacher. What he wants to share is the knack of finding the under-text in words and music and using it to develop character and colouring in the voice.

What stands out immediately is the unpretentiousness of Cura's approach, he treats the singers not as juniors but as colleagues and puts them immediately at their ease. They will be working on operas he has never sung in performance, an opportunity for discovering them together. It is of course classic opera repertoire that has been chosen particularly to suit and develop young voices, and the first item is the end of Act I of La bohème.

Firstly they consider the background and look for the under-text: Rudolfo is sitting in his garret trying to finish off his writing, his friends have just left noisily for the café and suddenly Mimi appears on the landing with an unlit candle. She lives several floors below, so what is she doing up there? Perhaps she has contrived the meeting . . . so let's try it like that, with Mimi being the first to hide the key. Just lean forward as though you are trying to help her, (I'm paraphrasing from memory not quoting his actual words), automatically your voice will soften and become warmer, and it does. You are both in the dark - Mimi, just stretch your hand his direction, so that his can just brush against it – feel the frisson Che gelida manina! now you can hold hands – don't worry about the top note, just mark it, this is a working session – and the singer feels relaxed enough to shout an aside to the audience – I can sing it – really – It's on my website. Now it's Mimi's turn again: Mi chiamano Mimi - look for that under text again, she doesn't know what to say, she just wants to keep talking to him . . . don't build up the volume too soon, you've a lot more of the opera to sing and you need to keep something in reserve, physically and emotionally . . . but still the singing builds to a poignant c lima x, and I notice smiles all over the face of her singing teacher who happens to be sitting in front of me.

After a short break, there's a change of mood to some recitative from Le nozze di Figaro between the Susanna and The Count. Don't forget that they are servant and master, although it's recit we still need to able to hear that they speak quite differently, he must always be in charge. Let the under-text through . . .

Then, it's back to Boheme and the Act III trio section – Marcello torn between his understanding of Mimi's predicament and loyalty to his friend Rudolfo - and feelings are again discussed. Cura leaps up and down from the stage for the umpteenth time, and he and the singers are so immersed that the audience has disappeared for them completely, though we are equally engrossed in the remarkable process of evolution and growth that has been taking place in front of us. All too soon time had run out and proceedings had to be drawn to a close with a final pledge from the Maestro “I enthusiastically congratulate British Youth Opera's goal, and I am happy to offer a continuous contribution to their activities. Only one who, like myself, has carved his way relying on his own ‘fingernails' can fully appreciate how much it means for a young artist to be backed-up by an institution that gives both spiritual confidence and realistic opportunities to the beginners.”

A follow-up second part of the masterclass was presented at a fund-raising gala showcase at Lloyd's to an audience of opera lovers from the world of banking and business raising much needed funding for BYO's training programme for emerging professional singers, musicians and technical trainees. I am told that José was again absolutely outstanding and managed in an even shorter time to move the singers up yet another rung - they were all so thrilled. It was a magic evening - the city greats all felt they had been transported to another time and place - it was really extremely moving.

Serena Fenwick

 


Love Me Tenor


By ERNESTO LECHNER

February 23, 2005 -- At 42 years of age, Jose Cura is an internationally acclaimed opera singer, orchestra conductor and multi-instrumentalist.

Want more? The Argentinian tenor, who will perform at the Met throughout February and March reprising his critically acclaimed lead role in Camille Saint-Saens's "Samson et Dalila," is also getting ready to publish his first book of photographs.

No wonder critics accuse Cura of being an arrogant, self-proclaimed Renaissance man - a claim that he is quick to dismiss.

"It's not arrogance," he exclaims. "I think you need to be humble in order to admit that you have a number of talents and you're ready to suffer greatly in order to develop them."

Cura discovered his gift for singing almost by accident. A native of Rosario, a picturesque city in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, he landed his first conducting gig when he was 15.

"I discovered the power of my own voice when I was taking singing lessons at the conservatory as part of my degree," he explains. "Some people stimulated my growth while others tried to stunt it. Things became easier when I moved to Europe."

The tenor, who names "Samson" and Bizet's "Carmen" as his two favorite operas, has no qualms about facing the commercial realities of the highly competitive classical music business.

"By singing opera, I became a better conductor," he offers. "You have to be realistic and realize that you are also a product within a market that has specific needs. If you try to invent your own reality, I don't think you'll last long."

True to this philosophy, Cura opened his own record label in 2001. The company is branching out this year to include artist management and special events production.

The tenor is not alone in this - his wife of 25 years acts as the company's general manager.

"I was walking in downtown New York with my secretary the other day, wondering about my need to further complicate my life with more new projects," he says.

"That's what happens to you when you have a restless temperament. Even if I had a 50-hour day, it would feel short to me."

 


The Need to Lead

by Philip Kennicott

Opera News

June 2005

(excerpts)

 

In 1997, at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the distinguished tenor Anthony Rolfe-Johnson conducted a production of Monteverdi’s Orfeo. Rolfe-Johnson is a fondly remembered practitioner of the title role, but for these performances, he was in the pit — or rather, he was until the very end, when he emerged (with the musicians still playing behind him) to sing the small role of Apollo, onstage. Apollo sings to his son, Orfeo, played on those evenings by the blushingly young tenor Gregory Turay. The image of the two men, a veteran trying a new challenge and a novice proving his strength, was strangely powerful. And the fact that Rolfe-Johnson had been leading the whole show up until his magical transformation into Apollo only added to the paternal, even divine presence he projected.
 
What singer wouldn’t want to taste that power? Apparently most of them. The piano is still the Royal Road to a career in conducting. Exceptions, such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, a cellist, only prove the rule. Singers, for the most part, have not taken up the baton. Plácido Domingo, of course, is the most notable of the exceptions, and another beefy, baritonally-inclined tenor, José Cura, includes conducting among the basic musical skills upon which he has built a multi-faceted career. (He has led the ensemble supporting him on several recordings and released albums of symphonic music by Rachmaninoff and Dvorák.) Bobby McFerrin, admired for his improvisatory vocal virtuosity, has used his star power to get some conducting gigs as well, but the results have hardly been a critical success. But beyond that, there’s not much. Singers who conduct are a rare beast.

Yet conducting is in many ways a product of singing. In the beginning, as Renaissance music became more and more complex and melding the various voice lines became more difficult, someone needed to beat time — and that someone was very likely a singer within the ensemble. The increasing complexity of opera, in later centuries, contributed significantly to the virtuoso technique of contemporary conducting. Images of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century opera performances show the conductor standing at the apron of the stage, back turned to the orchestra, beating time and giving cues directly to the singers in front of him.
 
It’s tempting to draw some obvious conclusions. The cult of the singer, stronger at some times than others, ultimately spoiled them for the hard intellectual work of making sense of a score. The singer as narcissist, lumbering toward the acoustical sweet spot on the stage, is satisfied to have his or her own line sound spectacular. Never mind the rest of the business, with the orchestra and chorus and all that. The singer knows, and loves, a single thread. Pianists, on the other hand, are schooled in polyphonic complexity from the moment they first come under the tutelage of a not-so-kindly German piano teacher, with a ruler for rapping the knuckles. For them, managing an orchestra is just another degree of difficulty, just a little more ear-training.
 
But this is caricature. To sing well, singers must listen, and good listening is the prerequisite of a thorough command of the score. ... Something sinister in the opera-lover’s mind gives the retiring singer few options for respectability after the voice goes. They are allowed to give a few master classes, perhaps teach privately, and to emerge, whenever some record company releases their old recordings in new formats, as if perfectly preserved in the niter and myrrh of Ego. If they’re tired of work, they should move to Switzerland and knit. No matter how much we mouth the usual clichés about art as exploration, about the need of restless artists to seek ever-greater challenges, singers who stray too far from the usual patterns are suspect.
 
Perhaps Cura, who put conducting among his ambitions early in his career, will make the path Domingo blazed even more respectable for singers. Strangely enough, it may be a young singer who wants it all who will prepare the public for singers who aspire to the podium. That could be a very good thing. Today’s young vocalists, if they seek it out, have unprecedented access to a broad and deep musical education. That, mixed with curiosity, ambition, a driving need to know the score down to the last inner voice, is not just the sort of thing that makes a great conductor. It might very well be heard as a palpable quality of intellect — in the voice. 

 


 

On-Air Interview - Ireland

 

Tenor José Cura was interviewed by Denis Costello prior to his concert in Killarney on 11 November.  The interview lasted approximately seven minutes and is broken into several snippets for you to listen to.  The topics ranged from Fanciulla del west to José Cura's struggles to establish his independence in the music world to the state of the art today.  Listen to a fascinating conversation with an artist with definite opinions . . .

 

Listen .....

 

 

Musical Intro and Fanciulla discussion

Typecasting and being the 4th Tenor

The hardship of being an independent

Making it through tenacity

 

 


   

 

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Kerry stage set for the great José Cura

 (excerpts)


FOR music lovers, it is a rare treat to come across an original, an artist whose talent, vision, and integrity set him apart from the rest.

Such an artist is José Cura who has been booked to perform at the INEC, Killarney on next Friday night with tickets selling at •85.

Cura was born in Rosario, Argentina on 5 December 1962 and at the age of 16, he began studying composition with Carlos Castro and the piano with Zulma Cabrera. In 1982 he started studying at the School of Arts at the National University of Rosario and a year later, he became assistant conductor for the University choir.

After winning a grant, he moved to the School of Arts of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires where he studied composition and conducting. For several years, he also sang in the theatre chorus. In 1988 he met Horacio Amauri who taught him his singing technique and started him off on the road to success.  

To further his operatic career, Cura moved to Europe in 1991 with his wife Silvia and young son José Ben, settling in Verona, Italy. They now have three children and the family is based in Madrid.  

In 1992, Cura met tenor Vittorio Terranova who helped him to master Italian operatic style. The following year he made his debut in Verona playing the role of the father in Pollicino.  

His first big break came in March 1993 in Trieste when he sang the role of Jan in Bibalo’s Miss Julie. Since then his career has flourished not only in Italy but also in America, France, Australia, England, Germany, Tokyo and Ireland.  

His London debut was in 1995 in Verdi’s Stiffelio after which one critic wrote “Cura is a real find, an Otello in waiting”.  

In May 1997 he fulfilled that prophecy at the Teatro Regio Torino when he sang his first Otello with Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker in a performance greatly acclaimed by the critics and loved by the audience. Since then, he has performed the role at many world famous venues. In April 1999 he made his opera debut at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires as Otello [...].  

In 1999 José was awarded the distinction of Professor honoris cause at the CAECE University in Buenos Aires and was also made Citizen of Honour by the city of Rosario. 

His first two studio recordings, Puccini Arias and Anhelo, received very favourable reviews from critics around the world. His long awaited first opera recording, Samson et Dalila, with Olga Borodina, was released in 1998 and was very favourably received.  

Manon Lescaut was released in March 2000 and is a live recording from the Teatro alla Scala and also features Maria Guleghina.  

In July 2000, he sang in the extremely successful performance of La Traviata from Paris which was televised and broadcast in over 100 countries. 

As well as singing, José has continued his career as a conductor and was principal guest conductor of Sinfonia Varsovia in Warsaw.  [....]

 


"Something quite great"

14 July 2005

Westdeutsche Allgemeine

Jasmine Fischer

 

Singer, conductor and composer: José Cura is one of the most prominent artist of his generation and one of the most popular singers in the major opera-houses in the world. For the opening of the World Games he sang, together with two young talents, the anthem of the game, ‘Once in a Lifetime'.  The Argentine tenor spoke with WAZ editor Jasmine Fischer about the disciplines of  sport and music.

 WAZ:  Mr. Cura, how athletic are you really?

Cura (standing up and stretching, chest out):  Hmm.  I do not know. What do you think?

 


WAZ:  You look to be in pretty good shape!

Cura:  Well, when I was younger I did some bodybuilding and fighting sports.  I also played rugby. But many years have passed since then.  I just remembered:  when I was young, I earned my living as a fitness coach.

WAZ:  Today, critics see you as one of the “big tenors" of the 21st century. Is sport important for somebody who stands on the stage instead of in the stadium?

Cura:  In principle, yes. One uses the same body, the same bones, the same muscles and the same blood.  In the time of the ancient Greeks, sport and music were equal parts of the culture. Today many see the music here, sport there. One should practice both - although this is sometimes difficult for me. I am almost always on the go.

WAZ:  Musicians as well as sportsmen must train hard to come here for their sports specialty. Which qualities do musicians as well as sportsmen need to be successful?

Cura:  Discipline. Above all they need discipline and second, absolute patience. At the opening ceremony of the World Games, I will stand together with singers on the stage who are as young as I was when I first started to sing. Some of them have told me they want to bypass all the tests, they would be quite happy with success. But I told them not to try to be the best of the best when you are only 18 - before you lies another 30 years.  Professionalism comes with the experience - and one has more time in music than in sport.

 WAZ:  Do you think the performance of an artist or sportsman can contribute to making a difference?

Cura:  Every time many people gather to hear music or to watch sports competition, then something quite great happens. We all share a positive moment that makes us happy. Happy people are of full energy. And as long as the amount of good is bigger than the amount of bad, there is also hope.

WAZ:  Hope for what? What do you want to say?

Cura:  On Wednesday I was in my hotel room watching CNN. They ran only one news story, about the suicide bombing in Bagdad in which more than 30 people died, most of them children. This is bad.  But people gather not only to wage war but also (for such good things as) celebrating with the World Games. However, while zapping through the stations I saw nothing about the games. The media should understand that people need not only bad news, but also good.

 


 

Stable Values

 

Tenor José Cura, Berlin’s new Pagliaccio, has experienced both: the highs and sudden crashes.

 

Berliner  Morgenpost: April 23, 2005

 

By Manuel Brug/translation: Monica B.

 

Others take their glasses off when the camera of a photographer clicks; José Cura, the only star tenor with a black belt, puts them on. But not tonight, when he takes the stage of the Deutsche Oper (German Opera) as Pagliaccio.

 

José Cura: Argentinean; tenor; fitness trainer; macho; singing, testosterone-fueled jock. Of those clichés, there are many. Cura himself helped them along. A few years ago: “I had to get to the point where I was somebody, had to shake off comparisons, had to become well-known, acquire a reputation. It was a game. I played along. I was driven to it. And I let myself be pushed and promoted.” Singing is sex. Every aria an act of love-making, every C an orgasm. This is Anna Netrebko’s territory now.  “I hope she comes to a clear understanding of that and can handle it”, a serious, mature Cura, now devoid of all illusions, comments tersely.

 

“The comedy is over.” That’s what he sings—not only as Pagliaccio. That, he has experienced personally. However, what’s different from Leoncavallo’s Verismo thriller is that in the real life of the singer, there were no dead bodies left behind. “It was sick. I separated from my managers in 2000. Today, I take care of singers and conductors myself (and) help them to avoid my mistakes.” He has learned from those. “I survived—and I have grown, evolved. I sing Otello with much greater differentiation than ten years ago. I am proud of that.” But he can still turn it up full throttle, if he has to. Then the singing does aim into the belly. “That’s part of it, too.”

 

These days, the 42-year-old Cura lives in Madrid, focused on himself. Continues to sing his signature roles, Samson, Verdi’s Stiffelio and Corsair. “Rarities and conventional Italian fare: that’s precisely what people want from me.” He started with Henze, Biblao and Janacek. Nothing was easy; nothing was predictable in this unusual career. Cura was educated and trained as a guitarist, singer, conductor, and composer. There were problems with the voice, differences with the voice teacher. Only at age 28 did he officially debut as a soloist in Genoa. Then, everything went exceedingly fast. The great stages of the world lay at his feet. These last three years, Cura has concentrated on conducting the Sinfonia Varsovia, has recorded Dvorak love songs with piano accompaniment for a small CD company. He would like to do a lot of things, but stays away from Wagner, a frequent offer. “German is simply not in my world; on stage, I do not want to be hindered by language.”

 

Following the crash of the classical CD market, which left him (at a time when he was spoilt by success) suddenly standing there without a contract, he is now on his own, his own tenor. “It’s going well. My market value is stable; I can concentrate on my conducting projects.” And proceeds to enthuse about the St. Matthew Passion, about Kodaly, Rossini’s ‘Stabat Mater’. “I still have to learn so much of the repertoire.” Opera is only one part of the Cura cosmos now. After he does ‘Le Villi’, the work of the young Puccini, in Vienna this coming fall, he wants to tackle Stravinsky’s ‘Oedipus Rex’. He’s contemplating Britten’s ‘Peter Grimes’.

 

But now’s the time to elicit new facets from the character of Pagliaccio. “David Pountney challenges me totally. His concept is modern but not hysterical. Both operas take place under an interstate bridge, in front of a small chapel. It gets gloomy, dark, Mafia-like, but everything is very logical. Nothing hysterical, as so often in Germany. We spur each other on. I like to challenge, provoke Pountney. In addition, there are many technical changes. You have to be on your toes. I feel challenged, learn new things, don’t just go home with approval and plaudits. I love that. The comedy is really only just beginning, after all.”

 

Cavalleria Rusticana/ I Pagliacci; Deutsche Oper

Premiere tonight, 7PM;  also on 27. April, 1., 5., 8. May

 


 

José Cura

Tenor and Businessman

 

LA NACION

Buenos Aires

April 30, 2005

By Cecilia Scalisi / translation: Monica B.

 

Berlin.-The singer from Rosario, who is currently starring in “I Pagliacci”, has joined the recording-business circuit.

 

Beginning with a spectacular launch and throughout a successful international career that spans more than a decade, José Cura’s name has appeared alongside the greatest voices and most distinguished personalities in music today. It is no surprise that his agenda  includes, to give just one example, the opening of the upcoming season at Covent Garden with “Fanciulla del West”; “Samson and Dalila” at the Met; “Pagliacci” in Berlin, Vienna and Piacenza; “Aida” and “Turandot” at the Arena di Verona; and “Otello” in Munich.

 

Not satisfied with this, the spirit of this man from Rosario continues expanding his talents, such as conducting, which was-he insists on emphasizing-his initiation into music. (“To singing, I came much later and because of the need to see quick results”, he explains). It is an area, in which he sees himself become more active all the time. (He will conduct two opera productions in 2006—at the Vienna State Opera, no less.) Five years ago, José Cura set up his own recording company and under the umbrella of the Cuibar-Productions Company, of which he himself is president; he recently incorporated another ambitious branch. As businessman, he is advertising a series of CD titles on his Cuibar.com website, among them a tribute to Dvorák, which has him both singing (the cycle “Songs of Love”) and conducting (the “Ninth Symphony from the New World”).

 

At the German State Opera in Berlin, he has just finished playing the leading role in a new production of “I Pagliacci”, with set and staging by David Pountney. “It may not be traditional, but it’s not hysterical garbage either, as is so common in Germany”, said the tenor. Playing the leader of a gang of Sicilian Mafiosi (instead of comedians)- who gets out of a car right on the stage in an elegant gabardine coat and with something like ten Louis Vuitton suitcases- Cura was cheered vigorously by the audience, just as the directing was (although in this case quite unjustly) booed as usual.

 

Going through a period of particular stability, his voice sounds more settled and even mightier in its dark and dramatic coloring, which is characteristic of the heroic tenor. During his stay in Germany, the famous Argentinean tenor spoke with LANACION.

 

-Why did you establish Cuibar Productions and how do you define your range of action?

 

In 2000, I started to notice that a crisis was approaching and that it was going to be pointless to force plans that were no longer working. I decided, together with my people, to utilize my image in order to try and go a new way. Today, we have a young business where we make our recordings, promote new artists, orchestras, etc. Cuibar Productions (http://www.cuibar.com/) is the parent company, and within it, it’s got Cuibar Phono-Video, which is the CD label, and for some months now, CuibArt, the branch that represents artists and produces events (which include orchestra, staging, directing, and singers). For 2006, we are planning a ten-day festival in Budapest, with classes, concerts and operas. We are particularly interested in finding and supporting up and coming talent. We are pioneers in having built a company like this.

 

-Your singing career continues to be of interest to the public. How do you feel about your voice?

 

Only now after thirty years on stage do I consider myself a mature artist. It took a long time, many blows and a lot of bad publicity. Vocally, I believe myself to be at my peak, although I hope to continue improving, because otherwise things begin to go downhill. In comparison with earlier years, I feel that I am finding maturity at 42.

 

-What are the concrete changes that have led to a greater uniformity in the vocal performance?

 

Before, I could not, for example, take the highest notes without ‘scooping’. Whereas now, I can take them by attack; that is to say that they are better ‘shod’; there is also greater security in the register. That is a result which is directly proportional to physical maturity. When one has a voice like mine, heavy/weighty in the middle and in the low register, it takes years until the high register obtains that same profound quality. With time, the high region comes to match the others, darkens like the low one, but in addition, one gains control.

 

-Based on that result, several characters have emerged….

 

I have indeed added some roles to those, which I used to run from, like the Calaf of “Turandot”, because it is essentially high.  I sang that role in Verona, and now they’re asking me to sing it everywhere.

 

-Do you think that exposure, which involves an emphasis on image, turns into something detrimental to the very singer it is designed to help?

 

No artist builds a career like mine based solely on the fact that he has the looks. It is true, they sold me, placing emphasis on that, and I was among the first to be promoted as a sex symbol of the opera. Up to that point, it’s all part of the game. But after an international career of 15 years and after having survived 100 performances of “Otello” and so many others of “Samson…”, it is proven that I did not  make my career based on my looks or physique. I have passed the test, but there are many people who have not, and who disappear not long afterwards. There is a risk. For many, it makes the difference between being nobody and being somebody. But if a singer does not have a good foundation, he turns into a victim of his own image. I survived because I have a sound preparation. To put it to you another way: It is like a process of natural selection, like a forest in the middle of the storm. The majority of the trees will fall, and only a few will remain standing; only those which are truly well planted---and good looking. (laughs)

 

 

 

Lion in winter: Jose Cura weathers the critical storms

January 4, 2004

BY LAURA EMERICK
Chicago Sun Times

Opera at its essence exists on an exaggerated scale. Think of those massive sets, palatial venues and often oversized talents. In a tasteful understatement, critic Stephen Brook once wrote: "The power of opera is that its range of emotion is larger than life; its nature is excess."

So in an artform that worships excess in all its many guises, Jose Cura, now starring in the Lyric Opera production of Saint-Saëns' "Samson et Dalila," should fit right in. The Argentinian-born tenor can rightfully boast of being a jack-of-all-trades, and contrary to the expression, becoming the master of every last one: singer, conductor, composer, arranger, instrumentalist (guitar, piano, winds, strings), rugby player, photographer and businessman.

But instead of receiving unqualified encouragement for his artistic reach, Cura often finds himself criticized for his craven ambitions. (Not unlike Saint-Saëns himself, a child prodigy whose interests ranged from butterflies to botany.)

When he made his London recital debut, conducting his own arias, critics called his dual role indulgent. The Independent ripped him with the headline "the ego has landed." It really got petty when critics accused him of being eccentric because his opening aria of Verdi's "Otello," one of the most thrilling and demanding of all tenor parts, was too powerful. That role begins with the triumphant cry, against a gale-force orchestra: "Esultate! ... Nostra e del ciel e gloria..." ("Rejoice! Ours and heaven's is the glory...")

If you can't be eccentric at the moment of victory, however, then what's the point?

But Cura, in an interview conducted at his home for the run of "Samson," takes the critical brickbats in stride. "When you are blessed with many talents, and you go for them, it [upsets the established order]," he said, speaking fluently in English inflected with the musicality of his native Spanish. "You become viewed as not being easy to control. They say, 'Let's put on him the label of arrogance.' No one's been able to explain this to me. It's just arrogance when you decide that you will not shut up. In this world, courage is viewed as a sign of arrogance. But the real arrogance is not being prepared to be who they really are."

On this December day, less than a week before Christmas, when he would return home to Madrid and his family for a brief holiday respite, Cura appears relaxed and at peace with himself. With his easy, open manner, he seems anything but arrogant.

At 41, still in the upward trajectory of his career, he remains philosophical. "It can be a curse to be a renaissance man. It equals arrogance. In ancient times, that was the goal of a person. To hide [my talents] and show only one, that would be a regret. I would rather show them all and deal with the envy of people. So you have to decide which negative situation you want to deal with. It is a fight every day. Then again, if someone is loved all the time, then that person is not being an original."

Cura a specialist in many styles, but especially Latin music

Along with his operatic work, Jose Cura has found himself equally at home in the folk music of Latin America. "Anhelo" (1998) focused on primarily guitar-based songs of his native Argentina, while "Boleros" (2002) showcased the classic ballad style born in the Caribbean.

Though many classical artists often founder in such pop or crossover projects, Cura skillfully manages to scale back his voice when required.

"In my case, I started out as a pop singer, so I'm at ease at lowering down [vocal] gears," he said. "It's important to strive for the simplicity of the pop singer and the richness of an operatic singer. It's a less muscular sound, like playing the Beatles on a Steinway."

But as in opera, technique needs to be uppermost. "It's not pop dropped from the corner of your mouth," he said. "It's very tricky technically, especially boleros. You have to have proper technique, as in jazz."

For "Boleros," Cura performed several songs brought back into vogue by Latin pop star Luis Miguel, such as "Voy a Apagar La Luz," "Somos Novios" and "Contigo Aprendi."

While Luismi favors a heavily produced, synthesizer-based sound, Cura prefers to keep his bolero arrangements truer to the original style.

"The bolero format allows you to take it simple or do a great symphonic thing. You can do whatever, but personally I prefer to keep it simple. With overproduction, things start to degenerate."

Though most Americans associate Argentina with tango music, Cura points out that the tango is only one of many folkoric genres there. And certainly not the most important.

"Tango is not the music of the whole country," he said. "It's music from the city, primarily Buenos Aires, where Italian and Spanish immigrants settled at the turn of the century."

Unlike some of his fellow countrymen, such as CSO music director Daniel Barenboim, Cura does not see himself undertaking a tango project. "I don't feel that I have the authority to go over it," he said, smiling. "I'd have to do a lot of studying."

Laura Emerick

Of course, some of the backlash can be attributed to his rapid rise on the opera scene. Often touted as the potential Fourth Tenor (a label that he insists "means nothing"), Cura has been welcome in the world's greatest houses since the mid-'90s, with more than 25 roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala.  With his rich baritonal coloring, Cura also has been hailed as a successor to the great dramatic tenors of an earlier era, Mario Del Monaco and Franco Corelli.

Of Corelli, the Met mainstay who died Oct. 29 at age 82, Cura said, "I'm a big fan of his style of vocal production. Corelli, Del Monaco, Carlo Bergonzi -- those were amazing organs. I don't think now you could sing like that anymore."

To some critics, those three tenors represented the loud, fast and sometimes out of control school of vocalism. "If you sang that way now, you would be booed," Cura said. "Or again labeled as arrogant. Caruso couldn't sing today the way he sang. Whether this is good or bad, I don't know."

But even more so than to Corelli or Caruso, Cura often finds himself compared to a contemporary dramatic tenor, Placido Domingo. Like Cura, he performs many roles -- singer, conductor, administrator. Cura also shares with the Spanish supertenor an unusually wide repertoire, ranging from Italian bel canto (Bellini's "Norma"); Verdi and Puccini ("Aida," "La Forza del Destino," "La Traviata" and "Manon Lescaut," "Tosca"); French opera (Massenet's "Werther" and "Herodiade"); Italian verismo (Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Giordano's "Andrea Chenier"), and even 20th century works (Janacek's "The Makropulos Case"). And Cura made his American debut in 1994 at Lyric Opera, replacing Domingo as Loris in Giordano's "Fedora."

In addition to a similar repertory, they share other bonds. Cura won first prize in Domingo's annual Operalia competition in 1994, and Domingo conducted the orchestra for Cura's first recital disc, "Puccini Arias," in 1997.

Despite the connections, Cura waves aside all comparisons to Domingo. "It's a good shortcut for a lazy press," he said. "I started to conduct at age 15. I never followed his life calendar. Maestro Domingo mostly conducts operas and not symphonic works. In both cases, it's the reverse of my situation.

"Again, these are shortcuts. No one brings to the surface the true story. If you are a dramatic tenor, you are regarded as a Domingo clone."

And don't even broach the subject of the Three Tenors, the opera phenomenon, with Domingo as its linchpin, that continues to sell out stadiums worldwide. "All this talk about the Three Tenors, and now the search for the Fourth Tenor -- all this is press shortcuts," he said. "It can be useful to attract readers.

"But I have my own company with 20 employees. I am watching this whole thing 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, I am studying new scores," and pointed to a bound edition of Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" on a nearby table. "It's a question of temperament. I have the capacity of absorbing many challenges. It's the way I am."

As part of his all-embracing temperament, he refuses to limit himself to classical music. Along with his operatic recital discs, Cura has released several collections of Latin ballads and folk songs, beginning with "Anhelo" (1998), "Boleros" (2002) and "Aurora" (2003). Issued on the London-based independent label Avie, "Aurora" features Argentinian music along with opera arias.

He attributes his wide-ranging musical tastes to his mother. "I enjoy any type of singing, save for rock 'n' roll. I don't feel comfortable in it. But I began to love all types of music because my mother was wise enough to introduce me to them, almost like a DJ. She made me understand that there is only good and bad music in the world. All other labels are immaterial. She moved from Beethoven to Frank Sinatra without remorse."

Nowadays, with the consolidation of the music industry, especially radio, it's not exactly easy to segue from the longhairs to Ol' Blue Eyes. At several points, Cura bemoans the influence of "marketing forces." As part of assorted promotional campaigns, Cura finds himself lumped in along with other Latin operatic talents such as Marcelo Alvarez, Juan Diego Florez and Ramon Vargas.

But Cura dismisses the Latin connection as more marketing nonsense. "People see only the tip of the iceberg. There's much, much more. Florez, Alvarez, Vargas, all have been working for years, they're not just overnight sensations. They are very accomplished professionals. That they are Latin is only a coincidence."

Then again, talk of a Latin connection hints at the bias that opera should remain a European domain.

"Some people mistakenly think that the so-called Third World is not supposed to produce a first-class classical music product. In any case, 99 percent of Latin America has something to do with European roots. It's 100 percent Mediterranean."

As for another kind of 100 percent, Cura hopes to remain at full strength vocally for many more years. "It depends on the organ," he said. Referring to the supertenor, who turns 62 in January, he added, "Domingo is the exception. He is an amazing example of longevity, considering his especially heavy artistic life. I want to pray I will last as long as he has."

With longevity of course comes a better understanding and interpretation of roles, especially in operas like "Samson et Dalila," which favor orchestral color over characterization and drama.

"I feel that I am a better Samson now, in part due to maturity," Cura said. "'Samson' cannot be performed if you only produce the music. If you put in the extra ingredient, the spiritual component, then you have a great evening. The French repertoire, in the first approach [music only], maybe is kitsch. You have to go beyond the sugar to see the real message.

"It's a big challenge also with 'Werther,' 'Herodiade.' When I first studied the scores, I thought it was pure sugar, but then I find the inspiration of modern life."

"Samson" has turned into one of his signature roles, along with "Otello," which unfortunately he has not yet recorded.

And it seems unlikely to happen given the state of the classical music recording industry. "When you record a whole opera, you almost never break even, except as a live [concert] performance," he said. "Production costs are enormous."

In 1999, when Time-Warner closed the Erato label, Cura along with many other classical artists, found himself without a home. "The times when singers were signed to an exclusive recording contract are finished," he said. "We're all in a period of transition, trying not to die, but also not to overdo.

"The problem with the market now is that it's not interested in real things. Without last-minute inventions, they think the buyers are lost."

Meaning Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra, who stepped in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti at the Met in 2002 and rapidly gained press acclaim as opera's newest star?

Ever the diplomat, Cura quickly added, "No, you said that. Not me."

Referring again to the hype machine, he said, "It used to be like that for me, too. But I got fed up with it. I did not study for 20 years to become a marketing clown.

"Serious music needs time to be serious about its art. So maybe it's not bad luck that Erato closed down. All of sudden I was alone in the desert. Now I am slowly recovering my position as a serious musician. The events of four years ago have led to a reversal of bad fortune."

 


 Would Rather Answer To My Fellow Man Now, Than Account To God Later

 Ópera Actual

 Eduardo Benarroch

Translated by Monica B / Photos from Dana

July 2004

 

They say that José Cura does too many things; that he does not concentrate on any one thing; that he is a human octopus who wants to embrace everything, wants to do it all. After singing ‘Samson’ in London, he conducted ‘Butterfly’ in Warsaw, besides having directed ‘Un ballo in maschera’ earlier at Piacenza. In London, they call him “The Renaissance Man”, but who is José Cura really? A singer? A conductor? An impresario?

Ópera Actual: How was your debut conducting Verdi on his home turf?

José Cura: It was a great challenge to debut with ‘Ballo’, my first Verdi, in Piacenza near Parma, both Verdi strongholds,—and with the Orchestra Toscanini, a Verdi orchestra par excellence, as well as a cast of first rate Italian singers at that. It was like going to Bayreuth to conduct ‘Tristan’ for the first time.

Ó.A.: ‘Ballo’ is one of the most difficult works to conduct.

J.C.: It has a bit of everything, even Beethoven and ‘Otello’; it is one of the first among the great operas of the mature Verdi in which -except for one or two measures- there is not this well-known um-pa-pa. It is very polyphonic and symphonic; the recitatives and the (arie) concertantes are woven in a more primitive way than in ‘Otello’ and ‘Don Carlo’, but no longer as in ‘Trovatore’. You’re dealing with a very modern opera, although it still does not come up to any of the works mentioned. It is one of the first operas with operatic symphonism instead of just accompanied singing.

 

Ó.A.: Have you sung the role of Riccardo?

J.C.: I try not to conduct those operas that I sing, so people can’t say: “Why is he conducting instead of singing?

Ó.A.: But that question is inevitable.

J.C.: Exactly, and in order to avoid it, one has to try to dodge the issue. Let me give you ‘Butterfly’ as an example: I sang it many years ago when I was a lot younger, but I do not have it in my repertoire today.

Ó.A.: How do you divide your activities during the year? Do you sing less opera?

J.C.: I sing about fifty performances per year; that’s not the hundred or so that I had come to do. Those were tough times, but it was a price I paid, and I sowed seeds in order to be able to reap benefits later.

Ó.A.: How did your debut in London go?

J.C.: I covered for Carreras in ‘Fedora’, and thanks to that opportunity, they contracted me to open the Verdi Festival with ‘Stiffelio’. Later, I sang the first version of ‘Simon Boccanegra’ in concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Ó.A.: Which was one of the great Verdi performances held in London.

J.C.: And, with the Age of Enlightenment, which uses for tuning the diapason of Verdi.

Ó.A.: And it has the “cimbasso”!*

J.C.: Yes, but the “cimbasso” is a double-edged sword so to speak, because the one of today is not like that of the past: today’s instrument is a kind of “nuclear weapon” which, when it is blown by the “cimbassista”, literally knocks you out of your boots. You hear only the “cimbasso” and nothing else.

Ó.A.: What is the main focus of your career at this time?

J.C.: I’m involved in new productions in Zurich. With the director of the Opera House, Alexander Pereira, we have done ‘Otello’, ‘Don Carlo’ and ‘Stiffelio’, all especially for me, and in 2005, I will sing in a new production of ‘Turandot’. In Vienna, they have scheduled ‘Le Villi’ especially for me. There, I will debut as conductor with ‘Butterfly’ in 2006, which is a big challenge.

Ó.A.: And how about your debut in Barcelona?

J.C.: It came about unexpectedly. I was having lunch at the house one day, when Joan Matabosch, the artistic director of the Licéu, called to tell me: “I have ‘Samson’ on for tonight, and Carreras is ill”. I was free, so I caught the first flight out. Fortunately, it was the London production, something that I did not know initially. In going through the crates of costumes, they found the clothes which I had used in the English capital. Even the mezzo, Markella Hatziano, was the very one with whom I had sung in 1996, so that it wasn’t difficult. It turned out to be a big success. I had that experience shortly after the Madrid episode, and I felt that the public was trying to decide which side they were on. When the opera was over, the entire theater jumped to its feet; many told me that it was one of the biggest ovations ever given at the Licéu. And for that single performance, the fans awarded me the prize of “Singer of the Year”. I liked the fact that they looked me over, that they weren’t prejudiced. They even waited to let me know that they liked me. They are people of great temperament and conviction.

Ó.A.: You are going to return to Barcelona in ‘Il Corsaro’, whose principal role is a very demanding one.

J.C.: It is very heavy/serious. In ‘Il Corsaro’, there is much of the Verdi that will come later. It is not entirely a masterpiece. Those who know all of Verdi’s output realize that the composer is experimenting in this opera. One can tell because there are parts which are impressive and which Verdi would use again later, for example in ‘Otello’. I will sing ‘Il Corsaro’ in January of next year; in 2006 I will interpret ‘Otello’ and in 2007 ‘Andrea Chénier’. I’m going to be connected to Barcelona for many years to come.

Ó.A.: You state that you do not sing those operas which you conduct, but when you are singing certain operas, do you think about how you might conduct them?

J.C.: I usually conduct as if I were singing and sing as if I were conducting because when I conduct, I like for the musical phrasing to have the same breathing as the phrasing of the singer. I have never had a liking for those who conduct the music, measure by measure. For me, that kind of thing means the death of music. Zubin Mehta says that it is a pleasure to work with me because it is like directing an instrumentalist; there isn’t this anxiety about following the singer. In my opinion, the singer is just another staff notation on the musical score; he isn’t one who is dangling up there suspended and whom the musicians have to desperately try to hook from the pit. Besides being anti musical, it shows a lack of respect for the orchestral musician. Singers ought to be musicians: Just as a violinist is a musician who plays the violin, so a singer is a musician who plays the larynx. That’s being a musician too, and then there is the individual phrasing, the color…..but that’s another matter….It has nothing to do with playing the music as if there were no rules-- who said that that’s acceptable.

Ó.A.: False traditions have been perpetuated for many years which have only now begun to be eradicated.

J.C.: For example: The ‘Siciliana’ in ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ has many variations in tempo because Turiddu sings while walking down the street, and when someone walks, he does not do it at the same rhythm all the time; he’ll jump a pothole, go up a hill… Therefore, the ‘Siciliana’ has that aspect of the irregularity of a walk. I performed it in 1999 at the Met, and as it was written, it presumed not only a musical analysis but also the musical flexibility to have those changes even within the same measure. But they criticized me for being unmusical; they said that I required the harpist to perform “saltos mortales”, do somersaults, to try to accompany me. That comment is born of ignorance; they make no attempt to see what the score is really saying.

Ó.A.: Most people can’t read music. If they hear something wrong, that mistake stays in their heads, and when they hear something different from what’s on  the recording…..

J.C.: That mistake becomes the true version, the truth. On my latest CD of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, I interpret the 4th movement as the composer intends, at 152 crotchets (quarter notes). Thus the music gets a power and energy that make you sit down when it’s over and take a deep breath. Dvorak did not die in 1715 but in 1904, at which point in time, had he spelled it out for a metronome, he would have made matters much clearer. He wanted that particular sound.

Ó.A.: It is somewhat strange to speak with a singer about the technical elements of an orchestra, but in your case what irritates a lot of people is that they cannot classify you. People love to classify, to pigeon-hole you, love to be able to say,” José Cura is a singer”.

J.C.: I’ve avoided any kind of classification! We live in a society, in which the majority of people are insecure as a consequence of our modern times. The 1% that manipulates the remaining 99% tries to classify things in order to be able to sell a product and does it with an identifying label for people to see up front. That label, which is in 99% of the cases  the only way to be able to sell the product, becomes a coffin so to speak in the rest of the cases, and the product dies right there. But there are products that can perform multiple functions, and if they are sold for one purpose only, we are limiting the capacity of the product to evolve as a musician.

Ó.A.: How did you become involved in the project of the Coliseo de las Tres Culturas in Madrid?

J.C.: The conversations regarding this project date back to some time ago but were only recently firmed up after my performances of ‘Samson’ in London. After intense discussions, I accepted the post of Director de Disciplina Musical y Artística, that is the position of Musical and Artistic Director.

Ó.A.: What is your relationship with José Luis Moreno?

J.C.: Besides being the creator and principal patron of this project, he is a very capable person as well as a capable musician.  It would be entirely wrong to categorize him as a TV presenter when his musical knowledge is so ample. Moreno is a musician in his own right; that he has become famous for other reasons is another matter. Moreno is the owner of it all. He has conceived this project, has approved the designs and will always have a voice in everything. It would be impossible for him not to.

Ó.A.: What are you planning for the upcoming seasons?

J.C.: In October, we will try to announce at least the program for the first season and if possible also for the second.  That, however, is not a matter of sitting down for an hour and putting titles on a time table; it is a complex task with many variables. Not only do we have to announce works, but also artists, conductors and stage directors, lighting technicians…..I’m a very prudent man, and these matters have to be dealt with in a serious manner.

Ó.A.: There is talk about the establishment of a new orchestra.

J.C.: My first objective is to create a philharmonic orchestra of great prestige with top notch musicians. Not with the elite in mind but something of high musical quality, with players not older than 40 who should be soloists but would also come together in an orchestra of some 90 musicians to be joined by another 60 or more, who are to be available to the Coliseo whenever there are simultaneous activities in the three main halls of the artistic complex. The Philharmonic will be the basic building block, the foundation stone, of the Coliseo de las Tres Culturas.

Ó.A.: And the chorus?

J.C.: I will apply the same fundamentals here. There will be a chorus of 80 to 90 members- also excellent, first-rate singers- and we will have additional people who will be called in accordance with the needs of the Coliseo.

Ó.A.: How do you feel about so much responsibility?

J.C.: I am delighted with this project--and I know that there will be a lot of work ahead of me. But I am sure of one thing: Thanks to all the backing attained, this initiative affords all of us the pleasure of being able to present music that is first-rate in quality and accessible to everyone.

Ó.A.: Are you trying to prove something with these challenges?

J.C.: The parable of the talents tells us that we must work on transforming everything that is given to us as seed, into plants. There are people who receive one seed while others receive more. Based on this parable, I reached a conclusion, and for that, they have labeled me as arrogant. If I develop only one of my seeds in order to avoid being called arrogant, I will have to give account at the end of my life to Him who gave those seeds to me. On the other hand, if I develop all of them, I will have to answer to my fellow man who will criticize me for that.  At any rate, I would rather answer to my fellow man now than have to account to God later.

Footnote: * “cimbasso” is a low brass instrument, perhaps a valved contrabass trombone.

                

 


Un Ballo in maschera

 Libertà (Piacenza)

Oliviero Marchesi / translated by Cicci

19 Feb 2004

 

Libertà:  As conductor, how do you approach a score like that of ‘Un ballo in maschera’?

Let me start by saying that as a conductor, I prefer the symphonic repertoire—Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Dvorak, Respighi—also because I already do a lot of opera as a singer. However, the score of ‘Ballo in maschera’, a masterpiece by the mature Verdi, fascinates me because of its perfection. I am enthusiastic about the group of singers who will perform at the PiacenzaExpo: they should be on CD, at LaScala! Being a singer myself, I look to accompany my colleagues with the greatest possible degree of insight and understanding of their needs. I am also enthusiastic about the sensitivity of the Orchestra Toscanini. But it’s a pity that in a place that is as vast and (filled) with microphones, many nuances aren’t going to reach everyone in the audience.

Libertà:  You are very sensitive to the demand, the need for giving new, fresh theatrical vigor and vitality to opera, but in a recent interview you have put (people) on guard against the idea that it is sufficient to be thought of as unconventional in order to win new spectators for the opera. “Charisma attracts an audience”, you said. But the plan calls for this particular ‘Ballo’ to be performed in an exhibition hall, something that obviously has captivated you, which appeals to you.

That’s correct, even if one must be aware of one thing: Just as in the theater the experienced audience knows that it cannot expect the perfection of a CD, likewise this opera at the PiacenzaExpo involves margins of risk, of adventure, of imperfections greater than those of a performance staged in a traditional theater.

Libertà:  And so, why are you doing this here? Why are you performing in this venue?

Because I like the idea of carrying art to places that are not normally built for it. It is like celebrating Mass in a square rather than in a church. A few of the faithful might feel ill at ease and say, “I cannot manage to pray in a square”, (but) the square comes out enriched, sanctified.

 Libertà:  Other singers have tried orchestral conducting, but none with your kind of success. What is the secret to your versatile talent?

If I said that it is God’s special favor, that those are God-given talents, people would say, “Who does he think he is?” Therefore I prefer answering in this way: the secret, the key consists of a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifices over many years. It’s made up of curiosity, of a passion for art that brought me on stage for the very first time at the age of 12 as an actor, then at 13 as a guitarist and at 15 as a conductor-and has brought me to study many instruments: the violin, the flute and the trombone.

Libertà:  Let’s play a game: try to tell me, percentage-wise, where you come down as singer and as conductor; to what degree you feel like one or the other.

At the expense of upsetting my fans, I’d like to mention that I started to conduct long before I began to sing. It was my teacher Carlos Gantus who advised me to study singing; not in order to embark on a new career but to become a better conductor.

Libertà:  "As a tenor, you have reaped world-wide success performing in operas—in ‘Otello’, ‘Samson et Dalila’, ‘Pagliacci’ and ‘Turandot’—traditionally considered well performed only by ‘dramatic tenors’, a vocal classification whose progressive extinction dyed in the wool lovers of music have been lamenting for a long time now. Do you identify with this label?

If we understand the expression ‘dramatic tenor’ to mean what it did in the 1950s, when it denoted a voice that was constantly above a certain number of decibels, well, then I am not a dramatic tenor. In ‘Otello’ for example, I’ve tried to look for, to come up with new vocal colors instead of pure power. But if by ‘dramatic tenor’ you mean a singer capable of rendering realistically and credibly the dramatic quality, the drama, of a theatrical performance, well then I’d like to think that I am one.

Libertà:  "You look like a man who is used to realizing his own ambitions; have you ever thought about acting? Besides feeling at home on stage, you can also count on a very noteworthy physical presence, on much appreciated good looks.

They have offered that to me many times. They have asked me to perform Tennessee Williams in a theater setting and even to take part in a colossal film about the Roman invasion of Britain. Up to now, I have always said no, because I am convinced that there is a time (and season) for everything. At the moment, I want to concentrate on two or three things that I do well and feel comfortable with, also because I still have many roles to sing. The artistic life of a singer is not without limit as far as time is concerned.

 

 


 

“The Music Business Has Long Since Turned Into a Circus”

13 February 2004

Peter Jarolin

KURIER

 

Sex symbol? “I used to be that when I still had more hair and much less of a stomach,” says José Cura and laughs. “Now, I’m simply an artist who does not just have to follow (and obey) a marketing strategy.” That the Argentinean-born José Cura is nonetheless also considered to be a sex symbol by his fans could be seen most recently at the Vienna State Opera.

[Love] Because there Cura naturally cut a good figure on the occasion of his role debut as Umberto Giordano’s very tragic poet ‘Andrea Chénier’. Cura: “I love the Viennese audience and put special effort into my performances here.”

(It’s) understandable then that the tenor, who is in demand internationally, still has lots of plans for the ‘House on the Ring’: “There is going to be almost a miniature José-Cura-Festival in October and November”, says the versatile, multi-faceted star. “First, I’m going to sing Verdi’s ‘Stiffelio’, then ‘Pagliacci’ and lastly ‘Andrea Chénier’. Three roles in three weeks-that’s going to be exhausting!” Cura will have an easier time in 2005 when he will take the stage in Puccini’s rarely performed opera ‘Le Villi’ and also conduct Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’. And in 2006, there’ll be ‘Don Carlo’.

But: “I would like to conduct more and more. That’s after all what I originally started out doing. I only became a singer in order to be a better conductor.” Above all else, Cura is taken with the symphonic repertoire. “That is like a window that affords fresh air. And perhaps one day-well, when I’m around 80-I may conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. A dream!”

A few dreams José Cura has already realized for himself: his own production company, his own recording label and a balanced personal life. “To think only of singing is the worst possible thing for a singer. That kills the voice, deprives it of any charisma and narrows intellectual perception. One really has to steer into that skid to counteract it.”

[Reflection] “Nowadays, opera and the music business really have come to be (like) a circus where any marketing clown without a voice comes up with and turns out artificial CDs. Neither the crisis in the classical nor the one in the pop area should come as a surprise to the music industry. I’d rather prove myself on stage and think about what’s essential and basic: total, complete honesty and absolute passion.”

Besides, Cura wants to return more and more to his roots: “I absolutely love to compose. Only, one cannot just do that casually on the side. Years ago, I wrote a ‘Stabat Mater’, a ‘Magnificat’ and a ‘Requiem’ for the victims of the war between Argentina and England. To perform these pieces one day—now, that would be something!”

 


 

"Der Musikbetrieb ist längst zu einem Zirkus geworden"

 

13 February 2004

 Peter Jarolin

Kurier

 

Original language

Sex-Symbol? "Das war ich einmal, als ich noch mehr Haare hatte und viel weniger Bauch", meint José Cura lachend. "Jetzt bin ich einfach ein Künstler, der nicht bloß einer Marketing-Strategie folgen muss." Dass der in Argentinien geborene José Cura von seinen Fans dennoch auch als Sex-Symbol betrachtet wird, war zuletzt in der Wiener Staatsoper zu sehen.

LIEBE Denn da hat Cura bei seinem Rollendebüt als Umberto Giordanos so tragischer Dichter "Andrea Chénier" (Reprisen: 13. und 16. Februar) natürlich auch eine gute Figur gemacht. Cura: "Ich liebe das Wiener Publikum und bemühe mich hier besonders."

Verständlich, dass der international gefragte Tenor für das Haus am Ring noch viele Pläne hat: "Im Oktober und November gibt es fast ein kleines José-Cura-Festival", meint der vielseitige Star. "Zuerst singe ich Verdis ,Stiffelio', dann ,Bajazzo' und zuletzt ,Andrea Chénier'. Drei Rollen in drei Wochen - das wird anstrengend!" Leichter hat es Cura 2005, wo er in Puccinis selten gespielter Oper "Le Villi" auftreten und dazu Puccinis "Madame Butterfly" dirigieren wird. Und im Jahr 2006 kommt Verdis "Don Carlo".

Aber: "Ich möchte immer mehr dirigieren. Damit habe ich ja eigentlich angefangen. Ich bin nur Sänger geworden, um ein besserer Dirigent zu sein." Vor allem das symphonische Repertoire hat es Cura angetan: "Das ist wie ein Fenster mit frischer Luft. Und vielleicht darf ich eines Tages, so im Alter von 80 Jahren, die Wiener Philharmoniker leiten. Ein Traum!"

Ein paar Träume hat sich José Cura schon erfüllt: Die eigene Produktionsfirma, das eigene Platten-Label und ein ausgeglichenes Privatleben. "Es ist für einen Sänger das Schlechteste, nur an Gesang zu denken. Das tötet die Stimme, raubt ihr jedes Charisma und verengt auch die geistige Wahrnehmung. Da muss man gegensteuern."

BESINNUNG "Die Oper und der Musikbetrieb sind ja heute zu einem Zirkus geworden, wo irgendwelche Marketing-Clowns ohne Stimme synthetische CD's produzieren. Die Musikindustrie darf sich weder im Klassik- noch im Pop-Bereich über die Krise wundern. Ich beweise mich da lieber auf der Bühne und besinne mich auf das Wesentliche: Völlige Ehrlichkeit und absolute Leidenschaft."

Außerdem will Cura immer mehr zu seinen Wurzeln zurückkehren: "Ich komponiere für mein Leben gern. Nur das kann man nicht so nebenbei machen. Ich habe schon vor Jahren ein ,Stabat Mater', ein ,Magnificat' und ein ,Requiem' für die Opfer des Krieges zwischen Argentinien und England geschrieben. Diese Stücke einmal aufführen - das wäre etwas!"

 


 

Interview with José Cura and Marcelo Alvarez

José  Cura and Marcelo Alvarez: Friends, tenors, countrymen

Chicago Sun-Times

(thanks to Marion, Mary, and Iwona for the heads-up!)

By some divine coincidence, Lyric Opera has brought us not one but two Argentinian tenors this season: First, José Cura in "Samson et Dalila" and now Marcelo Alvarez in "Lucia di Lammermoor."

And the two share more than a homeland. Each was born in 1962, in "the provinces," away from the center of Argentinian musical culture, Buenos Aires. Both came late to opera; Cura sang his first role at age 29; Alvarez, 30. Both were relegated to the chorus at Argentina's Teatro Colon (largely because "they came from the provinces"). But after such early career discouragements, each found himself bolstered by a famous operatic mentor -- for Alvarez, Giuseppe di Stefano, and Cura, Carlo Bergonzi.

Were these two perhaps separated at birth? Alvarez and Cura, who are longtime friends, laugh at the suggestion. "Anything is possible," Cura said with a wide smile.

We caught up with them backstage at Lyric, before a recent performance. The talk, in English and Spanish, turned to many themes, including favorite roles and opera houses, and industry trends. Especially the latter. In recent years, classical music labels have been ravaged by drastic cutbacks. The only growth area seems to be classical crossover, projects featuring pop-based talents such as Andrea Bocelli, Charlotte Church and Russell Watson.

Though neither Alvarez nor Cura would stoop to such crowd-pleasing tactics, both stressed the importance of bringing opera to a wider audience, an objective that frequently brings into play the often-maligned concept of "crossover."

Last year, along with fellow tenor and Sony labelmate Salvatore Licitra, Alvarez recorded "Duetto," which featured pop-style adaptations of classics by Faure, Rachimaninoff and Bizet. In 2000, Alvarez recorded the songs of tango master Carlos Gardel. In a similar vein, Cura released "Anhelo" (1997) and "Boleros" (2002), both featuring Latin music. And Alvarez and Cura hope to record a disc together in the future.

On the subject of "crossover":

Alvarez: People think that opera is some kind of elite thing, boring, but I thought with "Duetto," we could make them understand that opera is something easy, beautiful, relaxing. If we don't open the market with projects like "Duetto," opera will die.

When I was singing "Duetto" in concert, some young man asked me where "La donna e mobile" [the famous tenor aria from Verdi's "Rigoletto"] is from, where can he see this. So questions like this [indicate that] we have to find a new way to approach people in the area of classical music.

Cura: The elite of pop music is much more closed, strongly, than classical music. But personally for me, crossover is a very wrong word. As long as we have something to cross, we need bridges. We are not together.

The voice of a professional singer is like having a Steinway. You can play Bach, play Beethoven, you can play John Lennon. The Steinway is always a Steinway. When you play John Lennon, it sounds rich, because the instrument is great. And the singer is the same thing. Your voice is rich, you pull the pedal back a bit, because you cannot push it all the way, as in classical music. But all the warmth, the harmonics of the trained instrument, are behind it. That's why when you have pop music done by the opera singer, you still have this aura of harmonics around it.

On their joint recording plans for the future:

Alvarez: It is very difficult. I have signed with Sony for two more crossover discs, but I don't know if I will use it [the option]. We [Licitra and I] have been asked to do another "Duetto" disc, but I really want to try different things. Like when I did the tango album, I enjoyed that very much. Maybe a jazz album or songs in English. I have to try to attract more people.

Cura: Marcelo and I have some projects in mind, but it can be very tricky. We have had a project in works for two or three years. It is ready, we have to find the sponsorships and things.

Alvarez: We are Argentinians and we are artists. We are trying to do something together that links the sounds of our country.

Cura: [Laughing] If we do something together, it is not going to be "Duetto 2: The Return."

 

 


 

Dazzling and Treacherous is the Virile--Blessing and Curse

Tenor José Cura, beguiling and enchanting, is defended against both admirers and critics

April 2004

Eckhard Henscheid / translation by Monica B
New Music Magazine

 

It may indeed have been some seven years ago that José Cura let himself be hailed with much fanfare as ‘tenor of the 21st century’; on the other hand, he has had to fight for an uncontested good reputation almost the entire time--especially since the beginning of this century.  On the one side, the marketing of this gem of a tenor, who was in that respect almost futuristic, was indeed rather dreadfully high-pitched, gloating and, ultimately, more damaging than anything else, arousing aggression; on the other side, given the considerable competition in the field at present, the marketing claims aren’t entirely false either: no less a person than Waltraut Meier, Cura’s  ‘Cavalleria’ partner, eager to find superlatives, authoritatively confirms the Argentine to be the first, and at the moment the only one since Plácido Domingo, to sings so beautifully on stage that Santuzza has difficulty fighting back tears and continuing as composed and cool as possible.

Cura has never shied away from the most demanding and taxing of Verdi, Puccini and Verismo materials, nor from roles such as Des Grieux (from ‘Manon Lescaut’) that are normally considered beyond his heroic-dark range with their extremely high tessituras--a point in which he differs from the otherwise comparable Cecilia Bartoli, a colleague of his generation who, after more than a decade, continues to be extolled as everybody’s darling by a public apparently gone crazy--as long as she merely keeps on chirping (or if need be barking) a string of inferior Vivaldi and Rossini and late Salieri vulgaria, and who in so doing probably controls the better part of 51% of the Classic CD market. It is also a point that Bartoli, unlike Cura, has never really mastered a truly significant role from Mozart to Verdi and Puccini. Yet with it all, Cura has failed to awaken only sympathies as has the buxom mezzosoprano, with whom, for some strange reason, he invites identification. Rather, in addition to the highest expectations (of the kind that can cause heart palpitations) and to frequent displays of enthusiasm, he has also had to suffer all manner of strange resistance, yes, even at times real hostility.

And this too is somewhat paradoxical: His concurrent, continual and standard festival presence in German-speaking areas (predominantly in Vienna, Zurich and Munich) not withstanding, José Cura has mustered something like ten significant roles since about 1995: Verdi’s ‘Otello’--persistently triumphant; ‘Don Carlo’--not quite so convincing; Bizet’s namesake from ‘Carmen’; the protagonists from ‘Pagliacci’ and ‘Cavalleria’; ‘Andrea Chénier’--likewise in Verismo style; and finally, at the end of April something to look forward to: his role debut as the heroic bandit Ramerrez in Puccini’s ‘Fanciulla’, which ought to suit his voice and temperament especially well and which should counter the practically uninterrupted string of Cavaradossis (‘Tosca’). At all three opera houses mentioned above, the tenor has sung that role repeatedly, as well as the one in which he is no doubt worldwide the most enlightened: Verdi’s ‘Otello’.

Cura could, if he wanted to and if he were very foolish, no doubt sing the part of the hero of the ‘chocolate project’ (Verdi) all across the globe, 365 days per year and for top pay, even though in the strictest sense he-like Domingo-isn’t the right type of singer for Otello at all. His smooth, baritonally-grounded spinto tenor is hardly ‘eroico’ or ‘robusto’, something that is quasi-demanded by the notations in the score. In the last half-century no doubt only the Chilean Ramon Vinay and Mario del Monaco excelled, covering the demands of the role totally. To be sure, Francesco Tamagno, Verdi’s original, inaugural tenor, who in his vocal heavy weight reminds of Wagner-style singing, was hardly satisfying in the role of the Moor. Yet on good days, Cura-like his sometime mentor Plácido Domingo- is nevertheless sure to enchant and captivate as Otello. His ‘Esultate’ rendition is of such stupendous power discharge that critics perversely-and not always entirely without reason-find fault with his ‘exaggeration’ (Neue Zürcher) and also- as far as the development in differentiation and intensification of the character is concerned-with a ‘monochromatic’ interpretation. But when he-Cura/Otello-voices his yearning desire for Desdemona soulfully with ‘Gia nella notte densa--Venere splende!’, often in a half reclining position, then this well-nigh athletic provocation of his tenor rivals in combination with the natural voice of this ‘brawny bundle from Argentina’ (FAZ)- a voice genuinely large, substantial and almost always nobly employed- oftentimes indeed does have that certain power to excite, to arouse. That in turn makes not just women here-even now still willing to erupt emotionally-to glow; it actually bowls them over totally right there on the quiet in the middle of the opera house. But up to now, one only keeps hearing that ‘the man whom women love’ (Kulturmagazin Rondo) and who hails from the provincial capital of Rosario, is happily married to a French [sic] woman in a quiet sort of way, even if he on occasion, and in front of the author of these lines, deigns to use a magic marker to draw a mysterious long black line (‘reserved’?) on the forearm of female admirers-their hearts aflutter. On this occasion, he happened to mark my wife.


Were one to compare Cura’s muscular voice, which was only discovered on second take in Puccini’s small first opera ‘Le Villi’, with the true giants, the truly great voices, say by way of the much talked about contest of the century, then the studied choir master/conductor, whom the newsmagazine ‘Spiegel’ labeled-somewhat stupidly-as ‘heir to Pavarotti and Domingo’, would not come out badly-even today already. Indeed, he shares-thanks to his timbre-the erotic drive of the delivery with his somewhat lighter lirico-spinto colleague Luciano Pavarotti, also with Bergonzi and Tagliavini, two legendary and monumental figures. And the somber, dark brown coloring/shading of the voce oscura is really not too far at all from the legendary and-according to Puccini- god-sent cello sound of Caruso. To be sure, Cura lacks the boundless ease in the top notes of a Giovanni Martinelli or also of Franco Bonisolli, who-sad to say-recently met with an untimely death, and in the producing of ‘squillo’ metal sounds, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi has the edge. But such an animal as an all-round, universally ideal tenor has simply never existed. Summasummarum, everything considered, Cura also holds his own with bravura, as far as the century perspectives go. At the moment perhaps, indeed only Roberto Alagna and the vocally lighter and higher situated fellow Argentine Marcelo Alvarez are fairly noteworthy adversaries.

No, altogether the work of liars, rogues and scoundrels it is not, that talk and ado about the tenor of the new century. Opting against Cura of late were for the most part only smart alecs, know-it-alls and fake purists masquerading as connoisseurs- and yet, they do have somewhat of a point, too. Less because of the one man entertainment spectacles that were presented a bit much like a show by the brawny bundle in the course of a nationwide promotion of his latest CD releases; more rather because of his simultaneous singing and conducting. Most significantly, they have a point in that the now 42-year-old could learn new things, stylistically speaking, with respect to his serious Verdi singing-perhaps from maestro Carlo Bergonzi. Cura’s CD anthology of Verdi arias is on average 7 to 23% less thought provoking and stimulating than those previously released CDs with Puccini and Verismo evergreens-but also some exquisite rarities! With ‘Niun mi tema’ at the end of ‘Otello’, most doubts definitely fade away, even for the most purist of ears ‘languisce il cor’. But why has Cura nonetheless almost from the start and up to now rather persistently caught his share of tales about Rambo and Macho to which really Franco Bonisolli is somewhat more justifiably entitled? On stage, the Argentine is anything but macho and narcissistic and a womanizer and busy showing out and sloppy. On the contrary, the carefully thought-through minimal nuances and action sequences weigh in, come into play time and again, for example in the usually trite and washed-out roles of Don José and Andrea Chénier. And what about picking an argument with an anti-claque set to cause a disturbance, as he has done on occasion in Madrid? He was right in doing so! It appears-no is certain-that Cura in all sorts of ways skidded into the strange dilemma of the modern consumer-driven/demand-oriented opera media mill. His complaints about it are plausible. He says that if he sings ‘E lucevan le stelle’ as Puccini desired ‘sostenuto/restrained’, ‘with deep, genuine feeling/con intimo sentimento’ and ‘morendo/dying away’, then he meets with an icy, cold reception, also on the part of the presumed know-it-alls, the would-be-wise-guys at the Vienna State Opera. If he, on the other hand, screams the extremely melancholy melody, this farewell from life, like a stuck pig, then in turn the full wave of pedant, petit-bourgeois enthusiasm comes screaming, crashing back at him.

Also, his visually plausible image as Latin Lover has hurt him more than helped him. According to Richard Wagner, the rather unenlightened taste for art and artistic sense of women no doubt created a sort of nonsensical projection early on in the ranks of critics. It goes something like this: Whoever is that good-looking cannot possibly also sing enchantingly beautiful. And to wrench the nonsense spiral up another turn: From FAZ to Berlin’s ‘Daily Mirror’, oddities in reviews of Cura’s CDs were repeated several times over. They blamed the singer-mostly without reason-for the very thing that they themselves intended quite shamelessly with their own headlines and selection of agency photos (Cura writhing passionately on the floor), and that is to attract with such kitsch and crap the perhaps also mentally rather weak sex. In the face of such a ‘circulus abstrusus mediensis’ (an abstruse circle created by the media), even an angelically sung high B is rather powerless. (It is a rare occasion on which Cura like Caruso, like Bergonzi, like Domingo, offers up the high C.)

In Cura’s case, the phonotechnical document department still has a pleasantly clear structure-quite in contrast to Domingo’s and Pavarotti’s. Besides the aforementioned anthologies, complete versions of ‘Samson et Dalila’ and ‘Manon Lescaut’ are available on CD, as well as a live recording of ‘Le Villi’-the one in which a tenor draws attention to his already very beautiful, yet not mature voice for the first time. More frequently in recent years, there have been DVDs-life recordings-of opera performances and concerts, most notably the Verdi Galas in Parma and London, celebrations held on the occasion of the 100-year anniversary of his death in 2001. Cura as champion of the folklore of his homeland can be heard moreover on a CD of dreamy ‘Anhelos’. While the tenor takes back/reduces his voice potential for the most part by some 50 to 80% in a truly humble, Christian manner in this recording, the monumental, defining work, where Cura would have to give fully 100% flat out, is on the other hand still missing for the time being. There is no reason or excuse not to record ‘Otello’-long awaited by fans-in a CD/DVD combination if at all possible, even in these times of crisis in the classical music industry.


Translator’s note: The author of the article (published in the April issue of the ‘New Music Magazine’ (Das Neue Musik Magazin) is a very well-known German  writer , satirist and humorist who has published several books, among them the ‘Trilogy of On-going Idiocy’.

 

 

 


 

Glanz und Tücke

des Virilen

 

Der Betör-Tenor José Cura –

 gegen seine Verehrer

und Kritiker verteidigt

 

 

April 2004

Eckhard Henscheid

Das Neue Musik Magazin

 

Original language

Wohl ließ sich José Cura bereits vor sieben Jahren lautstark als „Tenor des 21. Jahrhunderts“ ausrufen; andererseits hatte er, zumal seit Anbruch dieses Jahrhunderts, fast allzeit um seinen unangefochten guten Ruf zu kämpfen. Einerseits war das Marketing des derart fast futuristischen Solitärtenors tatsächlich ein bisschen arg krähend und also mehr schädlich und Aggressionen weckend; andererseits ist es – bei derzeit gar nicht geringer Fachkonkurrenz – trotzdem auch nicht ganz falsch: keine geringere als Curas ähnliche Superlative kitzelnde „Cavalleria“-Partnerin Waltraud Meier bestätigt kompetent, seit Placido Domingo sei für sie der Argentinier der erste und momentan einzige, der auf der Bühne so schön singe, dass es Santuzza schwer falle, tränenunterdrückend möglichst cool selber weiterzumachen.

Anders als die in vielem vergleichbare Generationsgenossin Cecilia Bartoli, die seit inzwischen einem Jahrzehnt von einem offensichtlich einfach närrisch gewordenen Publikum als everybody’s darling auch dann noch behuldigt wird, wenn sie bloß reichlich inferiore Vivaldi- und Rossini- und zuletzt Salieri-Vulgäria herunterzwitschert und notfalls -bellt und die damit inzwischen vermutlich 51 Prozent des Klassik-CD-Markts kontrolliert – anders als die Bartoli, die von Mozart bis Verdi und Puccini trotzdem so gut wie noch nie eine wirklich bedeutende Partie gemeistert hat, hat Cura im Verdi-, Puccini- und Verismo-Fach Anstrengendstes nie gescheut, auch nicht Partien wie den Des Grieux aus „Manon Lescaut“, die mit ihrer extrem hohen Tessitura eigentlich jenseits seines heldisch-dunklen Stimmfachs liegen. Und dabei keineswegs wie die mollige und seltsam identifikationseinladende Mezzosopranistin nur Sympathien erweckt. Sondern außer herzklopferischer Höchsterwartung und häufig Begeisterung auch allerlei sonderliche Widerstände, ja bisweilen richtige Feindschaften erfahren müssen.

Und das, etwas paradox, bei gleichzeitiger und ständiger und standardmäßiger Festspiel-Gewärtigung im deutschen Sprachraum, überwiegend in Wien, Zürich und München hat Jose Cura seit zirka 1995 rund zehn große Partien aufgeboten: von Verdi ständig triumphal den „Otello“ und nicht ganz so einleuchtend den „Don Carlo“, von Bizet den „Carmen“-Namenskollegen, die Protagonisten von „Bajazzo“ und „Cavalleria“, den gleichfalls veristischen „Andrea Chenier“ – vor allem im Zürichischen darf man sich Ende April auf die Erstpräsentation des heroischen Banditen Ramerrez in Puccinis „Fanciulla“ freuen, der Curas stimmlichem und personalem Naturell besonders gut liegen müsste und der seine praktisch ununterbrochenen Cavaradossis von „Tosca“ kontern sollte. An allen drei genannten Häusern sang der Tenor zuletzt mehrfach jene Partie, in der er wohl weltweit am belehrtesten ist: den Verdi’schen „Otello“.

Cura könnte, wenn er wollte und sehr dumm wäre, wohl 365 Tage im Jahr global und höchstdotiert den Helden des „Schokoladen-Projekts“ (Verdi) bestreiten. Dabei ist er, wie Domingo, strengstgenommen gar kein richtiger Otello. Sein sämig baritonal grundierter Spinto-Tenor ist kaum der stilistisch, quasi vom Idiom des Notentextes her erheischte „eroico“ oder „robusto“; ganz rollendeckend exzellierten im letzten Halbjahrhundert aber wohl eh nur der Chilene Ramon Vinay und Mario del Monaco – freilich genügte dem wagnergesangähnlichen Schwergewicht des Mohren auch Verdis Uraufführungstenor Francesco Tamagno kaum. Cura aber, wie sein zeitweiser Förderer Domingo, kann an guten Tagen als Otello trotzdem hinreißen, sein „Esultate“-Entree ist von so stupender Kraftentladung, dass Kritiker umgekehrt nicht immer ganz grundlos „Überspanntheit“ (Neue Züricher) bemäkelten und für den Fortgang im Sinne einer figuralen Differenzierung und Steigerung dann auch „Monochromie“.

Aber, wenn er, Cura-Otello, zumeist im halben Liegen darauf seine Desdemona anschmachtet: „Gia nella notte densa – Venere splende!“ – dann hat diese beinahe athletische Provokation der Tenor-Rivalen im Verbund mit der genuin generösen, edlen, fast immer auch edel geführten Naturstimme des „Kraftpakets aus Argentinien“(FAZ) oftmals eben schon jene Erregungsmacht, die nicht allein unsere auch heute immer noch eruptionswilligen Frauen erglühen lässt und heimlich mitten im Opernhaus vollends umwirft. Bis zuletzt war allerdings immer zu hören, dass der in der Provinzstadt Rosario geborene „Mann, den die Frauen lieben“(Kulturzeitschrift Rondo) mit einer Französin richtiggehend lammfromm verheiratet ist. Auch wenn er zuweilen, vor den Augen des Autors dieser Zeilen, dann doch herzflimmernden Verehrerinnen, hier zufällig meine Ehefrau, mit Filzstift einen mysteriösen langen Strich („vorgemerkt“?) auf den Unterarm zu malen sich herablässt.

Vermisst man Curas erst im zweiten Anlauf mit der kleinen Puccini-Debütoper „Le Villi“ entdeckte Muskelstimme mit den ganz Großen im Sinne einer so beliebten Jahrhundertmeisterschaft, dann schneidet der vom Nachrichtenmagazin „Spiegel“ etwas deppert als „Erbe von Pavarotti und Domingo“ geführte gelernte Chormeister-Dirigent schon heute nicht schlecht ab. Den timbreverdankten erotic drive des Vortrags teilt er tatsächlich mit dem etwas leichter gewichtiger Lirico spinto-Kollegen Luciano Pavarotti, auch mit den Legendendenkmälern Bergonzi und Tagliavini – die dunkle Braunfärbung der voce oscura ist dem sagenhaften und laut Puccini gottgesandten Celloklang Carusos gar nicht allzu fern. Zwar fehlt Cura die unendliche Mühelosigkeit der Spitzentöne eines Giovanni Martinelli oder auch des jüngst leider früh verstorbenen Franco Bonisolli, und im Produzieren von „squillo“-Metall ist ihm zum Beispiel Giacomo Lauri-Volpi über. Aber: einen Universalidealtenor hat es halt nie gegeben, summasummarum, im Integral, hält Cura sich auch bei Jahrhundertperspektiven bravourös – und momentan sind ihm wohl nur Roberto Alagna und der stimmfachlich leichtere und höher situierte Landsmann Marcelo Alvarez einigermaßen beachtliche Widersacher. Nein, ganz geschwindelt und gegaunert ist das mit dem Tenor des neuen Säkulums nicht – contra Cura optierten zuletzt zumeist nur als Connaisseure verkleidete Schlaumeier und Besserwisser und prätendierte Puristen – und haben dabei aber auch nicht immer komplett unrecht. Weniger wegen der etwas showseligen Solo-Spektakelabende des Kraftpakets im Zuge der landesweiten Promotion aktueller CD-Einspielungen; mehr schon wegen seines simultanen Singens und Dirigierens; und vor allem darin, dass der einstige und doppelt falsch als Shooting Star (und das heißt nun mal: Sternschnuppe) geführte heutige 42-Jährige im gestrengen Verdi-Gesang stilistisch schon noch zulernen könnte; etwa vom Maestrissimo Carlo Bergonzi. Curas Verdi-Arien-CD-Anthologie ist im Schnitt um 7 bis 23 Prozent weniger gehaltvoll als die Vorherveranstalteten mit Puccini- und Verismo-Evergreens – und auch schönen Raras! „Niun mi tema“: Am Ende des „Otello“ schwinden allerdings meist alle Bedenken; selbst dem puristischsten Ohre „languisce il cor“. Warum aber hat Cura gleichwohl und fast ab ovo und bisher recht hartnäckig die Fama von Rambo und Macho abgekriegt, die doch schon etwas berechtigter einem Franco Bonisolli zusteht? Auf der Bühne ist der Argentinier am allerwenigsten Macho und Narziss und Womanizer und Selbstdarsteller und Schlamper – immer wieder fallen da im Gegenteil die besonders bedachtsamen mimischen Nuancierungen und Bewegungsabläufe ins Gewicht, zum Beispiel auch in den abgelutschten Partien des Don José und Andrea Chenier. Dass er sich in Madrid schon mal mit einer randalierenden Anti-Claque anlegt? Da hatte er recht. Es scheint, nein, sicher ist, in mancherlei Weise ist Cura in die seltsamen Zwickmühlen des modernen Opern-Medien-Bedarfsbetriebs hineingerutscht – und klagt auch glaubwürdig darüber: Nehme er „E lucevan le stelle“, wie von Puccini erwünscht verhalten, innig, morendo, dann schlage ihm, auch seitens der vermeintlichen Bescheidwisser der Wiener Staatsoper, Eisigkeit entgegen. Brülle er die extrem wehmütige Lebensabschiedsmelodie wie am Spieß, dann komme die volle Spießerbegeisterung zurückgebrüllt.

Genützt hat Jose Cura auch sein visuell plausibles Imago als Latin Lover weniger als geschadet. Der laut Richard Wagners „Meistersinger“ gar unbelehrte Kunstsinn der Frauen schuf wohl früh eine Art Unsinnsprojektion in die Kritikerschaften hinein dergestalt: Wer so gut aussieht, der kann unmöglich auch noch betörend schön singen können. Und, noch eine Nonsens-Drehung weitergekurbelt: Von FAZ bis Berliner „Tagesspiegel“ wiederholte sich mehrfach die Kuriosität von Cura‘schen CD-Rezensionen, welche dem Sänger meist grundlos genau das zum Vorwurf machen, was ihre eigenen Artikelüberschriften und Bebilderungen mit Agenturfotos (Cura passioniert am Boden sich windend) ziemlich schamlos bezwecken: mit derlei Kitsch und Krampf das ja eventuell auch mental möglichst schwache Geschlecht anzulocken! Und gegen solchen circulus abstrusus mediensis ist eben selbst ein seraphisch gesungenes hohes B (das C hat Cura wie Caruso, wie Bergonzi, wie Domingo selten im Angebot) ziemlich machtlos.

Anders als im Fall Domingo oder auch Pavarotti ist bei Cura die phonotechnisch manifeste Dokumentenabteilung noch erfreulich übersichtlich. Außer den erwähnten Anthologien gibt es auf CD die Gesamtaufnahmen von „Samson und Dalila“ und „Manon Lescaut“ sowie einen Live-Mitschnitt von „Le Villi“ – ein Tenor macht da erstmals auf seine schon sehr schöne, noch wenig ausgereifte Stimme aufmerksam. Häufiger in den letzten Jahren kam es zu DVD-Filmmitschnitten von Opernaufführungen und Konzertprogrammen, vor allem Verdi-Galas in Parma und London anlässlich der Todesjahrfeiern 2001. Cura als Protagonist der Folklore seines Heimatlandes kann man unter anderem auf einer CD mit traumseligen „Anhelos“ haben. Nimmt der Tenor da schon wahrhaft christlich-demütig meist 50 bis 80 Prozent seines Stimm-Potenzials zurück, so fehlt andererseits vorerst noch das Monument, mit dem Cura glatt 100 Prozent geben müsste: gegen eine längst von Fans erhoffte „Otello“-Einspielung möglichst in CD/DVD-Kombination spräche auch in Zeiten der Klassik-Branchenkrise nichts.

Eckhard Henscheid

Diskografie

Camille Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis; Erato 3984-24756-2
Giacomo Puccini: Le Villi
Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, Bruno Aprea; Nuova Era 7218
Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut
La Scala Orchestra & Chorus, Riccardo Muti; DGG 463 186-2
Puccini-Arias
Philharmonia Orchestra, Plácido Domingo; Erato 0630188382/4
Anhelo – Argentinian Songs
feat. Eduardo Delgado & Ernesto Bitetti; Erato 3984-23138-2

 


 

'Every Audience is a Good One'

José Cura, Argentinian singer and conductor, talks with Katarzyna Gardzina

Interview by

Originally published in “ŻYCIE WARSZAWY” 

 

Katarzyna Gardzina:  On Monday [25 November] you will conduct ‘Stars for Europe’ in Teatrze Wielkim.  How did you find time to participate in this venture?  

José Cura:  As I am a conductor for the Sinfonia Varsovia, it is natural that I be invited to lead them in this concert.  It was lucky I had the time to undertake it.  It is usually not so easy because I am very busy but I had exactly the right number of days free.  

KG: We understand you will be performing Beethoven’s 9th for the Concert for Europe.  Have you conducted this work before or will this be the first time?  It has been recorded by Sinfonia Varsovia by the great Yehudi Menuhin.  Do you not fear comparison?

JC:  Yes, this is the first time I have conducted this work and no, I don’t fear comparisons.  Why should I?    Yehudi Menuhin was a legend.  I am only a young conductor.  Anyone who compares a young musician with a legend is being silly.  And if it is silly, I don’t waste time worrying about it.    

KG: In the concert, in addition to Sinfonia Varsovia you will be working with Polish singers as soloists and choir.  What can you tell us about working with them?

JC:  My experience working with Polish singers has been very short—only two or three days.  That’s not enough time to know enough to say much.  However, I can say that here in Poland there are many talented singers and musicians.  This country is rich in musical talent.  You are lucky.  

KG: You recorded a Rachmaninov CD last year with Sinfonia Varsorvia.  When will it appear?  Do you plan to record the Beethoven as well?

JC:  We will record the concert but I do not know when it will be issued.  Probably within a year or two but I don’t know.  But we will record it and then see what happens.  The recording will be live, in a studio and not during the Monday concert. 

The Rachmaninov #2 disc will appear in England next week.  The rest of the world will have to wait until spring. 

KG: Let’s turn for a minute to your recent performance in Otello at the National Theater.  What are your thoughts about the opera?

JC:  I have to admit I had some problems with the direction initially but after two days of rehearsals we were able to compromise on a professional level and see good results.  I’m happy to be going to Japan with the National Opera to perform Otello.  

KG: But as you evaluate the audience in Poland after several performances, can you compare our audiences with those of other countries yet?

JC:  Every audience can be a good audience.  The reaction of the house does not depend on the audience but on the artist.  If you give them something, the audience will respond.  If you don’t, they won’t. 

For example, in my Warsaw Otello, I was very ill.  I coughed all the time.  Any other artist would have cancelled.  I didn’t, because I knew that my performance was an important part of the evening, not only for myself but for the theater and the people who were attending.  So I coughed.  The audience understood and accepted what I offered and all were happy.  The audience knew I was ill but also that I was still trying to give them a memorable performance.  The problem came with the reviews.  The critics wrote without knowledge and expressed themselves poorly, perhaps as a way of promoting themselves.  What can I say?   

KG: But can you evaluate audiences after several projects in Poland with those is other countries yet?  You have sung and Poland and conducted Sinfonia Varsovia.  Have you had lots of invitations to take on other conducting jobs?

JC:  Enough.  More than I have time for.  I have worked sometimes with London Symphony.  I had a concert in Taiwan and with the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra in Moscow.  But I haven’t done a lot because I don’t have time.  If I have time to conduct, it makes sense that I would do it with my orchestra first.     

KG: Where will you be performing operas next?

JC:  Oh, in too many places to remember right now.  You can check my calendar on my web page.  

KG: What would you like to say to music lovers who did not manage to get to Otello?

JC:  The message would be a good one.  Soon I will be meeting with Jacek Kaspszykiem and we will be talking about future plans—me and the Teatrze Wielkim—so maybe I will have good news after the meeting for everyone.

 

 

How the fit and fabulous stay that way: José Cura, 41


The bigger picture for the Argentine tenor José Cura, 41, includes a keen interest in photography

Times Online

Rosie Millard

March 20, 2004

 

JC poses for Fit and Fabulous interviewYou’ve been described as the “Fourth Tenor”. Is it difficult to always hit the high notes? Tenors are alluring. I think it’s because the tenor is the voice that sings on the edge of danger. It’s the least natural of all the voices and there is a risk. When you hit the high notes it’s like you are scoring a goal. And if you crack, you know you’ve missed.

How fit does an opera singer have to be? These days you can’t get away with being unfit on stage. When I was younger, I was a semi-professional body-builder and I also trained as a kung fu fighter. But when I was 24 I gave it all up as I had a vision of what I might become. I couldn’t even touch the back of my head because my arms were so massive. Now I just work out on machines at the gym in my home in Madrid and when I am traveling I try to stay in hotels with gyms.

Did you aspire to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger? He was the hero for us all; him and Lou “Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno. Of course they look like babies compared with today’s bodybuilders.

You’re also a composer and a conductor. Do you ever worry about trying to do too much? When you have two or three talents, you have to decide whether to just use one and hide the others. The music world is fond of labeling people, but at the end of your life you will have to explain to that being who gave you your talents why you were so cowardly as to not use them all.

Ah, the famous ego. Some critics have had a bit of a field day at your expense. I used to care what the critics said. I used to suffer, especially when the criticism was suspiciously bad. But I would rather not talk about it except to say that people always criticise eclecticism.

As an opera singer do you have to stick to a strict regime? Because I was a semi-professional athelete for many years I learnt how to eat well. Before a show I have a big plate of pasta, for energy. What with make-up and singing, then all the after-show business, you can be working for five hours at a stretch.

Ever tuck into the steaks? I was a vegetarian for about five years in my twenties, then one day I woke up and thought it wasn’t too smart to lose my barbecue. But when I was a vegetarian I weighed 20kg (44lb) less.

Champagne or sparkling water? I don’t drink. Well, I have a finger of wine when I eat meat, but I can’t handle any more than that. If I do, I start talking nonsense.

I guess the smokes are out of the question? Actually I smoke a pipe when I’m at home. It’s not something I can’t do without, but it’s pleasant. I never smoke in London. The air is polluted enough already here.

You are quite physical on stage. Have you ever suffered for your art? No, but in the past I’ve had many injuries, particularly to my back and knees because of all my weight training. Yet thanks to all those years in the gym I have a miraculous cardiovascular system. My heartbeat is 52 to 54 at rest. When I go on stage it reaches only 80 beats, which is akin to resting for other people. It gives me a huge advantage — I am never out of breath.

Do you pop any pills? Now that I’m in my forties I take supplements including vitamin E for hair and nails and vitamin C in winter.

How do you cope with the nerves? When you cross the stage for the first time each night you need to be a little nervous. That’s normal and good and it helps to break the ice with the audience.

Naturally good looking or do you attack the make-up? I’m a Neanderthal man as far as my face is concerned, but all that heavy make-up that I have to wear when I am on stage does it no good. Every so often my wife insists that I go to a spa and have a facial.

Do you sleep well at night? Now I am 41 I have achieved mental peace. I don’t worry about what people think. I have found audiences are ready to take the love I give them on stage. And I try to live my life as intensely as I can, knowing that it’s the only one I have.

What spurs you on? The goal is always the same, to be a Renaissance man. If I were only a singer, I’d be more relaxed. I’d go to the movies on my days off. But I’ve decided to complicate my life with conducting and a recording company and composing. I’m also a keen photographer and I’m going to publish some of my photographs in a book.

José Cura is performing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (020-7304 4000), in Samson et Dalila until March 25

 


Forgotten Heroes 

by José Cura

(interview with Charlotte Cripps)

Who is he?

The masked television character who rode a horse called Silver. His mission was to avenge wrongs throughout the Old West. This was the beginning of Westerns on television in the early 1950s (it ran from 1949 to 1957). The best-known Lone Ranger was Clayton Moore (1949-52 and 1954-57). He also played the role in two feature films made in the late 1950s. John Hart played The Lone Ranger for a few seasons (1952-54). The theme tune was Rossini's William Tell Overture. The Lone Ranger was created by George W Trendle and Fran Striker as a local radio show in 1933 before being brought to television in a series of half-hour episodes made in Hollywood.

What did he do?

He never killed anyone, but there was always lots of action. He rode with his faithful friend, Tonto, and fired a gun with silver bullets. He never accepted payment for his good deeds but lived off the income from a silver mine that he discovered. There he would stock up on silver bullets and with a hearty, "Hi, ho, Silver, away!", he would gallop off to set the record straight. The creed of the Lone Ranger, according to the original writer Fran Striker, was: "I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one. That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world."

Why do I admire him?

I always admire those who work quietly behind the scenes, behind the mask. I came back to the Royal Opera House to sing in Samson et Dalila and as I walked through the corridors and saw all the make-up artists, the dressers, the stage managers, assistants and so on, I came to the conclusion of how little we know about these people behind the curtain. I felt these were my forgotten heroes because I can't be on stage without them. But how do I put this group of people in one person? The Lone Ranger is symbolic of all the people not in the limelight, doing a lot but whom you may never know.

 


I’m Not An “Arrogant Bastard”

The famous tenor José Cura talks to Thanasis Lalas

(translated by Erato)

 

TO VIMA

11 July 2004

 

 Lisbon. On the eve of the Euro 2004 final with Portugal. This is the second time that I meet José Cura. The first time was in England, in 1999. He was at the time “the Fourth Tenor”, “the Handsome Tenor”, “the Big Talent”. Then he broke with the recording industry, he created his own independent label, he fought and was fought he became 'the setting star'--obviously a tough period intervened, during which he had to struggle hard.  In our second meeting I found him completely different. Mature. A man who shows that through hardship he found himself, a man proud of surviving through the isolation, a man strong and self-confident. My colleagues and I spent 48 magic hours with him, watching him rehearse for the recital he is going to give at Oinousses next Thursday and we set a new appointment to take place there. And before I let you read the “new José Cura”, I’d like to especially thank Mr. Yiannis Lemos. president of the I.D.Lemos Foundation of Oinousses, who gave me the chance to meet José Cura again. Our second conversation, five years after the first one, was, at least, very constructive.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Thanasis Lalas

JC and author Lalas during interview

-Has anything changed since we last met?

“To be honest, Mr. Lalas, just a few things have …NOT changed!”

 -  What has not changed? Same wife…

“Same wife, three kids. These are among the few things that didn’t change. But we moved out of France to Madrid, we created our own recording label, we produce discs and DVD’s, we make our own productions, while, at the same time, we are managing my career, as well as the career of other artists. We have become, in a way, a ‘thorn’ in the flesh of the existing, established companies performing artistic management, who prefer the water not to be agitated by initiatives like ours”.

-   Why did you change attitude towards the recording industry?

“When an artist proves that he is able to make a good career without giving in to the managers of the companies that are often not so capable, it is a fact proving something not so favorable for them. It is setting an example for imitation and then some people will lose their jobs. So, this is how we started and we have succeeded. The honest companies – because, for all that, there are some that are not “pirates”- are collaborating with us and we co-produce. The companies that are not so good get a bit nervous with this situation and I know that some weeks ago an important international meeting took place in a specific town, where among other topics they discussed about ‘what are we doing with Cura and his company’. This made me glad. If they are concerned and are paying attention to us, this means we exist. It needs great courage to do what we do and it’s a great risk. I have got many ‘kicks’ these last years. But every kick that leaves me a bruise on the backside gets me at the same time several meters ahead! So, if they keep on kicking me from behind, they will certainly help me get very much ahead!”

 -  Might it be that people are making everything in such a way that they ensure security?

“This is a possibility. Another one is the fact that it is very easy to write and talk about classical music, to claim that ‘the good way to make art is dying’, and I don’t refer just to opera but also to the other forms of art. It is so easy to say that, but also so destructive! It just needs you to take a pen, to put this as the title on your article and the chief-editor will print it right away, because it is going to have a great impact. But all this is bullshit! We have never before had such a coming of audience, so many new orchestras born every day, new artists, new talents! So, where is the problem? The matter is simple. If you want to perform in the 21st century in the same way that one used to perform in the 19th century, then of course you’ll be out of job. Sarah Bernard was a legend in her time. If she was living today and performing in the way she was doing in the 19th century, she would be boring. Today we are here in Portugal, shortly before the final between Portugal and Greece for the Euro Cup. The players of today don’t play as 50 years ago. If someone like Di Stefano or Pelé was getting into the field tomorrow, he could hardly make it for five minutes. Accordingly, the cinema adjusts, pop music adjusts. Everything and everybody adjust to today. Why, then, don’t we at the opera and in classical music have to adjust? Why do we have to dress like penguins to get on stage?”

 -       So you are telling me that what we call interpretation of a work is actually the interpretation of a period of time?

“However, it doesn’t have to do with the performance of the music. There is only one way to make good music: To do it right! As there is only one way to kick the ball. You put up your foot and you kick the ball. Isn’t it so? What matters is if your whole conduct can attract the public or not. I go back to the example of Sarah Bernard. If she performed today a theatrical play the indolent way she did in the 19th century, she would seem to us funny, at the best of times. The part is the same. So, it isn’t that which makes us disrespectful of the musical work or the writing, but the way you approach the work. If, instead of getting on stage dressed like a penguin or as if you were going to a funeral sending out at the same time the message that you see what you do as sad and boring, you get on stage dressed normally but elegant and with a smile, tanned and in a positive mood, the audience will get the message. They will think that this man on stage enjoys what he’s doing and likes it! And because he enjoys it he will make us enjoy it too. In countries like England I have been criticized with characterizations that you certainly wouldn’t expect to be written by a journalist – such as: ‘Cura has to understand that performing on stage is not for his own pleasure. He doesn’t have to have fun with the music.’. When I read that I said: ‘Something is sick here. And certainly it is not me!’. How can you transmit joy if you yourself don’t enjoy it? There is a notorious quote of Maradona of Zidane. If Zidane gets upset, explain to him that I simply repeated it! Maradona said: ‘Zidane may be the best master of the ball today, but his play is sad!’

-      How did you choose this kind of music?

“Have you heard yesterday, in the rehearsals, the two “boleros” I sang? Did you see how my whole attitude and mood changed? You can’t say even for a moment that ‘this is an opera tenor who sings boleros’. I suddenly became a pop singer. Because I have the music in my soul. And this is my real soul. Because also as a musician I am curious to try new experiences in all fields. For three years I was doing renaissance music – Palestrina, Gregorian chant. And this has nothing to do with my personality or my voice. But everything enriches my musical existence. The same thing happens with opera. I enjoy singing but if someone would come today and would tell me that starting today I couldn’t sing opera anymore, I won’t die of sorrow. For me, opera is another musical experience that I will be doing for as long as I can, the way I believe it has to be done:  with good acting and by giving it my all when I’m on stage”.

-      Revolution is to see the same thing from a different point of view or to make a rupture?

“No. I don’t like ruptures. They are too drastic. And let’s not forget that when something breaks, someone always suffers. Those kinds of revolutions are usually the social ones, where suddenly one day people revolt and cut heads. In art, the revolution is made by doing your job by letting your own art slowly imbue the environment intoxicatingly. Maybe two people get imbued by it and transmit this intoxication to two others. And these two to another two. And this develops into a chain reaction. It is not possible [for an artist] to wake up one morning and say: ‘Stop, from now on you paint this way!’. It is both impossible and wrong. I personally learn, change and adjust as time passes. The good thing in this kind of revolution is that people can get the idea and develop its positive elements. In this case it is something more than a revolution. It is a vaccine. You do the vaccination and you expect the body to reproduce the antibodies”.

-       Why do artists like you do bother the companies? Might it be that the companies want artists that think less?

“No, no! I think that if the managers of a company are clever, they will understand an anti-conformist artist. And the leader of a company who has risen to the top because of his abilities - and not because a finger has put him in the chair – is certainly very clever. It’s rare, of course, for someone to get very high only with his personal skills, but it happens. Let’s say then that this man is very clever. The clever ones recognize right away the artist who is also clever, who has talent and who’s going to make the difference. This is not the problem, i.e. to be recognized. The problem is to be supported. Because if you, the avant-garde artist, you say to the manager of the company: ‘This is the new way and this is how we will save the company, and this way we will refresh our identity as a company, and this way we will sell again millions of discs’, immediately you declare that everything else in the company is out-of-date, old-fashioned. Put now yourself in the manager’s place. What is he doing? For supporting you, the new people, he is actually putting his career at stake, and this demands guts, big guts. Maybe this is where the problem lies. And maybe the solution is one: that there are managers only with big… guts! I suppose …”.

-      To get success you need brain and soul. So, how come people who get to the top often burn themselves?

“I give you an example. If you manage to get to the top of a high mountain after preparing your muscles for you entire life, then you climbed the mountain by using your own hands, by leaving your blood on the rocks … When you get to the top, you are so strong that you can fight almost everything. If it was a helicopter that brought you down to the top of the mountain, the next day you are again at its feet!

I started to climb at the age of 12 and today I’m 42. I have been climbing for 30 years now! Believe me, I have very strong muscles!” 

-      Should an artist be an egoist?

“I don’t think he should be an egoist, but he has to be vain”.

-      Why?

“You can’t be a public person without having a healthy streak of vanity – which is an important ingredient of the human being anyway. Because if you don’t enjoy being looked at, why are you a public person? And you, Mr. Lalas, you are vain, look at yourself… you wore a shirt fitting with your glasses and your pants! This is vanity. Vanity. Healthy vanity that’s not used for hurting but for showing the most pleasant possibilities while we are with other people. So, does an artist have to be an egoist or not? Of course not.  If you are an egoist, you are finished. But yes, you should find your ‘ego’, you should cultivate it, so that it is so healthy that, when you project it, others enjoy it and become richer from it. It’s a different thing to be an ‘egoist’, which means you have a big ‘ego’ just for yourself”.

 -       Were you ever in danger of loosing your talent?

“Once or twice, but I was very tough. I have been very tough since I was a kid, as my mother says. I’ve gone through a lot but I had the intelligence to know which people I needed to have around me. It’s like when you put a stick by the little tree you have planted in a pot to support it. Finding those sticks is often the secret for the development of your talent.  Success also depends on the quality of the “hedge” that these sticks form around you. This “hedge” should be strong enough to protect you but also open enough to let the sun and the air in. If you have this recipe, then go ahead. I discovered this recently, in my 40’s. When I started I wasn’t like this. Do you remember the way I was promoted by the companies? With all those cheap slogans: “the sex symbol”, “the erotic tenor”, “the fourth tenor”, “the tenor of the 21st century” and other similar bullshit that were putting me in great danger. Then suddenly one day I woke up and made the decision to cut my links to all that. So I created my own company for driving my life with my own driving license and not with someone else’s. However, I lived through three years of nightmare because suddenly I found myself cut from everything …”.

-      And what has ultimately happened?

“The last two years everything has started to get better. However since 1999 till 2002, everybody tried to make clear to me in every way that, if I wanted to continue by myself, I would be cut-off. So then, no more cover stories, just one or two interviews, and the critics systematically ruining my works, I was called ‘the setting star!’ and other of this kind. I lived three years fighting the wind and the adversities, until I finally managed to get back on the scene and to be on covers again, with people writing about me, my label has already done three productions with significant sales - something that is a great achievement for a label with no distribution network or any advertisement! And now everybody says: ‘Here is an amazing tenor. He performs with any orchestra and they start to play divinely! He sings and the people rave with the spectacle he creates!’… You see how things change? Now I have also assumed the position of the artistic manager in a new theater that is going to open in Madrid very soon, two or three orchestras in the world are offering me positions as their musical director, two motion pictures companies are in talks with my company for incidental music for their films, while the managing team of a French company is trying to convince me to be the main theme of an international festival that would include music and cinema. All this is not bad at all for ‘the setting star’… What do you think?”

-     How were you feeling when you had to face all those obstacles?

“Look, even though they have tried to cut my legs many times, I feel them deeply rooted in the ground. And something more: I never compromise. I have never bribed a journalist or a newspaper for writing about me, I have never greased somebody’s palm for being hired. I am happy with my wife and my family. I am a normal man! For dealing with a case like me you have to invent lies – but, as the maxim says ‘lies have short feet’ -, which, sooner or later will be revealed. So, they were saying I am ‘an arrogant bastard’. Mr. Lalas, I’m not an arrogant bastard. I am someone who suffered and struggled a lot, who resisted and managed to get to the top of the mountain through the storm – and I am proud of all that! If being proud of all I’ve done in my life after 25 years of hard work is arrogance, then I am arrogant! However, I don’t think this is right or fair!”

-      For closing, I’d like to ask you how did a tenor become a torchbearer for the Athens Olympic Games?

“Let’s say I am one of the few that exist who represents the ideal of the Greek civilization: ‘Nous iyiis en somati iyii (Healthy mind in a healthy body)’. This was the ideal at the time of the first Olympic Games. It is said that at the time of the first Olympic Games, Pythagoras was one of the athletes as was his son-in-law, Milon the Krotonian, who was a mathematician and a musician at the same time! Consider me too, then, as a descendant of Pythagoras. A Pythagorean!”

-    Thank you very much!

“Me too”

José Cura will perform with Feminarte orchestra at the Oinousses Stadium & Amphitheatre, at Oinousses, on Thursday 15 July 2004, for the ceremonies following the passage of the Olympic Flame from the island.

 


In Search of the Real Samson and Dalila

from Lyric Opera News

Winter 2003/2004

JC stars in Turin as SamsonSamson et Dalila is certainly sexier than any opera written before it,” declares Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina, the star of St. Petersburg’s Kirov Opera, who will sing Dalila in her Lyric debut.

In its initial stages however, Samson et Dalila was neither sexy now an opera.  It was 1867 when Camille Saint-Saëns started working on his Samson oratorio.  After hearing it performed, Franz Liszt suggested his colleague rethink it as an opera.  There was one problem, though: in France, prevailing attitudes of the time prevented biblical scenes being portrayed on the stage, even in liberal Paris.  As a result, Samson et Dalila (opera in three acts, libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire), premiered on Dec. 2, 1877, in Weimar, Germany.  It was not staged in France until 13 years after its Weimar premiere.

For much of the 20th century, audiences considered Samson et Dalila to be old-fashioned, but that is no longer the case.  “The audience nowadays accepts conventions that were difficult to accept during the 20th century,” says conductor Emmanuel Villaume, who will lead Lyric’s Samson in his company debut.  “Sometimes pure beauty of the vocal line and clarity were equated with a lack of depth, but today people are beyond this,” Indeed they are.  Modern audiences agree with those of the 19th century:  Samson et Dalila contains some of the most beautiful music every written for the opera house, including one of the most famous and most seductive arias in all opera, “Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta voix.”  In addition to gorgeous arias, the opera also offers a temperature-raising, semi-orgiastic bacchanal scene which shows that if nothing else, those Philistines knew how to party!

In keeping with its oratorio beginnings, Saint-Saëns’s opera contains choruses which, as Villaume points out, “are not exactly involved in the development of the action, but rather a commentary on the action.” While the confrontational scenes between Samson and Dalila are quite dramatic, Villaume thinks there is a different purpose for their presence: “They are a way for the composer’s musicality to express itself.  Ultimately what Saint Saëns is going for is a score of great musical power, color, and balance, but I don’t think he is going for pure dramatic effect.  He’s always staying a musician.  He’s using the power of the story to express something and to portray something which is first of all a musical idea.”

Even though the work started out as an oratorio, it contains plenty of drama – especially in this production, with José Cura playing Samson.  “If I were to portray Samson as a nice, sweet character, an Old Testament prophet, I would not be portraying the real Samson,” he says.

Do not think that José Cura could ever be less than real: “The Argentinian tenor gives to Samson all the strength of his magnetic presence, all the energy of a vocal emission of unseen arrogance,” wrote Sergio Segalini of Opera International.  “Cura confirms himself to be the only possibly imaginable performer for Samson since Jon Vickers’s retirement.”

Indeed, the “Samson of our times” has strong feelings about the role.  “Samson was not a prophet but a warrior,” Cura says.  “To put it in modern terminology, Samson could be an Old-Testament terrorist, who believed in killing anyone who didn’t think the way he did.”

At least, that is how Cura sees Samson in the first two acts.  “In Act One he is an Old-Testament Che Guevara.  In the second act we see that Samson completely misunderstands the spiritual meaning of his life.  He was of the flesh – a man filled with animalistic adrenalin – and that is why he was so easily corrupted.”JC in Turin as Samson - final scene

 But was he corrupted, or did he simply surrender to Dalila’s love?  Borodina thinks Dalila is something more than a biblical femme fatal.  “My Dalila loves Samson very much,” she says.  “But Dalila is a patriot and she remembers her duty.”  The libretto shows this dichotomy:  “Love come to my aid . . . Fill his heart with your poison,” Dalila sings.  “A god much greater than your speaks through me – my god, the god of love.”  (Borodina spoke to Lyric Opera News by phone during a family vacation at her dacha in the Russian countryside.)

Once Samson surrenders to Dalila he becomes powerless, is blinded by his captors, and winds up doing slave labor.  He begs his people to forgive him and begs God for the return of his strength.  Not surprisingly, when his strength is miraculously restored, Samson uses it to kill the Philistines by pulling down the temple.  (If the story sounds like a Cecil B. DeMille sword-and-scandal epic, it is!  DeMille directed the 1949 movie Samson and Delilah starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr.)

Cura sees something more to the story than a strong man, a sexy woman, and tumbling pillars.  “Samson completely misunderstood his gift of strength,” he says.  “He thought his strength was given to him so he could destroy anyone who didn’t agree with him.  He may have thought he was very spiritual, but he was not.  He reduced everything to simply killing and taking.  The real Samson, and I mean ‘real’ in the sense of the spiritual character, is seen early in the third act when he begs his people for forgiveness for what he has done.  It is there that he finally sees his real mission, which of course leaves us suspended in conflicting thoughts.  Samson becomes very spiritual in asking God to give his back his strength, but when he gets it, he pulls the temple down killing everyone.  Today solving problems through war and aggression is something that is seen on every TV newscast.  The story of Samson is not that old-fashioned after all.  In Samson’s time strength was in muscles – today it is in bombs.”

To Cura, having a certain quality of voice is absolutely essential for Samson.  Despite that fact that the character is a tough, primitive kind of guy, a good deal of subtlety is needed to portray him, and while “might makes right” in the biblical story, there is much more than raw power needed for this role.  “You can sing very loud, but if you do not sing deep and dark and accent the proper words, then the whole psychological impact of Samson gets lost.”  Cura says.  “It is the same in Otello.  It is not about singing loud but singing with just the right color.  It is one thing to sing all the notes with great volume, but if you don’t have the proper color, then you lose that extra ingredient that makes the character believable.”  

 


José Cura – Interview

 

JC's latest magazine interviewHe’s been thrilling audiences for years as a dramatic tenor, but now José Cura is determined to match his singing success with his passion for the podium.  He tells Carenza Hugh-Jones about his plans for the future - - both as singer and conductor - - and his own record label

‘I’d been conducting for several years before I discovered I had a good singing voice.  I decided to take singing more seriously, as it’s easier for a singer to get inside the international picture than a conductor, and if you are a tenor, even better—and if you are a dramatic tenor, even better still.

‘I’ve worked hard over the years.  I recently turned 40 and I don’t recall a period when I haven’t studied very hard.  People have often commented that I look effortless when I sing, but it’s because I’ve practiced very hard.  It’s like watching a dancer do a major jump and you know it’s very tough and challenging, but when they are in the air, they smile and you think it must be easy.

‘Ever since I started singing, I’ve been filmed, so I have learned to adapt my physical gestures to the dryness of the camera.  I think my past as a sportsman has been very important for my breathing technique.  You must make it look as natural as possible.  I hope to do more and more conducting, but it’s just like starting at the beginning again.  There are many preconceptions going against me, as it’s hard to make everyone believe that a tenor can be a conductor.  There’s an idea that a singer is not a real musician, but I want to change that.

‘I didn’t want to start conducting in an opera house, so my first concert was a challenging programme of Respighi, Kodaly, and Rachmaninov.  One day I will sing less and conduct more, but I want to continue singing until my last breath.  I’d also like to work with young people.  I’m very excited to have my own label, which started by accident, really.  We recorded the Rachmaninov for fun, then realized we could do something with it.  We didn’t have the back-up support, though, so we made our own label!  I don’t know what we will do next, but whatever happens, it’s going to be a nice adventure.’

 

JC promo for Classic FM magazine interview

 


 

Kick In the Pants

Swiss interview (Dec 2004)

Kultur/Musik

Sent by Dana

Translated by Monica B.

 

Facts: Mr. Cura, you are a singer, musician, conductor, composer, and photographer. Do you still have the overview? Can you still keep track of everything?

José Cura: My management (team) takes care of that. But there are actually people who think of me as a ‘pain in the ass’, as a thorn in the flesh, because of it.

Facts: How is that?

José Cura: Because among purists it’s considered unconventional to be successful in more than one area, in more than one thing.

Facts: Which doesn’t seem to bother you.

José Cura: A thorn hurts, causes distress, but Oscar Wilde says it is better to remain a painful memory than none at all.

Facts: How do you want your audience to remember you down the line?

José Cura: Each of us is replaceable. But I would like to be remembered as an honest, sincere human being, as someone who remained true to himself and did not swim with the current.

Facts: Your- as far as the classical music scene is concerned- unconventional way is precisely what entices young people to go to the opera.

José Cura: Indeed, young people often come up to me and tell me that they came to a concert because of me. Naturally, it is nice to have it said about me that I present classical music in a modern way. But I would rather people would see as many artists as at all possible. That’s the only way they can form and cultivate an opinion of their own.

Facts: You also do not dread popular music. You recorded a duet with Sarah Brightman and a CD with South American love songs. Not all friends of things classical approve of this crossover.

José Cura: It is said about the classical (music) audience that it would not go to pop concerts because it considers pop music to be ‘cheap’, superficial. But it has been my experience that elitist thinking is much more widespread in the pop scene than in the classical. One cannot throw all artists into the same pot, i.e. lump them all together, according to the principle that Pop is easy and slightly grungy and that classical artists are arrogant and elitist. There is ‘cheap’ Pop and then there is very high quality Pop, just as there are very, very many second-rate classical artists. Many pop musicians are extremely professional and have profound musical knowledge; others are nine days’ wonders, ‘flashes’ so to speak. Just think of the Spice Girls! Heavens! That was the mother of all booms all over the world. After two years they went bust. The same phenomenon exists in the classical arena also. People get hyped up because they have a pretty voice or a nice appearance-- and after two years, they are gone from the window, from public view. A pretty voice is not enough to make a career; it takes significantly more for that.

Facts: You have been in the business for 25 years. But a tenor cannot sing forever. A conductor, on the other hand, can stand at the lectern until he’s way up in years. Is conducting a kind of pension insurance for you?

José Cura: No. You know, I was conducting to begin with and started singing only later. But it is true, a conductor works as long as he can stand on his feet and hold a baton. In fact, he actually gets better with time- given that he does not suffer prematurely from senile dementia. On the other hand, singing is a lottery. The legendary Franco Corelli, for example, stopped at age 50. Compare that to Alfredo Kraus, who sang until his death. He was 78 at that time.

Facts: How long do you give yourself?

José Cura: I’ll sing at least as long as I have to pay the mortgage on my house—well, that’s about 20 years.

Facts: When you conduct, you have the say over which way the wind is blowing. When you sing, you are guided, i.e. someone else runs the show.  Which do you like better?

José Cura: The dividing line is not as precisely drawn as it appears to the outsider. The conductor has the overall responsibility. But ideally, one makes music together, in partnership, in concert. For example, when the clarinet has a pretty good solo, I’ll go over and ask: What’s your take on this? What’s your feeling about it? Then he’ll play his conceptual version, his take on it for me, and if it is persuasive and convinces me, we’ll follow along. It’s human beings that make music together, and not machines. A competent authority figure (at the helm) knows to share, knows how to involve.

Facts: In other aspects of life, do you also like to set the tone, determine the beat?

José Cura: Naturally, I do like to run things, to take charge. But sometimes that is very tiring. That’s why I so relish working with people who know more than I do, who have more experience. If I have faith in a person, I let him have the scepter ever so readily. I do like to put myself into the hands of great conductors and great directors such as Cesare Lievi, Colin Davis, and Nello Santi.

Facts: What do you think of female conductors?

José Cura: I have a woman as an assistant. She is very good. But a woman should not imitate the gestures of a man; that looks ridiculous, especially if she believes she has to wear tails on top of that. A female conductor has to find her own way, her own style as a woman. Such a woman, i.e. one who stands by what she is and is true to herself on the podium, will make a more effective, lasting impression on her orchestra than many a man.

Facts: Nevertheless, women have a more difficult time in the conducting profession.

José Cura: Unfortunately. However, there are all the time more, and all the time better ones. The Hamburg Opera for one now has a female artistic director. These things change slowly. But it is in fact still a profession that by virtue of tradition remains associated with testosterone.

Facts: Was there a discussion on the classical music scene about equal rights and equal pay?

José Cura: Not really. True stars have about the same fees, no matter whether man or woman. Naturally, voices that are not so common, like for instance tenors, get a little more. Also, if an opera house wants a specific star for a specific production, they’ll pay more. But that does not depend on gender. If there are a hundred good sopranos to choose from, the price is naturally lower than for dramatic sopranos, of which there are only about four worldwide. It’s simply a question of the market place’s supply and demand.

Facts: Does portraying the hero on stage night after night have an impact?

José Cura: Not really. The role is sustained, until the curtain falls; then one goes home. The audience more likely has a tendency to identify one with the character whom one depicts on stage. It’s like with actors. Someone constantly plays a bastard and people come to believe that he is in fact one, when he’s really just an actor who gets paid to play a bastard.

Facts: Like you as Otello?

José Cura: …and Samson and Pagliaccio: self-assured, self-confident, arrogant characters all. In 1997, for example, I sang Pagliaccio, an old, wretched man, who is completely finished, at the end of his rope. That’s why his wife leaves him. She has enough of his cold attitude and has to look for affection elsewhere. It would have been ridiculous had I portrayed an old, ugly guy. I simply don’t look like that. So I interpreted him differently: as an aggressive, violent type. Promptly, I received many letters in which I was asked not to play that Pagliaccio again. The role supposedly had ruined my disposition. A nice, flattering compliment.

Facts: For years, you have been a regular at the Opera House in Zurich. What do you think of the Swiss audience?

José Cura: The relationship between artist and audience is like a love affair. The members of this audience are different from certain others in that they are willing to enter into a long-term relationship. In a loving relationship, one is more inclined to forgive bad days, to understand that, granted, one is not in top form today, but nevertheless has given one’s best.

Facts: That is not the case everywhere?

José Cura: There are countries in which one is not even allowed one weak second.

Facts: How can one tell that an Opera House has an audience that is capable of connecting in such a sympathetic way?

José Cura: One can tell it by the fact that 70-year-old singers are still performing there. Granted, they are no longer as good as they were in their prime, but still above average. Everybody gets older- if you have someone at your side, a partner or as it were the audience, you grow old happily. Is there anything more beautiful than an audience that doesn’t throw you out with a swift kick in the rear because you have turned gray?  But it is on the condition that as an artist you stand by your age and do not pretend to be the dashing young man of years past. You must recognize the moment when the time has come to change roles, to play the father instead of the lover. Then all goes well.

Author: Interview: Ruth Brüderlin/translation by Monica B.

 


 

José Cura defends the honor of tenors in visit to Indiana University

January 15, 2004

Herald Times

"It is certain that they are a race apart, a race that tends to operate reflexively rather than with due process of thought."

So said the late music critic of the New York Times, Harold Schonberg, about tenors, adding that they "are usually short, stout men (except when they are Wagnerian tenors, in which case they are large, stout men) made up predominantly of lungs, rope-sized vocal chords, large frontal sinuses, thick necks, thick heads, tantrums and amour propre."

For the defense comes José Cura. He undoubtedly has good lungs and strong vocal chords. But he's Exhibit A that all tenors are certainly not short (or large and stout, for that matter). Cura cuts quite the heroic figure. And they say he has brains aplenty, which account for his ability to imbue whatever role he sings with appropriate emotional weight and also his recognized capabilities as a conductor and teacher.

Tenor/conductor/musician/teacher Cura visits IU's School of Music in the coming days to share knowledge and advice, first with the public, then with students of voice. He'll offer a lecture/demonstration entitled "Singer and Musician, Antonyms," Sunday evening at 7 in Auer Hall, then spend Monday working with selected students in master class situations.

Cura has made his mark as one of the era's most accomplished tenors, scoring successes in many of the world's leading opera houses. He's recorded widely. You should be able to locate some of his CDs in area record stores. To get a full sense of his persona, you might try to find a Kultur video, "A Passion for Verdi." It stars Cura, along with soprano Daniela Dessi. Cura not only sings but, when not doing so, conducts the London Symphony Orchestra. You'll hear overtures, arias, and duets from Nabucco, Il Corsaro, Ernani, Sicilian Vespers, La forza del destino, Don Carlo, Aida and Otello. He conducts with finesse and vigor. He sings with power and understanding. As a visitor to IU, he might well prove his value, this tenor, and never mind Harold Schonberg.

 

 


 

 

 

Super-Tenor Shines on Bloomington
 

 

22 January 2004

Eric Anderson
Indiana Daily Student

 

The events of José Cura's still-blossoming opera career have already become the stuff of legend:

He learned the role of Ruggero for Puccini's 'La Rondine' while performing in Verdi's 'La Forza del Destino' by attending 'Rondine' staging rehearsals in the basement of the opera house during the second act of 'Forza,' when his character was not present on stage.

In 1999, he made history at the Metropolitan Opera as only the second tenor in the company's history to debut on opening night (the first being the grandest of all tenors, Enrico Caruso, in 1902).

Just a year ago, he further cemented himself into music mythology by first conducting Muscagni's one-act opera 'Cavelleria Rusticana' at the Hamburgische Staatsoper, then mounting the stage after intermission to perform the role of Canio in 'Pagliacci.'

The School of Music had the good fortune to catch this growing titan of the opera world between performances for a special guest lecture and masterclass.

His lecture, "Singer, Musician…Antonyms?", attracted a large and attentive crowd to Auer Concert Hall Sunday night, where Cura spoke for nearly two hours over the beginnings, triumphs and frustrations from his extensive career as a professional musician.

Seated on the edge of the stage, dressed in a black sweater and blue jeans, Cura gazed at the seats directly in front of him.

"Do you know how I feel coming out here to speak, only to find the first two rows empty," he asked in his strong Argentinean accent. "I refuse to start until you all move up and fill in the front rows.

"You," he called to those in the balcony, "come down here, the ticket price is the same!"

Cura began the lecture with an interesting question.

"How does the world regard tenors?" he asked. "Like a piece of shouting meat."

For the next hour and a half, Cura was part autobiographer, part philosopher, his penchant for storytelling never failing to deliver a comic anecdote or pearl of professional wisdom.

"Study, work, bloody your fingers," Cura said. "That's the best luck in the world."

Proclaimed by many to be "a true renaissance man," the tenor certainly does not fall easily into any category.

Though he is now famous for his interpretations of the great tenor roles -- among them Verdi's Otello and Saint-Saëns' Samson, which he is currently performing at the Chicago Lyric Opera -- Cura actually began his musical studies with no aspiration to professional singing.

His first piano teacher rejected him for having, in Cura's own words, "no gift for music," and so he decided instead to study the guitar.

Ernesto Bitetti, a professor of guitar at the School of Music was instrumental in arranging Cura's visit and has been a long-term friend of the Cura family. He said he remembers young José in his pursuit of guitar mastery.

"I've known him since he was 14 ... he was a very talented guitarist," Bitetti said. "Now, of course, he is better at his singing."

In fact, Cura was apparently so taken with the instrument he wrote a letter to the IU School of Music expressing interest in completing a guitar major at the Bloomington campus. (He was, unfortunately, rejected, as the school did not yet have a guitar performance program.)

Cura was soon studying conducting and composition and in 1991, at the insistence of a university choirmaster, departed for Europe to pursue a professional career in voice. The rest, as they say, is history.

For all his worldly experience and artistic expertise, Cura displays a remarkable ease with the students around him.

Tenor Emilio Pons, who was the first to sing in Monday morning's masterclass, was chastised by Cura for spending "half the aria deciding whether you were nervous or not."

Cura encouraged Pons to overcome his nerves by drawing a parallel to performing Verdi's 'Aida.'

"When you open 'Aida,' [it's so difficult] you think 'f-k you, Verdi,'" he said, eliciting laughter from the audience gathered in Sweeney lecture hall.

"People ask me what technique I use [to prepare]…there is only one technique," Cura said. "Balls."

"[Cura] is very comfortable," said tenor Eduardo Gracia, who also sang for him that day. "He transmits calm."

His easy, straightforward and always diligent manner revealed itself again while Cura coached soprano Carelle Flores in interpreting the text of her Puccini aria.

"Have you ever been kissed?" he asked her directly. "Was it a revelation of passion?

"Come on," he said, responding to her embarrassed laughter, "haven't you ever made love? Of course not…you are all nuns here."

It is hard to believe that this man, himself so full of passion, still encounters more than his share of resistance in the music industry.

Toward the end of the 1990s, tired of his played-up image as the sex-symbol of opera, Cura declined to renew his contracts with both his agent and recording label. Now, there are opera houses that find it too politically unsavory to engage him. His CDs are harder to find. And yet, he has found a greater peace as a free agent opera star.

"Now," he said, "I look in the mirror every morning and I am happy. I only go to sing where people want me to sing ... they're not there because they were invited.

"Plus," he added, "I have contracts until 2010, so I can't complain."

And his audience certainly had no complaints either.

"Spectacular" was the word of choice for Marianne Kielian-Gilbert, a theory professor.

"You never see this [kind of event]," she said. "This is right where it should be happening."

Cura concluded Monday's class by performing his final scene from Verdi's 'Otello' -- a scene that has garnered him both praise and criticism for his exceptionally theatrical interpretation.

Cura has brought an extensive amount of research and analysis to the role, not to mention a deep dramatic commitment -- and all were evident to the audience as he played out the suicide of Otello with such abandon as to suggest he had mistaken Sweeney Hall for the Teatro alla Scala.

Having heaved Otello's final breath, Cura looked up from the floor where he knelt, breathless from his exertion, and whispered: "If I continue singing for 20 years, it will be like this."

His audience, myself included, certainly hopes so.

 


 

  

José Cura offers master class worth cheering about

 

25 January 2004

Peter Jacobi

Herald Times

 

 

 


World-class tenor José Cura made a Sunday-Monday stop in Bloomington this past week and proved that, despite opinions some in the realm of music cling to, a tenor is not "a piece of shouting meat" and that Maria Callas was generalizing when she referred to that category of singers as "beasts."

Quite the contrary, the seemingly genial, relaxed Cura, dressed for both a lecture and master class in jeans and loose-hanging collarless top, made quite an impression as a generous and sagacious gentleman, both ready to and capable of giving very good advice.

He was here thanks to Ernesto Bitetti, the head of guitar studies in the IU School of Music, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. To explain: Bitetti has been a long-time family friend, one who, when the tenor was a boy in his native Argentina encouraged him to take up music. The Lyric Opera is Cura's current artistic home; he's appearing there in Samson et Dalila as the hero with the long hair who falls for the wiles of the scheming woman who shares the opera's title.

Bitetti suggested that as long as he was in the area, why not drop down to Bloomington and give the voice students some sage counsel. Cura agreed, his interest fed also by the fact that more than 20 years ago, when he yearned to become a guitarist, he wrote to the music school seeking admission, only to be told that no degree in guitar performance was available, only a few courses. Cura turned to other avenues and other places.

On Sunday evening in Auer Hall, he spoke about those other avenues and places. The guitar, though he loved it deeply and still does, was not to be his musical specialty. He discovered that he simply wasn't good enough. Instead, he turned to choral conducting and to composition and, finally, to singing. "There were disappointments along the way," he said. "When I was seven, my father sent me to a piano teacher. 'No gift,' the teacher told him. I decided on rugby and built my muscles. A friend told me to play the guitar to be more successful with the girls."

And so went visitor Cura's account, through twisting roads of study and shifting career goals (although determination to make music his life never faltered), through marriage and children and financial crises. "I didn't want to be a singer, really. Now conducting, ah! But the best advice came from a teacher who said, 'You have to study singing. It's the only way you'll become a conductor.' And so I did. And look what happened. But if someone comes to me to offer a job as conductor, I'll quit singing."

Cura's audience was bulging with voice students. "What's in your heart?" he urged them to ask themselves. "How do you see yourself in 10 years? This business is a jungle. You have to have a goal." He admitted to luck being a factor to have his level of success. "The train passes once, maybe twice, and you must be ready to catch it or be left in the desert. But it's mostly study and work."

Cura's lecture was extemporaneous, definitely low-keyed. His Monday master class in Sweeney Hall was charged with electricity and was, for the three young singers who performed for him and for those who came to listen and learn, a concentrated lesson on matters of interpretation, vocal control and performance practice. Here he proved the master.

For two hours, he listened and he taught. He advised. He demonstrated. He amazed.

The hours were rich with words worth remembering:

·  "You cannot be a musician in less than 10 years. And then, 10 years more. Twenty years. Think of that. Who is willing to do that today? Nowadays, we push buttons to get quick solutions. You ask, why a dearth of voices? That's why."

·  "You've broken the ice," he told the morning's first singer. "That's one of the hardest things to do. With your voice and courage, you'll go far. ... Now, sing the aria again. You spent half of it trying to decide whether to be nervous or not."

·  "Put your hands in your pocket. Act with your voice. Overuse your hands, and when the time comes for hands, no impact is left. Simplify your action."

·  "Work in front of a mirror. Don't let your face show the tremendous struggle inside. That makes the viewer uncomfortable."

·  "Don't ever let a pianist or conductor push you. Take time to breathe, then move ahead. And don't leave a note until you get from that note the best sound possible."

·  "I can see you're nervous. You'll hurt your voice if you try the next note," he told a soprano, attempting for the minutes that followed to calm her down. She did.

·  "Sing for you. A natural on stage never acts for the audience. You portray a character. Show that you're a mature woman falling for a younger man. Sing to my eyes."

·  "You're very angry," Cura reminded a tenor after completing a recitative to a Verdi aria. "Convince me of that without overacting."

·  "Create the feel of something happening, that what you're singing is immediate, not planned."

·  "Verdi was the genius. We are not. Our job is to be expressive of what he wrote."

To prove that last point, Cura devoted the final 30 minutes of his session to explaining, then singing the death scene from Verdi's Otello. He spoke of learning how to die on stage without being ridiculous. "Sometimes," he said, "you die for a whole act. There's an edge between what's interesting and believable and what is ridiculous. A thin edge." He said he consulted a doctor, "If I stabbed myself, would I die immediately? Would I bleed? Would I suffer? If you stab yourself in the stomach, it takes ages to die. When you remove your knife, you really die. You see, it's up to us to find out how Violetta or Mimi dies, how Riccardo dies for 20 minutes in A Masked Ball. The baritone has to stab him the right way. And Otello does. He's a man of weapons, and he knows."  

Cura discussed motivations that resulted in Otello's easy fall to Iago's duplicity, the self-loathing, he said, of a Muslim who has led Christian forces to defeat his own people, a mercenary who feels undeserving of Desdemona. "My Otello is not heroic," Cura explained. "He is a betrayer and hypocritical. He sees that in those around him. Under that psychological pressure, even a handkerchief can have power. Alone, by himself, Otello is too cowardly to destroy himself. He waits for someone else to do it for him. At the end, he decides to be a Muslim again. He can kill his wife. Because he loves her, he suffocates her with a kiss and hands. He then realizes what he has done and kills himself as a supreme act of cowardice," choosing not to face death from others who might want to punish him.

Using a prone woman student as the dead Desdemona, Cura proceeded to act out and sing that death scene with such passion and persuasiveness that this listener came to tears and the audience gave him an extended and cheer-filled ovation.

José Cura had left advice and a strong impression. Outstanding tenor, yes, but outstanding musician, too. He had titled his lecture, "Singer and Musician, Antonyms?" In his case, synonyms.

 


 

 

THE TENOR WITH THE BATON

(translated by Monica)

 

Article - Jose Cura / Parma Oct 10 2004To his Mom he ought to say thank you not only for the head of “wild” hair, but also for the brain that’s inside: a brain well nourished and powerfully energetic, the synaptic connectors highly trained. Of course, José Cura is a man of extraordinary intelligence, an obvious gift, too evident to take a backseat to the success of his voice or to hide behind a physicality made for the stage. Cura has the quick mind of a Ulysses-like musician; he flies high but keeps an eye on reality with the readiness of a gull. He passes over (a target), spots it, descends in a nose dive and strikes. He is experienced at life and certainly shrewd, but also “true, genuine”—that is to say, not without anxiety—in confronting new things that attract him. It’s impossible to settle him down with a “That doesn’t interest me”. Cura has charisma: he nails you to attention.

 

As has been anticipated for a long time, the Argentine tenor will take part this evening (10/10/2004) in the second edition of the “Happy Birthday, Maestro Verdi” gala with which the Teatro Regio of Parma celebrates the genius from Busseto on the occasion of his 191st birthday. After having turned down the renewal of his contract as the Sinfonia Varsovia’s “principal guest conductor”, José Cura is just back from a celebrated tour in Hungary, where he conducted the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Zoltan Kocsis. Months earlier, at the PiacenzaExpo, he had conducted “Un ballo in maschera” in an innovative production of the Toscanini Foundation directed by Pier Luigi Pizzi. After several concerts and CD of symphonic music, it had been Cura’s debut conducting an opera [full length]. It still does make sense to say that José Cura is a tenor who ventures into conducting --or can we take his professionalism at conducting to be acquired? You may think about this as you wish. However when one reads the response of the one involved, he maintains “I was born to conduct. I started to sing 13 years ago; I’ve been conducting for 26. Does it surprise people that I would pick up the baton? Well, then it ought to sink in that mine has been above all the education, training and career of a conductor; later on, I got into singing. Anyhow, this is not really a problem: I have proven myself, have passed the test with prestigious orchestras, and whereas someone might question my quality as tenor, I hope that at least there aren’t any doubts about my being an “artist!”. He laughs in the meantime: José Cura is undoubtedly an artist in deed. Among the few with a capital “A”! In spite of the most commonplace, the banal with capital “B”.

 

This tenor, who has drawn crowds throughout the world, has never sung an opera at Parma’s Teatro Regio, but he might really like it, perhaps even repeat the success of the splendid concert with which he made his debut, alongside Bruson at the city’s temple to melodrama. Waiting to meet him in Piacenza, where in May he was the protagonist in ‘Pagliacci’ and later conducted Puccini’s ‘Messa in gloria’ and Rossini’s ‘Stabat Mater’, I saw this announcement in the preview: José Cura is about to make his debut as director. “That’s actually a plan–as he himself refers to it- connected to an important anniversary in a foreign theater.” In the program ‘Don Carlo’, ‘Trittico’, and ‘Madame Butterfly’ appear with the subscript/credit of conductor of all the operas and director of the last two.”  In the meantime, José Cura has been appointed artistic director of the “Coliseo de las Tres Culturas”, about to be built in Madrid, a huge facility with three theatres, orchestras, ballet companies, conservatory, concert halls, plus production and recording studios. The opening is set for 2007. This calls for courage.

 


 

To Give Wings to the Universe

 By Andreas Láng / Translated by Monica B

 November 2004

 

 

“Comic roles would really be interesting and add variety. Sadly, there is nothing like that for me in my specialized area!” Nevertheless, José Cura is far removed from having to complain about one-sidedly limited offerings as far as roles are concerned. His obviously insatiable curiosity, to slip into as many different personality types as possible, is being satisfied by ever so many opera house directors—to the delight of audiences. At the Vienna State Opera alone, the Argentinean tenor can be heard within the span of a few weeks in three separate, totally different works: as Canio, consumed by jealousy, in the Verismo classic “Pagliacci”; as Andrea Chénier, romantic revolutionary, in Giordano’s opera by the same name; and--for the first time ever in Vienna—as Stiffelio, fanatical preacher and leader of a sect, in Verdi’s rather unknown “Stiffelio”. He portrayed the latter just a few weeks ago in Zurich for the first time and in doing so made a definite contribution to saving the honor of this so unjustly neglected piece. “I surprised many a one who had expected a heroic Cura. But this guy, Stiffelio, is no hero; rather, he is a charismatic fundamentalist with hypocritical tendencies. Basically a strange mixture of Calvin and Rasputin—and that’s how I want to portray him here in Vienna also.”

 

That he–on principle-does not blindly take up and follow the going (traditions in) interpretation in the creation (the shaping, fleshing out) of a role is something Cura gave proof of a year ago in his Vienna role debut as Andrea Chénier. The character his audience got to see and hear there was less of a revolutionary fighter and more of a sensitive romantic; someone, who seeks to change the world through his heroic poetry, i.e. his art, and who in so doing gets between political camps. “Andrea Chénier is not a brutal anarchist or revolutionary; he is an entirely different person from, for example, Samson in “Samson and Dalila”. He (Samson) is comparable to a suicide bomber or a kamikaze assassin, a terrorist, who takes others into the abyss along with himself over an idea. Andrea Chénier fights for his ideals on a much nobler level, and because of that he- naïve as he is-is much more deserving of love.”

 

And how does a practicing artist keep up his idealism today? In José Cura’s view most of all through the preservation of a very special capacity, which is primarily peculiar to children: the readiness to identify with the person who is being portrayed at the moment. “When children stick a feather in their hair, their imagination tells them they are Indians. With a hood comes the metamorphosis into Batman. A singer must be able to do the very same thing the moment he steps out onto the stage; he must be able to be another person. I paint my face black, for example, and I am Otello—with every fiber (of my being). But that’s exactly what’s so much fun. If you loose the child-like heart and with it the love for play and make belief, it won’t be long before you’ll run into difficulties as an artist.” To be sure, the heart of child can only be the basis on which the professionalism of a singer rests, a professionalism, which-according to Cura-is much more difficult to achieve than for someone (involved) in spoken theater.  Due to the fact that opera as art form speaks to the audience in a much more complex way than does mere drama/play, the demands on the ‘actorsinger’ are correspondingly high. “Since a much stronger focusing on emotions is possible in opera, they can be communicated much more easily. Yet, in spite of that, we’re dealing with Music Theater, which means that it calls for a credible performance equally in singing and acting. Very often, opera performances come close to that critical point at which they are in danger of tilting into the ridiculous. The one who has a beautiful voice and can sing well but comes across on stage as unbelievable does not fulfill the challenge put in front of him. Whoever acts well but sings poorly doesn’t do so any more; that goes without saying.”

 

José Cura’s versatility is, however, by no means limited to the depiction of distinctly different characters, but-as is well known-affects his entire range of activities as an artist. In numerous musical centers-including Vienna-the tenor is also known as a conductor whose repertoire extends beyond opera to include the realm of the symphonic. This double function makes quite incidentally a constant ‘self-fertilization’ possible, a give and take between conductor Cura and singer Cura. “As conductor, I try to approach matters with a feeling for drama, for the emotions of a singer. On the other hand, when I sing, I want to transfer the same discipline, clarity and attention to structure which I need at the rostrum. Because of this, I-and of course the audience (by extension)- benefit tremendously in both areas.”

 

As if that were not enough, there is the possibility of an additional proposition knocking on his door. In the not so distant future, he can perhaps draw up performance schedules for the season, i.e. select works himself. Not everywhere is the knife put to the throat of artistic endeavors placed quite the way it is in Germany, where countless theaters and orchestras have to fear for their existence and survival. In Madrid, for example, a new “Coliseum of Liberal Arts’ is going up, whose artistic and musical director could be someone by the name of José Cura. “At this time, we are in contract negotiations. For the present moment, everything is open, unsolved. A no can come of it as well as a yes.”

 

He is even successful in a sector, which is clearly experiencing strong headwind worldwide. Meanwhile, the catalog for his new CD label CVP, short for Cuibar Phono Video, sports three titles. Besides Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony and Dvorak’s 9th, opera arias as well as art songs can be found here. The name of both the conductor and the tenor is naturally José Cura. CPV certainly doesn’t appear to be aware of the worldwide collapse of CD sales. “We are an independent label and therefore can produce what we want; what’s more, we can do that with very low expenditures. Even though we don’t sell everywhere, we have-by virtue of this exclusivity-very good sales. We are like a small private movie theater with its own regular audience. I hope we continue to be as successful in the future.”

 

He finds the time constraints due to so many activities somewhat regrettable since in addition to the conductor (the re-creator) and the singer (the interpreter) there is also the composer (the creator) Cura. With his own compositions can be found, among other things, a Requiem, which he had already brought out in 1982 in memory of the victims of the Falklands War. Even if two decades have passed since then and this war has long since become history, the topic is more timely today than ever before and has persuaded Cura to pick up the piece again and to come up with a revised version. Because to him, music and art in general have a twofold mission and cannot serve merely as superficial entertainment. They must bring about a catharsis and thus a cleansing, a revitalization of the emotions for the individual. And secondly, as a living conscience, they must be able to provide answers, serve as a guide, pointing the way. It is therefore no coincidence that a quote by Plato is displayed on José Cura’s website, according to which music is moral law which gives a soul to the universe and wings to the spirit.

 

 

 

Two Recitals by Cura

The tenor is also conductor

   Gazzetta di Parma

25 May 2003

  

Verdi, his land, his music. And José Cura. This promises dreams come true. So how can you not buy a ticket?

Recitals by José Cura, tonight and next Tuesday, at the Teatro Verdi in Busseto (8:30pm). The famous Argentinean tenor will interpret eight arias from Trovatore, Ernani, Corsaro, Luisa Miller, Simon Boccanegra, Un ballo in maschera, Macbeth, La forza del destino, and will mount the podium of the Orchestra Toscanini to conduct symphonies and preludes that will open the doors to the beautiful world of the “Bear” (Verdi’s definition of himself). We will see performances of the symphonies of Nabucco and I Vespri Siciliani, Alzira and Luisa Miller; also the wonderful overture to La forza del destino; and the preludes from Il ballo in maschera, I masnadieri, Macbeth.

José Cura – conductor? Nothing new on the international front. Since 2001 this versatile artist has in fact been principal guest conductor of Sinfonia Varsovia, a title inherited directly from the late Lord Yehudi Menuhin; very recently the same appointment has been conferred on him by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bulgaria. Singer and baton: a Cura divided into two parts? No, a José regained. This is what the tenor said when asked Friday by the press at Palazzo Marchi, the new home of the Foundation Toscanini, about the origins of his strong wish to conduct. 

        

“I started in music as a conductor,” explains Cura, “ and it was only much later, more than 15 years later in fact, that I launched my professional singing career. With the Sinfonia Varsovia I have already done symphonic concerts, among them Rachmaninov’s Second Sympphony, Beethoven’s Ninth, and Pini di Roma by Respighi. With the very same orchestra I have also recorded Aurora and Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony; and I have just finished work on a  live recording of Beethoven’s Ninth. With the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bulgaria, on the other hand, I will concentrate on Tchiakovsky in particular. In Budapest, I will perform Liszt’s Messa Solenne, and maybe this piece, which is very rarely performed, will be recorded live and available on CD.”

 

But José Cura’s projects certainly do not stop there; he always strives to achieve both an alternation and symbiosis of opera and conducting, as was apparent in his triumphant concert at Vienna’s Konzerthaus [last November], where the tenor interpreted some arias from his latest album and then conducted Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. In Busseto, although a purely Verdian program, the audience will witness something similar: Cura singing, Cura conducting, and Cura speaking, or rather, reciting the monologue of Don Alvaro, taken from the original play by Angel Perez de Saavedra, Don Alvaro o la fuerza del sino.

 

Everything, and always more: this is also where Cura’s appeal lies, and he would still reject – we are sure – potential complaints, innocent and ignorant as they may be, about the mere idea of excessive energy, even when crowned by success. Because in reality we find ourselves face to face with a man who affirms, “In my life I have never been unprepared and lacking: I have always acted, knowing that I have the means to confront what I want. I am a singer and conductor who, before stepping on the rostrum, studied the flute, the violin and the piano, in order to get a real idea and precise knowledge of the rapport between individual instruments in the orchestra and orchestral complexity. 

 

'Directing, for example, also appeals to me, and I have received numerous proposals in that respect. I gained experience in that field as a very young man in Argentina. However, I will restrain myself for the time being, it’s not the right moment for me to get involved in this, because I want to be prepared in various ways, I would like to know very well the new technology in computerized lighting, and I would never want to present myself in the theater – as is the case with certain directors – being the patron of one single cause, one single technique, one single idea among the many that make a true professional.”

 

This tenor, who is Otello, Samson, Canio (an enormous number of people around the world identify him with these roles), we come to realize, is above all José Cura. Knowledge or instinct? Art or cleverness? In opera, truth is theater. And life is a mystery. José Cura, in a high-wire performer’s manner, continues his tightrope walk.

 


A Musician Sings at the Festival of the Arena

L'Arena

Gianni Villani


 
Tonight marks the third performance of Puccini's Turandot. The Argentinean tenor, who has an Italian grandmother, does not behave like a star. Only ten years ago, he was a mere "cover" in Don Carlo; today he is one of the most acclaimed singers in the world. "The cost of fame is high: you are always in the viewfinder of others, always on the presentation plate."

Jose Cura: "I always wanted to be a conductor and composer."

Jose Cura does not have the demeanor of a star even though he would have more than enough reason to, given the great successes he has achieved in the international arena. Instead, he seems more thoughtful and levelheaded as he reflects on those days even as he admits (in leaving) that the somewhat tumultuous preparations for 'Turandot' have not let him sleep a lot. "I am not talking about the musical rehearsals", maintains the famous Argentinean tenor, "in those, there is always a solution. I am talking about those sets where we would work on stage eagerly and cheerfully- with hundreds of people. We all survived, stage hands and extras included, in this race against time, working often until three in the morning."

Cura takes a deep breath as if he had cleared major hurdles, and right away we are pursuing the subject of his tumultuous, eventful career: barely ten years ago, he was a simple "cover" at the Arena in Don Carlo; today he is one of the world's most celebrated tenors.

How did this come about?

"My career is not dependent on entrusting myself blindly to one person, a promoter,a manager as the case may be, but rather on making the right "brain waves", the correct decisions. There have been three or four turning points along my artistic pathway. The first was the stage debut in Henze's Pollicino at Verona's Teatro Nuovo. I would compare that experience to meeting the first great love of your life. I'll never forget it, my first professional job after I had left Argentina. I would so like to see the children again who performed with me back then. Who knows how big they have grown, and whether they will perhaps read this interview. The rest is history and well documented at that. Then I opened in the up-to-then unpublished version of The Makropoulos Case by Janacek, and while I was singing Forza del destino at Covent Garden in '95, I was offered the third version of Puccini's La Rondine in the absolutely first performance ever- with TV coverage. Finally, I took part in the famous Otello, the one directed by Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic at Turin's Teatro Regio-that one also taped for TV. It constituted, at age 34, the final step which definitively launched my career."

Why this difficult role of Calaf?

"Turandot is an opera which opens absolutely new horizons for every aspect of the voice. It is a score with incredible possibilities, of an impressive, unheard-of, unprecedented orchestral richness. There is modernity to the composing which leaves you with your mouth wide open, gasping. There is so much to dig up, to unearth here; it is never going to be finished. Puccini is supposed to have put it this way: "Boys, if you haven't figured out yet who I really am, then listen to this." The much discussed (part of) Otello appears more difficult because it has dark colors, requires a strong voice but is altogether of a more psychological coloring than anything else. It does not require the big volume of a Calaf. Turandot was a last-minute choice. A period set aside for concerts in my country became available because of the difficult economic situation there. That's when I examined the offer from Verona, which was however only in regard to Carmen and La Traviata. It has taken a year to convince me to do Calaf. I am enjoying myself tremendously, and I would not have thought that because things appeared to have more to do with the first five years of my career. Besides, it is a role without great psychological complications. One sings the role of Calaf because the music is magnificent, because it is beautiful, because it gives real pleasure to sing it."

Jose Cura: a Spanish grandfather and an Italian grandmother who went to Argentina to seek their fortunes as was customary 100 years ago. They passed so much passion on to their grandson Jose- also for music.

You have always been interested in orchestral conducting. How come?

"I became a musician in order to be a conductor and composer, after having studied 5/6 instruments. I debuted in '78 at age 15, something I had told my father about just a few minutes before the event. Only after another 15 years did I take the first steps as a professional singer. One cannot draw any comparisons with other famous colleagues, as for example Domingo, even if they have taken up the baton also. I have always been conducting symphonic music, rarely opera."

What is the price of fame?

"The price is enormously high. One always has to pay the bill, just as one always has to suffer the consequences. Every last minute you are under investigation. Ah! Now he has taken up conducting. Has his voice given out? Let's see what in the whole wide world he is doing now, but let's watch and wait for this and that. That's all part of the game. You have to get used to that; you have to be tough; you have to have a strong stomach to make your own way. Right now, my first CD of symphonic music is being released in Italy as well as a recital disc of Italian music, titled 'Aurora', which is dedicated to my country. I am a musician who has been working hard and seriously for 25 years."

After the initial Italian successes, Jose Cura had the great opportunity to be able to debut in the United States, at Chicago as Loris in Fedora, at Los Angeles and San Francisco as Pollione in Norma and Don Jose in Carmen. Great success followed in Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini. In May of '96, Jose Cura made his London debut with a memorable Tosca and in a documentary (accompanied by Leontina Vaduva and Julia Migenes), which was distributed by BBC and took another look at Puccini. Finally, in December of '97, there was the grand debut at the Scala in Ponchielli's La Gioconda and the following year Manon Lescaut opposite Guleghina and under the direction of Riccardo Muti, an opera which became a prestigious, widely circulated CD.

   

EIN MUSIKER SINGT BEIM FESTIVAL DER ARENA

Heute abend findet die 3. Aufführung von Puccinis 'Turandot' statt. Der argentinische Tenor mit der italienischen Grossmutter zeigt keinerlei Starallüren. Vor zehn Jahren noch war er eine einfache "Zweitbesetzung" in 'Don Carlo'; heute ist er einer der meistumjubelten Sänger der Welt. "Der Ruhm hat einen hohen Preis; man wird immer von anderen beobachtet."    


José Cura: "Ich wollte immer Dirigent und Komponist sein."

Er hat keine Starallüren an sich obwohl er mehr als genug Grund dazu hätte nach seinen grossen Erfolgen in der internationalen Arena. Statt dessen erscheint er bedachter und nachdenklicher über die zurückliegende Zeit. Nichtsdestoweniger gibt er (im Gehen) zu, dass die ein wenig tumultösen Vorbereitungen für 'Turandot' ihn oft nicht schlafen liessen. "Ich spreche nicht von den musikalischen Proben"- sagt der berühmte argentinische Tenor- "dafür gibt es immer eine Lösung. Ich spreche von den Szenen und Bühnenbildern, wo wir mit Hunderten von Leuten rege auf der Bühne anpackten. Wir haben alle kaum überlebt, Bühnenarbeiter und Statisten miteingeschlossen, in einem Endspurt gegen die Zeit und machten oft bis drei Uhr morgens durch."

Cura atmet tief durch als ob er Hindernisse übersprungen hätte und gleich sind wir beim Thema seiner tumultösen Karriere- vor zehn Jahren noch war er eine einfache "Zweitbesetzung" in 'Don Carlo', doch heutzutage ist er einer der weltweit gefeierten Tenöre.

Wie ist das geschehen?

"Meine Karriere ist nicht blind abhängig von einer Person, sagen wir einem Manager oder Promoter, vielmehr von den richtigen Entscheidungen, den richtigen Denkvorgängen im eigenen Kopf. Es hat drei oder vier Stationen in meiner Künstlerlaufbahn gegeben. Die erste war das Bühnendebüt in Henzes 'Pollicino' im Teatro Nuovo von Verona. Das war so wie wenn man seiner ersten grossen Liebe begegnet. Ich werde es nie vergessen- meine erste berufsmässige Arbeit, nachdem ich Argentinien verlassen hatte. Ich würde so gerne die Kinder wiedersehen, die damals mit mir an den Vorstellungen beteiligt waren. Wer weiss, wie sie gross geworden sind und ob sie wohl dieses Interview lesen werden. Der Rest ist bekannte Geschichte. Dann begann ich mit dem bislang unveröffentlichten Werk von Janacek 'Der Fall Macropulos' und während ich 'Forza del destino' 1995 im Covent Garden sang, bot man mir die 3. Version von Puccinis 'La Rondine' als Uraufführung an- mit Fernsehübertragung. Letztlich nahm ich an dem 'Otello' teil, der im Teatro Regio in Turin von Abbado geleitet wurde mit den Berliner Symphonikern- ebenfalls im Fernsehen übertragen. Das war für mich im Alter von 34 Jahren der letzte Schritt, durch den mir der definitive Sprung in meine Karriere gelang."

Warum diese schwierige Rolle als Calaf?

"'Turandot' ist eine Oper, die absolut neue Horizonte für die Stimme (im weitesten Sinne des Wortes) öffnet, die eine Partitur mit unglaublichen Möglichkeiten aufweist, und die eine beeindruckende, unglaubliche Fülle, eine Ergiebigkeit bietet wie sie noch nie dagewesen ist. Die Moderne der Komposition lässt einem den Mund offen stehen. Da gibt es so viel herauszuarbeiten, man ist nie damit fertig. Puccini soll sich so ausgedrückt haben: "Jungs, wenn ihr immer noch nicht begriffen habt wer ich bin, dann hört dem jetzt zu." Der viel diskutierte 'Otello' erscheint schwieriger, weil er dunkle "Farben" hat, eine starke Stimme erfordert, aber insgesamt viel mehr psychologische Färbung hat als irgendetwas anderes. Er verlang nicht das grosse Volumen eines Calaf. Dieses 'Turandot' Ding ist eine Wahl in letzter Minute gewesen. Eine Reihe von Konzertterminen in meinem Heimatland kam frei durch die schwierige wirtschaftliche Lage da und ich fasste das Angebot von Verona ins Auge, das sich jedoch nur auf 'Carmen' und 'La Traviata' bezog. Es hat ein ganzes Jahr gebraucht mich zum Calaf zu überreden. Es macht mir viel Vergnügen, was ich nie geglaubt hätte, weil da Dinge zum Vorschein kamen, die mehr mit den ersten fünf Jahren meiner Karriere in Zusammenhang standen. Ausserdem ist es eine Partie ohne grosse psychologische Komplikationen. Man singt sie, weil die Musik grossartig und herrlich ist, weil sie eindrucksvoll ist, weil sie einem Freude am Singen bereitet."

José Cura hat einen spanischen Grossvater und eine italienische Grossmutter, die nach Argentinien auswanderten um dort ihr Glück zu suchen- wie es vor 100 Jahren oft der Fall war. Sie vererbten dem Enkel José viele Neigungen und Vorlieben, darunter auch eine Leidenschaft für Musik.

Sie sind schon immer am Dirigieren von Orchestern interessiert. Wie kommt das?

"Ich wurde Musiker um Dirigent und Komponist zu sein, nachdem ich 5/6 Instrumente eingehend studiert hatte. Ich gab mein Debüt in '78 im Alter von 15 Jahren, was ich meinem Vater erst unmittelbar davor erzählt habe. Erst 15 Jahre danach habe ich die ersten Schritte als professioneller Sänger unternommen. Man kann keine Vergleiche anstellen mit anderen berühmten Kollegen wie zum Beispiel Domingo, auch wenn sie selbst den Dirigentenstab in die Hand genommen haben. Ich habe schon immer symphonische Musik dirigiert, aber nur selten Opern.

Der Ruhm- was kostet der? Hat der einen Preis?

"Der Preis ist enorm hoch. Man muss halt immer die Zeche bezahlen. Jeden Augenblick steht man im Blickfeld. Ah! Jetzt hat er sich ans Dirigieren begeben. Hat er keine Stimme mehr? Schaun wir mal, was er jetzt macht, aber warten wir noch dies und jenes ab. Das ist ein Teil des Spiels. Daran muss man sich gewöhnen und einen kräftigen Magen haben um seinen eigenen Weg zu gehen- das muss man wirklich verkraften können. Jetzt kommt in Italien meine erste CD mit symphonischer Musik heraus sowie eine meinem Heimatland gewittmete Sammlung italienischer Arien unter dem Titel "Aurora". Ich bin ein Musiker, der seit 25 Jahren hart und ernsthaft arbeitet."

Nach den ursprünglichen italienischen Erfolgen ergriff José Cura die Gelegenheit, sein Debüt an den grossen Bühnen der USA zu geben: in Chicago als Loris in 'Fedora', in Los Angeles und San Francisco als Pollione in 'Norma' und Don José in 'Carmen'. Darauf folgte eine Glanzleistung in Buenos Aires in Zandonais 'Francesca da Rimini'.  José Cura trat im Mai 96 zum ersten Mal in London auf in einer denkwürdigen 'Tosca' und in einem BBC Dokumentarfilm über Puccini, begleitet von den Sopranistinnen Leontina Vaduva und Julia Migenes. Schliesslich debütierte er im Dezember 97 an der Scala in Ponchiellis 'La Gioconda'. Im Jahr danach folgte 'Manon Lescaut' an der Seite von Guleghina unter der Leitung von Riccardo Muti, was mit einer anerkannten und weitverbreiteten CD gewürdigt wurde.

Gianni Villani/ übersetzt von Monica B.

 


ANTICIPATION

Two CDs Reviewed By the Person Who Created Them

Paolo Patrizi

 

If it is true, as Berlioz has stated, that a conductor is the most dangerous of musical performers--after all, a singer can ruin his part but a conductor can ruin everything--then José Cura is really reckless.  His latest CD finds him engaged in the double role of tenor and conductor (in the same pieces), running the risk of doing as much damage to himself as to everyone else.  Cura smiles as he listens to Berlioz' quip but takes offense at the critics' deploring the alleged artificiality of the undertaking (first the instrumental recording is done, then the vocal, in which the singer synchronizes his singing with the orchestra by listening through a head set). Cura has recorded this particular CD--a recital disc entitled 'Aurora' and published under the Cuibar/Avie label--singing and conducting simultaneously, without particularly hard work but rather with a lot of concentration. At the point of his assJC speaks about his first releases from Cuibarertion--on being asked whether the tenor, the conductor or the producer was the prima donna today- that the critics themselves are the real prima donnas, one becomes aware of a definite resentment toward the confrontations of the critics right in the middle of an otherwise very relaxed conversation.

"First of all, the title is 'Aurora'. It is an opera by Ettore Panizza, the great Argentinean conductor of Italian origin [like Cura, editor's note], who is also a composer of definite weight and worth. In 1907, he composed an opera for Buenos Aires' (Teatro) Colón Italian, which was in those days the official language of operatic theaters everywhere. The Spanish translation came later. It is a patriotic opera. The piece that I have recorded, the "Canzone alla Bandiera' (Song of the Flag), is very popular in Argentina, almost a national anthem... not a very original piece of music, in the veristic style, but nonetheless rich, with a few surprising moments.

That's the first selection; now let me tell you a little about the rest: from Norma to Siberia. I must say, I feel the aria of Pollione is one of those that has turned out best here.  I have sung the role on stage only once because it doesn't offer great starting points. Generally speaking: in a recital, the singer must decide whether he favors singing the notes as written or being an interpreter. I have always preferred the second hypothesis. What's more, one must obviously arrive at a compromise between technique and spontaneity, between the exact reading of the music and the ability to communicate it. If I had to give a mark from one to ten to the ingredients that the artist has to mix and blend into his singing, well then, I say:" Breath: 10. Legato: 10. Diction/Delivery: 11!" But that doesn't only go for the recital. I also pay attention to aspects of interpretation when I select the roles for the stage. As a matter of fact, this return of mine to Italy (then, unfortunately, no Italy for the entire year 2004) began with 'Otello' in Florence and continued with the challenge of dealing with the very different characters of Calaf, Don José and Alfredo at Verona in a short span of time. Calaf was a debut, Don José an old acquaintance, but I still have not figured out whether a role that is tackled several times gets easier or more complicated with each turn. Having arrived at the 10th performance (of 'Carmen'), everything appears less difficult. At the 30th, we'll put everything up for discussion again so we don't get out of our routine. And then, we singers might just be like fruit: ripeness signals the start of the rotting process, of deterioration. The maturity of the artist hardly ever coincides with his best form. When you feel that you have finally come to understand a character, so many years have already passed that a beginning of the decline is imminent.

And on the subject of difficult characters: in September, I will debut as John the Baptist in Massenet's Hérodiade at Vienna, which is one of the problematic roles defying the traditional 'tenor' categorization--as it happens, my preference. I personally don't feel like a tenor, not in the traditional, anthropological sense of the word. I would like very much to be able to sing certain baritone roles, negative and twisted 'bad guy' roles! Sure, the tenor is more 'stellar' than the baritone, but one ought to be mindful not to forget the past. At one time, the baritone was the 'support beam' of the show, carrying the weight of it. Today, he is a component part that must interact with all the others, and it's rightly so. New recording commitments? Those most imminent refer to conducting. I have recorded Rachmaninov's 'Second Symphony' for Avie, still with the same orchestra as 'Aurora' (i.e. the Sinfonia Varsovia, of which I am principal guest conductor). Presently, there are other projects in the works. I chose the 'Second' because it was a symphony that neither I nor the orchestra had ever done; I wanted to have every last one of us come to the score, to this first common undertaking, fresh and new. It appears to me that the result is a Rachmaninov that is less persuasive and more energetic, more 'slavic': I respect how one feels, as a rule. No, conducting is not a phase. I have come to music studying conducting: I started to conduct at the age of 15; I became a tenor at the age of 30... When certain critics write that I don't know how to sing, it is perhaps because my career actually should have been that of a conductor. I have discovered that singing has become a passion, but initially it was a way to 'crack the market place', a way to a breakthrough in the music business. Let me tell it to you in no uncertain terms: to be a dramatic tenor is a real step up in the world, commercially speaking."

 


 

Artist of the Month:  José Cura

 

RECORDGEIJUTSU 

Vol.52   NO.651   

Apr 2003

N-Matsuoka

 

 

José Cura visited Japan in January this year [2003] to sing the title role in the Teater Wielki (Warsaw, Poland) production of Verdi’s opera ‘Otello,’ and he won vigorous applause. On one hand, Cura is probably one of the best known singer of the post Three-Tenor generation; on the other hand, readers are probably surprised to learn that he is the principle guest conductor of the Sinfonia Varsovia and that the Rachmaninov Symphony No.2 he recorded with his own production company (Cuibar) and released through AVIE was the specially selected disc in our February issue.  This interview took place during the interval of the Otello performance on January 14 and focuses primarily on José Cura as a conductor.

 

NM--Would you tell us about the start of your professional relationship with Sinfonia Varsovia?

 

José Cura---I visited Warsaw in 2000 for a concert to promote a new CD.  I had the opportunity to perform with Sinfonia Varsovia. From the first encounter, it felt very good, very natural. Then the orchestra asked me to become the principle guest conductor and I took the office in 2001.

 

From the beginning we had a close affinity and performed many concerts in 2002. We also recorded and released two CDs.  [Aurora, a recital disc, and Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2. (ed.)] Last year, we recorded a live version of BeethovenNo.9 in November and we expect to be able to release it next year.

 

NM--Are there many young people among the members of orchestra?

 

JC---It varies. There is a young person and there is a person who is not so (laugh). They are about 45 years old on an average.

 

NM-- Although Rachmaninov Symphony No.2 is a big, passionate number, why was this number important for you to put on a CD at this time?

 

JC--- When I was first invited to be the principle guest conductor of this orchestra, I had to decide on the repertory of our concerts.  I asked what number the symphony had not yet performed.  That is, I thought that it would be wonderful if we started with something strange and new to both of us. Since the orchestra had not previously performed the Rachmaninov Symphony No 2., this was put on our program.  Of course, it was not the only piece.  We performed the symphonic poem ‘Pini di Rome’ by Respighi, ‘Glantai tancok’ by Kodaly, and so on.

 

NM-- Didn't you conduct Rachmaninov Symphony No2 for the first time in the concert in Warsaw?

 

JC--- That's right. It was also my [symphonic] conducting debut. Of course, there was a purpose in this and I wanted to share this first experience with everyone.

 

NM-- Although it was very adventurous selection in a certain meaning, do I hear that that fresh performance was produced as the result?  Some conductors cut out a repetitive portion the first movement .. but you did not.  What do you find is the charm of this work? 

 

JC--- As for the portion which I very like with this number, passion is just something that is felt very strongly from the overture of the first movement. I did not want at all to express the romantic feeling as so many have. Although it seems that many conductors are keeping the elegant approach of the French style in mind, I performed Rachmaninov as the composer, a very passionate Russian, would have.

 

I have heard comments that hearing our recording is like sitting on the edge of your chair from the beginning to the end, and having the feeling of tension that cannot be relaxed.

 

NM--I understand perfectly the reason for that comment.  Although there is a peculiar feeling of high tension, is that also because of the short recording time?

 

JC--- Recording was intensively performed in 4 sessions so that the freshest possible feeling could be caught. When there is too much time, recording in studio allows correction after correction, since a perfect performance is expected, and too many repairs makes the performance petty.  We tried to avoid that.

 

Since this is the first symphony recording for me, maybe after a number of years it will become a collector’s item.  Since ‘the thing’ is a thing only once, the first time.  I think it is a record that will be available only to those who buy it now.

 

It is the same with the opera I first recorded, the opera ‘Le Villi’ by Puccini that was released in 1995.  After about ten years have passed, it is not easy to get one in hand.  

 

Of course, since I was an obscure performer in those days, did those who considered the performance a good one buy the CD to say it was nice to own?

 

JC PR shot from the interviewNM-- When the orchestra increased the number of performances conducted by José Cura, does the performance itself change too?

 

JC--- Of course it changes.  On November 29, we performed Rachmaninov Symphony No.2 together in the Vienna Concert house. As you know, this is a traditional music hall.  At the end of the performance –from the back arose applause and the audience gave us a standing ovation.  I remember hearing that it is very difficult to obtain such a result in Vienna, although it has since been written "José Cura is a great conductor who sings occasionally"  (laugh).  Of course, it is usually written, "Cura is a great vocalist who also conducts occasionally." I am very happy that this time it was written in reverse.

 

NM-- The credit "In Memoriam Maestro Luis Garcia Navarro" was contained in the Rachmaninov disk. Would you tell us about your relationship, since Mr. Navarro was very familiar for Japanese music fan, since he often conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic?

 

JC--- When I debuted in the opera ‘Tosca’ by Puccini in 1995, Garcia Navarro was conducting. The friendship started from this time, and when I sang ‘Aida’ by Verdi at New National Theater of Tokyo for the first time in 1998, he was conducting. We became good friends and when my family and I moved from Paris to Madrid three years ago, he made all arrangements for the house and so on. I thought of him as one of my best friends and wished to dedicate this CD to him very much.  And I would like you to tell the readers that he left the world without knowing I had been asked to be principle guest conductor.  Two weeks after his death I was appointed and then planned to perform Rachmaninov. Two weeks before the concert, I visited his house to extend condolences.  I was actually sitting in his living room. All the scores he possessed were arranged precisely and located in a row.  Only the score for Rachmaninov Sympony No.2 was out of place. Of course, since he did not know that I would conduct the music and his widow did not know, either, I felt he was transmitting some absurd big message to me.

 

NM-- It is a moving episode in which one feels something of fate.

 

JC--- Yes. That is right.

 

NM-- Will the pace of your conducting activities increase from now on?

 

JC--- I think that this situation is the same as that of the coach of soccer, or the choreographer of ballet. In many cases, the coach is an older man who played the game when young. But with the passing years, the play becomes impossible and so he becomes a coach -- I think that my conducting is like that.

 

Of course, although I like to conduct, I think singing is my main job now. I will turn my attention to conducting full time when I am old and it becomes impossible to sing—like the coach to soccer when no longer young.  But I think that I want to carry on with both for now.  

 

NM--What you just said probably relieved many of your fans.  By the way, although we talked of Beethoven No.9 earlier, doesn't the tenor who sings under a great singer's baton like Mr. Cura become tense at all?

 

JC--- When I conducted it, I told the tenor the exact opposite.  "There will be no other performance with this sense of security. "  I told him that I could hear all the problems that a tenor would have and that he should feel very much at ease and be able to sing while I breathed with him while I conducted.  Of course, he may have felt tense in the first rehearsal.  But during the rehearsal, I let it go so it would be no different than with an ordinary conductor who does not sing.  

 

NM-- I see.  And this conversation brings up the question as to whether there are conductors who are easy to sing for and those who are hard to sing for? 

 

JC--- It is always good to sing for a conductor who is good, for if you sing for one who is not so good, then surely there is a problem.  It is the way of life itself. (laugh).

 

NM-- This is a wise saying –(laugh).  I have heard that ‘Cancion a la Bandera’ recorded on "Aurora" is special.

 

JC--- For all Argentineans, this is important music and the music next in importance to the national anthem.

 

NM-- Although the opera ‘Siberia’ Prelude (act 2) of Giordano was an interesting work with the inclusion of the fragment of ‘Song of the Volga Boatman’, do you it have feelings against Giordano?

 

JC--- This number was the first also for me.  I like to always take in the newest possible work in a concert or CD. It seems that almost no one knows ‘Siberia’.  I think that it is very forcible and dramatic music.

 

I dared to include the prelude because I thought that it was what those who are hearing it would tend to hold on to as a whole image, since the theme of aria appears in it.

 

NM-- Can you tell us about the choral repertory you conducted during your university enrollment?

 

JC--- It has been over 20 years -- although I don’t remember details there is a memory of conducting ‘Matthaus Passion’ by Bach, and Gesualdo and Palestrina.

 

NM-- Do you plan to continue to record with Sinfonia Varsovia?

 

JC--- It depends on the sales of the first two disks. If it seems that the CDs sell enough to cover the capital expended on the cost for their recording, I will go on with the next recording.  If they cannot sell enough, then it will be difficult.  Since you started the conversation, if you make sure you write to your audience conspicuously to "buy it by all means," I will be happy. (laugh).

 

NM--This has already been carried out and the Rachmaninov starred as the specially selected disk for our magazine.  Many fans will surely purchase it.  By the way, whose idea was it to include the big posters with the CDs?

 

JC---I am the graphic designer for both disks.  I am also a photographer.  Surely, although it is a very new idea that a poster is contained in a classical music CD, it is nice for the audience to have a good CD in hand and a poster to follow.

 

I don’t think it is necessary to indicate all of the history of an aria, the performance history of the music, a composer's whole life, etc. in the liner notes.  You understand, if the music is mostly known or a book is available or is on the Internet.  On the other hand, it is the artist’s portrait that most people do not have.  Although this is a technique most often used in the pop market, I thought it would be a good thing to try.

 

The bonus track in which rehearsal scenes are replayed is included in "Aurora." In classical music, it may be new -- (Cura spoke while opening the liner notes of "Aurora" which the writer brought). Although the graphics work station is in my house [in Spain], Aurora is offered to my country, so the design concept is the national flag of Argentina. This yellow color is the same as the sun of the national flag of Argentina.

 

NM---- The color coordination is splendid.

 

JC--- The color here is the same color as the cover, and all are connected. (Cura turns over the page of liner notes carefully) This is a photograph in Teatro alla Scala of Milan. After this comes the only explanatory note of this album. Since people do not know many things about Panizza who is the composer of ‘Cancion a la Bandera,’ it was necessary to add something about him.

 

NM----- The pleasant talk -- thank you

 

 

Editorial note:  Due to the difficulties in translating from the original Japanese to English, this is not a literal translation.  Every effort has been made to represent the comments by both the writer and the artist correctly.

 


The Creative Tenor 

 Magyar Hirlap

Attila Retkes

30 December 2003

 

On Tuesday evening – titled as Europa Silvester – a Gala Evening and Ball will be presented in the Opera House featuring as guest star the word famous Argentine opera singer, José Cura. We asked the 40 years old artist about his career, his production company and his future plans.

You came to Budapest for the first time in the summer of 2000 and since then you have planned to return to visit Hungary, but you always make lightning-fast visit lasting only 1-2 day. Have you develop some kind of opinion about the Hungarian culture or the audience?

I was already familiar with Hungarian music – first of all through the composition of Ferenc Liszt and Béla Bartók – while at home in Argentina. These two composers were on the syllabus at the Conservatory and Music Academy of Buenos Aires. The connection and the response of the audience is very important for me during a concert or performance and from this point of view, I have always had good experiences in Budapest: a really good musical layer still exists here and the audience doesn’t consist of snobs who interrupt the performance with applause at the worst moment. The beauty of the refined buildings has caught my attention so far, but this was only a quick impression yet. After the gala evening I will have two days to discover Budapest and I also would like to go to Esztergom. There is an idea that I will conduct Liszt’s Mass of Esztergom in August 2003 in the Esztergom Basilica. I hope this plan will be realised.  Now, however I have to concentrate on the gala evening.  This is the first time that I don’t spend the New Year with my family but instead greet it with work.

You talked—sadly--about the deep crisis of your homeland, Argentine two years ago in Magyar Hírlap. Has the situation change since then?

Unfortunately, everything there is still as uncertain in a similar way as two years ago…Despite this situation whenever I can manage I am at home and trying to help with my modest tools. I dedicated my new album Aurora to the Argentine people.

As I know your new album Aurora was produced by your own production company, Cuibar Phono Video. You had an exclusive contract with the Erato recording company belonging to the Warner groups. Do you not trust the multinational companies anymore?

I enjoyed an exceptional situation at Erato.  My records were released when contracts were cancelled with other word famous artists because of the crisis of the production of records and the most serious recession ever. We separated in peace, but the past years have taught me that it is better to keep everything in my hands. I do not believe in the theory that a singer must concentrate on only one thing, on the art and the roles alone. I am not having any trouble getting to know more about the tricks of management, production and distribution. I only founded Cuibar recently in September and yet I managed to negotiate an agreement with the London-based Avie Records by November that they would distribute my records all over the world and they would be responsible for the marketing and promotion, too. Two of my records have already been released: on one I conduct The Rachmaninov Second Symphony and the other is my aria album titled Aurora as I mentioned before. My plan is to issue 4-5 additional publications in 2003 including a Christmas album…

You always declare that singing and cond