Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director




Operas:  Otello in Budapest

February 2015

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José Cura sings Otello, his iconic role three times at the Opera


translated by Zsuzsanna

Budapest, 30. January 2015.  (MTI) - José Cura will be heard three times as Otello, in his iconic role, at the Hungarian State Opera in early February. The Argentine star tenor also talked to MTI that he would be glad to direct an opera in Hungary.

Next Friday on 6th February, José Cura will be heard by students, pensioners and large families at a notable reduced price in an open dress rehearsal held in the frame of the series of “Opera for Everyone” of the Hungarian State Opera. This is followed by two more regular performances on 8th and 11th of February. Cura takes the stage in an Otello production directed by László Vámos with Polina Pasztircsák (Desdemona) and Anatolij Fokanov (Jago) on his side, under the baton of Marco Comin.

As Cura said to MTI, he would be glad introducing himself as a stage director in Hungary too. "In recent years, I created nearly ten productions, all of which were well received by audiences and critics alike. My production of Samson at Delila, staged in Karlsruhe (2012) had been also released  on DVD, my production of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci directed in Liege in 2012, as well as my Otello  directed in Buenos Aires in 2013 was voted as one of the best productions of the year. I hope one day I can create something like this in Hungary! "- said José Cura.

He also stated that he really loves to work in Hungary; he has good relationship not only with the musicians, singers and conductors, but the cooperation is also great with professionals working in the background - make-up artists, dressers, technicians.. He noted that in addition to the many professional bonds, he is tied with several really close friendships to

José Cura will be heard even twice this year in Hungary: on 21st February he gave a pop concert with Andrea Mahó in the László Papp Sport Arena of Budapest, while on 3rd May he performs in the city of Győr in a concert of opera arias together with Győr Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrea Rost.

The Argentinian tenor is a frequent guest in Hungary. He could be seen in a full opera at first time by the Hungarian audience in 2008, when he sang the title role of Otello in the National Theatre of Szeged. He also formed Cavaradossi
in this riverside city of Tisza in spring 2009. Recently, last year, he also dazzled the audience as Cavaradossi in the Hungarian State Opera in the Budapest Spring Festival.

The 52-year-old singer is widely regarded as one of the biggest tenors of today. He took the opera stage at the first time in Verona in 1992. Two years later he won the Operalia international singing competition founded by Placido Domingo. The young tenor was mentioned as the new star of the 1990s who was heaped with contract deals and was also celebrated by the audiences in Paris, London, Milan, New York. In 1997 he harvested explosive success in the title role of Otello written by his favorite composer, Giuseppe Verdi, under the baton of Claudio Abbado with the contribution of Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.


Otello in Budapest



Giuseppe Verdi


Performance Dates:  8 & 11 February 2015

Opera in three parts, in Italian with Hungarian and English surtitles


Conductor - Marco Comin

Otello - José Cura

Desdemona - Polina Pasztircsák

Iago - Anatolij Fokanov

Emilia - Veronika Dobi-Kiss

Cassio - Zoltán Nyári

Roderigo - Gergely Boncsér

Montano - Sándor Egri

Lodovico - Ferenc Cserhalmi

Herald - Géza Ferenc Zsigmond













































The Making Up of Otello!


(part 1)

























































José Cura: “I feel young at heart”

Rita Szentgyörgyi

11. February 2015.

Translated by Zsuzsanna Suba



Three Otello-performances at the Hungarian State Opera, one pop concert with Andrea  Mahó in the Budapest Sports Arena  in February, and a common aria recital with Andrea Rost and the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra  in May: the Argentinean  superstar  overwhelms the Hungarian audience this year.  INTERVIEW 


-       You think that the “fourth tenor label” is a bad cliché, yet you follow in the three tenors’ footsteps by singing in a pop concert.


-      There are two kinds of music for me: good one and bad one, regardless of whether it is pop, classical or crossover, although I cannot really understand the latter term.  If we consider this, my every aria recital is a pop concert, because the opera arias of Puccini or Verdi were hits in their ages.  My so-called “pop infection” goes back to the 60s. When I was young I sang Beatles songs in the streets of Rosario, but later, too, when I moved from Argentina to Italy with my wife, it happened that I earned our living as a street musician.


-      Your emblematic role is Otello for nearly twenty years; the performance of Torino conducted by Claudio Abbado accompanies your carrier since 1997. In 2013, you also undertook the roles of stage director and set designer in your own Otello production in Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. What did have changed in your idea about this work of Verdi over the years?


-     Otello is neither a hero nor a noble.  From the beginning I played the role in this deglorified perception, which was not liked by many people while others liked it. My Otello is rather based on the text of Shakespeare and Boito than solely on the greatness of the tenor hero. In my twenties I still had to imagine that murderous passion, jealousy, what a middle-aged man feels. By now, in my fifties I have the maturity not to eat from my imagination, but to eat from my own experiences. Although I feel young at heart, in the morning when I wake up, certainly my knees and my shoulder hurt here and there. These personal experiences are important to understand Otello’s personality from inside together with his own physical rhythm.


-      In your capacity as a conductor, director, set designer you are dealing in a complex way with the opera and the musical genre. Today, do you have more pleasure in working with an orchestra than in singing?


-       Each of them means a completely different kind of challenge.  Singing, let’s say, is a personal matter , a singer must take responsibility for himself , for his own physical , mental, spiritual condition on that evening. I am singing mostly due to making contacts with the public for nearly thirty years now. In contrast to this, the conductor's work means greater responsibility, a total attunement to the orchestra, the singers and the whole creative team. If you make a mistake, the others suffer because of you, or if you are in good shape, you can inspire them.


-       How much do you make a point of promoting the forgotten or little-known Argentine songwriters?


-        Whenever I can, I try to move as the musical and cultural ambassador of my country, Argentina in the world. I used to hold classical chamber music evenings. At the concert in the Budapest Sports Arena I will sing one of the songs of the legendary Mexican musician, Armando Manzanero.


-        What is true from the fact that you would be happy to play roles written in prose even in a movie?   

-       I'm a big movie fan, mostly French art movies and English auteur cinemas are close to me. But I don’t like action movies which are operating with special effects. Really I would be happy to undertake acting for a European art movie, but I have not met such a director yet who would think in me. And anyway, I am of the view that it does not matter if you die fondling an unrealized dream, because at least it keeps you young in your life.  

































José Cura’s Enthralling Otello Performances in the Hungarian State Opera


8th and 11th February 2015

 Report by Zsuzsanna Suba


The flagship of the 2014/15 season of the Hungarian State Opera was José Cura’s two Otello performances on 8th and 11th February. Following the Cavaradossi he sang last year, this occasion was his second appearance here in a full opera, this time in his emblematic role, Otello. Preceding his two “regular” performances, José Cura took part in an organized “open general rehearsal” on 6th February, which was a kind of charity event with notably reduced price addressed to the targeted audience of pensioners, large families and students. José generously showed his best resources here as he didn’t spare with his energies and vocal richness, despite of the fact that he suffered from a tough pain in his back. It was a pleasure to see how he helped his partners on the stage to improve some “awkward” situations in order to achieve more reliable ones in the opening performance two days later. In my opinion he took too much risk but this extra performance was a memorable gift for the public who could witness the novel details and whole essence of his Otello interpretation. Both of his two “regular” Otello performances on 8th and 11th February harvested enormous success and thunderous applause. The second Otello event was the best on 11th February and we rewarded the protagonists with our unstoppable, characteristically rhythmic, frenetic applause for more than 8 minutes at the end. Our celebration was always amplified by Jose’s appearance at the curtain calls and coupled with screams of bravo as well.

The production was a little dusty, old one (premiered in 1994) and represented a traditional approach without having any serious directorial concept. The set centered on a massive, turntable bastion of the fort of Cyprus and it gave the right historical atmosphere for the play. It also allowed some nice variations for the plots, for example when it was opened to give place for the rejoicing, Desdemona’s garden or the dialogues. The beautifully colored, attractive and comfortable costumes made the stage really pretty for the eyes and the singers had great opportunity to move around freely and utilize their acting skills.

The orchestra and choir of the Hungarian State Opera became one of the main protagonists of the performances indeed led by our young, guest conductor, Marco Comin very effectively. They managed to show the brilliancy of the Verdi’s score in the little details and in the great arches of the music too. With Marco Comin’s firm hands and refined musical imagination we could see and listen to this drama in a rare circumstance when the importance and harmony of the score and singers received and enjoyed distinctive privilege during the cooperation of the orchestral pit and stage.

José Cura sang with Hungarian partners who represented different generations and artistic paths. Polina Pasztircsák - who played Desdemona and debuted in the role last year - is a young soprano of the House. She possesses an already promising career on the international level. She carried on her musical studies in Italy as a pupil of Mirella Freni for years and she won the famous Geneva International Music Competition in 2009 though she had many prizes since then too. She was a good choice and great discovery for us in this role especially for being a brave and authentic partner of José Cura. The whole opera was enriched from their committed and complex relationship. Her clear and ringing soprano voice and elegant singing style carried a natural beauty in projection and resonance together with her youthful charm, gentleness and fragility. Beside José Cura’s Otello, her Desdemona contributed significantly to the exceptional beauty of the love duet and all her solos were memorable, too. She also could play with the volume and sensitivity of her voice. Her acting was surprisingly natural and honest to the situations. Beside her unconditional love towards Otello, we could see Desdemona’s other qualities, the stamina, pride and moral strength of the character in the hardest situations. In one of the tensest moments of the quarrel of Otello and Desdemona she suddenly slapped him in the face and refused his behavior. Despite of her suffering, she remained loyal to Otello. The two long and wonderful solos of Desdemona in the last act forced the audience to share even deeper attention and sympathy for her without breaking the grandeur of the moments with applause. Polina Pasztircsák was also greatly celebrated at the many curtain calls and she always received it with modest, happy smiling and gratitude towards her partners.

Anatolij Fokanov played Jago and he represented the older generation of singers. He is a veteran and honored member of the House gaining great awards during his long career. He owned and dominated this role in the past 10-20 years.  Mostly I liked the unique, resonant and mellow baritone timbre and sizeable volume of his voice when he used it. However it tended to dry up and showed the signs of fatigue as the opera progressed, so I felt a kind of uncertainty in his performance. Unfortunately his interpretation was overly one-dimensional for my taste operating with the same clichés of Jago’s character. He showed an exaggerated, pretended love and sarcastic hate towards his General. In his acting, Jago was demoted to be the shadow of Otello and he tried to behave with a playful, manipulative way with him. While doing this, he also supported and accompanied his vocal performance with many old-fashioned gestures. Nevertheless Anatolij Fokanov sang the role with committed honesty and enthusiasm and his interpretation improved greatly by the second performance. We were also thankful for his fulfilment in this difficult role at the curtain calls.  Zoltán Nyári’s Cassio attracted our attention with his big voice and good stage presence lending a vivid, strong character to Cassio. All the other singers in the minor roles did their best too.

Enjoying José Cura’s Otello interpretation on the stage of our Opera was a feast for our ears, eyes and souls in his unique, operatic theatre. On 11th February with Otello’s dashing entrance of “Esultate!” that swelled with pride and power, José proved that he mobilized another dozen of energies and dimensions of his vocal and acting resources as we could have been imagined just few days before. He presented us with an unpredictable and richly colored journey of Otello – who was neither a hero and nor a noble -  showing the touching nuances and also the outburst and vulgar extremes of his various emotions and state of minds during his passionate and multifaceted, completely convincing vocal and acting performance. It carried enthralling richness and quality on the stage and you were nailed to your seat whenever Otello was on the stage. Starting from his initial, overwhelmingly happy, infinite love and faith for Desdemona, through his suffering and inner struggles he finally arrived at the lethal consequence of his jealous insecurity and he concluded it in double murder and devastation. All these features were reflected in the delicate usage of his voice which was always placed in the service of the role. We were delighted in his tenor when he applied lighter tones filled with gentleness and vitality or a much heavier, darker and steelier vocalism, not counting the beauty of his burnished voice and warm timbre.  His high notes were beautifully rendered and integrated in the great climaxes of the solos and duets so we just took pleasure in the many features of his own Otello interpretation.

Fortunately his Otello didn’t have to bear a heavy dark makeup, so you could see and discover every thought and emotion which flitted through his face or was caught in his mind forever.  In contrast to the youth of Desdemona, Cura’ Otello reached a determining older age and he also indicated that he was not entirely healthy when he returned from the battle. His vocal acting was very impulsive and open-hearted but it could show the darkest sides of the Moor as well. This time I had a new, strongest impression how much he was afraid of losing his Desdemona for many possible reasons. Preserving their eternal love was his greatest motivation in his actions. Cura’s Otello showed this in the heart-breaking beauty of the love duet which was the best I’ve seen recently from him. He held his woman in his arms very gently. Their duet was colored with thousand shades until they reached the highpoint with a deep, long kiss. As they walked out from the scene you could see a much lusher and impatient embrace from Otello in the dark.

When he saw Desdemona in the garden he was totally disarmed and convinced that his lover couldn’t be guilty at all. Yet the beautifully rendered quartet of the second act proved that this Otello already mourned over his broken heart and future. For me the highlights of the performance were Cura’s fluctuations between doubt and certainty or his uncontrolled outbursts for Jago’s machinations and Desdemona’s gentle requests during their dialogues. Just imagine the madness, power and fury of Otello’s explosion when he heard Jago’s words about seeing Desdemona’s handkerchief in the hands of Cassio and the amount of madness with which he carried out the duet of vengeance at the end of the second act! But this was nothing comparing it to the intensifying, almost unbearable tension and violence of the Otello-Desdemona duet at the beginning of the third act. This was true drama and theatre summarizing Otello’s real, traitor character and behavior he revealed in this pulsing, cruel and vulgarly brutal dialogue in order to get the proof. And then you saw and heard Cura’s disarmingly bare, honest breakdown and confession in his memorable and exceptional solo “Dio! mi potevi scagliar ..” He sang it collapsing unmoved in his throne in a meditative mood showing increasing vulnerability, despair and dynamic in his vision as he acted with his thoughts and  voice from phrase to phrase until he rejoiced with an enormous “Gioia!” by Cassio’s appearance. This and the ensuing exciting scene when he brilliantly spied and commented the dialogue of Jágo and Cassio brought his total confidence in Jago. Then we enjoyed the grandeur of the scene with the ambassadors of Venice. How many faces of Otello were portrayed by Cura in both voice and acting during this high-voltage, totally credible and dreadful scene again showing the irreversible fault and downfall of Otello!  

José Cura also dominated the last scene of Otello and Desdemona and he moved us to tears with his final, suicide action. We were frightened by the dark music of Otello’s theme and the unbelievable sequence of his strange, but well established ritual with the candles and his sabre, and then he kissed Desdemona really gently in her bed. This was just the introduction of his pre-planned, lethal game as he carried out Desdemona’s murder with strong, quick hands and cold head indeed during their exciting and wonderfully projected dialogue. After more fight and drama, he realized Jago’s betrayal and the consequence of his guilty action and he said farewell to her and his life in his final touching solo “Niun mi tema”. His soft and ringing phrases and balmy timbre were filled with tears, pain and self-accusation while it magnificently talked about his never ending love towards Desdemona again.

The audience was so immersed into these actions that the orchestra managed to play the closing notes of the score without any interruption. Only after we produced our uncontrollably exploding, huge celebration greeting the protagonists, orchestra, choir, musicians and conductor for long minute tirelessly. José Cura’s Otello and Polina Pasztircsák’s Desdemona received our emphasized love during their many bows and they always passed it nicely to the musicians of the orchestra and their conductor, Marco Comin. Everybody was happy with the success and ovations. We were very fortunate to meet José at backstage and we could share the happiness of the performance with each other for some honored minutes. We hope that José Cura’s operatic schedule will return to Budapest and the Hungarian State Opera very soon in the future.
























































































































Last Updated:  Saturday, January 16, 2016  © Copyright: Kira