Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director




Operas:  Otello in Prague

January & February 2015

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Otello in Prague



Giuseppe Verdi: Otello
Conductor: Martin Leginus
Director: Dominik Neuner
Set: Vladimír Nývlt
Costumes: Josef Jelínek

Otello – José Cura
Desdemona – Eva Hornyáková
Jago – Richard Haan
Cassio – Richard Samek
Emilia – Jana Horáková Levicová
Roderigo – Václav Sibera
Lodovico – Oleg Korotkov
Montano – Ivo Hrachovec
Herold – Libor Novák





Attempt at Worldliness


Lubos Stehlik

31 January 2015


[Excerpt / Gist]

The year-long project of Czech Radio Vltavais is to pull together the heroes of poetry, literature, resistance of Czech and international cultural and social history; pride of place are heroes and antiheroes in the world of opera. These certainly include Shakespeare’s Othello and its simplified shadow as written by Giuseppe Verdi and Arrigo Boito.  On Thursday, January 29,  2015, the National Theatre presented on the stage of the Prague State Opera  the Argentine tenor (also a conductor, director, composer, photographer, painter and entrepreneur) José Cura in the title role of Verdi’s Otello, the deranged jealous hero who quickly changes into a pathetic villain.  It was an interesting attempt at worldliness, hosting a famous artist not at an opera gala as we are used to seeing in Prague but in repertory performances.

José Cura, aging in years and graying, has multiple demands and activities.  His acting and stage deportment is mature and intelligent and he is certainly one of the most interesting (media-attractive) opera stars.  But if the theater wants to gain international stature it should be deploying the best available [singers] to partner the star.

I will not write about director Dominik Neuner because intellectually he was close to impotent and that is regrettable.  What surprised me, on the contrary, was that the State Opera Orchestra and the singers of the State Opera Choir were not accurate in intonation which did no honor to Mr. Verdi.  Deliciously pure chords were scarce. It should be added that a share of the responsibility belongs to conductor Martin Leginus.

Who were Cura’s teammates?  They were dominated by the young tenor Richard Samek.  His healthy, clear voice was a joy to listen to and was perfect for the role of Cassio.  Others were only sparring partners.  Richard Haan was the manifestation in voice and expression of a dull caricature of the insidious and evil symbolized by Iago and the undoubtedly talented Eva Hornyáková so far has neither vocal nor [stage] experience and although she belongs to the younger generation of singers, her high notes sounded forced, as if she were twenty years older.  When interpreting the the singing of 'O Salce!' and 'Ave Maria' I could only keep my fingers crossed that it would go well, at least.  Naturally, I did not expect to hear a performance like Tebaldi, Te Kanawa, Fleming, Freni, Cappuccilli, D’Arcangelo…but still the Opera should have been able to find better.

What about José Cura? At the beginning I was startled by the vocal instability and the force in the intense dynamics in the higher register, which had to climb over the over-exposed Orchestra.  Uncertainty due to movement on the stage is a natural condition but some of the uncertain notes were certainly unnecessary.  Fortunately, he calmed down, he sang ecstatically and especially in the last act was suggestive.  Otello, however, like no other Verdi character, is a complex role and Cura’s acting, which dominated the evening, was so extraordinary and unprecedented in my experience that I forgive him everything. 

Certainly it is a good thing that the National Theatre (with the help of the Bohemian Heritage Fund) invited José Cura but the hosts should be better prepared and consider whom to invite. I wish the National Theater to cast the second Otello on 24 February differently so that José Cura can introduce fans to his mature art at the highest level.











José Cura at the State Opera:  Otello without Compromise


Robert Rytina

30 January 2015

[Excerpts / Gist]

Ever since the media reported that José Cura would perform the lead role in Verdi’s Otello at the Prague State Opera, the upcoming event engendered two views. The first was sincere enthusiasm that the tenor, who is among the world’s top stage performers, was finally in our capital city.  The second was a certain level of malice. Cura has recently appeared on various occasions in Olomouc, Czech Budejovice, and two series of performances of Pagliacci at the turntable stage in Czech Krumlov. Like an old friend Cura had even been involved directly with the State Opera: ten years ago he joined the ensemble to tour Japan with Verdi’s Aida, working with members of the orchestra and choir in a rather intense experience. Idea number two, then, about Prague hosting the singer was almost conventional. José Cura was not just an ornament at the Vienna Staatsoper, the Met or Covent Garden, but also at theaters in Linz, Karlsruhe, Warsaw and Bratislava, so as far as our city is concerned—it’s about time.

So how big was the celebration in Prague (where Cura had previously sang and conducted in 2002 and 2003 in the Municipal House) for this current Verdi engagement?  If I may say so, it was definitely exceptional. José Cura presents himself as a solitary figure among the singing elite—he is not dependent on influential management or record companies. This fact gives him complete freedom in his artistic plans. As a passionate singer, conductor, director and photographer in one person he can undoubtedly choose from a menu of offerings from around the world.  And as you can see, it seems the attraction of interesting items on the menu draws him more than the reputation of the place from which it comes.  Certainly, the ‘solitaire’ Cura is now probably more of an achievable celebrity than those represented by top agencies, but still his presence remains an event.

This singer’s willingness to portray Otello at the State Opera is particularly worthy of special attention.  Honestly, since Placido Domingo only José Cura has claimed global ownership of this pivotal Verdi role.  He caused a sensation in his debut in the role in Turin in 1997—with Barbara Frittoli and Ruggeri Raimondi at his side and the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado in the lead.  In subsequent Otello performances Cura has won the acclaim from many stage that accompanies him to this day. Try to answer this yourself: who among the current tenor stars can aspire to remove the Argentine from his throne as the Lion of Venice? With all due respect to Aleksandrs Antonenko or Johan Botha, I am afraid we will have to wait for some time for another Otello.

Personally, I had the opportunity to see and hear Cura as Otello in a staging at the Vienna State Opera in 2001.  The tenor had a very youthful appears and portrayed the jealous Moor from the outset as quite neurotic, suspicious and almost paranoid.  Visually and thanks to the characteristic tension in his voice he clearly represented a sort of volcano before an explosion. Iago (Renato Bruson) seemed to have enjoyed the possibilities of how easy it was to provoke the nervous monster, and then only to chuckle as he took in the effects and consequences of his experiment.

With the passage of fourteen years from that experience, I was wondering in what further directions the singer had developed the role. In numerous interviews Cura himself makes no secret of his conviction that only now as a man in fifties does he feel completely authentic in the role of Otello as a mature man. What experience awaited the audience in the completely filled auditorium at the Prague State Opera on Thursday, January 29?

Cura entered the minimalist production as a formidable figure in a bright white uniform, but one with graying hair and a big mustache.  It was clear that Cura sees his commander as an experienced man in the prime of life, longing to be a mentor for those around him and one with natural authority. He dealt with the drunken fight between Cassius and Montano with the objectivity of a teacher who has caught his students fighting: an immediate punishment and admonition ended the entire affair for him, and its relation to future events was tragically missed.  Extremely interesting was where Cura took Otello’s relationship with Desdemona. It seemed this husband loved his wife but felt—given the considerable age difference—a kind of paternal guardianship as well.  The duet at the end of the first act effectively managed the right compromise between these two positions with Desdemona falling asleep and Otello acting more like a caring parent who guards his daughter’s sleep.

In the second act was the moment that I personally perceived as one of the highlights of the show. During the quartet—Otello, Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia—Cura changed from the sober Otello with nagging doubt about the fidelity of his wife. This drastic transformation in personality portrayed by the singer was absolutely masterful. Tension and anger was then replaced with negotiation, a sort of passiveness.  There was a somewhat weakened musical duet with Iago but conceptually in this role he worked to contrast euphoria  with the subsequent apathy naturally.

At the beginning of the third act Otello is found alone in a royal pose in the foreground of an empty stage; it is obvious that Iago has supplied evidence to fully confirm his darkest fears. In the scene with Desdemona, his undefined relationship with her turned almost schizophrenic—Otello erupted in an outburst of jealousy, which sharply replaced his attempt to treat his wife from the position of an educator. In this role, however, the Moor failed and after symbolically throwing his wife to the ground he collapsed himself on the stage in tears.  Rather than crying over the dire situation, he was instead in grief over his inability to deal with it. For the monologue “Dio! Mi potevi scagliar” Cura sang mostly lying down and in a painful state.  Before the end, however, he was already on his feet again and his Otello comes to the scene with the envoy Lodovico with almost frantic ecstasy, during which the Warlord’s fury, bordering on symptoms of mental illness, horrified the public.  

Whoever expected to see Cura as a crazy monster without control in the fourth act of Otello had a surprise.  The dialog before strangling Desdemona was presented by the interpreter with a kind of cool objectivity, with folded hands:  Otello had already settled on his wife’s murder. The subsequent allegations and clarification by Emily and Cassio of Iago’s intrigues caused Otello’s entire world to collapse. Before his suicide he realized who he actually wanted to be: an example of wisdom and life experiences to those around him.  The events of recent days, however, convinced him of his utter failure: Otello doesn’t die as a noble hero but as a sobbing wreck.

It remains to be added that his portrait of the Moor of Venice rested also on Cura’s respectable voice and speech. The initial entry of "Esultate” was difficult…he gave the impression that as a singer he might be having a little trouble with a natural full treble, but the concerns quickly dissipated. By the end of the first act, his voice sounded very balanced in all positions.  Despite his excellent natural vocal performance his is not exactly an example of absolute obedience to the style and the score, though Cura can still persuade listeners with a voice that is always directly proportional to the performance of a particular role.  The tenor feel for language and his ability to work effectively with the slightest phrase is an approach I find fully justified.


During the enthusiastic standing ovation after the performance José Cura engaged in a series of slapstick traditions.  First he bowed to the prompter’s box, inhabited by Mrs. Catherine Sováková, shook her hand and then handed her flowers. When he was caught during one of the other curtain openings with his back to the audience, he turned, stood at attention and saluted.  Certainly he will long be remembered for his elegant [action with the flowers] which Cura unexpected threw to the women’s chorus.

 So much for the forty-first reprise of Verdi’s Otello at the Prague State Opera.  The forty-second (already sold out) will be held February 24 with virtually the same cast, with only Pavla Vykopalová replacing Eva Hornyáková in the role of Desdemona.   




Otello Prague 2015 Jan with José Cura OperaPlus 1 with Martin-Leginus-dirigent-foto-Hana-Smejkalova




Otello Prague 2015 Jan 29 with Jose Cura OperaPlus 3_Hana_Smejkalova




Otello Prague 2015 29 Jan with Jose Cura as Otello and Eva-Hornyakova as-Desdemona- Hana-Smejkalova OperaPlus


Otello Prague 2015 Jan 29 with Jose Cura OperaPlus 2




Otello Prague 2015 Jan 29 with Jose Cura OperaPlus 0968














Eye-Witness Reviews


Hallo, Kira and Deb!

We came back yesterday from some days in Prague - it's a wonderful city, but also in cold winter full of tourists. Our main reason was, to see Prague after a decade we had not been here - but the first war naturally: José Cura as Otello. Although we had seen him so many times in this opera (one of his best) - always there are some new gestures, postures and facial expressions - we are sure, he did it not as suggestion of the director!

The photos are with Jago (Richard Haan), Desdemona (Eva Hornyakova) and conductor (Martin Leginus). The most funny is when he throws one of the bouquet of flowers behind to the choir!


Eva and Herbert











We travelled to Prague to see José’s Otello in the State Opera. There was full house. It was a difficult production with minimalist, bare staging – only stones were the props – and without too much light on the stage. But José’s unique Otello–dressed in white--shone through it with his enthralling Otello’s portrayal demonstrating his multi-coloured arsenal of the role in both voice and acting.  The Otello -Desdemona duet at the beginning of the 3. act and the ensuing moving solo “Dio mi potevi scagliar” were the highpoints of his performance for me. At one point he used Desdemona’s lying body on the ground to hide behind it when he spied after Cassio. His partners: Eva Hornyáková (Desdemona), Richard Hahn (Jago) and Richard Samek (Cassio) did their best as well as the excellent choir and orchestra (Martin Leginus). Final applause lasted about 9 minutes with standing ovation. --  Zsuzsanna














Tenor José Cura will perform for the first time at the Prague State Opera, performing as Otello

Český rozhlas

29 January 2015

One of the most sought-after contemporary tenor will perform for the first time today on the Czech opera stage.  Argentine José Cura will appear at the Prague State Opera in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello.  It is a role for which José Cura has gained worldwide fame:  in the last few seasons he has appeared as Otello in Vienna, Berlin, and New York.

According to the experts, Argentinean tenor José Cura has the resonant voice and unusually drama delivery that makes him a desirable representative of Otello on the most prestigious stages of the world

He has been singing the title role in the Verdi opera for more than twenty years; however, only at the age of fifty could he begin to understand it.

“I would say that my Otello is only beginning to emerge.  Twenty years ago, I knocked on his door.  Finally he has opened that door and let me in.  And I am slowly getting into his head, penetrating into the finest vibrations of his soul that motivate his actions.  And also in the context of this incredible drama,” Cura says.

A play about love and revenge can be outdated and obsolete for many people.  Cura thinks otherwise:

“How often today is it that people cheat and betray us?  That make political or other careers at any price?  How modern and contemporary is the issue of domestic violence?  And it’s all part of Otello.”

Tenor Cura will perform in the Czech Republic in an operatic role for the first time.  “At the Prague State Opera and I am thrilled.  Artistic director and conductor Martin Leginus is a professional, I collaborate well with the Czech soloists and chorus, there’s a good working atmosphere.  I would love to come back to Prague,” he adds. “”But the next time I come to Prague I would like to try out the role of conductor and director.”

Cura repeats the role of Otello at the State Opera on 24 February.




José Cura Will Perform Twice in Prague as Otello

Opera Plus / Reuters

27 January 2015

One of the most sought-after contemporary tenors, Argentine singer José Cura, will perform on 29 January and 24 February in Prague State Opera productions.  Meet the tenor who sings the title role in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Otello under the baton of the State Opera’s Music Director Martin Leginus.

“It may sound like a joke, but the development of this role is comparable to my own personal development as a person.  When I was thirty-four, I was on staging playing a fifty year old man.  And now, when I am really fifty, I don’t have to pretend,” said Cura.

One of the last performances of the famous tenor and conductor was the character of Dick Johnson at the Vienna State Opera in September last year.  His greatest success, however, remains Otello, which in the last two seasons he has sung in Buenos Aires, Vienna, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York under the baton of Semyoun Byčkova and at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, conducted by Donald Runnicles.

Cura believes that his cooperation with the State Opera will not stop [with his performances at Otello]. “I believe these two performances will be just the beginning of my more frequent visits.  I would like return, but that decision does not depend just on me,” said Cura, who has already appeared in the Czech Republic several times.  “But this is the first time in Prague in an opera,” said the fifty-two year old singer who last performed in the Czech Republic in Ostrava in March last year.

Originally devoted to conducting, composing and playing the guitar, Cura began to sing professionally at 28.  In 1994 he won the prestigious international competition Operalia.  Last October in the world heard the premier of his Stabat mater at St Nicholas’s Cathedral in Česke Budějovické.  It was part of an evening of music for the soul at the South Bohemian Theatre on the eve of All Souls’ Day.  Cura, who attended the concert, relinquished the baton to his frequent conductor and Music Director of the South Bohemian opera, Mario De Rose. 

Cura describes Otello as a modern and complex work.  To him, it is the picture of the contemporary world in great moral crisis.

Othello (Otello in Italian), is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi.  The Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito was based Othello, Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare.  The premier took place on February 5, 1887 in Milan.  The Czech premiere took place at the National Theater in Prague on January 7, 1888.

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday.  You will recognize me easily.  I’ll be in black,” the charismatic Cura told reporters. 



Rehearsal Photos




























Curtain Calls



















Otello – José Cura at the State Opera for the First time


11 February 2015

Markéta Jůzová


The famous Argentine tenor José Cura, after accepting the offer made by National Theater Director Jana Burian and the Director of the National Theater and State Opera House Silvie Hroncove, came to the stage of the State Opera on 29 January 2015 as the star in a production of Verdi’s opera Otello, in a role which the singer has performed in prestigious venues around the world.  

In the opera history of Czech theater, however, the first notable collaborations with the famous singer came earlier in new productions developed by the Theater of South Bohemia in České Budějovice and Český Krumlov International Music Festival.  From 5 thorugh 10 August 2011, Cura portrayed Canio in the Ruggiero Leoncavallo verismo opera, Pagliacci, under the direciton of Josef Průdka at the Revolving Auditorium in Český Krumlov.  The following season he appeared in a production of Otello at the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava under the same director.

And even though Cura had not yet sung opera in our town, the orchestra knew him from an earlier time when he sang Radames in Verdi’s Aida during a 2001 tour through Japan with the Prague State Opera.  This year he joined the production originally staged in 1991 by director Dominik Neuner who works primarily in Germany and conductor Martin Turnovksý.  The work became a hit but in 2009 the opera was restaged by Lubor Cukr and Heiko Mathias Förster.  Cura, while stressing his pleasure at being on the stage of the State Opera, admitted his frustration with the directorial concept of the work. Conductor and Music Director of the State Opera Martin Leginus expressed admiration for Cura’s work and stated that having the famous singer perform brought great benefits to the house.  Both suggested they were open to possible collaboration on other interesting opera projects in the future.


José Cura was surrounded by the Czech-Slovak opera team and at the same time exposed to both the professional pressures and minimal rehearsal hours.  In Prague, he admitted that he did not get out of the theater or record a show on DVD before the performance date; he entered into a relationship that was more complex and hectic than before.  For example, prior to the premiere of the Comedians in Český Krumlov he knew a great deal ahead of time about the directorial concept.   The singer knows from joint cooperation that that many of the Czech orchestras are very good; however, the State Opera Orchestra was not an equal partner for Cura, although during the course of the evening and under the leadership of Martin Leginus it was able to play some parts very romantically and impressively. At the level of phrasing, suggestive wording arching across the melodies and dynamism are areas, the players in the orchestra and the conductor could learn from sensitive listening to great singers.  

Cura is famous for his dark tenor voice but in Prague the lyrical passages of the arias were sung in a clear and bright, though muted, voice. In confrontations with Desdemona, the Slovak soprano Eva Hornyákovou, Iago, (Richard Haanem), and Cassio (Richard Samkem), he approached the title role with a great deal of emotion, talent, and a firm grasp of the interior psychology of the character, which was presented on stage with fine facial details and precise gestures that offered clear testimony about the current emotinal state and his relationship to his surroundings.  In front of the audience Cura masterfully, uniquely and, above all, naturally portrayed this complex character and set a high standard of incarnating opera characters for his colleagues.  A huge ovation, with waves of applause and screams of Bravo, rewarded him at the end of the fourth act.

















The Iconic Otello of José Cura Raised the Ensemble to the Highest Level


Alena Kunčíková

9 February 2015


If you can get a famous singer for a role, one who for eighteen years has been considered the absolute best in the world, it’s a win.  This was confirmed with the production of Verdi’s Otello, who, for the first time in Prague, was the Argentine tenor José Cura.  For the Czechs, it was a musical feast. 

José Cura showed a rich variety and expressiveness in his voice and register as the brave commander, the gentle lover, and the jealous, murdering husband.  In my opinion, he is regarded as number one mainly because of the southern style of “wailing” which is not produced by any central Europeans.  As if the wailing of an old Gypsy violin!  There is nothing like it.

The story of the jealous Moor, Otello, and his innocent wife Desdemona is known to the world through Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello.  The difference in spelling is due to the fact that it is Otello is in Italian—and Verdi was an Italian.

The vast night sky extinguishes all strife,
And my trembling heart is calmed by its embrace.
Let the raging war and the world falls into the abyss,

If, after the immense anger comes this immense love!

The first act closes with the beautiful duet sung by Otello and Desdemona (Slovak soprano Eva Hornyáková).  Cura can express love with gentle touches and gestures, suddenly calming his fiery temperament and turning into a little lamb.  The women in the audience were envious [of Desdemona.]

But in the other acts, when he was attacking as a schizophrenic, morbidly jealous husband, no one envied her.  Cura can hurl fire and lighting with a look.  Even though I was sitting in the balcony, I was happy that he did not turn on me!  Otello is an opera that touches on domestic violence—and demonstrates how even a publicly acclaimed leader can be unjustly cruel to his loving wife.  There is a very strong scene when Otello confronts Desdemona in public—and everyone turns away from her.  No one helps, no one intervenes…as is often true in real life.

Lodovico (Oleg Korotkov), the Venetian ambassador, asks in amazement, “Is this the hero?  Is this the noble, bold warrior?”

But everyone turns away. The ambassador, the Venetian nobleman Rodrigo who claims to love her, Emilia, the entire congregation representing the public, even, eventually, Cassio, the man Desdemona sought to help.  This is a really powerful moment.  Nobody wants to meddle in the marital dispute.  Desdemona is abandoned to the mercy of a madman.

Hornyáková’s big arias at the beginning of the fourth act – the ‘Willow Song’ and ‘Ave Maria’—were deservedly rewarded by applause.  The source of all evil, Iago, a twisted character, was sung by the great baritone soloist of the State Opera, Richard Haan.  Although this was the 41st reprise of Otello in the SOP, the presence of a world star gave it the aura of exclusivity.  The entire ensemble raised their performance level and showed themselves in the best possible light.  It can be said that everyone—even those ins the smallest of roles, as well as the State Opera Chorus—gave their fullest and best performance.  Conductor and musical director of the SOP Martin Leginus literally glowed.  In a private conversation shortly after Tuesday’s press conference, Leginus confided to me that conducting Cura, who is not only a singer but also a conductor and director, is not easy:  he knows every single note in the score.  That here it worked so well….Congratulations!

Cura also made a nice gesture during the final curtain call when, during the thunderous applause, he stopped to shake hands with Catherine Sokáková (prompter) and gave her one of his flowers in gratitude for her help.  He tossed another bouquet to the women of the State Opera Choir, much like a bride to the bridesmaids.  Who the lucky one was we don’t know—perhaps the ladies divided it among themselves?

Also confirming the the audience was seeing something special was the unusually successful ticket sales: there was no problem filling the last seat in the theater. The public obviously yearns for these types of experiences. The culture of the nation is regressing so tragically, we sometimes think, and then this: the next performance of Otello with Cura on 24 February 2015 is also sold-out.




Is Cura’s Otello a promise of further cooperation?


Radmila Hrdinová

25 February 2015

Twice in one month the Prague National Opera at the State Theater has presented one of the opera world’s biggest names, Argentine tenor José Cura, in the title role of Verdi’s Otello.  First on 29 January and then again on 24 February, each performance was of the greatest interest of the audience. 

Cura appeared in Prague for the first time on an opera stage (rather than on a concert stage) but he has already appeared at the Revolving Theater in Český Krumlov during the summer of 2011 in the role of Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and last year appeared in the cathedral in České Budějovice as the author of Stabat Mater when the work had its world premiere with the South Bohemian Opera Orchestra.  He has also performed in concerts in other locations around the Czech Republic. 

Otello is one of Cura’s greatest roles and he has sung it on many stages around the world for almost twenty years.  And as he said in the press conference prior to his first performance, he is still developing the character.

His Otello, as shown in Tuesday’s performance, is a mature man who initially seemed reluctant to believe his luck and during the gentle night scene (act I) with Desdemona it is evident from his words that at that moment he could die happy.  Even with the unexpected change in the tragic love affair with Desdemona unbalancing the man, the depth of his pain was indicated in gesture, facial expression, and especially his voice rather than by wild running around the stage as has become customary.  His killing of Desdemona is the act of a man who has returned from hell with a horrible decision and even though at the moment of execution he is absolutely convinced of its righteousness, he cannot resist affection towards his deeply beloved wife.

At the start of the performance on Tuesday it seemed José Cura was not entirely on form, or that his voice exhibited the strength and brilliance of earlier.  As the performance continued, however, his singing soon convinced that his Otello is still an extraordinary experience. The resonant voice permeated the emotions of the character through more than just excellently sung tones.  Cura is always, in moments of high emotion, willing to sacrifice smooth and flowing sound for persuasive expressiveness, his voice sounding hoarse and strangled with jealousy and rage.  One such impressive moment was when he confronted the dead Desdemona with a bitter awareness of his guilt.

The staging by director Dominik Neuner in 1991 (restored six years ago by Lubor Cukr), has a starkness…and does not provide the characters or relationships with opportunity or inspiration.


The Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Martin Leginus had some better and worse moments, primarily with the imperfect interplay of the choir and the orchestra.

 Cura had a great success in Prague and it would certainly be beneficial to have him return, especially if he—as he suggested during the press conference—he had the opportunity to stage an original opera production in Prague.







Cura Sings Otello at the State Opera

Hospodářské Noviny

Frank Kuznik

29 January 2015



  • The outstanding Argentine tenor José Cura will perform at the State Opera this Thursday and again next month
  • He will take the title role in Verdi’s Otello, which he first sang in 1997
  • Cura has also written a novel about this role and directed the opera himself 
  • He has recently sung Otello at Teatro Colon, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Deutsche Oper Berlin





The Argentine tenor José Cura couldn’t refuse the challenge: the title role of Verdi’s Otello, which he first undertook in 1997 in Turin.  Claudio Abbado conducted and it was transmitted by Italian TV.  The risk paid off.  The day after the Italian newspaper La Nazione proclaimed:  “A new Otello is born!”  It was this event that started Cura touring the world in the role with which he is most associated with today.  He has sung Otello almost two hundred times.  He will sing it today and again on 24 February as a guest of the Prague State Opera.

Argentinský pěvec José Cura výzvy neodmítá. When speaking of the Moof of Venice, Cura is uncompromising:  “Otello is a noble general but a pathetic antihero,” he said before today’s performance.  “What is heroic about an apostate who, for political reasons, converts to another religion? This is how mercenaries behave. Otello could use his power to free his enslaved brethren.  Instead, he humiliates and ultimately kills his wife.  The character of Iago in fact does not exist, he is simply the dark side of the Moor.”

Today he is considered one of the world’s greatest tenors but in addition to that he is engaged as conductor, director, and photographer.  During the eighteen years he has spent with Otello, Cura has obviously had the opportunity to think about the figure often.  “The great tragedy of extremely complicated characters like Otello is that they never get old.  The more you sing these roles, the more you discover,” he says.  “I wrote about it in a novel, which has not yet come out, and last year I was in Buenos Aires directing the opera.  Now we are editing the film that I recorded there.” 

The local audience who come to hear Cura sing Otello today or next month will have the benefit of those 18 years.  “When I started, I had to paint my hair gray. That problem has fixed itself,” says Cura, whose Otello has evolved physically as well.  “At thirty-five, I had to pretend to be fifty. Today, the pretense has ended.”

Cura has performed several times in the Czech Republic, once when he gave a mixed recital in which he sang during the first half and conducted in the second.  He has also guested several times in opera roles:  four years ago he was applauded at the Revolving Theater in Cesky Krumlov when he sang Canio in Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.  “We negotiated hastily for the State Opera so I could fit only two performances into my schedule.  But I really hope that my cooperation with the National Theater continues and will be followed by other performances which I could either conduct or direct,” he says.

To ‘bounce’ into the position of conductor or director is no guarantee of applause; however, Cura recalls the great tradition of the opera—with Zemlinksy and Szell conducting Strauss for Gigli and Caruso—and hopes the Czech audience will view him similarly. “The Czechs has a reputation for being able to understand completely everything that an artist has to say.  So far I have had good experiences with the Czech audience.”




I Am Only Beginning to Discover Otello!

Český rozhlas

Markéta Kaňková

January 29, 2015



On the stage of the Prague State Opera on 29 January will be one of today’s most sought-after tenors.  Argentine José Cura will perform as Otello in the Giuseppe Verdi opera; it is the role for which he has earned aworld-wide reputation

Verdi’s Otello has played a crucial role in your career and has brought you world fame.  You have been singing the role for more than twenty years.  In just the last two seasons you have been Otello in Buenos Aires, Vienna, and New York City (Met).  Has the role become a bit routine for you?

Absolutely not!  Rather the opposite.  I would say my Otello is only just beginning to emerge.  After twenty years of knocking on his door, he has finally opened the door and let me in.  I am slowly getting into his head, penetrating the finest vibrations of his soul to discover the motivations for his actions.  Also, the context of this drama is incredible, not only Otello but every character in the play is exceptional.  Personally, I am fascinated by how well Verdi hit the drama, how much he tried to understand the the character of Otello and how he was able to show that understanding in his music.  All of this is absolutely clear from his letters.  Verdi created in Otello a fantastic, emotionally profound work that is still a source of inspiration and joy to me even after twenty years.

Otello is perceived primarily as a play about love, jealousy and revenge.  As a Shakespearean tragedy it seems remote from the problems of our contemporary world.  Do you see some parallels in the drama in the present day?  For you, is Otello a modern drama?

Is Otello modern?  I will ask you a few questions, and if the answers are “yes” it will also be the answer. How common is it today for people to cheat and betray us?  To succeed in politics or another career at any price?  Is it modern today for Muslims or members of other faiths to kill in the name of God?  How modern and contemporary is the issue of domestic violence? How often do we hear of dead lovers or mistresses?  And all this is part of Otello. So how modern is Otello?

You have outlined a number of serious problems of today.  Among other things, religious intolerance is perhaps one of the main problems of the contemporary world.  Do you think you can anything about that through art?  Can artists change anything?

I firmly believe that as artists we are ambassadors of beauty.  We have a great responsibility to keep the atmosphere in society at the highest possible level. But it is hard nowadays to convince people of the beauty of opera, ballet, or painting when in the news the day after visiting a theater or gallery we read that three fools broke into a newsroom and killed all the journalists.  Or that a girl of twelve hid a bomb under her dress, went to a supermarket and exploded it and killed two hundred people.  I think that under the circumstances, we have an obligation in spite of everything to keep creating and making art, but we have to stop thinking that we artists are the center of the world.

I am often asked the question if I’m worried about the future of opera and classical art.  It is a question that is irrelevant.  If we continue doing what we are doing what we are doing now—hating, killing, making war—then no one is going to make time to go to the theater or have an interest in art. So the answer is clear: let’s make art something that is not outside reality, but a part of it. Then we have a chance to change something.

Let’s talk for a moment about you as a theater performer. You are not only an opera singer but also a showman who seems to take—regardless of the role you sing—enormous pleasure from contact with the audience.  Is that the main reason you go on stage, to communicate with people, to transfer energy through music?

About twenty years ago an American magazine wrote about me that Mr Cura should realize that art was not invented for his pleasure. It was after a concert that I very much enjoyed. And I passed my own pleasure along to the audience.  That critic might believe I should speak with the face of someone who has just returned from a cemetery, with a straight face and tortured soul.  But this is a huge mistake. I think that the artist should have joy in his work and thank God for it.  He should do what he can to transmit positive energy to the audience.  And this is what I am trying to do through music and what I definitely want to keep doing.

We have the great opportunity to see you in the role of Otello on the stage of the Prague State Opera.  You have mentioned you would like to return to Prague again in the future.  In what form, what performance, what role?

It honestly does not matter to me.  I received an invitation to the State Opera and any further cooperation depends on the management of the theater. I sincerely regret that we have just two days for Otello rehearsals.  In two days, you can only soak up the possibilities, the potential of people and places, but you can’t develop it.  In any case, I am excited to be at the Prague State Opera.  Artistic director and conductor Martin Leginus is a professional, I collaborate well with the Czech soloists and chorus, there is a good working atmosphere.  Because of all this, I would like to come back to Prague.

Can you be more specific?  We know you not just as a singer but also as a conductor and opera director.  It would be great if you did a project in Prague where you could be a figure in all these roles. 

I’d hate to be guilty of any incorrectness, but that is exactly what I would like.  Of course, it would be great if I could come to Prague next time just as a singer but I would like to work with the local musicians and all the artistic components of the State Opera as a conductor, as a director, as an artist.  It would please me greatly to do a complex artistic project in Prague.  But who knows?  We will see!



José Cura:  I Hate Hypocrisy in Art


Markéta Jůzová’

January 29, 2015


The world famous Argentine tenor José Cura can win the hearts of the audience and the awards from the critics with his charisma, talent, great performance and immediacy.  From the study of composition and conducting in Argentine, choral singing and moving to Italy, he made his extraordinary debut in Verona in 1992.  In his dizzying career he has sung on many famouse stages, for example the Metropolitant Opera in New York, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden in London, La Scala and the Vienna State Opera.  In the music world, where he has been nicknamed “the King of Verismo,” he emodies the great operatic roles and is considered one of the best tenors of his generation. He has won many prestigious awards.  He has made significant contributions to the world of art not only as a singer but as a conductor, a director, a stage designer, and a composer. He plays the piano, the guitar, and takes photographs. This season, audiences had a unique opportunity to learn more about this famous singer from the perspective of the composer.  He was invited to present the world premiere of this Stabat Mater in České Budějovice.  The Orchestra of the Opera of the South Bohemian Theater was conducted by its general music director and Cura’s long-time Argentine colleague Mario De Rose.  On the occasion of another significant visit to the Czech Republic, performing the title role of Verdi’s Otello on 29 January and 24 February 2015 at with the State Opera at the National Theater in Prague, I asked the famous singer for an exclusive interview, which he accepted with pleasure.  

Q: Maestro, how did you feel in České Budějovice after your World Premiere? Were you happy?

I was more than happy. I was proud and thankful to Maestro De Rose and the theater.

Q: What inspired you to compose Stabat Mater?

It was a super long time ago, so I don’t remember the input. I can only say that when I structured Ecce Homo, I thought it would be great to finish it not with the last word of Christ, but with the grief of His mother.

Q: When do you plan the World Premiere of your whole oratorio Ecce homo?

Ecce Homo is finished. Drafted, but finished since 1989... I have no idea when and where the whole work will be played.

Q: You were educated in Argentina. How do you remember on your composition teacher Carlos Castro?

Carlos was my first composition teacher. I was 15 when I started to work with him. I remember he told me: “You have such a natural way with music that my work as a teacher is not to transform you into a musician, because you already are a gifted one, but to teach you how to deal with that huge talent without burning your wings”.

Q: How many of your own pieces do you have?

I don’t remember exactly all of them. But some of them, maybe the more important ones, are: Requiem Argentino por la Paz (1984, dedicated to the victims of the South Atlantic war), Pinocchio (1986), Via Crucis según San Marcos (1986), Magnificat (1988), Ecce Homo (1989), In Memoriam (1990), La piccola fiammiferaia (1991), Si muero, sobrevíveme! (1995/2006).

Q: Could you describe your style of work?

My style of work? Dramatic in the sense of theatrically meaningful and not just the notes for the sake of the sound they produce. One thing maturity has brought to my art is that I hate self indulgence.

Q: How important is for you the topic of a new composition?

Nothing is more connected with the inner being of a person than his own work as a creator, no matter if it is a painting, a piece of music, a poem, a novel, a mathematic theorem, etc. It is the epitome of human intellectual achievement, unrivaled.

A true creator, not a commercial one, always writes as a compulsive thing he cannot avoid. If that afterwards turns out to be successful and commercial, it is another step.

Q: You composed the fairytale for children from Hans Christian Andersen La piccola fiammiferaia. Where was your composition produced? Would you like to see this piece in the South Bohemian Theatre or in a theatre in the Czech Republic?

It was done in 1992 in Vicenza. I would love to see it performed in České Budějovice! It is only 40 minutes long as I strongly believe that opera for children should not be longer.

Q: Your favorite composer Camille Saint-Saëns has a nice one-act opera Hélčne. Do you want to write an opera? Maybe leastways a one-act opera, since you are very busy...

Saint-Saëns is a composer I very much like, but he is not my favorite. My favorite one is Johann Sebastian Bach. But yes, I would love to write an opera one day. It will not be any soon though, as my life is so full of work that I would not have the necessary peace to do it right now.

Q: What are your compositional plans?

None at the moment, in the sense of new creations. But the premiere of Stabat Mater has awakened the “sleeping beast” so now I am slowly recovering all my previous compositions in order to have them ready for playing. We’ll see what comes up...

Q: On January and on February you will sing Otello in Prague. Since 1997 you externalize this role in great opera houses around the world, for example in Barcelona, Bratislava, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Madrid, Milano, Munich, New York, Nice, Paris, Tokyo, Vienna, Warsaw, Washington, Zürich. You know many productions of this opera by Giuseppe Verdi. Which of them were for you very interesting and why?

Each production has given me lots of experiences. But it was not until I did my own one in the Teatro Colón in 2013 that I could finally put on stage everything I wanted to show with Otello. A film will be ready soon.

Q: How do you remember your role debut of Otello at Turin ́s Teatro Regio?

Dangerous... Very. Very few rehearsals: two with the orchestra and before, only a week for the staging, and one of the biggest media exposure I had ever had in my career due to the ingredients involved: the Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado, Ruggero Raimondi, Barbara Frittoli, Ermanno Olmi, RAI TV... A daring step indeed. History can say many things about me. It will always be a point of view. But nobody will ever be able to say I had no guts!

Q:  Last season I saw your performance of Verdi's Otello at the Vienna State Opera. You externalize this role very deeply and strongly. In the best sense of the words your voice is as speech and your expression very natural. Thanks to you, Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Jago), Anja Harteros (Desdemona) and director Christine Mielitz in Vienna I had the greatest experience of my life ...

I have been fighting against the preconceptions of Otello’s interpretation since the very beginning. It takes a lot of risk to fight against the traditionally “tenorile” approach of the part in order to do a real Shakespearean impersonation of the role, basing your work on Verdi’s music and letters. My evolution in reading what is implied in Verdi’s score is not finished yet. I am on it and I hope I will be able to achieve it before I quit singing. The fight will be long. I still remember a critic in the old fashioned New York’s operatic establishment saying: “This damned habit Cura has of always doing what he wants and not what he is expected to do...”. Poor guy... I love it!

Q: How do you make the singers understand a character?

Only by understanding it yourself in depth before you even start to talk about it with them. You can later change your mind under the light of work and development, also after having exchanged ideas with your artists, but to even think about beginning rehearsals without knowing by memory both text, subtext and music, is something that never crosses my mind. I have suffered too many of “those” directors not to be afraid of becoming like them...

Q: Do you train your singing every day?

No, I don’t train everyday. The voice is flesh, muscles, blood, bones, etc. It needs to rest as any other part of the body does. My singing voice is the result of more than 30 years of hard work. You may like or dislike my technique, but denying its existence, as some people do, is stupid.  How could I survive such a long career, singing the toughest roles of the repertoire, without knowing what I am doing?

Q: Who is your best critic?

My best critics are my family, my secretary, my assistant, people that will not hesitate to tell me not only the good I am doing, but mainly the bad. They all have a specific “order”: To kick my ... when I am not right!

Q: How do you feel about having a performance at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, at the Vienna State Opera or Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires?

The same I feel when I have a performance in Liege, České Budějovice, Bratislava or Prague. To pretend that only certain places have the right “pedigree” is snobbish and silly. You can do very good or very bad music wherever. From the MET to the smallest school auditorium.

Q: Why did you choose to be an opera stage director? How did this start and what was the turning point that made you decide on it?

In 2006 Rijeka’s opera house wanted to do a different show and I was invited to do whatever experiment I wanted. It was then that my show La commedia č finita was born. The experience was so rewarding and such a great way of amplifying the revolution we were talking about before that I immediately started to invest my energy in finding more and more production work to do. As a result of it, after directing Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at the Köln opera house in 2008, I did a new production of Samson et Dalila in Karlsruhe (2010) that established what has become my style of directing and designing since then: modern, refreshing but intellectually honest. You can find Samson on DVD and see what I mean.

Q: Following Saint-Saëns ́s Samson et Dalila at the Badisches Staatstheater in which you also sang the title role, cames Puccini ́s La Rondine at the Opéra National de Lorraine, in which you also conducted, and Leoncavallo ́s Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie and this year you will direct Puccini ́s La bohčme at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. Why did you decided on these operas?

I didn't choose the titles but I was invited to do them. I will never say THANK YOU enough to these theaters that trusted in me at the beginning of my directing career. I was invited by the Royal Swedish Opera to stage it. A big honor and a great chance to try to do something new with such an over-performed but beautiful opera. Now, invitations are coming, but it needs a lot of “vision” to anticipate what may after become obvious.

Q: Which operas would you like to direct or to conduct?

All of them in which the libretto is good enough to create a good show. I hate operas where the text is so bad that you have the impression that it is only there as an excuse for the music to exist...

Q: Which way do you want to expand your repertoire in opera on the level singing and in classical music on the level conducting?

On the singing side, I am aiming to Tannhäuser and Peter Grimes. On the conducting side, having not dedicated my last 25 years exclusively to conducting, I have such a lot of music I would love to do that the list would be too long to quote.

Q: Do you like more concerts in houses or open-air concerts?

I like good concerts...

Q: Do you like Czech music?

A lot! One of my dearest records is Dvořák’s Love Songs. A recording I remember as one of the most difficult of my career.

Q: What do you do when you are nervous? How do you overcome that?

The only way to overcome nerves is preparation: study, rehearse, study, work, study, research, study, insist, study...

Q: Could you describe your firm Cuibar Production?

Cuibar is my production company. A brand created to back up my work in all senses: productions, recordings, editorial.

Q: What other genres of music do you like or inspire you?

Any gender of music that is dramatically sincere. I hate artistic hypocrisy...




José Cura:  Without Prague my Artistic Pedigree in Not Complete



29 January 2015

Prague – One of the today’s most sought after tenors, Argentine José Cura, spoke Thursday evening at the Prague State Opera.  He was introduced as the singer in the title role of Verdi’s Otello, a role he first sang when he was 34.  “It took me twenty years to really understand this character, to figure out the drama,” said Cura.

 “For me, it is very important that I can finally sing for the first time in Prague at the State Opera.  It is inconceivable that I sang in almost all the theaters in the world and never in Prague. My artistic pedigree was not complete.  I needed it.  I needed to be in Prague and I am really enjoying every minute of this job,” he said.

Otello is like a marathon

According to Cura, Otello is a highly complicated masterpiece that is also essentially a modern work.  The violent and frustrating story is a picture of the contemporary world, which is in great moral crisis:  “I don’t like the story but that is what it tells you.  It is a story of betrayal, jealousy, soldiering, apostasy, about a lot of the negative elements that Shakespeare used to denounced them.  In this sense, the opera, or better, the drama, is always current.”

Otello is also a very challenging musically. “It’s like you run a marathon.  The best marathon runners are not the youngest but most experienced.  Because they know how to handle those forty-two kilometers.  If you run the first two kilometers at full throttle, you are not going to make it to the second half.  In Otello, it is the same.  You have to cleverly pace the tempo to master this very difficult role until the end,” said the renowned tenor. .

A second performance will be held on February 24.  Cura believes that his work with the State Opera will not end there:  after the reconstruction in 2016 he would like to be involve with the staging of a work worthy its history and fame.   


































Last Updated:  Tuesday, May 30, 2017  © Copyright: Kira