Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director




Operas:  Otello in Salzburg

March 2016

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Otello in Salzburg


Osterfestspiele Salzburg / Salzburg Easter Festival

 with José Cura


Illness has compelled Johan Botha to cancel all his performances until the end of March 2016, including Otello at the Salzburg Easter Festival. Fortunately, we have succeeded at very short notice in engaging one of the world’s most in-demand tenors for the title role: José Cura will sing Otello.


José Cura will sing Otello instead of Johan Botha

Serious illness has compelled Johan Botha to cancel all his performances until the end of March 2016. To his great regret, this includes Otello with Christian Thielemann at the Salzburg Easter Festival. The Festival also very much regrets this cancellation, and would like to wish Johan Botha all the best and a speedy recovery.

Fortunately, we have succeeded at very short notice in engaging one of the world’s most in-demand tenors for the title role: José Cura will sing Otello, a role that he has already sung several times in the course of his career, including at the Zurich Opera House, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and the Vienna State Opera. José Cura is particularly celebrated for his interpretations of the Italian repertoire. Besides roles such as Rodolfo (La bohème), Don José (Carmen) Turridu (Cavalleria rusticana), Edgar, Stiffelio and Cavaradossi (Tosca), his star roles are above all in the heldentenor repertoire: Canio (Pagliacci), Dick Johnson (La fanciulla del West), Samson (Samson et Dalila), Calaf (Turandot) and, as here in Salzburg, Otello.  

The Salzburg Easter Festival would like to express its heartfelt thanks to José Cura for his willingness to take on this role.



Verdi’s Otello and the Poet Behind the Opera: Shakespeare

With Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello we are placing a major work of the European operatic repertoire at the heart of our programme in 2016. This work also brings the poet into focus on whose drama Verdi based his tragedy in music: William Shakespeare, who for centuries has animated and inspired the music world like no one else. Our concert programmes this year follow the traces of his influence – from Weber’s Oberon Overture via Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tchaikovsky’s fantasy overture Romeo and Juliet and Henze’s Eighth Symphony, down to a new work in which Manfred Trojahn engages with four of Shakespeare’s women characters. As a spiritual counterpoint to our opera, we shall also feature the great masses by Bach and Beethoven.











Otello in Salzburg


Larger than Life

Christian Lacroix is not only a world famous couturier but, since the 1980s, he has also been designing costumes for opera, theatre and ballet. In an interview with the Salzburg Easter Festival, he recounts that working for the catwalk and the opera stage is not as different as you might believe. And he reveals what materials his Otello costume designs will be made of and which stylistic epochs they combine.


In which the fashion designer indicates his costumes will depend on the personalities of the actors....


When designing the costumes, do you focus on the figures of Otello, Desdemona and Iago, or are you clothing the performers: José Cura, Dorothea Röschmann and Carlos Álvarez? In other words, how important is the specific performer to the costume design?

Lacroix: This is the mistake I made as a beginner: only listening to the director’s point of view. For Così fan tutte, for instance, the director wanted a very young Fiordiligi, Dorabella, Ferrando and Guglielmo, quite modern adolescents, half naked on an Italian beach. Then when we discovered that the cast was not the right age, silhouette or behaviour. For me, it is now impossible to start designing any of the costumes without knowing the cast. You must have the singer or actor’s silhouette, style and personality in mind to begin work on the character they have to play. That’s difficult for some productions with several casts or repertoire pieces that last years and years with many different artists.

Otello is a powerful man, but he is also weak. Is it possible to illustrate the ambivalence of his character with costume, as well as its development during the opera?

Lacroix: Of course, with a kind of armour-coat and a heavy brocade carapace, but with the effect of the naked chest underneath or a very thin shirt like a second skin. We originally planned the costumes, make-up and hair for Johan Botha, but now we’ve had to change the designs to express this power and weakness according to José Cura’s personality.

Although the details in opera costumes are much less visible to the audience than haute couture in a fashion show, you seem to work in a highly detailed way for every single person on stage. Are you a stickler for detail?

Lacroix: When asked about what the difference is between couture and stage clothes, I used to answer that couture had to be un-noticed from a distance, but exquisite, special and subtle close-up, while costumes for the stage had to be expressive, loud and underlined from afar and not so detailed, elaborated or finished to couture quality. But I am lucky to be able to work with the best houses, like the Paris Opéra or the Comédie-Française, and now in Salzburg, where the workshops have such skill and know-how, with a couture-like way of working with the materials. So I can design for a large stage the same way as I used to work for the salons, runways and catwalks. And I think this is both visible from a distance and much better for the artists on stage.

The interview was conducted by Martin Riegler







We start as we always start when we have a batch of reviews, with a warning:  much of what is written  is in promotion of a political agenda rather than in support of artistic honesty.

This seems particularly true with high visibility venues like Salzburg.

With that in mind, we did fast summaries and computer assisted translations of all the reviews we could find and present them below.  None of these should be considered definitive but should give you a general idea of how things went in Salzburg. 


Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


Easter Festival:  Nice Applause


for Opening of Otello


Salzburger Nachrichten

20 March 2016


Dark like the heart of darkness was presented at the opening premiere of this year’s Salzburg Easter Festival.  Giuseppe Verdi’s late work, the Shakespearean drama Otello, located in the Grosses Festspielhaus, is directed by Vincent Boussard, in a space completely devoid of light.  At the end there was friendly applause for the good ensemble and some boos for the director.

In the title role, José Cura won the majority of the audience….





Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


Summary and excerpted:

Kiss of the Death Angel

Christian Thielemann conducts Otello by Giuseppe Verdi in Salzburg.  The conductor keeps it bleak from the outset because for him, the final double murder is simply inevitable... His is a celebration of death expectancy and a grandiose cult of the lethal. The Dresden State Orchestra are the Styx, breathing doom and destruction. The timbres previously colored are now even darker.   In this Otello, there is no salvation to find and that death is the only possible consolation.

Dorothea Röschmann adopts wholeheartedly Thielemann gloom as Otello. This Desdemona knows that she will be murdered, almost yearns for it, anything else would be a disaster. Other than Röschmann, however, Thielemann receives little support from the stage for his interpretation. This is due in part to Director Vincent Boussard. He meets Shakespeare's boiling spectacle from an extreme distance. He only hints, just as in epic theater, with emotions on the back burner.  He offers the singers no compelling role concepts, at least there is no sign of it.  Between fluttering cloths and often motionless at a mega long table while the dance-gymnastics of Sofia Pintzou as the black angel of death completely dominated.

The Iago of Carlos Álvarez can be fairly consistent and elegant in Boussard;s game of stylization.  However, his voice is always only black and dark, never threatening or destructive. This is by no means the villain who always wants the bad and always creates the worst.  That could only be divined from Thielemann's orchestral offerings.

José Cura as Otello takes the director's concept as a license for scenic laissez-faire. At his best, he captures the lyrical, intimate passages. 






Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


  An Angel of Death and no Real Drama

A middle ground between table or catwalk across almost the entire empty stage, with tons of candles on it. The black Angel of death dances to a mysterious choreography: an elegant atmosphere for a first class funeral. But is it the right place for a marriage quarrel?

We are in the third Act. Otello is highly infected by the virus of jealousy and calls for the fateful handkerchief from Desdemona. The two are lost, standing the maximum distance away from each other (and that is very far on the stage in the great Festival Hall!). Since no serious quarrel can crystallize, we have only the juxtaposition of two monologues. This is the biggest emotion that Director Vincent Boussard allows his two protagonists. 

This scene really captures the general mood of Otello, this year's production of the Easter Festival: cool, aloof, far away from a gripping story told.  The invented to Todesengel (dancer Sofia Pintzou) with black wings often carries fire in her hands.  The angel is introduced immediately.  Yes, it is a bad end for Desdemona and Otello.  This we have always known.  Actually the Director just wants to tell us that Otello and the Venetian blonde Desdemona are not a good match and the horrible end is thus foreseeable.

An abundantly inconsequential, fatalistic view of the music drama of Verdi. Perhaps it might be worthy of a discussion if musically the exact opposite is happening, when we would really be gripped. No a chance. Certainly in the title role José Cura, although offering a lot of lyrical singing (the first, intensely colored by the cellos in the scene with Desdemona is really memorable), is unable to offer the frenzied emotion which is part of the title role--because (in this staging) it simply lacks all intensity and dangerousness.

Christian Thielemann did not help the drama, focusing instead on Verdi's obvious curiosity after the current achievements of the Impressionists. Desdemona's Willow Song and Ave Maria did not seriously move anyone.

Audible resentment not only against the director but also against Dorothea Röschmann.  Thielemann was applauded, even if he doesn't bring hailed one, even if he does not specifically bring Verdi (to the podium).



Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


Easter Festival: Dark Otello with some bright spots

Black wall, a white door and an overly long table - that is the typical Boussard-opera production.  Admittedly, this is somewhat pointed, but goes to the heart.  Even with Giuseppe Verdi's late work everything is aesthetically like a Designer loft held - and just as cold.  So what happens is, moved to the black general of the Venetians who kills his wife Desdemona because of an intrigue of his subordinates Iago in a timeless non-space.  Boussards concept is best when the Frenchman visually shrink the huge stage of the grosses Festspielhaus for the love and the murder scene optically reduced and black space a bright white chamber can appear to float.

The real problem, however, is that the singers Boussard guide are not only neglected, they are simply negated.  Ultimately, he relies on simple ramp theater without interaction of the participants, concealed by the scantily scant illumination.  The singers interact more with each other in concert performances.   

In this picture the team of the singer attempted to add sense.  Jose Cura - as conductor and director himself who is intimately familiar with Otello - stepped in the title role for their originally intended Austro-South African Johan Botha and presented his short-tempered commander with solid vocal line.

 Applause at the end of the entire ensemble...

Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


Salzburg Easter Festival: Cheers for Otello

Director Boussard begins with the storm by floating a white giant sail over the orchestra pit, where Sofia Pintzou wraps up herself in it as she becomes the constantly accompanying (death) Angel.  But at the first chord Desdemona and Otello appear briefly and kiss intimately on the empty stage.

There should have been a storm but there is not one, because Boussard has the chorus completely motionless behind the sail, irritating because of the powerful choral sound of the Saxon State Opera Chorus Dresden easily breaks through this transparent sailing scene.  It is also strange that the citizens of Cyprus are dressed in Elizabethan costume with ruff, while the other protagonists dress in far more modern clothes.

The fourth act is the poignant revelation, even the most beautiful apotheosis of perfection musical drama.

Again, we are in the white-equipped room crypt like at the beginning without bed. The wedding dress is hanging above the door, Otello appears and when Desdemona turns away from it, it become a deadly embrace. This scene Cura sings very well - also the monologue "Dio mi potevi" Act 3: with particular expression, beautiful timbre and warm voice.



Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


Otello in a Supercool Design

Thielemann searched for three acts for the line through the precarious music to balance between the dramatic attack and the intimate moments, packing a bold outline of the score that clearly has modern music dramatic aspects.  There seemed a strange perplexity in sounds from the orchestra pit, not always perfect coordination in the ensembles and choral scenes (most peculiarly: the choir of the Dresden Semperoper), especially when Thielemann too often clearly gives in to his penchant for stretching the tempo, thus achieving more storage than drive.  Only in the last act did the usual, finer tone quality magically arrive.  But even there it was oddly cool emotions, with little compelling tension.

José Cura seemed to be holding back the big passion of Otello, evidently at the will of Director Vincent Boussard, creeping through the gigantic space like a tired, lonely loser. Nowhere was there recognition the sharpened psychological motivations or even the exciting narrative in the obligation to this lifeless arrangement.  




Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


Coffee with Otello

A disappointing production of the opera by Giuseppe Verdi.

So, that was a cozy Premiere. Dark enough on stage that one or the other could have quietly gone for a little nap. Such likable singers at work that you would have liked to go for a cappuccino at the famous Caffé Florian with the Venetian Moor and dinner with Jago.  Such sweet sounds from the pit.

Giuseppe Verdi's Otello at the Salzburg Easter Festival: the perfect production when it comes to disturbing no one with any interpretation attempts to attract attention or generate well-being.  Opera delectat.

You get little of the drama of the Shakespearean material.  The intrigue of Iago are as dangerous as a boy’s prank.  The murder of Desdemona happens almost causally, in the wake of a fierce hug.  And afterwards, when Otello only leans against a wall as he learns about the deadly game with his jealousy and Desdemona gets up again and departs with the angel of death, the work seems almost satirical.

José Cura is still a singer who goes to the limit, he has an Italian flair in his voice, and he sings some beautiful melodic lines.  In the premiere he was not always precise in his intonation.  As a performer, he is intense; however one cannot get rid of the feeling that arises that the intensity comes less from the logical direction but rather springs from his personality.  His Otello is a brooder, and intellectual, almost a sage as Otello.  Also, he does not perform in blackface.  In the first half, he is wearing a white shirt, in the second half a black one.  One is happy watching him but it could just as well be any other opera and it would be just as good.

Unfortunately, even Christian Thielemann remains with the Staatskapelle only on the surface. Even his Otello is embellished to little dramatic, not even particularly accurate, but sonically splendid. One thinks more like a mixture of Puccini and Strauss than this Verdi'sche masterpiece. For cappuccino, the orchestra provides the milk foam.


Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


A murder like a hug - Thielemann Otello in Salzburg

Usually, the great opera performances of the Salzburg Easter Festival become the homage to Christian Thielemann, the CEO of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden and legitimate executor of his former mentor, the festival founder Herbert von Karajan. At the premiere of Verdi's Otello at the start of the 49th Festival on Saturday evening in the Großes Festspielhaus, the applause was a bit more restrained than usual. Even a few boo's from the ranks were heard.

It liked not have located on the quality of the offer. The orchestra played gorgeously, José Cura as Otello, Dorothea Röschmann as Desdemona and Carlos Álvarez as Jago, left little to be wished for, and the minimalist, poetic staging the Frenchman Vincent Boussard was at least not disruptive.  The great love scene between Otello and Desdemona at the beginning and Desdemona death at the hands of Otello at the end, went to the heart.




Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


 Otello: Opulent studies of an opera Rage

Polite applause for the sometimes static staging of Vincent Boussard with poetic images and large misty decoration  

The overall charm of this production also enriched a second cinematic level. Here the Bühnenwirk- reflects sensitivity, here they meet their quasi alienated, sometimes wild reflection. As Otello circulated quasi in the primordial ooze of his jealousy, or even in the fog of his rage. Where sometimes the message of these images also acts a little clouded.

But the images act, they fill this huge stage, and so to do the voices: Although José Cura roared a bit he has important sound intensity and certainly didn't deserve the few boos.


Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....



Otello, Aging Husband in Erotic Distress

The silent opening scene of a few seconds disclosed once the core of the drama: In chiaroscuro of dark-suited Otello and Desdemona meet in the light - as complementary and at the same time but incompatible principles.  That the orchestral storm waves break loose exactly when the two loving fall into each other’s  arms, pointing the way to understanding Vincent Boussards staging in the Grosses Festspielhaus: the external action moves into the background, more internal spaces are explored, expanded states of mind, a gloomy fate predicted.

The strong light-dark contrasts pervade the whole evening, and ultimately replaces Otello’s dark skin: Boussard suggests the mechanisms of perceived erotic inferiority of an aging man and artfully fueled jealousy are regardless of times and cultures. 

The international field of Otello singer is scary small. Currently Jonas Kaufmann was probably only suitable, appropriate manner to deal with the game in a Festival demands (and prices!). But he planned not only a full schedule, but also his role debut until 2017 in London. So, José Cura was brought in - a saviour in the emergency ….















English translation courtesy of José Cura


View on José's Official Web Site



Has your view of Otello changed over the years?

When I started to perform Otello, my hair was all black and now it is “salt and pepper”. Such change in me explains also the changes in my interpretation. Add to that, that in the meantime I have also directed the opera and that in April, for the Shakespeare anniversary, I will conduct it for the first time. I think I can humbly say that I am a very “in-depth” specialist of Otello today. No arrogance, just hard and long work.

There has been quite a vigorous debate about Otello recently, since the Metropolitan Opera stopped “black facing“ the singer…

Otello not only needs the skin color, but also a voice that matches the role. Therefore, in opera is quite difficult to avoid the white casting. I understand the good intention, but I also see a “hidden trap” in it: If only black guys can do black roles, that means only white people can do white roles. So a black actor would never be able to portray Hamlet? Or Richard the III? Or…? This new “politically correct fashion” provides the best excuse not to engage black professionals… If you ask me, that stinks more of racism than making-up your face. Some of my black friends are really worried with this perspective.

The Osterfestspiele are celebrating their 50 year anniversary in 2017. It is – and always has been – a luxurious festival. In which way do you think does that kind of luxury fit into today’s society?

In the same way a Rolls-Royce fits in a garage… There are many brands of cars and each person can buy the one that suits his economy. Osterfestspiele is a luxurious rendez-vous of many of the same fortunes that are sponsoring other opera houses with “normal” ticket prices. So far so good.

Opera seems to be changing a lot these days. Some opera houses are becoming more like museums, others are more daring. Do you think opera is in crisis mode?

The world is in “crises mode”. No way to run away from this huge moment of adjustment/disadjustment. I have faith in society’s good sense, but it may take a long time.

What do you think is necessary to attract a younger audience?

Intellectual honesty, truth of feelings. No matter the aesthetic proposal, provided that you don’t lie to them, the young people will follow you.

Famous tenor Placido Doming is now taking on baritone roles. What is your opinion about this decision?

An artist has the right of presenting his creation the way he wants. On the other hand, the public has the right to follow or not the artist’s proposal.

You are also active as conductor. Which importance will that have for you in the future?

Composition and conducting are my background. My singing career has enriched my approach to it. Therefore, nothing is more natural for me than ending with the career as full time conductor I dreamt about decades ago. But this is beyond my power. Anyhow, I cannot complain: I am not conducting as much as I would like to, but I am keeping my baton in good shape. Also my compositions are now being premiered: Magnificat last February and Ecce Homo next March 2017.

Some of your colleagues are aiming to become the head of an opera house. Is that something you are thinking about?

Yes, but probably not for the same reasons… After more than 30 years of stage I can proudly say that there is a style that defines my artistic credo. Working full time with a theater would be a good way of “inoculating” my credo into a company that wants to identify with it. Some will read this lines thinking I am naive, but well…

How important are the looks in today’s opera?

The “looks” can be very important when they are not a “goal” in themselves but a “vehicle”. Myself, long ago I had been sold as “the sex symbol of opera”, so I have some “authority” to talk about the matter: If you want to do “just” a commercial career the kind of we see more and more today, to be good looking can make a difference. But if you want to do a career based on your talent and, after years of hard work, be called an “Artist” with capital A, then the conversation is different. Of course, our public wants to dream, and if the singer “looks” the role, better. But there are many ways of dealing with this.

José Cura
10 - 03 - 2016



Program Courtesy of Jutta






Jutta's eyewitness report of the dress rehearsal:

First of all, I can confirm that - in spite of his sickness -  José did an excellent general rehearsal yesterday. We were there and we feared for him, but he did it!
Considering that all the singers had problems with their health last week it was a remarkable rehearsal.
But the production is really awful.  We can't remember having seen  - please excuse me -  such shit in a long time! We think Verdi would turn in his grave! And the costumes..........dreadful, even if Christian Lacroix designed  them. In my opinion, they don't go well together.  And the orchestra was too loud. 
Therefore, don't be sad for not coming to Salzburg, although I can understand that seeing and hearing José is always worth the travel. But in our opinion it is insolent to demand such high price tickets for such a production. 

Now we hope that he will get well soon, that's the most important thing!!!






Salzburg Easter Festival

Official Photos -- Detailed Presentation










































Production Photos




























































































Curtain Call













Note:  these are computer enhanced excerpts and should not be considered definitive.  They are offered to give a general idea of what is being said....


“Here the Otello is tenor José Cura.  He looks magnificent, this victorious Venetian general, his costumed appearance inspired by the splendor of the Serenissima.  And he splendidly blares “Esultate!”  […] Boussard and his team confuse poetic openness with interpretative vagueness. They lack the courage to give the visually beautiful dance direction. This in turn has a devastating impact on Verdi’s opera. José Cura can rock out audibly as he strives for vocal differentiation as much as he wants:  this Otello has neither character nor depth of life—the issue of skin color or outsider status are not mentioned—so that he acts just like a puppet on the invisible thread of the schemer Iago. Boito and Verdi rejected the idea to call the opera Iago to avoid exactly this effect. The question of guilt and the motivation of pathological jealousy, which lead to the murder of Desdemona, must be embodied within Otello himself.  Cura, otherwise theatrically limited by the director, realizes this urgency in the final scene “Niun mi tema”:  broken by the culpable involvement of his character, he sinks down the wall of the bedroom chamber, his expression and his voice reduced to the most personal, and as the perception of the senseless suffering grows, he can only whisper the truth:  “Otello fu”—everything that accounted for is warrior glory and his love is gone.”  NZZ Feuilleton, 20 March 2016
"Indeed, José Cura possesses many of the qualities necessary for Otello, his "Esultate" (a piece of music which sounds like a compositional revenge by Verdi on all tenors) was still a bit restrained and uneven, but his death in the end was first class and sung with great intelligence with the lyrics. In between, there was a slow immersion into the part, paired with correspondingly good vocal staginess in the ariosi as well as in the duets and in the collapse in act three. And, of course, his acting, the lurking eruptive, his tender moments, the ecstatic get going. He possesses without any doubt the figurative authenticity which an Otello needs in order to belong to the front row."  Der Neue Merker Online, translated by Romana
 “José Cura is a long-serving, experienced Otello who judiciously knows how to deal with the vocals of the role.  He usually strikes sparks with his performance.  Here, he strangley strangely restrained.  He sneaks through the giant room like a tired, lonely loser.  Perhaps the statuary concept was designed for Johan Botha and not rebuilt?”  Salzburger Nachrichten, 21 March 2016

 “Christian Thielemann was very Wagnerian and often too loud. In the title role José Cura excelled with only a few drawbacks, for which he was unfairly punished by the most critical part of the premiere audience.”  NMZ, 20 March 2016



“Thielemann and the Dresden Orchestra may storm and rage, but they do not tell a gripping story. As a result, the drama of jealousy was musically cool and pale at the premiere on Saturday.  With Director Vincent Boussard, neither the tragic love story between Otello and Desdemona nor the intrigues of Iago come to the foreground.  Even the glorious intruder is of no interest to the director.  Instead of dying the skin color of Otello, he puts the Salzburg production in darkness.  And conducting and directing this Otello meet on one point: They present artfully elegant packaging holding an emotionally unresponsive void.  From the outset, tenor José Cura sings a broken, aging Otello, the youthful heroic charisma a distant memory. This Otello is a marked man from the beginning.  Cura’s tenor still has plenty of cream but becomes smoky and seemed under pressure at times.  He did not serve boos.”  Wiener Zeitung, 21 March 2016


“With José Cura and Dorothea Röschmann, the leading roles were both powerful and confident, even if the two were not charismatically the dream couple.  The boos for both at the premiere remains incomprehensible. Dorothea Röschmann proved she can meet the very delicate moments with great sensitiveness and the dramatic ones with hurricane-like vehemence.  The same can be said of José Cura.”  Klassik, 22 March 2016


“José Cura convinces in the title role…and left little to be desired.”  Frankfurter Neue Presse, 21 March 2016


“Vocally, the production is worthy of the Festival it occupies—José as Otello convinces with a full color tenor, fragile tenderness, but also with fiery embers.”  Sudwest Presse, 22 March 2016



Screen Grabs by Yon Re


































Watching in Japan




Last Updated:  Sunday, April 03, 2016  © Copyright: Kira