As a singer, composer and conductor, José Cura is considered to be one of the most accomplished artists of his generation. Celebrated the world over for his performances of Verdi and Puccini as well as his French roles, this great Argentinean tenor is also one of the few contemporary artists specialized in verismo opera.
Notable are his performances in Fedora
(at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1994 with Mirella Freni in the title role) and Andrea Chénier
(at the Zurich Opernhaus in 1999) - both by Giordano, Mascagni's Iris
(in Rome in 1996) and Cavalleria rusticana
(Ravenna Festival, 1996, conducted by Riccardo Muti), and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci
(Amsterdam Concertgebouw, 1996, with Riccardo Chailly). The latter two productions were filmed and broadcast by Eurovision, and as such count as milestones in José Cura's career.
He was born in Rosario, Santa Fe, on December 5th, 1962, and his musical life began with his first guitar lessons from Juan di Lorenzo. At 15 he made his debut as a choral conductor. A year later he began studying composition with Carlos Castro and the piano with Zulma Cabrera. In 1982, he went to study at the School of Arts of the National University of Rosario. The following year he became assistant conductor for the University choir. At 21, he won a grant to study at the School of Arts of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, where he sang for several years in the theatre chorus, while at the same time studying composition and conducting. In 1988 he met Horacio Amauri, who taught him the basis of his singing technique.
In 1991, José Cura left Argentina for Europe. In 1992 he met the tenor Vittorio Terranova, through whose teaching he acquired his mastery of Italian operatic style. In February 1992 he made his theatrical debut at Verona, playing the role of the father in Henze's Pollicino
. In Genoa he played Le Remendado in Carmen
and the Captain of the Crossbowmen in Simon Boccanegra
. His first major role was as Jan in the Trieste production of Bibalo's Miss Julie
in March 1993. In the same year, he attracted critical attention for his performance as Albert Gregor in Janacek's The Makropoulos case
, directed by Pinchas Steinberg. In 1994, after Nabucco
in Genoa and La Forza del destino
in Turin, he sang Ruggero in the world première of the third version of Puccini's La Rondine
, and in the summer of the same year sang in Martina Franca in Le Villi
, Puccini's first opera, which is rarely performed.
In September 1994, José Cura made his American debut in Chicago as Loris Ipanoff in Fedora
. After giving a gala concert at the Teatro Colón in 1994, he returned to Italy to play Paolo il Bello in the Palermo production of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini
. Later that year he sang in Fedora
in Triest. In June 1995, he made his London debut in the title role of Stiffelio
in the Verdi Festival at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In the following month he sang his first Cavaradossi (Tosca
) at the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago. Later that year he sang for the first time at the Paris Opéra Bastille in a new production of Nabucco
, playing the role of Ismaele. In January 1996, he returned to the Royal Opera House to play his first Samson in Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila
For his debuts in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1996, he added two roles to his repertoire, Pollione in Norma
and Don José in Carmen
. After singing Il Corsaro
in Turin and Tosca
in London in May 1996, José Cura took part in the Melbourne and Sydney show, The Puccini Spectacular, which was specially devised for his Australian debut.
In December 1996, he starred in a BBC documentary entitled Great Composers, accompanied notably by Leonita Vaduva and Julia Migenes. The first programme, devoted to Puccini, was broadcast in December 1997. Earlier, José Cura had made his debut at La Scala in Milan in Ponchielli's La Gioconda
. He returned to La Scala in 1998 to sing in Manon Lescaut
, then again in February 1999 for La Forza del destino
, conducted by Riccardo Muti. When he took on the title role in Verdi's Otello
in Turin in May 1997, with the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado, the Florence daily La Nazione ran the headline, 'José Cura: a new Otello is born!'
In June 1997, Cura won an Abbiati Award (the Italian critics' prize), for his performances in two Mascagni's operas - Iris
in Rome and Cavalleria rusticana
in Ravenna - and in Verdi's Il Corsaro
in Turin. In 1999, the Buenos Aires' CAECE University, awarded José Cura the distinction of "Professor Honoris Causae" and the city of Rosario, the one of "Citizen of Honour". The year ended splendidly, with the opening of the season at the Met, when he sang in Cavalleria rusticana
, sharing the evening with Placido Domingo in Pagliacci
, and Otello
at the Teatro Real in Madrid. Verdi's work was a recurring theme in 2000; José Cura was invited to sing Otello
in Washington and performed the role of Alfredo in La Traviata
in Paris, a televised production broadcast live around the world via Mondo Visione most notably by Rai 1, France 2 and 3, ZDF and Channel Four. In December of the same year, he sang in Il Trovatore
at the Teatro Real in Madrid. Also, in the 2000, José Cura was knighted "Chevalier de l'Ordre du Cedre" by the Lebanese Government.
The year 2001 saw the Centenary of Verdi's death. At that time, José Cura appeared in a number of special performances and opera productions including Otello
at the Wien Staatsoper on January 27th, the date of Verdi's death, Paris Châtelet, London Covent Garden, Trieste's Teatro Verdi and Zurich Opera. He also sang in performances of Aida
in Greece and Japan.
An additional highlight of 2001 was José Cura's appointment as Principal Guest conductor of Sinfonia Varsovia, a position previously held by the late Lord Menuhin. An exceptional talent, José Cura has already conducted a number of highly acclaimed concerts with this remarkable Polish orchestra including Respighi's Pines of Rome
, Rachmaninov's Second Symphony
and Beethoven's Choral Symphony No. 9
. He has also made his most recent recordings with them - Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2
, and Aurora, a collection of opera arias which are new to the Cura discography. Both have been released under his own new CD label, Cuibar Phono Video (CPV), in collaboration with Avie Records.
His singing career is now shared with his conducting one. His recent appearance as conductor and tenor at a groundbreaking performance in the Vienna KonzertHall in November 2002, where he sang arias for his new album and also conducted the Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2
, has emphatically affirmed both these roles. Symphonic concerts in 2003 include Brahms's Fourth Symphony
, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
, Respighi's Feste Romane
and Pini di Roma
which he directed at the New Year's concert in Budapest on December 31st, 2002. Future opera performances include Otello
in Japan and Italy, Don Carlo
in Zurich, Tosca
in Vienna and Pagliacci
in Hamburg where he will also be conducting Cavalleria rusticana
José Cura can also be seen and heard on DVD. His latest releases are Passion for Verdi performed with the London Symphony Orchestra; and Il Trovatore
, a BBC live recording from Covent Garden.