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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

JOSÉ CURA: ‘Artist Portrait’.
Operatic arias by:- VERDI, (Aida, Otello, Il Trovatore and Don Carlo). PUCCINI, (Turandot, La Boheme and La Rondine). MASCAGNI, (Cavalleria rusticana). LEONCAVALLO, (Pagliacci). GIORDANO, (Andrea Chenier and Fedora) CILEA, (Adriana Lecrouvreur). SAINT-SAËNS, (Samson and Delila). Argentinian songs by GUASTAVINO and GINASTERA.
José Cura (tenor)
Eduardo Delgardo (piano) and Ernesto Bitetti (guitar)
Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra/Placido Domingo, Sir Colin Davis
Mid price.
WARNER 0927 45339-2 [75.12]


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Born on December 5th 1962 in Rosario, Argentina, Cura first studied composition and conducting before taking any vocal studies and trying for a career as a singer. He began to make it big after winning the Placido Domingo ‘International Operalia Prize’ in 1994. Given the dearth of tenors, his big heroic voice seemed like a gift from heaven to opera house intendants and his star rose rapidly as a putative future 4th tenor. Signed by Warner, his first disc, ’Puccini Arias’ conducted by Domingo, appeared in 1997 to generally favourable reviews. Cura subsequently appeared as Alfredo in the film ‘La Traviata a Paris’ and in complete recordings of Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delila (1998) and in a Decca recording of Pagliacci.

Two further developments were to be significant influences in Cura’s stage performances and recording career. First, at the young age of 34, he sang his first Otello; second, in his two subsequent opera recital discs for Warner he conducted his own singing (‘Verdi Arias’ and ‘Verismo’). A good conductor will not only allow the singer to phrase and characterise but also be faithful to the composer and guide the singer as to interpretation etc. On this disc the difference between Domingo conducting Cura in Puccini (tr 1, 12, 13, 15 and 19) and the singer conducting himself in Verdi (tr 2, 3, 9 and10) is simply self indulgence with both singer and composer suffering. The same failings are evident in the tracks taken from the ‘Verismo’ album (tr 5-8, 11and 14).

As to the singing, Cura’s big baritonal sound, and particularly style, is more in the tradition of say Del Monaco or Bonisolli than Bergonzi or Pavarotti. A big voice can be too large for Alfredo (Traviata) or Rodolpho (La Boheme, tr 12 and 13) unless the singer has Domingo’s skill in lightening the vocal tone and weight. Cura doesn’t have that skill, so that Mimi would be bullied rather than seduced into love; his phrasing is lumpy and lacking grace with the voice sounding dry in the middle. In the Turandot and Verismo extracts the singing can be viscerally exciting as long as the listener is looking to thrills not sensitivity.

Whatever the reason, whilst Cura’s big sound taken him to the major opera houses in the heroic tenor roles, his Warner contract, like many others, has hit the skip. As far as this ‘Artist Portrait’ is concerned, it is a good representation of his voice and interpretative skills in the heroic tenor repertoire, which seems to be where his instrument and preference lie. The inadequate brief booklet gives no recording dates or even total time, although the latter can just be gleaned at the bottom right hand corner of the back details. The sparse somewhat eulogistic biographical details are given in English, German and French.

Robert J Farr

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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