(Copyright, Lebanese Imprints on the Twentieth Century, Volume I,
Asma Freiha and Viviane Ghanem, 2006)
public discovered the tenor, composer and conductor José
Cura, rightly considered one of his generation's greatest artists,
at the Baalbeck Festival in the summer of 2000.
Cura's ancestor, Chalita el-Khoury, was born in 1874 in Knet and
his great-grandmother, Theresa bou-Saada, was born in 1881 in the
village of Zghorta. In 1900, both left their home in Northern Lebanon
to immigrate to Argentina.
By the time
José was born on the 5th of December 1962 in Rosario (Santa
Fe), his family had adopted the name Cura as it was deemed easier
to pronounce in Spanish than the name Khoury.
He began guitar
lessons at the age of twelve and at sixteen began studying composition
with Carlos Castro and the piano with Zulma Cabrera.
In 1982 he was
admitted to the Arts School of the National University of Rosario
to further his musical studies. By the following year, he had become
assistant conductor of the university choir. While focusing on composition
and orchestration, he continued to sing in the university choir
until 1988 when he began serious voice training with Horacio Amauri.
Determined to pursue a career in opera, José Cura settled
in Italy in 1991 where he continued his voice training with Vittorio
Terranova. His first public performance was in Verona in 1992 in
In March 1993
he was offered his first leading role as Jan in Bibalo's Signorina
Giuglia in Trieste and he has since been in constant demand for
leading operatic roles ever since.
He won the International
Operalia competition in September 1994 and toured America where
he met with great success, especially in Chicago singing the role
of Loris Ipanov in Fedora.
since followed him from America to Buenos Aires, from Palmero to
Trieste, from Paris' Opera Bastille to London's Royal Opera House
where he received special acclaim for his role of Samson in Samson
In 1996, he
participated in the recording of the BBC's Great Composers' with
Julia Mijenez Johnson and Leontina Vaduva. In just a few years he
had become a huge star, earning a particular accolade in May 1997
from La Nazione: after his performance with the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado the newspaper's headline ran
"José Cura, a new Othello is born."
After his visit
to Lebanon and to the Baalbeck Festival, he said he felt close to
Mediterranean aromas and senses: the olive oil, the sea, the sun,
and the welcome...
of the Artist Quotes:
from Argentina to Europe in 1991. I worked for two or three years
in restaurants—my wife worked with me, washing dishes—and
we did many things that a lot of people wouldn’t even think
about doing. We had a very hard life. We lived in a garage for one
year because we couldn’t pay the rent, and we heated the garage
with a small fire, with me gathering wood in the middle of the night!"
Classical Singer, January 06
"From 1999 to the beginning of 2004, I [was] under the harshest
of … attacks from many different sources: people calling theaters
to convince artistic directors not to engage me, and journalists
being paid to write that I was history, that I was a falling star.
But we persisted... After four years of struggle, we [Cura and his
production company Cuibar] are now successful and very happy with
Singer, January 06
"Yesterday I said to a journalist that we need much more good
than bad news in the media. If you have experienced the positive
energy at this opening ceremony and saw how focused the athletes
are on their sporting aim, then you know the big difference to those
people who have only senseless destruction in their minds. [Write
about it and} perhaps we will have a lot more positive news in the
papers in the coming ten days."
World Games, July 05
“The music world is fond
of labeling people who tries to sep you nice and “safe” in the box
they have chosen for you. However, it is you who, at the end of
your life, will have to explain to that being who gave you your
talents why were you so coward as to not use them all…”
20 March 04
“It's bad for a singer to think only about singing. It kills
the voice and deprives it of all charisma and in addition narrows
one's sense of perception in general. One has to work against that.”
13 Feb 2004
“In this world, courage is viewed as a sign of arrogance.”
Sun-Times, 4 Jan 2004
“I’d like to say that this latest CD of mine is dedicated
to my country, that our flag is on the cover, and that the CD is
called “Aurora”. I love Argentina and I want my fellow
countrymen to know that to the entire world and with a lot of pride,
José Cura in an Argentinean tenor.”
should be respected, but intelligently. Leaving aside the questions
of taste or historical legacy, I don't see why every interpretation
should always follow the same lines, without deviation. Don't you
think it's a shame to lock the dramatic possibilities offered by
certain characters within the same cage, however gilded?"
“There are two ways to arrive at the top of a hill. You can
be put there by a helicopter, and whoosh! The first wind that comes
along whips you down. Or you can arrive at the top by yourself,
making muscles as you go along, so that when you get there you are
strong. That doesn't mean you are invulnerable, but at least you
May 2, 1996
“I approach a role through the drama. I study the libretto,
analyzing the character, and then I look at the music, trying to
discover why the composer has used, for instance, a particular chord
under a perticular word.”
“...If there is one musical experience I will always recall
as the most extremely emotional of my life - as it was the first
time I was really awakened passionately to classical music - it
was when I performed Bach's St Matthew Passion in 1984. I can remember
even today, 20 years ago, how much I wept.”
On his first
significant classical musical experience - The Lady, March/April
“I used to feel I wanted to be the angel of revenge and to
cut off the heads of all the people who were so cruel to me, and
the people who kept talking about me unkindly. Then one day I thought
the contrary and said to myself: maybe I should thank them for what
they did and said, because that all pushed me to go forward and
eventually reach where I am now.”
the hardships in his early career - The Lady, March-April 2001
“A true art based on beauty and harmony elevates our souls
and gives us hope for the future.”
“An artist is somehow like a doctor who cures people's souls."
Pravada, Moscow, 25 Oct 2002
to do in my conducting what I try to do in my singing: to be as
modern as I possibly can. I like pushing things as far as they can
go in one direction then stepping back to find a balance. How do
you know what your limits are otherwise?”
"I make a rough plan for the staging (of a recital), but the
details depend on the reaction of the audience, which is my partner.
When you tell the one you love “I love you”, you don't
always think about what you will do next, do you?"
- Japan; Jan 31, 2002
"I don't understand why to be an opera singer you have to be
ugly and why to be a sex symbol you have to be an idiot… Do
15 Oct 1999, Fiona Sturges
"When I'm recording, I forget about where I am, I try to be
the character. If I have to cry, I cry, if I have to sob, I sob,
and if I have to crack, I crack. The listener must take it or leave
Nov 1997, Nick Kimberley
"Nobody expects a reviewer to say that your performance was
all lovely and wonderful every time, but also we have a right not
to expect that writers use artists to take out their own frustrations.
Critics have a responsibility, because as such they should know
what they are talking about and so be able to interpret what they
see in the performance and tell other people about it in an engaging
way. This is an intelligent critic. But there are many who are not,
and it is the unintelligent writing that kills the audiences, that
puts a prejudice in their head before they come, or stops them coming
April 2001, Catherine Pate
"No good careers are really sudden. It's two or three years
since the world has known about Jose Cura, but there were another
20 (years) before that. I wasn't invented by the media or my record
company. I'm the result of hard work and that makes me feel comfortable."
1999, Opera, John Allison
"A career is like
an iceberg, most of it under water."
October 1999, John Allison
"When I am criticised as a result of my professional performance,
that is OK. But when the review is about the way I dress, the way
I walk, the way I move my hands, that is completely wrong."
Telegraph April 2001, Paul Gent
"I hate the word tenor. I don't hate ‘being’ a
tenor, but what I don't like is that 'tenor' puts an ‘original
sin’ on you, from which you cannot be forgiven..."
CD, December 1999, Jeremy Pound
"Some mornings I wake up and wonder if I am doing the right
thing for the artist and myself, as opposed to the career."
March 2, 2001, James Inverne
"One of the challenges of trying to keep opera alive is to
make it thrilling: you're taking dangers, you're taking risks, you're
making efforts to be different. Nothing is more frustrating for
an audience than having a singer standing open-legged in the middle
of the stage, trying to make sure that every note is in exactly
the same place. It's boring and pathetic."
1998, Jeremy Pound
"I think that God was always surveying and controlling my life
and saying: ‘You're going to be a singer even if you don't
want to be a singer. It will take time to convince you, but you're
going to be a singer’. Well..."
Oct 99, Rebecca Paller
"If you have the luck in our job to be physically nice enough
and you don't take care of yourself, you are stupid...What I am
saying is that I might have been blessed with a certain look, but
I am also a former body builder, a black belt in Kung Fu, I taught
gym, and I keep on training, making sacrifices. Looking after the
way I look is part of the job for me."
with José Cura