A Passion for Verdi
José Cura, tenor and conductor
Deserto sulla terra
(Manrico is serenading Leonora, but Conte di Luna is also there. Both are in love with the same woman, rivals also politically. But neither knows that they are brothers. Manrico is the little brother who was kidnapped by Azucena, Manrico's "mother")

(The most fanous opera-chorus is from this opera, "Va, pensiero")

Ah! Si, ben dite Tutto parea sorridere
(Corrado sings of his part, his first lost love, and promises revenge on the Muslems, the "wicked half-moon")

Egli non riede ancora Non so le tetre immagini
(Medora sings a sad song, she thinks she will never see Corrado again if he sails away again)

ERNANI (Act 1)
Prelude - Mercé, diletti amici Come rugiada al cespite
(Ernani has become a bandit because of the King, Don Carlos (Charles V). Elvira is loved by Ernani, Don Carlos and Silva. Silva is going to marry Elvira tomorrow unless Ernani gets help from his friends)

Tacea la notte
(Leonora sings of her love to Manrico, of their first meeting)

AIDA (Act 3)
Pur ti riveggo!
(Radames meets Aida in secret. As he is betrothed to Amneris, the Faraoh's daughter and Aida is just a slave, the love-prospect of Aida & Radames have little hope. What about, run-away from Egypt into the fertile land of Etiopia, Aida's country)


Io vengo a domandar
(Don Carlos, Infante of Spain wants to go away to the Flanders. Elisabeth de Valois, who once was betrothed to Don Carlos is now married to his father, the King Filip II)


Tu che le vanità
(Elisabeth de Valois has promised Posa, the now deceaced friend of Carlos, to help Carlos get to Flanders. She is singing about Charles V, the grand-father of Don Carlos, the great king)


La vita è inferno all'infelice Oh, tu che in seno
(Don Alvaro's life, born in jail, as the son of the last Inca royalty and the vice-king. His parents died for their dream of a throne. He meets love in Leonora di Vargas, but as he have to conceil who he is, he is not wanted as a suitor. As they try to run-away together, his arms fires off and kills Leonora's father. And now he think she is dead. Her brother Don Carlo wants nothing less than to kill Alvaro and his own sister since he feels the family honor have been tainted. When Carlo gets his duel, Carlo gets mortally wounded, but the last thing Carlo does is to kill Leonora. Alvaro is devastated)

OTELLO (Act 1)
Già nella notte densa
(Love-duet between Desdemona and Otello)

Special Feature: Backstage at the Barbican
This page was last updated on: July 31, 2014

Byronic Cura hogs the limelight

Jose Cura
Barbican, London

Tim Ashley
Thursday March 1, 2001

Jose Cura's long-awaited Verdi tribute wasn't quite the one-man show that some had anticipated. Backed by the London Symphony Orchestra, he shared the honours with the soprano Daniela Dessi and the conductor Pier Giorgio Morandi, each of whom were allotted almost equal time on the platform. Inevitably, however, the testosterone-fuelled Argentinian hogged the limelight whenever he appeared. For much of the time you were conscious of his putting on a self-dramatising act.

He kicked the evening off with Manrico's Serenade from Il Trovatore. In the opera it is sung offstage, and Cura duly began it in the artist's room, bounding on to the platform at the line "A troubadour is greater than any king". He was dressed to slay, looking impeccably Byronic in tight pants and a flowing black silk shirt. Thereafter he played games with the audience. He conducted the overture to Nabucco himself. The house went wild, and Cura, having left the podium, kept peering back into the auditorium with a look of surprise as if to say: "Is all this for me?" In the duet from the third act of Aida, he joined Dessi by making a grand entrance at the back of the stalls. Had there been an available chandelier, I suspect he might have swung from it.

True, such antics do break down the formulaic structure of the operatic extracts concert, but they also detract mightily on occasion from the singing. Fortunately Cura wins hands down on musical talent alone. Although he has been dubbed "the fourth tenor", his voice and style hark back to a previous generation of performers, the great tenors of the 1950s such as Franco Corelli and Mario del Monaco. The sound is dark and thrilling, his delivery ballsy and impactive. He's a fine vocal actor, colouring his voice to suit each character, a fact that emerged only gradually during the evening.

The first half of the concert focused on Verdi's flamboyant heroes - dangerously glamorous figures such as Corrado from Il Corsaro, Ernani and Radames, the principled warrior from Aida. Each of them was rawly, thrillingly portrayed, though it wasn't until after the interval that we were able to appreciate the full depth and range of Cura's singing. Here he offered us the self-doubting Alvaro from La Forza del Destino and his Don Carlos - introverted, neurotic and profoundly moving. As an encore, he gave us a glimpse of his Otello, tracking Dessi's Desdemona in the love duet from the first act with the touching naivety of an enraptured innocent.

Dessi, sadly, isn't in his league. She's unfailingly accurate and sensitive to both phrasing and textual nuance, but the tone sometimes curdles and you miss the opulent sheen of truly great Verdi sopranos such as Renata Tebaldi and Leontyne Price. Morandi, however, is a real find, an immaculate judge of the pace, ebb and flow of this music. The playing by the LSO was simply to die for.