José Cura: unwanted effects of the pandemic on music and dangers of streaming

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Lucidly, the tenor – who we can see on the Colón website this November 15 “Andrea Chénier” – warns about the future of the music business.

The lack of a stage for purebred artists is as hard to bear as it is for a thoroughbred horse to be locked in the pits.. If you don’t organize yourself to keep your optimism in shape, seclusion can wither you ”, says José Cura, from Madrid, one of the most recognized tenors in the world and with a great affinity with the verista repertoire.

With more than thirty years of career, José Cura, an artist from Rosario, has lived for several years in the Spanish capital, and managed to organize the confinement that the pandemic imposed on the world around two activities that had been relegated for a long time: playing the guitar and to compose. Wrote Concert for a revival for guitar and orchestra, he finished a You gods, and now is correcting the Requiem which he wrote in 1985, dedicated to the victims of the South Atlantic war. His music will be published shortly in an Austrian publisher.

“We have spoken a lot with family and friends,” he trusts, “who were emotionally caught off guard by this pandemic. The consequences were tremendous: domestic violence increased due to forced coexistence, increased consumption of alcohol and other ‘stunners’ necessary to not think, etc. For those of us who were well, it was great to have time to reset affections, reaffirm deliveries, enjoy the company in silence, well, not having to rush out to catch a plane, there was no reason to rush to say everything together”.

José Cura is a quite exceptional tenor, not only because he was a bodybuilder, an electrician, a carpenter, but because, like Renaissance artists, he is interested in getting involved in all areas of artistic endeavor. In addition to conducting the stage, he has mastered conducting and composition.

He does not write scripts, but he prefers to write the answers to the interviews himself and send them by e-mail because he does not like it when they do “talk in the ways of another”, he says, adding that “there is no direct word from the interviewee to know him. ”. Anyway, it must be said that Cura managed to convey his closeness and exuberance even in the cold and impersonal environment of an email.

This Sunday, November 15, at 8 p.m., the Teatro Colón will broadcast the opera Andrea Chenier, a 2017 theater production that featured Cura as the main character.

– Are you going to watch the transmission? Do you usually see yourself, listen to you?

-It will be midnight here and I am not a night owl …

-You have been in music for more than 30 years and the current context seems like a good time to take stock. Did you meditate on that? What do you think were your great successes and your bad decisions?

-When this mess started, the first thing I said to myself was “You already gave. Taking it easy after about three thousand functions in 30 years of international career, to the point of thinking about retiring if that were the case, is not a shame”. I discussed it with friends and students and, as if they had reached an agreement, each one of them scolded me, telling me that now is when they need me most as a reference. So I sharpened my sword and stood guard.

-What is happening in the world with opera in this context of a pandemic? In Argentina the theaters remain closed. How is it over there?

Covid-19 is not the cause of what is happening, but the “coup de grace” to a dying body. Just as it is necessary to differentiate between the sport carried out as a “leisure and health activity”, and the “sports industry”, it is also necessary to differentiate between “making music for the development of sensitivity”, and the “entertainment industry “, the show business. If the sports industry dies, sports as such do not die and the same is true for music. This didn’t seem so obvious to us until the bug shook us off. That is why we let ourselves be, without worrying about how to make them coexist in harmony, without canceling each other out, the “real” stage and the “virtual” stage. This failure to take care of what is ours, more out of inertia than negligence, threatens to leave us without the entertainment industry as we knew it. They tell me I’m exaggerating, that there will always be people who want to come to the theater, and it’s true; I am the first. But beware: the convenience of technology has already killed the record industry, and will end up killing the stage if the amount of audience becomes so small that the structures are not justified. What good would so many professional choirs and orchestras, so many conservatories with their consequent proliferation of talents, not to mention the many administrative officials dedicated to coordinating that enormous mass of people if there were no public? It wasn’t us, it was the bug! It will end up being the perfect alibi for those who need to hinder the people.

-How do you see the future of opera, then?

-It’s time to refloat the ship and for that you have to choose the best crews …

-Tell us your point of view, as a performer and as an audience, on the dynamics of the live, recorded and streaming show.

As interesting as this way of bringing our work to the public seems, I think that this technological palliative that even allows us to group real orchestras – each one playing from home with a more or less discreet result – is, unconsciously, contributing to the end of a millennial era: one in which men gathered around the social fulcrum that represented the scene – where dreams came to life – for recreational and educational purposes. There are fewer and fewer viewers, even in normal situations, since the generational change is taking the usual public to replace it with a generation that does not conceive of life outside the mobile screen. But even when they are at a live concert they bring up the fateful little screen to film it and, even with the musicians in front of their noses, they see it on the phone! If the majority of the public ends up getting used to that “tormented substitute for the live show” that streaming represents, the epitaph will be written. Artists, in our understandable desperation to stay active, are making a mistake that, I think – and God knows how much I would like to be wrong – we will pay dearly over time. They stopped selling records because streaming audio – or downloads at cheap prices (when not free, or pirated) – destroyed the record industry. Now is the time to kill the stage?


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