José Cura: In concert Budapest 2000

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cilea,Leoncavallo,Puccini,Verdi
LABELS: Bravissimo
WORKS: Vocal works by Puccini, Verdi, Leoncavallo, Cilèa
PERFORMER: José Cura (tenor); Failoni Orchestra of the Hungarian State Opera/János Ács (Erkel Theatre, Budapest, 2000)
CATALOGUE NO: BR-2008/01DVD (PAL system; Dolby Digital 2.0; 4:3 picture format)

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José Cura undoubtedly has many ideal qualifications as a star tenor – an arresting Italianate spinto voice with a ringing top and usefully dark lower register; stocky good looks, and no shortage of boyish charisma.

He has an enviable international career, including notable Covent Garden appearances in Fanciulla del West and Stiffelio, and sometimes conducts, as in the Manon Lescaut and Forza del destino intermezzos here. But while there’s plenty to please his fans in this concert from earlier in his career, there’s also some suggestion why he hasn’t quite achieved the heights of Domingo or Carreras status.

A 2000 television taping from Budapest’s unlovely Erkel Theatre, the disc has a slightly bargain-basement feel. However, orchestra and conductor are decent enough, and Cura features some less usual arias, from Puccini’s early, problematical Edgar and Leoncavallo’s Bohème. He prowls the platform, sings with a fervour which excites his audience to frenzies; he plays them charmingly, even pinching the conductor’s baton for one of the front row. But in recording one notices more clearly how that rich tone sometimes coarsens, and his foursquare phrasing, for example in ‘Ch’ella mi creda’ or ‘E lucevan le stelle’, compared with Domingo or Pavarotti.

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Pinkerton and Alfredo are too heavy and inelegant; he’s most convincing letting it all hang out as Macduff and in ‘Nessun dorma’. So the effect is more del Monaco than Domingo, and ultimately less satisfying. Michael Scott Rohan