Maestro JOSÉ CURA – The one that doesn't belive in division between popular and classical music

Author(s): Olja Ljubišić Photographer(s): Goran Mratinović, AČ
The audience were all blurry eyed while he conducted Puccini’s La Rondine and clapped ecstatically after his Nessun dorma performance. His pictures on the other hand, stripped away the glitter. We talked with him just before the opening of his photography exhibition “Espontáneas” in Sponza Palace within Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

Being a guest of honour how did you like the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Dubrovnik Summer Festival? 

It was very emotional and interesting to participate. I could feel the devotion of the people and how they couldn’t wait for the Festival to begin. I think this Festival is very important, however, I do know there is a large group of the population that is discontented with some of the arrangements. Restaurant and bar owners say that the shows are taking away their space.  What they don’t understand is that Dubrovnik, without the Festival, is a body without a soul. I believe the Festival and the service providers can perfectly coexist.  In fact, not just coexist, but create a beautiful marriage. 

You are also a producer, how do you resolve organizational obstacles?

There are always problems, but problems are not obstacles, they are stimulations. Of course, if you have a great team that knows you, supports and understands how to do things, you can find solutions for everything.  I know that they will ask why am I interfering in something that is not my business. Well, an artist bonds with the places he visits. And just because I’m Latino that doesn’t mean I’m only interested in Argentina and Spain. At this moment, I’m in Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik is my home, I feel it as my own. Therefore, I do care what is going on. 

We noticed how you said thank you to the members of the Symphony Orchestra of Croatian Radiotelevision with special enthusiasm and also explained to the audience what it’s like to perform under extreme conditions. 

People forget how exhausting it is to perform during a normal concert because of the pressure, attention, nerves, everything. If you add 40°C and 80% of humidity during the Opening Ceremony and concert, the work becomes inhuman. Your hands sweat, strings get wet so you can’t play well. Also, the voice is an organ, not a computer. But all of that doesn’t make the music less beautiful and if you’ll have an audience that says  “Well, we are having a hard time, but it’s worse for you, so let’s make the most of it” it can become an amazing night. 

In your Editorial (on your web site you also tried to explain the difference between classical and popular music. A lot of people often relate opera with fancy dresses and tuxedos. 

Classical music has nothing to do with that nor with cars, jewellery etc. Nothing at all. Music that we consider classical was always the music of the common people, and the real classical music was music played in churches. Also, people say it’s expensive to go to the theatre. But, be honest, to see a show costs less than going to a football match.  I prefer if you tell me that it’s boring and I’ll understand. And it’s true; some of the shows and plays really are, just like a football match they can be, boring. 

Your photos don’t show anything luxurious – they present elderly people, poverty, loneliness... 

Exactly. They are documentary photographs, studies of a person. It’s my way of reading the world. They are not works of art but they do tell a story. In the book “Espontáneas” you will find an explanation of what is behind every photo, how and why I took it.

Speaking of everyday life, what music do you enjoy listening to in you free time?

It’s the answer that you probably did not expect, but I don’t listen to music in my free time. 

What’s your “guilty pleasure” when it comes to music?

This is a pleasure that I’m actually very proud of. A lot of people ask me what is my favourite singer expecting me to say Maria Callas and they end up shocked when I say Karen Carpenter. A pop singer from the seventies with the most beautiful and pure voice that has ever been heard. The only singer that really moves me. 

What heritage did you bring from Rosario and Argentina, apart from music?

It’s the passion. For everything I do.  Sometimes I even exaggerate. 

What will be your heritage to the world?

I always say to my children that I want them to remember me as one that never made compromises. With anything or anyone.

Olja Ljubišić