Alfredo Kraus

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Alfredo Kraus as the Duke in Rigoletto at his Metropolitan Opera debut. AlfredoKraus.jpg
Alfredo Kraus as the Duke in Rigoletto at his Metropolitan Opera debut.
Memorial tablet on the birthplace of Alfredo Kraus in the Calle de Colon in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria GC Las Palmas Memorial Tablet Alfredo Kraus R01.jpg
Memorial tablet on the birthplace of Alfredo Kraus in the Calle de Colón in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Alfredo Kraus Trujillo (Spanish pronunciation:  [alˈfɾeðo kɾaus tɾuˈxiʎo] ; 24 November 1927 10 September 1999) was a distinguished Spanish tenor from the Canary islands (known professionally as Alfredo Kraus), particularly known for the artistry he brought to opera's bel canto roles. [1] He was also considered an outstanding interpreter of the title role in Massenet's opera Werther , and especially of its famous aria, "Pourquoi me réveiller?" [2]

Tenor is a male voice type in classical music whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A2 (two As below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Bel canto —with several similar constructions —is a term with several meanings that relate to Italian singing.

Contents

Early years

Kraus was born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. His father was Austrian and his mother was Canarian. He began his musical career with piano lessons at the age of four, and he sang in the school choir by age eight. His older brother, Francisco Kraus Trujillo, a baritone, studied music and opera alongside him.

Austrians nation and an ethnic group of people living in Austria

Austrians are a Germanic nation and ethnic group, native to modern Austria and South Tyrol that share a common Austrian culture, Austrian descent and Austrian history. The English term Austrians was applied to the population of Habsburg Austria from the 17th or 18th century. Subsequently, during the 19th century, it referred to the citizens of the Empire of Austria (1804–1867), and from 1867 until 1918 to the citizens of Cisleithania. In the closest sense, the term Austria originally referred to the historical March of Austria, corresponding roughly to the Vienna Basin in what is today Lower Austria.

Canary Islanders, or Canarians, are the inhabitants and/or ethnic group originating in the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain near the coast of northwest Africa. The distinctive variety of the Spanish language spoken in the region is known as habla canaria or the (dialecto) canario. The Canarians, and their descendants, played a major role during the conquest, colonization, and eventual independence movements of various countries in Latin America. Their racial and cultural presence is most palpable in the countries of Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and United States territory of Puerto Rico.

Francisco Kraus Trujillo was a Spanish baritone.



Career

After refining his technique singing Spanish zarzuela on stage in Madrid and Barcelona, Kraus made his professional opera debut in Cairo during 1956 as the Duke in Rigoletto , which became one of his signature roles. In 1958, he sang Alfredo at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon in a production of La traviata with Maria Callas, a live recording of which was later released.

Zarzuela opera genre

Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular songs, as well as dance. The etymology of the name is uncertain, but some propose it may derive from the name of a Royal hunting lodge, the Palacio de la Zarzuela near Madrid, where, allegedly, this type of entertainment was first presented to the court. The palace was named after the place called "La Zarzuela" because of the profusion of brambles (zarzas) that grew there, and so the festivities held within the walls became known as "Zarzuelas".

Madrid Capital of Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain and the largest municipality in both the Community of Madrid and Spain as a whole. The city has almost 3.3 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union (EU), smaller than only London and Berlin, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the third-largest in the EU, smaller only than those of London and Paris. The municipality covers 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi).

Barcelona City and municipality in Catalonia, Spain

Barcelona is a city in Spain. It is the capital and largest city of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres high.

Kraus made his Covent Garden debut as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in 1959 and his La Scala debut as Elvino in La sonnambula in 1960. He made his American debut with Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1962, and his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1966 in Rigoletto, the role of his last performance there in 1994.

Royal Opera House opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London

The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, Handel's first season of operas began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.

<i>Lucia di Lammermoor</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Lucia di Lammermoor is a dramma tragico in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian-language libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.

La Scala Opera house in Milan, Italy

La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

In subsequent decades, Kraus extended his repertoire to include more Italian operas such as Lucrezia Borgia , La fille du régiment , Linda di Chamounix , Don Pasquale and La favorita by Donizetti; and French operas such as Roméo et Juliette , Les contes d'Hoffmann , Faust and Lakmé , while continuing to sing his hallmark roles of Werther and of Des Grieux in Manon . He also recorded a number of rarely performed French operas including La jolie fille de Perth and Les pêcheurs de perles , both by Georges Bizet, and La muette de Portici by Daniel Auber. He also performed in some very well known works, such as Don Giovanni and Faust.

<i>Lucrezia Borgia</i> (opera) Opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Lucrezia Borgia is a melodramatic opera in a prologue and two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after the play Lucrezia Borgia by Victor Hugo, in its turn after the legend of Lucrezia Borgia. Lucrezia Borgia was first performed on 26 December 1833 at La Scala, Milan.

<i>La fille du régiment</i> Opéra-comique in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti

La fille du régiment is an opéra comique in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti, set to a French libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard. It was first performed on 11 February 1840 by the Paris Opéra-Comique at the Salle de la Bourse.

<i>Linda di Chamounix</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti and Gaetano Rossi

Linda di Chamounix is an operatic melodramma semiserio in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written by Gaetano Rossi. It premiered in Vienna, at the Kärntnertortheater, on 19 May 1842.

Kraus came to be virtually synonymous with such lyric tenor roles as Werther, Faust, Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Nemorino, and Arturo. He was also known for his performances of Spanish music, notably many classics from the zarzuela repertoire, which he continued to perform live on stage in Spain until the end of his career, and many of which he recorded complete for EMI Spain as well as for his own label, Carillon.

A voice type classifies a singing voice by vocal range, vocal weight, tessitura, vocal timbre, vocal transition points (passaggia) like breaks and lifts, and vocal register. Voice classification was developed for European classical music and seldom applies to other kinds of singing; voice classification is in the opera to pair roles with voices. Several different voice classification systems are available to identify voice types, including the German Fach system and the choral music system among many others; no system is universally applied or accepted.

<i>Lelisir damore</i> 1832 opera by Gaetano Donizetti

L'elisir d'amore is a comic opera in two acts by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto, after Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's Le philtre (1831). The opera premiered on 12 May 1832 at the Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan.

<i>I puritani</i> opera by Vincenzo Bellini

I puritani is an opera by Vincenzo Bellini. It was originally written in two acts and later changed to three acts on the advice of Gioachino Rossini, with whom the young composer had become friends. The music was set to a libretto by Count Carlo Pepoli, an Italian émigré poet whom Bellini had met at a salon run by the exile Princess Belgiojoso, which became a meeting place for many Italian revolutionaries.

Technique

Thanks to his superlative technique and careful husbanding of his vocal resources, Kraus sang onstage until his early 70s. He studied voice technique in Milan with Mercedes Llopart.

Kraus was also noted for extremely refined musicianship, accompanied by a seemingly effortless high register. As a result, many opera connoisseurs consider him to be one of the best tenors of the end of the 20th century. He was admired for his cultivated musical education and his complete respect for his chosen profession. His first priority was the integrity of his artistic interpretation of a piece, rather than his formidable range and excellent technique.

He performed all over the world, including the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Teatro Municipal in Caracas, Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile, Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, and the Liceu in Barcelona.

In 1991, Kraus was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award. In 1997, his home city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria opened The Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in his honor.

Later years

The loss of his wife in 1997 affected Kraus so deeply that he stopped performing for eight months. A proud and strong-willed man, he eventually returned to the stage and to teaching. He said, "I don't have the will for singing but I must do it, because, in a sense, it is a sign that I have overcome the tragedy. Singing is a form of admitting that I'm alive."

Kraus died on 10 September 1999 in Madrid, at the age of 71, after a long illness.

Complete repertoire

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References

  1. Kozinn, Allan (September 11, 1999). "Obituary: Alfredo Kraus". The New York Times .
  2. Matheopoulos, Helena (1989). Bravo – The World's Great Male Singers Discuss Their Roles. Victor Gollancz Ltd. pp. 111–116.