The international career of tenor Alfredo Kraus has always been a point of pride for his home island of Gran Canaria and the city of his birth, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. From 1956 to 1999, the name Alfredo Kraus was renowned at the greatest opera theatres and concert halls, resulting in extensive recordings that can be heard today on films, radio and television. After his death, Kraus became a legend, a status few artists achieve. For new generations of singers who missed the opportunity to hear him live, he is a figure of reference, and for professional singers and his countless admirers, Kraus is closely identified with Gran Canaria.
Alongside his artistic activity, Alfredo Kraus was intensely involved in teaching, initially giving master classes in Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Perugia and New York, and eventually holding a Chair at the Escuela de Música Reina Sofía (Queen Sofía School of Music), in Madrid. Having experienced the ups and downs of every beginner singer during his studies in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Barcelona, Valencia and Milan, Kraus always harboured a strong desire to help young people make their way in this field. In 1989 he brought this idea to fruition through a project he had long dreamed of: the creation of an international singing competition on his island of Gran Canaria, hosted in the city of his birth.
The first competition, I Concurso Internacional de Canto Alfredo Kraus (I Alfredo Kraus International Singing Competition), was held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in May 1990. Conceived as a biennial event, mainly because of the artist’s limited free time between performances, the competition was held in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999, after the 1998 event was cancelled due to a family bereavement. The first five competitions were made possible with the constant support of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria (Gran Canaria Island Council), which paid tribute through the event to Kraus’ achievements, contribution as a cultural ambassador of the island, and involvement in teaching younger generations.
The early death of Alfredo Kraus in 1999 marked the end of an era in the holding of the competition. In the following years, the Fundación Internacional Alfredo Kraus(Alfredo Kraus International Foundation)set out to revive the tenor’s original intentions: a competition for young singers, judged by a highly qualified jury at an event hosted in the city of his birth. The initiative had taken shape by 2016 and became a reality in 2017 with the holding of the sixth competition, backed by local institutions and funded by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria in an ongoing tribute to the island’s cultural ambassador par excellence.
As the custodian of the tenor’s artistic legacy, the Fundación Internacional Alfredo Kraus has sought to ensure the new competition follows the ideals of its creator. After an interval of 18 years, the sixth competition, in 2017, opened a new phase that retains the biennial nature of the event. The Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, the iconic auditorium opened by the tenor in 1997, became the venue for the semi-final and final rounds of the competition. Following Kraus’ original idea, the preliminary rounds will be held in different cities each year, as well as in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
To resolve organisational issues from past competitions, the three official prizes are for Opera and Zarzuela, given that these genres are a more feasible option today for young singers, many of whom will be performing with an orchestra for the first time.
The rules have been updated in the “second phase” and brought into line with the standards of today’s international competitions, allowing applicants to apply online and contact the organisers if they have any queries. The list of the Opera and Zarzuela repertoire has been revised and extended, particularly for Zarzuela, a genre that Kraus championed and frequently performed. As the creator of the competition intended, the jury is made up exclusively of artistic directors of international theatres. The position of Chair, originally held by Kraus, is occupied by a singer with international experience.
Through the Concurso Internacional de Canto Alfredo Kraus, the Fundación Internacional Alfredo Kraus has revived a major achievement in culture, education and tourism for Gran Canaria. By continuing the competition, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria has breathed new life into one of the most cherished creations of the great tenor, the island’s most internationally renowned artist.
Rosa KRAUS LEY
Fundación Internacional Alfredo Kraus