The international career of Gran Canarian 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 well known at the greatest opera theatres and concert halls, in films, and on radio and television. His name lives on today through his recordings, videos and documentaries, and in the social media. After his death, the Gran Canarian tenor became a legend, a status few artists achieve. For new generations of singers who missed the opportunity to hear him live, Alfredo Kraus has become a figure of reference. For professional singers and his countless admirers, Kraus is closely identified with Gran Canaria.
Alongside his artistic activity, Alfredo Kraus was intensively involved in teaching after 1980, giving master classes in Madrid, Barcelona, Santander, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Milan, Rome, Turin, Perugia, Siena, London, Chicago and New York. He also held several Chairs of singing at institutions including the Escuela Superior de Canto, Madrid, the Conservatorio del Liceo, Barcelona, the Escuela de Música Reina Sofía, Madrid, and the Centro de Estudios de Técnica Vocal Alfredo Kraus, Perugia (Italy). 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, was held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in May 1990. Conceived as a biennial event because of Kraus’ limited free time between performances, the competition continued in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999, after the 1998 event had to be 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) and the Fundación Orquesta Filarmónica (Philharmonic Orchestra Foundation), belonging to the Cabildo. Their support recognised Alfredo Kraus’ international career, his contribution as a cultural ambassador of the island, and his involvement in teaching and training 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 / FIAK set out to revive the Gran Canarian tenor’s original intentions: a competition for young singers from around the world, 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 VI CICAK, continuing in numerical order from the final competition organised by Alfred Kraus. The institutional framework and esteemed patronage of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria made it possible to continue this tribute to Alfredo Kraus, Gran Canaria’s foremost cultural ambassador.
The FIAK, as the custodian of our tenor’s artistic legacy, has sought to ensure the new phase of the competition follows the ideals of its creator. After an 18-year absence, the VI CICAK, in 2017, opened a new phase that retains the biennial nature of the event, returning in 2019 with the VII CICAK. The Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, the iconic auditorium in Playa de Las Canteras opened by Kraus in 1997, is now the venue for the semi-final and final rounds of the competition. Following Alfredo Kraus’ original idea, the preliminary rounds will be held in various European cities each year, as well as in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
To resolve organisational issues from past competitions, the three official prizes in the second phase are for Opera and Zarzuela. These genres are more feasible options today for young singers, many of whom will be performing with an orchestra for the first time.
In this second phase of the competition, all the necessary information is now in digital format and can be downloaded from the competition website, in Spanish and English. To bring the rules into line with the format of today’s international competitions, the application form has been redesigned. The annexes with the list of Opera and Zarzuela pieces for applicants to perform has been updated. An email address has been provided so that applicants can contact the organisers at any time. In this second phase, the Jury of the contest is made up of directors of Opera and Zarzuela theatres. The position of Chair of the Jury, held by Alfredo Kraus in the first phase, now corresponds to an internationally renowned singer.
In the new phase of the CICAK, the FIAK 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 of the 20th century.
Rosa KRAUS LEY
Fundación Internacional Alfredo Kraus
Concurso Internacional de Canto Alfredo Kraus