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 the mid-1950s to 1999, the name Alfredo Kraus was renowned at the greatest opera theatres and concert halls, resulting in an extensive range of 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 remains 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 and finally holding a Chair at the Queen Sofía School of Music, in Madrid. After experiencing the ups and downs of every beginner singer during his studies in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Barcelona and Milan, Kraus harboured a strong desire to help young people make their way in this field. In 1989 he brought this idea to fruition through a long dreamed of project: 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 (Alfredo Kraus International Singing Competition), was held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in May 1990. Conceived as a biennial event, primarily 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 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 organisation 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. This initiative had taken shape by 2016 and became a reality in 2017, when the sixth Competition was organised with backing from local institutions and funding from the Gran Canaria Island Council in an ongoing tribute to the island’s cultural ambassador par excellence.
As the guardian of the tenor’s artistic legacy, the Fundación Internacional Alfredo Kraus has sought to ensure the new Competition follows the ideals of its founder. Eighteen years after the last event, the sixth Competition will host the semi-final and final rounds in the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, the iconic auditorium opened by Kraus in 1997. Following Kraus’ original idea, the preliminary rounds will be held in different cities every year. The venues for 2017 are Madrid, Florence and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
To resolve organisational issues from past events, the three official prizes on this occasion will be for Opera and Zarzuela, as this is a more feasible option today for young singers, many of whom will be performing with an orchestra for the first time.
The rules have also been updated in accordance with the standards of today’s international competitions, allowing candidates to register online and contact the organisers if they have any queries. The Opera and Zarzuela repertoire has been revised and extended, particularly for Zarzuela, a genre that Kraus strongly upheld and frequently performed. As the founder intended, the jury will be made up exclusively of artistic directors of international theatres. The position of Chair, originally held by Kraus, will be occupied by a singer with international experience.
Through the sixth Competition, VI Concurso Internacional de Canto Alfredo Kraus, the Foundation is reviving a major achievement in culture, education and tourism for Gran Canaria. Eighteen years after the last Competition was held, the Gran Canaria Island Council is breathing 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