“It had no importance if one was doing the make up or was a Hollywood Star”
Brilliant, superb, remarkable, marvellous – just a few adjectives the international media used while writing about your performances. Do you consider critical reviews important in your life?
To be honest, this isn’t an easy question. Of course I am very happy if a journalist appreciates and even likes my work and it hurts me, when another one disapproves. But reviews are always subjective and it is for me much more important that my conductor, the orchestra and of course my audience is happy with my performance and I can give them an hour of rich, emotional experience while listening to music.
Was it evident that you would become a singer or you had other ideas in mind as well?
Before singing I played the violin with great passion but not so great talent, so the change to voice was one of the best ideas of my life. I always knew, that my life will be music, in which form ever, that didn’t matter so much at the beginning. I also studied one year musicology at the university, which I loved. But I discovered that I am much more in my element while making music myself than writing about it.
Is it hard for a lady to have a career like this?
The combination of family and work is a big challenge, as for many women in many jobs. You have to sacrifice a lot for being capable to life this career fully, very short cancellation of family holidays due to a jump in engagement etc. Still, I would never do anything else.
You work together with high-class musicians and even John Malkovich selected you for two theatrical pieces. Was it an exciting „journey”?
It was much more than exciting. In the three years, where I performed on regular base with John, I learned so many things. For example that you can be a lovely, kind, respectful and compassionate person even if you’re famous, without any Diva behaviour. We were a family and everybody took care of the other and it had no importance if one was doing the make up or one was a Hollywood Star, we were all together creating two wonderful theatre /opera pieces which we loved and into we gave all our energy and passion. Every night was different, we played a piece 20 times in a row and every performance was unique as John loved to improvise on stage, without talking about it before. That was a great inspiration for my opera work, where still the staging can be very stiff and boring.
Which one stands closer to you: an opera or a symphonic piece?
The closest to me is chamber music, where I can work in an intimate surrounding, finding colours and phrases together with every single musician on stage. I love all the symphonic pieces I sing and opera is a world on its own which stays for me always a kind of mystery, I am not at home in the opera, but I permanently feel attracted to it. I would call it a love and hate relationship where symphonic and chamber music is surrender without limits.
If you could choose: contemporary or early music?
When it is well written music, I love all of it. Sometimes, contemporary music is breaking my voice and often I don’t take offers because I know it would ruin my voice for weeks. But especially the Hungarian composers Ligeti and Kúrtag have a great importance in my life, I studied and performed many of their pieces and discover every time new parts in it, when I perform it again. Early music has this pureness, nothing can be more pure ( and difficult ) than Bach and I hope to sing this repertory still for quite a while
You have a particular passion for music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Why?
- That period opened the structures of art in all levels, if it’s the architecture, painting, music, literature. The world wanted to reinvent itself, find new structures, go over old borders and limits. In the music, it started with Wagners Tristan and than there was no way back and I feel this Liberty in the art from that time. Searching and finding new ways of expression, not to be so controlled as you have to be for Mozarts music for example, which I love and which I sing a lot, but it has a lot of limits and in that time, there was suddenly all this space to define yourself, music, art in a total new way.
In October you are going to sing together with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The program is Les Illuminations by Benjamin Britten. How is your relationship with this song cycle?
Britten always writes so well for voice so it is a pleasure to sing his works. This one especially asks from the soprano all colours, funny, sad, dangerous, dreamy, enthusiastic etc etc. It has a lot of depth for such a young composer that Britten was at that time, it has humour and he found a way to express the craziness of Rimbauds poems. You can, no, you have to play around with every emotion you find in yourself, with every colour of your voice. Working on Les Illuminations became a journey into myself, trying to bring it all up what I can find. Not an easy task, but a wonderful one, if you dive into the richness of this composition with your full self.
The cycle is based on the poems of Arthur Rimbaud. Can you identify yourself with those texts?
I have been educated on a French school, so French poetry always feels very close to me. Of course, Rimbaud is a special case, he was such an extreme personality, he wrote those poems – his last work, than he stopped writing – when he was 19,20 years old. It is imported to connect to that period in Paris, his surrounding and imagine to take the drugs that he has been taking, to get closer to his work. They come from a space of surrealism, in a dreamy sound, but they also have something threateningly, which produces an uneasy feeling while reading or singing them. They give, as the music of Britten does, an enormous space of possibilities to express feelings you have somewhere, in some corner of yourself, which normally nobody asks you to show. Identifying is always dangerous and in this case maybe even more, but it is unavoidable as his world is so tempting to me.
If I would ask you to match human characteristics to this musical piece, what would you say?
Les Illumiantions are told by a narrator, who sees with great fascination, adoration and fear all those monsters, beautiful statues and beings, animals, ships, waves.. Les Illuminations are packed by extraordinary beings, grotesque, ugly. Beautiful, divine and disgusting, half human, half animal. Rimbaud created visions of beings that aren’t from this world with resemblance to us humans and animals, still coming from another planet. I always imagine this narrator as a very average person. That make Rimbauds beings even more spectacular. But he or she has the capacity to see this Illuminations, that normal humans cannot see, that’s why he or she has to tell those secrets, those wonders he sees, that he is so taken by. So he is an outlaw because he can see things, all the bourgeois on this earth cannot see. He remains passive while watching and enjoying this “parade sauvage”.
The conductor of the concert will be Marek Janowski. Is it the first time that you work together?
I have the great pleasure and honour to work with Marek Janowski for many years now. He was one of the very first conductors who supported me in my career and always believed in my future as a great soprano.
What are your expectations with the Budapest Festival Orchestra?
I heard concerts with the Budapest Festival Orchestra years ago and ever since it has been one of my dreams to sing with them one day as they have a unique quality. So I am more than happy to finally meet them and perform together with them this wonderful piece of music.