We collected the most frequent topics that appear in the interviews, together with Klára’s answers. The sources and are listed below, you can access them directly.
my grandfather, Dénes Bartha
I was born at the time when my grandfather Dénes Bartha was a visiting professor in America, so he could not take part in my childhood in a direct way. It was difficult to keep in touch with him, during the ’70s and ’80s we used to meet mainly on neutral ground, in Switzerland. He was staying abroad legally, but was afraid of losing his passport if he comes back. My parents not particularly encouraged me towards music career, they are both down to earth and such are their occupations: but they accepted my inclinations, although at that time fine arts and drawing were at the first place. At the same time my grandfather encouraged me to study in elementary music school. I was playing flute and he brought me from America the instrument, that I was incredibly proud about. (1)
Unfortunately, my grandparents did not manage to see me on stage. My grandfather lived and taught in America since 1968, and when he returned home with my grandmother, both of them were already ill, and they never heard me sing. However, to this day at every my performance I strongly feel my grandfather’s presence, he lived through (and still lives), struggles and successes of mine and sometimes I feel that even today, spiritually and artistically, he gives me more that most of still living people. (5)
I was already adult when I realised, who my grandfather really was, then I got to know his professional path and its circumstances; and what is interesting, the difficulties that he had to deal with, are also present in my own career. Years later, his person returned to me in an incredible way: in my husband, Dániel Dinyés. The most important field of my grandfather’s work in Hungary was dissemination of knowledge, he introduced a series of speaking concerts about music in the the Bartók hall (now Pesti Theatre) – they are still considered a basis for the genre. Dani holds a very similar series of performances in Katona József Theatre called Operabeavató (OperaLab). (1)
Up to the moment when I found my Fach I didn’t really have idols, and I used to listen mostly chamber music – and under the influence of my husband mainly of such pianists as Richter and Schnabel: from them one can learn such a natural method of performing music that is virtually unknown nowadays. What I learned from them is that the sounds and musical forms that are constructed from them are to be lived and not interpret, because playing music, or singing is not a performance, but a way of being alive. Among singers I mostly listened to male voices, such as Fritz Wunderlich, Hermann Prey, Jussi Björling and Franco Corelli. It is interesting that back then I was taking studying technical things mainly listening to tenors. When it comes to sopranos, I was especially attracted to Afro – American singers such as Leontyne Price, Grace Bumbry and Jessye Norman. I even heard live the latter, during my studies, with Imre Földes – we were sitting just two meters away from her, and it had a huge effect on me. For a long time I thought that I’ll be able to squeeze out of myself that kind of voice. She was my idol up to the moment when I realized that this would not work for me. However, when I was about to sing Melinda, luckily through my friend Csaba Némedi I got to personally meet Karola Ágai. This acquaintance had an overwhelming impact on me. I visited her several times and we began to immerse ourselves in the role of Melinda, but she said such things about the entire Bánk Bán that became absolutely crucial for me. And so, Karola herself became a real personal idol for me: because of her humanity and especially her attitude!(1)
Katalin Alter, my dear accompanist at the Music Academy held Russian song literature classes, but we had also German, Spanish, French and even English song literature classes. From my family side, my grandfather in the second half of his life devoted his research mainly to Schubert songs, and then he left me his whole Schubert-library with all the scores. Then in 2000 I won the Hungarian Radio singing competition with Mussorgsky’s cycle: Songs and dances of death. For me singing this repertoire is an endless challenge that I never get tired of. This is actually a personal theatre, where there is no singing partner, no ostentatious decorations or costumes, and the singer only with his song and his soul creates such a complex world or fate within a couple of minutes, which otherwise, in the opera, gets constructed in two or three hours and on a thirty-foot stage. It requires the highest level of concentration from the artist, because if I let go just for a moment, I lose my connection with the audience and I loose all the magic awoken by the song. This repertoire can move incredible emotions, and provide the most complete experience to the public and to the performer himself. In particular, I love the Russian song literature, that I started to learn with Mussorgsky. Being particularly interested in the mystery of death, I feel that in Songs and dances of death he compressed everything that one can artistically understand within these mysteries. Just like Mahler in Kindertotenlieder – which speak of a profound emotional tragedy, that soaks through the deepest layers of the human soul – he knows, that only the very filtered essence can be put on display.
The song literature is very rich, almost inexhaustible. Together with my husband, composer Dániel Dinyés we explore this genre a lot, including such gems as as Grieg or Clara Schumann songs, that people here hardly heard about, yet they are loaded with a special charm and beauty. When I’m less busy in the theatre, I spend most of my time learning songs. Due to the intimate nature of the genre, in opposition to the opera, it does not need a lot of volume but rather you need to play with timbres and text, in certain meaning it gives the singer a lot more freedom than the opera. (5)
The curtain goes down and you can calculate what is going to happen, but the genuine miracles do happen all of the sudden. When the conductor does a rallentando and you feel the time stops for a second at at the tip of his baton – when the orchestra and singers melt together in such a concentration, that is otherwise possible only when you are in love and you melt together with the other person into one single dimension. It’s completely unpredictable. One could feel his heart expanding, and the audience can feel the same way as well – we call it that an angel flew over us. These moments have no price and no exercise is enough. Like the violinist in Karinthy’s Circus, who plays the melody above the circus floor… any amount of work is worth it, because we can live through such things that are impossible to experience otherwise, in civil life.(3)
During one of the Bánk Bán performances, after Ölj meg engem, Bánk aria, I first experienced such an overwhelming applause that actually I started to weep on stage. The audience reaction was so strong, as if something would hit me in the face on that stage. Then the audience recognition in recent years culminates like this mainly in Traviata, Entführung, Luisa Miller, Hunyadi László and Magic Flute. It’s a wonderful thing, when you find your own audience, for it being such a genuine, sincere and interest-free and frank relationship in which the “business” part of opera world cannot interfere. That is why I appreciate this relationship in the very special way! (2)
There’s no “traditional” or “modern” – there is THEATRE, period. In capital letters. The playing itself is important, the miracle of becoming someone else, that I can cuddle myself into a character and then slip out of it…that I can find myself in some other – realistic or symbolist – circumstances. A completely abstract or stylized set can be just as interesting as traditional, very realistic one. I do not have any aversions or prejudices, I can be beautiful or ugly, become a witch or an angel, whatever, I just want the role to be exciting. I feel that at the moment I can really express many things, because I had and still have such a life that I can relate to almost every situation. I want the actor or singer that steps on stage to make me believe him. I want him to invite me to join his journey – and be also really able to take me with him – let it be spiritual or emotional journey. You do not necessarily have to sing, sheer stage presence is often enough to transmit the message to the audience. You have to watch scenes of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Páger Antal! Even before they say one word I know more than someone else can tell me with a ten-page monologue. (Perhaps it is strange, but for me they are true artistic idols.) On the other hand I think it is essential that the stage director shall come prepared. I like it when the rehearsal process runs according to an already developed concept. I consider it vital to have preparatory period, the rehearsal period, and only then – the premiere. In the repertoire-theatres we are rarely given such an opportunity, new cast members get only a couple of rehearsals and the the performance run begins. Currently, I’m open towards everything, and I am looking forward to the new challenges. We are valuable artist only if we are open. I feel incurable love for the theatre, which is a blessing and a curse at the same time.(5)
I really love Mimì, Donna Anna and Melinda. Up to November 2013 the most complete female figure that I ever sang was Violetta, now also Luisa Miller is at the top of the list. I read the Dumas novel many times, and I think that Violetta knew exactly what is her fate. The E’ strano… monologue is one of the top points of the vocal literature: not merely virtuoso aria, but soliloquy on an existential level, in which she makes a statement of what does she risk at that moment. Will she give herself to love, and so lose not only control over herself, but all the elements that constructed her life until then as well… or will she give up this this feeling. A woman who is the subject of constant love and desire is trying to face with her greatest enemy: the love itself. Abroad, I worked with a young stage director, who interpreted Traviata as a story about redemption: Violetta, with her sacrifice, redeems herself but Alfredo as well. I feel that my perception of this role slowly develops and I am also trying to express it vocally as well. (5, 6)
For the first time in the opera I died as Mimì, on the bed. It was shocking experience for me. My husband, for instance, is unable to watch these operas until the end, because it emotionally affects him a lot. As Melinda I jump into the river. It is also heartbreaking for me because the five-years-old girl, whom I play with, cuddles up to me and in many cases actually falls asleep during the aria, when I cradle her. She acts as if she was my child. At the end of the opera, when they bring us both dead, lying on the bed, I hold her in my arms and it is simply heart-wrenching to experience those moments.(4)
This is such a repertoire for me, as a perfectly tailored dress, I can look my best wearing it – and I can sound my best singing bel canto. These roles contain sort of equilibrium between lyrical, dramatic and coloratura challenges. In this repertoire I found set together all the things, that I looked for separately, in vain – or that I tried to express separately, in vain as well. The dramatism of insanity in Lady Macbeth or in Lucia, the fatal passion in Luisa Miller, ferocious chest tones in Lucrezia Borgia or in Odabella, and in the same time fervent lyricism is present as well, in Bellini’s cavatinas for instance. Somehow, all the forbidden, secret roles, excluding each other – there is no such biography of mine where all of them would be listed – all the pieces met, melted and got unravelled in this very repertoire.
The entire album came to life when I got the Kammersängerin prize in 2013, which I saw as an honour, but also an opportunity. It was my husband who suggested that even if these roles won’t come in my life, let’s make a CD, so that our track will remain forever. Like a black box in an airplane. According to the original concept the subtitle was “Portrait of a Lady”, beginning with the 16-year-old Rosina up to Lucrezia Borgia, a mother who lost her son: everything is there, all the joy and loss, triumph, love and tragedy, all that a woman can experience, and in the end the Trionfai! From the Macbeth, which I understand as “I won’t give up!”. Or, as Piaf would say, this is my “Non, rien de rien” song. (1)
finding my own voice
For me the it was never self-explanatory, which kind of roles should I sing, because my physical appearance that was not aligned to my vocal endowments. My nature always was noble and feminine, so except for Nannetta I never got to the lyrical roles that would be good for me from the vocal point of view. My internal world was always definitely dramatic, so I got to sing Donna Elvira or Judit very early. At that time someone said that I’m a chameleon. I was singing Mozart aria with the voice of Susanna voice, and then a Strauss song like a thoroughbred Strauss heroine. During the Academy, I absolutely shamelessly devoured the entire repertoire, the wildest coloratura arias, Medea, Strauss-songs, even Tosca. What the unspoken thing was, the one nobody taught me at that time, that this has its price: my voice would not develop to a specific Fach. I always reflected the style I was singing in with my voice. Back then I thought that it’s good if one can sing everything, but it was a blind alley. At that time only one person thought about me, György Selmeczi: I owe him a lot, among others he made me sing Donna Elvira, Odabella, all three roles in Tales of Hoffmann, Fanciulla del West, Mimì, Bluebeard’s Castle, Lucia, Gilda and Luisa Miller! Gyuri needed exactly that kind of chameleon that I was back then.
I know perfectly even the date when it has been decided that I will return to my own Fach. Gergely Kesselyák came to Szeged on 21 January 2006 to see the show, I was singing the Bluebeard with Géza Gábor. Kesselyák was music director at the Opera House back then. He came to me, congratulated, he liked my performance very much, but he will engage me at the Opera only if I stick to dramatic coloratura Fach. He even listed the roles that wait for me: Melinda, Rosalinda and Traviata! But of course, at the time when I got to sing these roles, there was already another music director. Gergő outlined a path for me, that would have led me to Norma, but because of the stormy period at the opera it was not possible. (1)
Violetta and Melinda, that I jumped into in the autumn 2006, to both almost at the same time, are perfect parts for me, because my voice cannot be clearly defined as a particular Fach but I have inclinations towards these kind of roles. I was very happy about the role of Melinda, and I finally felt that in the terms of singing, playing and the character I finally got what I always wanted. I also had the honor to sing Bánk Bán together with János Bándi. I will never forget how deep emotions he put into the first line ot our duet: „Hol van fehér homlokod liliom virága” – at that moment I was unable to act differently from Melinda, to stay firm and unmoved. The Traviata was and to this day is the climax for me, the moment of finding my real self. It has become a pole for me, to which everything is closely related. It was a role that sort of defined my career, I sang it several times, also abroad.
In the summer of 2007 I had a chance to sing Lucia at the Ferencváros Summer Festival in Budapest, under the baton of György Selmeczi, the triple role in Tales of Hoffmann in Spain, Gilda in Cluj-Napoca. I got back to this repertoire, and I feel that in this tessitura and in these characters I am genuinely at home. (5)
All that journey, looking for a way, up to this day means for me that I shall explore and cultivate my talent, in the best way I can, to push my boundaries further and further, never stop in musical, vocal development. I absolutely do not see the end of this journey, neither do I see my voice running out even if the opportunities do at times. There is no relationship between the continuous rollercoaster of events in my life and the development of my voice. Life is one thing, and my control over it is very limited. My voice and its formation depends on me only. If I won’t do that, no one will, if I won’t take care for it every day, there is no one else to do that. I am the only person responsible for my voice and my musicality, it cannot be influenced by the moods, cruelties and minute joys of this world, that are changing every moment. My voice is a private property. The world exists, and does what it wants. I didn’t know that I would get such an award (that made the production of my album possible), I cannot know what it can bring to my life. For me the task is to always be ready. One has to be open for good and for bad, both equally enrich my career and my voice. (1)
I am perfectionist, I treat my every performance as if my life depended on it. The stage-fright has not diminished among in recent decades, abroad or at home, in an opera house or in a tiny rural temple it is the same. There is no such thing as a small money, small effort. The audience is seating on the other side, and our work is our duty towards them. And a duty towards Mozart or Verdi, when we sing their compositions. There is no limit in growing, and that motivates me. Not to mention the influence that a conductor or a stage partner can give, what can it bring out of a person: when an operatic scene is filled with genuine emotions, it is the greatest miracle of all. (3)