I’m Klára Kolonits, opera singer, dramatic coloratura soprano.
Along with my performances, since 2010 I’m also active as a teacher and vocal coach.
The starting point was my illness, asthma, that put me in direct life danger in 2008 and was a major condition affecting my life and singing career between 2006 and 2012. Constant coughing fits, unpleasant side effects of certain medicines and drastically decreased lung capacity caused issues that could not be addressed by any therapy I was being advised to undertake. Therefore I’ve been forced myself to look for a variety of tricks and methods that would make possible to maintain and continue my singing career. This is how I found Buteyko therapy that not only completely healed my asthma but also provided ideas on how I could change my breathing technique while singing. What followed was also a change in repertoire and voice projection, because I has much wider range and better agility at my disposal. My voice after these changes became suitable for classical bel canto and Erkel operas. This breathing technique and exercises that I built on it resulted in much more secure and resonant top register, and when the progress became clearly audible in my performances, I was first contacted by students and colleagues who have been fighting with similar issues or needed advice regarding a particular role. Since 2010 I perform a lot, therefore I was not always available for a singing lesson, but thanks to modern technologies we could communicate via Skype or other applications facilitating video calls.
With my dear pupil from Cluj, Lívia Antal, can only visit Budapest every now and then, therefore we found out a way to work through 2-3 minutes long videos, dealing with specific issues, top notes, passages, breathing within the piece we work upon. In such a video, I would show her the phases of working her way towards resolution of any difficulty she might have. In my experience, the most efficient way to work through problematic phrases in a piece is to create a series of vocal exercises, scales based on them. This way the difficulty can be worked on separately, without being associated with the piece, and can be practiced throughout the vocal scale, on different vowels and so on. Once we take up the aria again, there won’t be any stress linked to the previously problematic spot and the pupil can simply reproduce the technical solution they practiced out in the vocalises.
My main goal within this project is to create such a library of vocal scales, examples, advice and all relevant material that can be useful for students and singers at all levels, mainly in the form of practical videos, but also articles and interviews. The secondary goal is to show and transmit the way of thinking that would help everyone in creating their own solutions to the issues emerging in the sung pieces.
The first year of my project will treat about the initial decisions and choosing the right path.
As a young singer I realised that the only existing work on first steps in a singer’s career and on the pedagogy of singing was the one of Kerényi Miklós György: Az éneklés művészete és pedagógiája, first issued in 1959. This is still the case now. The decades went by, old rules got loosened up, the theory has been replaced by direct access to recordings and often imitation. I would like to gather new, inspiring material that would be based on classical singing technique but would also touch upon other genres such as operetta and musical. In the initial part of vocal study it’s not always a good idea to decide on the particular genre, and the pupils are in need of such a technical base that would let them specialise in opera, oratorio, musical or operetta. In my experience, young people forced to decide too early, before they gather experience and acquire taste in more genres, will often turn towards lighter genres, that tempt them with easy success, such as musical or pop music. However, if we let them try everything, if we teach them to sing opera arias, lieder, musical songs – they can make an informed decision on what is really most suitable for their talents and what they enjoy the most.
Important experience for me was helping young actors to prepare for roles or castings. It turned out that there are many among them, whose voices were suitable for classical training, but they never tried it, no one discovered this talent in them earlier. From my – opera singer’s – perspective, there is a serious lack of male, as well as lower female voices in the entrance exams and on the Music Academy. Probably those young people, who were interested in performative arts, chose Theatre and Film University instead, because they were not acquainted with purely music-oriented career paths.
My basic educational program could be a way to awaken an interest in more branches of performative arts, as well as provide help in the first years regardless of the final choice.
The first year of my project will concentrate around discovering and encouraging young talents. There are less and less young people applying to the classical singing departments, less people become professional opera singers, the newer generations of artists face different challenges that those described in the mentioned book. I will familiarise the pupils with classical genres along with the popular ones, this way giving them broader palette of options and also, hopefully, discover more and more talents suitable to follow classical singing studies and become successful soloists.