Erkel heroines

Between March 10th and 18th, alternating her two dearest Erkel-roles, Klára sings five shows on the opera stages of Budapest and Szeged. On this special occasion we would like to share with our Visitors the interview fragments, in which the artist speaks about her two emblematic roles.

hunyadi lászló – szilágyi erzsébet

March 10th, 12th, 18th, Budapest, Erkel Theatre

bánk bán – melinda

March 14th, 16th, Szeged, National Theatre


In the early 2006, after Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle (!) show, the music director of that time, Gergely Kesselyák, advised me strongly to change my fach to the dramatic coloratura one. The first effect of this change was my debut in the role of Melinda, in Autumm 2006. Naturally I couldn’t have guessed, that I am about to meet one of the roles that will remain dearest to my heart. I stood into the production of Imre Kerényi, in the abridged version of Nádasdy. I was happy with the role of Melinda and I finally felt that in this figure I got what I yearned to both from vocal and dramatic points of view. And in addition I had the honour to debut next to János Bándi – a Bánk of irresistible strength. I will never forget how profoundly emotional was the first phrase of our duet: “Where did the white lily from your forehead go?” – at this point I could never resist during the rehearsals, I was always moved, always reacted as Melinda herself would.

I was interested in the relationship between Otto and Melinda – this is why in that production Melinda was not rejecting him directly. Then I asked Karola Ágai about this – and she talked to me for two and a half an hour about one of her dearest roles – it was a golden moment for me! Karola confirmed what I also felt: that the drama becomes flat, if Melinda would even consider being unfaithful to Bánk. For me the heartbreaking and also maddening point is that Melinda adores her husband deeply, that she lives and breathes within him and through him – and when she looses him, her why, her reason to live on ceases to exist. She knows that they can never embrace each other anymore without the memory of that horrible thing that happened… I feel that she isn’t becoming mad, but has visions because of the violence she just experienced, however at the end of the duet she bids farewell from Bánk very consciously – forever… The delirium at the riverbend breaks onto her first of all because of the memories and the vanished happiness…

I also feel that she doesn’t want to bring her son with her, this is why she cradles him… so she can disappear, when the little one is asleep, but in the very end, when her son runs towards her, she can’t bring herself to part from him. 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.The next chapter was the original uncut Bánk Bán jump-in in 2010 (which was the turning point in my whole career)… It was as if I got not only my favourite chocolate, but also filled with marzipan… many can find too long this version of the Mad Scene – but to me it’s a miracle, pure Donizetti-like belcanto!

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.

szilágyi erzsébet

In the Hungarian performance practice, especially after the Second World War, there has been a tradition of dramatic sopranos in this role, connected to the names of Paula Takács, Gabriella Déry and later Anikó Rohonyi. I don’t have a voice this powerful or such a ponderous stage presence. My interpretation can be aligned towards Karola Ágai’s one, who put the accent mainly on bel canto traditions. I have to make the audience accept my softer, more lyrical silhouette in this role. I act somewhat younger mother. I even got criticised that I was too young and too kind.

I try to begin from the music, and there it is: a wonderful little trio, when Erzsébet is enjoying her children, and for me this is her dominant feature, the love for her children, not the nation’s first widow. I’m not interested in the politician, but in the mother. Yes, she is ready to challenge the king in the oath scene, and her eyes can scatter thunders, but her main motivation is definitely the motherly love. Let us not forget, that the historical Erzsébet was only forty-seven at that time, so young as we see it today. I do not imagine her as a stone-hard figure. I felt at the show that the audience was very welcoming for this interpretation.

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