In what aspect art songs as a genre are special for an opera singer? How do you prepare a new piece?
I work simultaneously on the musical aspect, technical challenges and the diction. Rachmaninov romances are a particular mixture between classical art song and opera genre. Their vocal requirements also correspond more to an opera aria, than to intimate, withdrawn style of Lieder. And on top of that, Russian vowels – as much as I love them – not always fit into my Italian bel canto technique, thus it takes a lot of practice to make all of them sound authentic from the linguistic point of view but also ring with luminous timbre. I’m very dedicated recitalist, and I catch every occasion to make the genre more popular. Originally, when there was no sound registering technique that gives us music in two taps, people heard music only when they made it themselves, or were present when someone else did.
For a long time singing was an “instrument” most easily put into use, two vocal chords being at everyone’s disposal. Song literature of Classical and early Romantic era has been written mostly for such homely music-making, and only in the latter Romantic period it has been expanded to a concert genre. I would like to bring back the idea of song being universally understood and intimate, I would like to bring it closed to the audience even if, being performed in a foreign language, listening requires a bit more concentration and active focus.
At the moment I happen to sing less opera shows, so my interest in the genre has turned towards the songs that engage the vocal scale in a tessitura similar to an opera role and their dramatic load is also soaked with operatic passion. Maybe it sounds like an odd thing to say about a cycle such as Debussy’s Ariettes Oubliées, but I do feel that all of these songs is actually a little aria as in the title, similar maybe to Puccini’s tiny Liu arias of enormous impact with their vocal intimacy and operatic intensity.
Korngold has opened a completely unique world to me, somewhere between songs of Richard Strauss and young Alban Berg. I did have luck to sing already Zemlinsky’s and Griete von Zieritz’s songs from that period, but the harmonic universe of Korngold is somehow uniquely luscious and rampant, and he freely puts at its service the extremes of soprano’s vocal range, thus also is very rewarding for the performer with its completeness. The latter Korngold cycle is lighter, more jazzy, a bit musical-like in the vocal and musical sense but its dramatic content spreads from heartrending tragic to charmingly serene and joyful.
How did you put together the Rachmaninov evening’s program? Is there a piece that you are most connected to?
I wanted to show a bigger selection, because within early Rachmaninov songs we can find the radiantly melodious hits like the Vocalise or Spring waters, but towards the end of his musical output we can notice as he becomes incredibly prone to experiments.
There are really innovative songs, harmonically or rhythmically – they even surpass the style of Prokofiev. Among the songs I did in the concert, all of them are very important to me and I have personal connection with all of them. One of the most wonderful pieces is Здесь хорошо op. 21. no. 7, which is one immense musical phrase. One sentence, that goes through the extremes of soprano scale, expressing the infinite happiness.