Music Life Magazine

During the quarantine, Kristine Opolais was among his many opera stars who did not participate in home concerts and playing music on the Internet. She broke her silence in the summer, on a  professional platform, together with pianist Alexandra Dariescu, giving a concert in the  Digital Concert Hall of the streaming platform Idagio. The concert itself was unexpected, both by the choice of the lyric repertoire and by the dramatic approach to it.

And I Makarova ( AM ) talk with Kristine Opolais ( KO  ) of the past, present and hopes for the future.

AM You were not going to be an opera singer, your mother chose the profession. And what did you want yourself?

KO I have always dreamed of becoming a film actress. I still think about it … Unfortunately, I missed the chance to light up in American cinema. One director offered me a role in a biopic. But at that time I had a lot of jobs at the Metropolitan Opera, and in order to accept this offer, I would have to give up all artistic plans for the next season. So I had to say no. Now I pray to God to give me a chance, which I then missed.

AM But even in opera you are always an actress, and always energetic and passionate.

KO I have a reputation for being a stage animal. Of course, I can play dramatic roles, where you have to die, while killing someone – that’s really great for me. But now I want something else: to plunge into the suffering atmosphere, deep waters. I get older, and there is a desire to slow down and not develop according to the classical scenario – into a “heavy” repertoire, but to take a step back and win at the same time, because if you play a more lyrical role with a dramatic strain, it can turn out to be much more interesting.

I feel the joy of being able to sing a lyric repertoire, and all my pianos are with me. This is the biggest reward. This happened precisely for the reason that I paused in time and refused the agents who wanted my early transition to the dramatic repertoire.

AM Is it difficult to refuse?

KO Then there was a feeling that the hopes placed on me seemed to have not been justified. I was tired and sang on autopilot. It is deadly for a vocalist to go into big business and sit on all the chairs, if you give yourself up to the profession the way I do, – not be able to work full-time … I absolutely get along with the role … This is my lack. Or dignity – whatever. For me, probably a minus, for the public – a plus.

AM So, goodbye, Tosca?

KO I find it necessary to take breaks between dramatic roles. If I take on something (for example, for Aida), then I want to combine acting with vocal, without unnecessary emotions, which are welcome in youth, but inappropriate in maturity. True, there is a certain subtlety: as soon as a singer successfully appears in a certain role, he is immediately offered to sing it in other theaters. I want to break these stereotypes. I think you can sing Katerina from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, and two months later Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, then Mimì in La Bohème.

AM For the first concert after the quarantine silence, you have chosen a lyric repertoire: Desdemona, Amelia, Tatiana, Rusalka …

KO Yes, I decided to indulge in the lyrical sound. The motivation to sing appeared. A concert at Idagio is a completely new story for me, a great experiment. I didn’t know there was a live broadcast, not a recording. I chose whole scenes, not arias. I wanted it to be a mono- and mini-performance. I went out, sang an aria and won – I don’t work like that. I need time to open up and energetically connect with the image. But I enjoy getting into one-actor mode.

AM How do you choose what to sing?

KO The main thing I think about is the role itself, the character, the fate of the heroine. Music is very important. I selfishly think about myself first, about what I can do with this or that role. If I like the character, the story, if I see the potential of the role, then I know that it will work out vocally.

AM But in the play the character of the heroine may turn out to be completely different from what you expected …

KO It’s true. For example, my beloved “Tosca” suddenly stopped being loved after a certain production. I suffered all the performances in Baden-Baden with Simon Rattle, because I did not understand my heroine. Why doesn’t she love Cavaradossi? The director did not convince me with his version. I always have problems with people who think they are directors … I am my own director.

But, for example, when I worked with Dmitry Chernyakov, I accepted his craziest ideas: he has the gift of persuasion. Even if some interpretation was shocking, it could explain the psychology and motivation of my heroine. It’s the same with “Mermaid” at the Bavarian Opera directed by Martin Kuschei. Everyone was in shock … I did not notice that I was cold during the whole performance, as I was wet on stage. To tell the story of the Mermaid tragedy, I had to make sacrifices.

AM How was it for you to work with Kushei?

KO He is a real dramatic director who, without scandal and pressure, gets from the artists what he wants. At the very beginning of work on the production, an outrageous incident occurred: I lost my voice. When it came time to rehearse the second act, Martin said that you need to be on stage almost all the time – the Mermaid will not sing, but she must always be present. And then I lose my voice, and there are three weeks left before the premiere … The doctor recommended to be silent as long as possible. And I was silent. The first two days I was immersed in myself, and this helped me feel the pain of the Mermaid – that she could not speak … The frost is still on the skin … I asked the quartermaster Nikolaus Bachler to find another singer, but Kushei and Mr. Bachler told me: “Even if someone sings for you, then from behind the curtains, and you will play the play. ”

Only at the dress rehearsal – in costumes, with an orchestra – I began to sing. I remember that the conductor sat the orchestra all the time because the musicians wanted to see me. After all, such strength escaped from my voice! It was a fantastic evening. I am really looking forward to returning to Munich with this role. This is perhaps my greatest desire at the moment.

I can say the same about “Enuf” with Dmitry Chernyakov. There was also something incredible, because all the rehearsals were bad for me – so I got used to the role. This is his favorite of my work, as far as I know. Although I really love Polina from The Gambler. I would like to sing it again, but in this particular production, where Polina is crazy.

AM And Tatiana? In Mariusz Treliński’s production, Tatiana is also insane.

KO There, the story itself is crazy! Actually, my whole life is so strange! On the very first day at the rehearsal, I immediately: “You know, here you can’t do without homework.” The entire production, the stage action, was mathematically calculated. A step to the left, a step to the right – shooting. I didn’t sleep for two nights, I rehearsed at home with chairs, armchairs …

Then a letter of gratitude came from the director – he liked what we got more than the premiere version with other soloists. Although, in fact, I did not work with him – I did not see him, I did not hear a word. Just mysticism.

AM In Manon Lescaut, Hans Neuenfels also has a very accurate stage movement. There you urgently replaced Anna Netrebko, although you entered the performance before the premiere.

KO We had eight rehearsals, including a seated orchestra, a grand piano in suits, and a dress rehearsal, which is actually four days. I agreed to this because I had to work with Jonas Kaufman, with whom I have such chemistry that we don’t even have to rehearse. Despite the fact that the atmosphere in the theater remained pleasant, Neuenfels, a strange man, shouted and cursed at everyone except me. He said to me: “You are young Jerry Hall, ich liebe dich” (“You are like a young Jerry Hall, I love you”).

AM Do you have any favorite stage partners besides Jonas Kaufman?

I will never forget working with Rolando Villazón. It was during my unexpected debut in Vienna. Instead of Anna Netrebko, it was necessary to sing two performances in Christmas Vienna. Can you imagine? Everyone was waiting for Anna, of course, and because of this I felt awkward. But the year was 2009, I was moving in my direction and was not very interested in who were the stars and who were the superstars. I just came and honestly worked with the wonderful Rolando – one of the best partners in my practice. Wonderful memories are from Mephistopheles in Munich, where I played with Joseph Calleja. This production made me very friends with him and with Vittorio Grigolo. Probably, Vittorio and Joseph are fellow life friends, and with Jonas – the most powerful experience.