She wanted to have a joint performance in Covent Garden we the best opera singer of our times in her CV. He, for seventeen year, hadn’t sang that opera, because – is it appropriate for a grown man to sing about love? She met him accidentally in a cafeteria in front of the theatre. And…when he sang “I love”, he didn’t play and he didn’t pretend. Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna.
Grzegorz Kapla: Good morning from welcoming Warsaw Sofitel Victoria – Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna.
Aleksandra Kurzak: Perfetto.
G. Grazie. Roberto, before the show you always have to warm your voice. Can you do this now?
Roberto Alagna: With a candle. You put a candle near throat and it warms you up (laughter)
G. Yeah, but it’s a big problem. Voice means your life.
R. Yes, you have to warm the voice when you want to use it. Otherwise you have to respect the voice. It means letting him rest, being very gentle. The voice is like a child or like a wife. You must be very gentle…G. You bring flowers to your voice?
A. Keep going, keep going…
R. Yeah. I don’t bring flowers even to my wife. I am the flower. (laugh) No, but you sometimes use the voice too much, speaking a lot, singing too much and you can break it. You must use it delicately. The voice is like another person. You must be very respectful with the voice.
G. So it’s not easy to live with this gift.
A. It’s not easy living with him (laughs pointing at Roberto). I’m absolutely not like him. I’m made from a different type of clay. Roberto always says – don’t shout, don’t scream, he has completely different temperament. I talk all the time, it’s hard to stop me. I have never had something like this, that now we have a performance, so we have to rest. Roberto, when I met him, he didn’t talk in the day of the show. Now he talks, even on the phone, he didn’t do that as well. One time, his daughter visited us in Vienna and she said – papa, you are finally normal. So, we try to change him a bit, but we influence each other.
R. Oldschool, newschool.
G. If you stop saying anything, that means you have a secret. That was the secret of your love? That you met the guy who doesn’t speak?
A. No, I met the guy who had an incredible sense of humor. He totally destroyed me with that.
R. You know, when you speak too much you can say a lot of stupid things.
G. They say, the tough guy always knew what to say and never said what he knows.
R. Sometimes it’s better to listen.
G. Do you remember the first moment…
R. When I was born? (laughs)
G. No, when…
R. I was reborn with her. It was a new chapter. You have to turn the page and start another chapter.
G. So you were thinking that your book is over.
R. It’s an anthology. (laughs)
A. Just – calm down. (laughs)
G. That’s the sense of humor you were talking about. How did you meet him?
A. I saw him and I said: good morning, Maestro. And he said – come on, don’t call me Maestro. I’m Roberto.
G. On the stage?
A. No, it was in a cafeteria.
G. How it’s possible that two stars met in a cafeteria.
A. We had a rehearsal. Before the rehearsal. 10:20.
G. You remember everything.
R. The first moment when I saw her I thought – she’s the perfect girl for me.
G. In the first moment?
A. Yeah, but he didn’t tell you the truth. He saw my pictures before. When he was checking out who was he singing with.
R. I was afraid.
A. He was the one member of the cast who, as he said, from another generation. Then complained that – oh, everybody is a newcomer and young people, I will be ridiculous with them blah, blah, blah
R. I didn’t sang this opera for 17 years.
A. Then he looked at my photo and said – that’s fine, she doesn’t look that young as well. (laughs)
R. It was easy working with Aleksandra, it was like playing ping-pong. With some people it’s difficult, but with her everything went smoothly. One day in cantina, she was buying a coffee, I noticed her wallet. She had everything arranged extremely well inside. I thought – she is a wonderful person. Maybe she will be a good partner.
A. I wasn’t this woman with stereotypical purse who can’t find anything in there. I had everything organized well.
G. The voice and talent – where they come from? Why some people get it and others don’t?
R. You have to respect it, because it may just go away one day.
A. My mother lost the voice, when I was born.
G. Maybe she was afraid that she might lose you, you were born prematurely…
A. The doctors gave me little chance for survival and it was definitely stressful for my mom. It also made a mark on her voice. The voice is very sensitive – for everything, weather, sleep, food. It is not a pair of violin that you can put in the case.
G. So when you fall in love, the voice is growing.
A. There is some truth to that.
R. When you’re happy, usually, you sing better.
A. People say you have to suffer to create something, but I think it’s not bad to be happy.
G. And when you became a mother, were you afraid that you may lose your voice?
A. No, I didn’t, not even for a second.
R. It was better for her voice. The voice changed a little bit and now she has more possibilities.
A. Yes, it opened a new chapter in my life.
G. Tell me about the gift.
R. I don’t know if it comes from from God or nature, but it’s like something programmed in your system. When you receive this program you need a lot of meditation to understand what is your instrument. Everybody receives something, but when you receive such a wonderful gift like a voice, you are very lucky, because you can make a lot of people very happy.
G. But how do you know that you have this gift?
R. One day you understand that it is something you got.
G. So, do you need a master?
R. Sometimes. Sometimes you have it inside you. It’s difficult to explain. It’s like a miracle. You know, when people say – oh, I was unlucky, I didn’t get a chance to have a career, I don’t believe in that. Having a career is not only dependent on having the voice. The voice is maybe good, but you also need good health, good practice, good musicality, you need concentration, a kind of computer to work many details in the same time. To think about gesture, music, interpretation – it’s many things in the same time and it’s very complicated. At the same time – you must be very humble and careful. It’s not something you can control 100%. Even when you know that you’re in fomr and you think – tonight I will be great, because I feel good, if you have just a little hoarseness – Katarro – in that moment, everything can fall.
G. Is it true that one bad note may destroy your career?
R. Yes! You can sing very beautifully all evening, but you sing one bad note and the magic is gone.
G. Is it easier in other professions? If you’re rock musician you don’t have to hit every note…
R. Even after some time, people will only remember that one, bad moment. We have many examples of such figures like Pavarotti, Callas, people who had one bad night and after many years people speak only about that night. I also had this experience. They say – oh, he made a mistake, it was not a good repertoire, he doesn’t have the best technique. Caruso said something very true –I’m in form just two nights in a year. And on these two nights I don’t perform.
G. And how was it with your gift? You were supposed to be a violinist. You learned the notes, learned to play and then what?
A. This gift was the voice, absolutely. It is something I got from God. I didn’t have to discover that, just like I didn’t have to discover it in my daughter, she also has a gift. She can sing, she can change her voice. When we ask her to sing normally, she sings normally, when we ask her to sing opera-like – she can do it. Of course, she needs training etc., but the position of this voice, this special vibration – she definitely has it.
G. How old is she?
A. She is almost six. As my mother said – I imitated her when I was a child and now Malena does the same. This gift was of course developed later with a lot of practice. These were the times, I was born in communist Poland and the only way to get out was to get a job in West Berlin. My parents idea of me playing a violin was conceived to make ends meet in the future. But my true love won. I grew up in the opera, my parents worked there, I was there every evening. It happened naturally, I just started singing one day.
G. How did you tell your parents about this passion of yours?
A. I don’t remember. I finished high-school, played my last concert with orchestra as the best alumna of my school and passed the singing exams. I said – mom, I want to sing. So I got my first singing lesson a week before my exams. And that’s that.
G. You will be singing at a charity concert in Poland.
A. Yes, this is absolutely wonderful thing. This concert is for Child Health Center to help children – Great Artists for Small Patients. It will be on November 18th in Warsaw. I heard that the tickets sold out like crazy this morning, in about 30 minutes. We are very happy that we can participate in such a wonderful cause.
G. Do you always agree to these kind of initiatives?
A. I can’t speak for Roberto, but I just didn’t get an opportunity. No one came forward with such noble idea. Although I’m glad, because what is more important than children’s health? I can’t imagine that someone would say no to that.
G. Roberto, do you like Poland and polish cuisine?
A. No, because he doesn’t like pierogi. I love pierogi.
R. I don’t like pierogi, Italian ravioli as well, but the rest – yes. The weather is fantastic.
G. There is no sun!
R. Because the sun must be inside of you! With the sun inside you, everything is beautiful. That is my philosophy.
A. It’s true, he wakes up every day with a smile.
G. Why did you choose the opera?
A. It chose us. My story is easier so I’ll tell it first – my parents worked in opera, I grew up there, it was a very common place for me. It was nothing special. My mother sang in the opera in the evening so I didn’t see this as something divine. Roberto story is completely different.
R. When you receive this gift and you know you have the possibility to sing opera, you choose opera. It is a top of singing, first division. It’s like in football – if you can play in first division, you don’t play in second. When you have this possibility, you go to the opera. It’s something not natural. You can’t say – I have the possibility to do it and then not do it. It’s like a mission.
G. It’s not an easy gift.
R. It’s a mission to please people, to make them happy, but also to let them forget the difficulties of life. For those two-three hours, let just forget about them. This is truly a wonderful gift.
G. Roberto, Aleksandra –thank you very much.
R.A. Thank you.