• Fidelio at Opera Carolina - Interview with Maria Katzarava (Leonore)

    Opera Lively is covering Beethoven's only opera Fidelio by our partners at Opera Carolina in Charlotte. This is a very beloved work that is not often given, and we are thankful to Maestro Meena for bringing it to us. A series of short interviews with five questions each, hopefully with singers in all five principal roles, will be published in this space, in preparation for the show. As usual, we'll have our review, after opening night on October 17. Today we are delivering the second one, with Maria Katzarava in the role of Leonore.

    The first interview, with Andrew Funk (Rocco) can be consulted by cliking [here].

    For the new readers still unfamiliar with Opera Carolina, it is a remarkable regional company with high quality productions, always bringing to Charlotte a compelling cast. The pit is very well taken care of, with great orchestral playing by the exquisite Charlotte Symphony, and the secure conducting by James Meena who with his prodigious memory knows his scores by heart, without ever needing to consult a print copy. Therefore Opera Carolina shows are not to be missed, and with better reason when such an interesting work is on stage.

    Don't forget that Opera Carolina's season starts with a concert on October 3 (Art/Poetry/Music). See announcement [here].

    Fidelio will run on Saturday October 17 at 8 PM, Thursday October 22 at 7:30 PM, and Sunday October 25 at 2 PM, at the Blumenthal Performance Arts Center, in German, with English supertitles. Tickets can be purchased by clicking [here] or over the phone at 704.372.1000 and range from $19 to $150.

    Though Fidelio is Beethoven’s only operatic exploit, the music in this stirring story of oppression and liberation represents some of his finest work. Opera Carolina's unique production sets his magnum opus behind the Berlin Wall right before its 1989 fall, and features tenor Andrew Richards as Florestan and soprano Maria Katzarava Hernandez as Leonore/Fidelio.

    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Maria Katzarava (Leonore)

    This is Opera Lively Interview #182. Questions by OL journalists Mary Auer and Luiz Gazzola. Copyright Opera Lively. Reproduction of this brief interview in its entirety is authorized but we request citation of the source and a link to this article.

    Singer: Maria Katzarava
    Fach: Soprano
    Nationality: Mexican
    Web site: http://katzaravamaria.com/

    Artistic highlights:

    Winner, First Prize and Zarzuela Prize, 2008 Operalia (Plácido Domingo's prestigious international competition)

    Appearances in these houses, among others: ROH Covent Garden in London, Teatro alla Scala in Milano, Opéra de Lausanne, Florida Grand Opera in Miami, Teatro Filarmonico in Verona, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari, Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Teatro Regio di Parma.

    Her repertory includes Juliette (Roméo ed Juliette), Elvire (La Muette de Portici), Marguerite (Faust), Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor), Violetta (La traviata), Gilda (Rigoletto), Giulietta (I Capuleti e i Montecchi), Antonia/Stella/Giulietta (Les contes d’Hoffmann), Tatjana (Evgeny Onegin).

    Among her future plans are Carmen (Micaela) at Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, La traviata (Violetta) at Opera de Las Bellas Artes, Turandot (Liù) at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Il Duca d’Alba at Opera de Oviedo, Madama Butterfly (Cio-cio-san) in Klagenfurt and Faust (Margherita) at Opéra de Lausanne.

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - There have actually been women who successfully disguised themselves as men – for example, Deborah Sampson and Cathay Williams, who fought with the Continental Army during the American Revolution, or Emma Edmonds, who fought with the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War under the name of Private Frank Thompson and later even received a pension from Congress for her service. So there is certainly a realistic element in the character of Leonore. At the same time, she also represents an idealized view of married love, as the opera’s original subtitle indicated. How are you planning to approach your portrayal of this woman? How do you see her?

    Maria Katzarava - I see Leonore as a very strong character who is able to overcome any problem. She is a resilient woman who does not surrender. I think of her as one of the biggest examples of loyalty and fidelity.

    OL - In Charlotte, you will be singing Leonore for the first time. In the original 1805 version of the opera, the part is written for a dramatic coloratura. Since then, the role has been sung by voices ranging from dramatic coloratura and lirico-spinto to the big Hochdramatische sopranos, and even some mezzos. The role probably needs something of each of these vocal qualities, especially the demanding “Abscheulicher!” aria. How have you been preparing for this role? Have you listened to recordings or watched any DVDs, or do you prefer to develop your own conception of the character without any “outside” influences?

    MK - I have listened to all versions of Fidelio available, and always try to take the best from each one of them. Each version is indeed different in vocal terms. I had previously sung two productions in which I was Marzelline, although my voice had always aimed toward a heavier repertoire. I consider it is very important to listen to all other recordings to finally create your own own matchless version.

    OL - With Fidelio and other operas in the German Singspiel format, there is always the question of what to do about the dialogue. In many productions, it is simply judiciously edited, but there are some directors who have substantially rewritten it or substituted other texts. In the recent Salzburg Festival production, director Claus Guth eliminated the dialogue altogether and replaced it with a variety of sounds that were supposed to reflect the characters’ emotional states. How is it going to be handled in the staging here in Charlotte? Do you think the dialogue needs to be modernized for audiences today?

    MK - The texts that we are using have been cut as they are much longer in the original version. In my opinion, when in a modern production, the texts should be suited in order to make them relevant to our times. I believe this would be necessary to create the right atmosphere, as it is being ultimately set in a different time and space than when the composer wrote it.

    OL - You’ve recently spent time in Italy training with the legendary Mirella Freni. Please walk us through the advantages of taking lessons with such an experienced singer. What did you focus on – vocal technique, interpretation, colors, musicality, phrasing? What impact a period like this, being mentored by a legend, provides to a young singer? Can you tell us something remarkable about your interaction with the great Mirella Freni?

    MK - Mirella Freni was always my role model, vocally speaking. For every role that I undertake, I go and listen to her version of it first. I think she has been one of the most important singers in the history of opera. She helped me polish my technique; as a singer, one must pay special attention to it, and compete with oneself in order to improve. I learned what role words truly have, the intention in each one of them and that singing is nothing else than to recite. I am certain the legacy she has given to me is immense and affects every one of my interpretations.

    OL - Please tell us about you a little bit. Your father is Georgian, your mother Mexican, both violinists, and you learned the violin at age three. Music was present in your entire life, and you speak five idioms. After such a rich cultural heritage, what kind of personality has developed? How are you as a person? What do you like to do?

    MK - I am a person who does not like monotony, and this is one of the reasons why I love this career in which I get to travel to various countries almost every other month, encounter so many different people and immerse in a new culture several times a year. I believe that the fortune to be able to speak as many languages has given me the opportunity to get to know very interesting people and learning from other people’s culture, background and experiences can be very enriching. Traveling has become one of my biggest passions and I enjoy getting to know each place that I visit. Reading and painting are also great passions for me; the latter I have practiced since childhood.

    I tend to be a self-contained woman. I am generally quiet but always open at the same time and I am mindful of my need to increasingly know myself better. I feel that all the experience I could possibly attain will never be enough. I am always eager to have more experiences, see new places, meet new people, and enjoy every single moment. It is incredible how we can have a great deal of attention to detail in our profession, but lose it in our everyday life, which leads to not being present in the here and now. Small details in our path can enrich our life if we are receptive to them. I like to think of myself as someone who does her best to live in the present moment and enjoy it to the fullest.


    Let's listen to the singer, in her winning performance at the 2008 Operalia, singing Zarzuela under the baton of Plácido Domingo:


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