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Interview with the Mezzo-soprano Liliana Nichiteanu

Friday, 7 February 2014 , ora 8.56
A graduate of the National University of Music Bucharest, the mezzo-soprano Liliana Nichiteanu is a soloist of the Zurich Opera. She has worked with famous conductors, such as Claudio Abbado, John Elliot Gardiner, Rene Jacobs, Zubin Mehta. Her repertoire is large and varied, with songs ranging from the pre-classical to the contemporary periods. Liliana Nichiteanu is a guest of many European theatres in Paris, Salzburg, Munich, Vienna, Barcelona, Hamburg and Berlin. In 2014 she is due to star in several productions.

Nichiteanu, thank you for accepting to give us this interview. Now, in the middle of the winter, there are still a lot of projects, and we think you are involved with some very interesting ones.

Hello! Thank you very much for the invitation.

So 2014 has had a quite fast-paced beginning for you, indeed, but I think this will open you interesting doors, and give you a few chances to take part in events. What are the events in your agenda?

I call this kind of professional dynamics a commute. That is, I begin my performances in a city and then at the same time I start rehearsing for another production that I will perform in another city. To give you an example, this will be my schedule from March until June. In Zurich we begin our Flying Dutchman performances, and at the same time I’ll start rehearsing for Rossini’s Othello at the Théâtre de Champs Elysée in Paris. So it’s hopping on the fast train, running to the rehearsals in Paris, coming back for the performances in Zurich, hopping on the train again the next morning, rehearsing for eight hours in Paris, and so on and so forth. After my opening night in Paris, I’ll have rehearsals for Ulysses by Monteverdi in Zurich the very next day. When we start the series of Ulysses performances in Zurich, I’ll be going to the Pentecost Festival in Salzburg, where we’ll sing Othello again, but there are different conditions there, different dimensions, different acoustics, we have to rehearse – so there’ll be Ulysses in Zurich and Rossini rehearsals in Salzburg. In fact, all of these journeys were supposed to happen in three quarters of the season, but because of the schedule, it’ll only take four months.

It will be quite a stress for the voice and the physique. It’s difficult to alternate between Wagner and Rossini, Gluck and Monteverdi...

On Easter I have a concert made up only of Bach’s arias.

It is an impressive repertoire for any singer.

All this planning makes you have a physical and vocal management. You have to always stay in shape and you study beforehand: right now I am in this study period when I prepare myself mentally and physically for what comes next. That is how we can deal with it. It is not the first or the last time that something like this happens.

Besides the stress and a thorough training, what else should a singer have in order to deal with such a varied repertoire?

A very strong will, the desire to go forward and the technical work; the vocal technique should always be your focus; everything in our profession is based on it. Of course, you should have the physique to handle it, but working on your technique is my alpha and omega.

Over the past few years you have added something else to your artistic activity, perhaps the most interesting element for the future, which could be defined by the motto “Give, and you shall receive” – certainly, you give something to the audience, but you also give something to your young colleagues.

Indeed. Now there’s the teaching side and I think that’s the most natural thing. After acquiring a lot of experience in every direction, it is only natural to help others and to give something from what you have acquired.

What does this collaboration with your younger colleagues bring you?

First of all it brings me the attention for what I do in my work, because there are times when I have to truly analyse what I am doing in order to tell them how to do it. They hear what’s going on, but it’s difficult to explain to them how to do it, how to fix what needs to be fixed. And then I work with – I’m sorry for putting it this way – the customer’s material, and each of them is an individual and you need to adapt to the needs of that specific person who is open to you and trusts you. But what you have to do is give them self-confidence above all, so that they could stand on their own two feet and not depend on you.

This communion, this joy must bring you satisfaction, too. Have any of your students started an artistic career yet?

Yes. There is a girl who is heading towards Butterfly and I think this kind of voices is rare. She can sing both Fiordiligi and Butterfly. Now she’s going to auditions and she is trying to make her own path. I would also like to tell you something else about my contracts. It is a wonderful thing, and it doesn’t always happen so, to stay with the Zurich Opera’s ensemble when there is a change of direction, and I received my new contract last year in November; it expires in 2016 and I signed it on 1st December.

How long have you been with the Zurich Opera and how long will you be there?

I have been working with the Zurich Opera since 1991 and so far, my contract expires in 2016, and the projects for the 2014/2015 season are lovely. We’ll have a new production of the Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten, then I’ll be Marcellina in the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart and then the Zurich Opera is placing orders for a modern opera with various themes – either a children’s opera or a theme opera for the large hall. I will be part of such an opera in the 2014/2015 season, as it is being written now. It also happened in 2010, when Marc André Dalbavie, a French composer, wrote the Gesualdo score especially for the Zurich opera, and I received the main female role of Eleonora, which had been written for me.

Do you still have the time to record music?

I don’t have a lot of time anyway, not necessarily to record music. I think this is a special field and you need to belong to a world that is a world of its own, just like the world of concerts, which has its own dynamics, just like the world of opera.

So there may be projects for recording and perhaps even with that contemporary opera you will be involved in.

You’re referring to live recordings… I don’t even know the number of the operas we have recorded and which can be found on DVD. If you’re referring to studio recordings, then that is a world of its own, as I was saying.

Nichiteanu, we wish you great luck in all your endeavours. Do you have a very dear project which you would like to accomplish?

Certainly; I often think about Wagner’s Ring and I am working on it. There are extraordinary parts there, which I wish to sing, and they will definitely come.

Irina Hasnaș
Translated by Irina Borțoi and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, The University of Bucharest