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Interview with mezzo-soprano Ramona Zaharia

Thursday, 9 November 2023 , ora 10.20

The National Romanian Opera in Iași is hostingan opera gala on Tuesday, November 7th, 2023, at 6.30 pm. The gala protagonist is the mezzo-soprano Ramona Zaharia, and the institution's orchestra, led by conductor Mihnea Ignat, will provide the backing instrumentals.

Ramona Zaharia will offer us more details.

Ramona, you are coming back to Iași - the city of your musical studies and some beautiful collabs with the National Romanian Opera - for a gala performance held in your name. How did this event come to be?

I received an invitation and I was filled with joy. Initially, I thought that it would be a concert that I would take part in. I was left speechless, even more so,to find out that it would only be my concert. It would be the third event taking place within an anniversary context - 67 years since the founding of the National Romanian Opera in Iași. It made me truly happy and I got even more emotional than I had been before. Every single time, I get so emotional and elated to perform on the stage that made me want an opera career in the first place.

Between your two Rigoletto representations in Covent Garden, you will entertain the Iașiaudience. A gala that is only yours offers you the possibility of choosing a program that gets you most inspired in this period. How did you approach the program and what did you choose to sing?

I chose the arias which I hold dear and which and are a part of the roles that I am currently performing on world stages. I would have liked to choose more arias, but there are some that I haven't found the orchestra scores for. When you are only playing the piano, it is so much easierto find scores; for the orchestra, it is more difficult. I chose them in terms of whether I could get the scores, for the most part.

And they are?

Carmen, of course! Delilah, Eboli. I have prepared three arias from Carmen, two from Samson and Delilah and Canzone del velo fromDon Carlo. I also have asarsuwela, which is extraordinary, and I'm sure that the Iași audience will be delighted to listen to it. Moreover, I will perform the Acerbavolutta fromAdriana Lecouvreur, more exactly the aria from the second act of The Princess of Bouillon - a role I have beenplaying lately, which brings me a lot of artistic satisfaction.

Mihnea Ignat, the conductor of the Timișoara opera, is going to lead the performance. Have you two worked together before?

Yes, we worked on CarmeninTimișoara, immediately after the pandemic, and we got along very well. I considered that he is a great choice.

You are experiencing a busy autumn when it comes to Carmen and Rigoletto, and recently you've rescued a performance ofAdriana Lecouvreur in Riga. What is next?

And not only that. Also, a performance of Aida in Riga.

If we're talking rescues, what does a performance rescue look like to you? What does it mean to experience such a moment that may occur in the life of every artist?

I believe that the most important thing is knowing and planning your flights. It may seem weird, but that is how I do it. What I mean is, knowing whether you have a chance to reach that rescue. You plan ahead and answer "yes" or "no". A "yes" means that you already know the score very well and you feel perfectly healthy - you are perfectly healthy and ready to face the stress or certain delays… since these are normal things that happen. Within two weeks, I got two flights that were delayed by 6-10 hours… it takes its toll on you. It is more stressful that any performance that may be considered difficult - to not be able to reach the performance you were supposed to take part in.

I usually say yes to any rescue since I like to believe that there is no impossible and that I can do anything if I'm healthy. And I like pushing my limits in order to get to know myself better.

You like the adrenaline….

…I very much enjoy the adrenaline.

And what comes next?

After Covent Garden, I will start a new production of Rigoletto at Teatro Real in Madrid; and in January, a production of Eugene Onegin in Düsseldorf. Meanwhile, I will perform in Riga, Prague and so on… many other contracts.

The production of Onegin in Düsseldorf - are you going to interpret the role of Olga for the first time?

It is indeed going to be a debut role. I am going to perform together with my husband, Bogdan Baciu, who got the main role. And…. we're going to perform… as a family.

Is it a role that you wanted, or did this opportunity arise at the opera you work for?

Yes, it did arise. And I accepted, since I like learning new roles. Why not?!

Is it your first role in the Russian language?

Yes. I have also learned Polina from The Queen of Spades, but I never got to perform it.

How do you perceive this new role, the one of Olga?

I enjoy singing in other languages, of course. I usually sing in French, and mostly in Italian. I have also sung in English and I said why not in Russian too, since it is also a suitable repertoire for my voice.

Musically speaking, how do you think that it compares to your other performances?

It is extraordinary! I have always loved Eugene Onegin. I used to listen to it so much and now I got the opportunity to also be a part of this performance.

Interview by Florica Jalbă
Translated by Adelina-Maria Mănăilescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu