By David Salazar for OperaWire (full article find here)
Singing a recital in New York City is a rare occasion for an artist of any caliber. So, it is understandable that when a major opera star gets a chance to perform in one of the city’s hallowed halls, their choice of repertory would truly highlight their vocal and interpretative prowess. The idea of programming a recital that features a pianist, a string quartet, a flue, and a clarinet is probably not what they have in mind.
Unless your name is Magdalena Kožená and your whole career has been built on breaking the mold. Kožená, whose mother told her that she could sing before she could ever talk, was but 22-years-old when she won the International Mozart Competition and launched an international career that saw her record her first album by 24 and appeared and soloed on another 12 before her 30th birthday. She would finish her 20s not only with a Gramophone Solo Vocal Award in 2001, but begin the third decade of her life with the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. A year later she was the Gramophone Awards Artist of the Year.
She hasn’t stopped creating music or developing unique musical opportunities for her closest colleagues. And that is why she programmed her Lincoln Center recital as a big chamber music celebration.
“I wanted to bring these wonderful people together just to create the atmosphere of a house concert where each person has an opportunity to shine and it isn’t just about the singer,” the Czech mezzo-soprano told OperaWire in a recent interview. “I really wanted to compose a program where there will be more instruments and not only accompaniment but all the group members are soloists.”
Shakespeare & Other Inspirations
At the core of the program for the recital are pieces inspired by the work of William Shakespeare. While Stravinsky’s piece “Three Songs From William Shakespeare” explicitly mentions the bard, the other two selections are centered on the tragic character of Ophelia from “Hamlet,” one by Brahms and the other by Stravinsky.
Across the Way
After her big recital, Kožená will be headed across Lincoln Center to the Metropolitan Opera House where she will take on what she posits is one of her favorite roles – Octavian in “Der Rosenkavalier.”
Family Life & Music
One of the Kožená’s key collaborators on both the recital and “Der Rosenkavalier” is her husband and noted conductor Sir Simon Rattle. The two have been married since 2008 and have worked very closely throughout the ensuing decade. Not only has Rattle worked with Kožená on numerous opera productions and concerts, but they have recorded the works of Debussy, Rameau, Mahler, Bizet, and Mozart. When talking about her artistic partnership with Rattle, the mezzo noted that the intimacy of knowing him on a deep level creates a unique level of comfort in performance.
A Special Role
One role that she has added over the past decade that has become a major signature of her is the heroine in Debussy’s “Pélleas et Mélisande.” Kožená noted that she has loved Debussy throughout her life, dating back to her early life as a pianist.
“I always loved Debussy’s music,” she enthused. “His piano pieces are exquisite. It was always Bach and French impressionistic things that I always fell in love with even as a student.”