The present in art
How did you decide to become a singer?
It was very easy because I was singing when I was a kid. At 7 I started to learn singing, then at 9 I started to sing in a choir and I became a soloist very quickly. I treated it as a hobby but also as a kind of job. My voice changed when I was 12 or 13 but I still kept singing as a bass in a choir. It was very natural, I was just singing my all life. So it was not a very big decision, it just went spontaneously, I couldn’t imagine doing something else.
No? You’ve never thought about doing something else?
Well, I started also second studies together with the conservatory at the university, it was Polish language studies, but I quit very quickly because I decided to focus on singing. But then after I finished conservatory, a few years later, I still did my PHD, in Polish literature, theatre and opera theory, so I kind of combine this to singing, performing, and also writing about music, make presentations, writing articles, and I teach also music history, opera history, theatre…
And, can you tell us about your course in singing?
The beginning is always difficult, especially the first year, there is not so much work and the competition is very high. You finish studying and in one day you have to take care of your own contracts, your own techniques. For some of young singers, it’s very dramatic. This first year is crucial, I experienced it also. It was kind of a strange year where I was not doing much. But then I decided to do my PHD, I also went to Amsterdam to continue my studies as a singer, so I made a little bit longer the period of learning than usual. I am really glad I took my time, I focused on improving. And then, luckily, when I studied in Amsterdam, it was quite easy to get some auditions, to start for some first choir singing. And then, more solo, and more opera and I switched to contemporary music also kind of naturally.
How did you meet Silbersee and Romain Bischoff?
When the more thin years came, I was thinking maybe I should re-audition for new companies and it was a very nice audition, actually, it was the nicest audition I have ever had. The audition took one hour and it was a serious workshop with Romain Bischoff. We did acting, and side reading and of course singing, trying different styles, different approaches to music. I still remember it very well because it was one of the most successful auditions for me. Almost the next days, I got an email, they invited me for three projects. Since I joined them four years ago, I mainly work for Silbersee. When you join Silbersee, you are invited, and the best audition for you is your last production. So Romain doesn’t audition us for every project because he knows us well enough.
How did you react when Romain first told you about Daral Shaga?
I think he asked me to do it because it seemed quite challenging in terms of this cooperation with circus. Last year, we did a project with modern dancers, we had to dance a little bit, to move a little bit and it was quite extreme vocally so it was proved that we could do something with acrobats.
Of course I didn’t know Laurent Gaudé at that time, yet, so I didn’t really know what to expect, I didn’t really know the music of Kris Defoort at that time also but once we heard about circus and acrobats, it was something which of course we wanted to do. When you hear this kind of thing, then, of course you wanna do it. It sounds like fun. Because doing circus, as a classical singer, I would never do and I like this kind of weird things. It’s something new, something completely different!
Later, I read some books of Laurent, and I liked them very very much. I was surprised they were translated in Polish also, few of them. I really enjoyed this kind of literature, very smart, very serious, kind of symbolic but deep. He always talks about very serious emotions, it’s never artificial. In different books I have read from him, there is always this kind of very beautiful seriousness. And I can see it in the libretto also.
How was the creation? How did it go?
I love what we did, and one of the best things is this very close relationship between the composer (Kris Defoort) and the musicians. We really worked together.
He changed things because of the scale or because of the colour of the voices.
So here also, I found my part really suitable for me.
And how is it to work with Fabrice?
It’s very cool because he is young and I love it, he is my age more or less. There is a lot of respect because we have some experiences but we still search, we would never admit that we know everything. Some things are fixed already in his head but a lot of things are still in research.
And this kind of work is so refreshing. The whole cast is young and you can feel it, young in spirit, but also young. And it’s still very respectful. That’s very curious, you can imagine that if you are 30 years old people just doing theatre, it should supposed to be a mess, but it’s not at all. I mean, the quality of work is as high as every kind of mature theatre.
I think that what I like so much with Fabrice is that he has so much respect towards what we are doing, he is not a musician, and he is not a circus person and he is not a singer. He comes from a theatre perspective and I appreciate very much what he does on stage, and on screens with the videos. He wants something from the theatre point of view and we have to transpose it to singing. I was absolutely sure after few days of work, weeks ago, that it was going to be great, no doubts at all.
And about the theme, about immigration, do you have something to say?
Well, it is always a very interesting subject, I am Polish myself so there is this quality of immigrant in our history, we are migrating a lot, in the 19th century, and in the 20th century, and now. Half of the polish nation lives outside. So I get it. And of course, literature is full of these topics. Basically, if you read great modern writers, they always talk about it, Muller Herta, Kundera, Coetzee, you can find so many traces of being a stranger in a new place. So this topic is so present everyday. For me the present in art is very important.
What we are talking about is not political or social, but purely emotional, we are talking about feelings in a straightforward way. I think it’s because of the combination with circus; there is no literal meaning in an act on a cradle or on a chain, pure abstract beautiful thing. But, if you combine it with this very serious story, with real people, it becomes somehow very poetic, beautiful and sincere. We go straight to the soul, it is the point of the art and why we do it.
© Photo Hubert Amiel
This post is also available in: French