Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Chat with Malgorzata Walewska

Malgorzata Walewska once received a piece of performing advice from a Finnish stage director that still sticks with her: “Don’t play, just be.” She admits that this concept of imagining herself in her characters’ situations is a bit difficult when playing Azucena—the gypsy woman in Il Trovatore—but it is no less important.

“It is hard to imagine witnessing your mother being burnt at the stake or throwing your own child into the fire,” she said of the gypsy’s backstory. “That is why it is also clear to me that after such experiences as these, you go crazy.”

With director José María Condemi and conductor Yves Abel, Walewska analyzed her character’s lyrics, her motivations, and her interactions with the other characters to create a believable Azucena. “You have to be a credible actor,” she said. “Of course, my Azucena is still in development—I am not as experienced in this role as I am with Amneris or Carmen. In each performance I discover something new, something I can do better.”

The singing, of course, is important too, and one of the reasons she loves Azucena. “To sing this role is a big challenge,” she said. “This is not the kind of singing where you can cover imperfections with a personal charm.”

It’s been a busy year for the Polish mezzo-soprano. “I was visiting my house only as a guest,” Walewska joked. “I was there only to change suitcases.” She’s looking forward to having some downtime this year and even taking a vacation to Egypt with her family, where she “will be doing absolutely nothing and I will enjoy it very much.” She has several upcoming concerts, a Carmen in Krakow, and a new CD called Farny to promote before returning to McCaw Hall next February as Dulcinea in Don Quixote, where she’ll be reunited with her Bluebeard’s Castle co-star John Relyea. “Bluebeard’s Castle was a magical performance,” Walewska said of her Seattle Opera debut last February. “John Relyea was a great partner—wonderful singing and he never stepped on my 7 foot-long train!”

She loves Seattle audiences and is eager to return for Don Quixote. “I feel great in Seattle…and I come back with a great joy” she said. “Birds migrate south to warm countries in the wintertime, but I migrate to the rainy Northwest.”

Photos © Rozarii Lynch.

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