Adela Zaharia

Author:

by Bianca L. Nica
April 14, 2020

INTRODUCTION

BIOGRAPHY

Read more

Read less

INTERVIEW

Dear Adela, thank you for having accepted my invitation! It’s a pleasure to have you interviewed for the very first issue of OPERA Charm Magazine! At the beginning of out conversation, please, tell us how are you dealing with these tough times? How do you keep yourself and your voice in shape during this pandemic lockdown?

It’s a pleasure for me, too! I’m not dealing with it as easily as others seem to. I am very happy for everybody who is not suffering too much because of it, but the uncertainty is killing me. If someone told me right now that in two months all of this would be over, I’d be fine, I’d know that I have to stay calm for two months and then everything will be ok again, but the fact that we don’t actually know what is happening and for how long it is going to be like this… That is really, really hard because I am… I have colleagues who just have their voice there; their instrument is always there. They have not sung for two weeks and can go on stage and sing like gods. Well, that is not my case. If five days pass without singing, it feels like I am starting from the very beginning. So, this is a big challenge right now, and I am also like the worst combination because I need to practice, but I need very good conditions for it. For example, I can’t practice at home because of this blockage. I don’t want to bother anyone, I don’t want anyone to think, “why has she been screaming for two hours on end?!” (laughs) I am trying to avoid this, so… that is hard. Whenever I find a situation where I feel isolated, I take advantage of the moment and sing. That’s kind of my silver lining. It may sound egoistic or strange, but this is another occasion that showed and taught me how important singing is for me. When you are caught in it and go from rehearsal to rehearsal and from performance to performance, you tend to forget how much you enjoy it and how important it is to you. This crazy situation is a little reminder…

Are you among those whose performances have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic situation?

Not yet. Since the beginning of March, I’ve been in Munich for the rehearsals of Marina Abramovich’s project, The Seven Deaths of Maria Callas, and we started when the situation was not as bad as it is right now. So we got to rehearse a bit. We are prepared to jump back in whenever the situation improves. So, we didn’t cancel it. We are hoping it will not be cancelled, but there might be some modifications to it. Fingers crossed, and not only for this… We all want to turn back into the theatres. We all suffer from the financial point of view, but there is also a human aspect: the desire to do something so bad but not to be able to. Anyway, I keep thinking there are many people with bigger problems now. As long as we are healthy and manage to keep our spirits up…

What is this show, The Seven Deaths of Maria Callas, about?

Marina Abramovich is a fantastic performance artist who has admired Maria Callas for her entire life. But, like, she has an obsession with her. It is to understand why because La Callas was a fascinating person and singer. Last year, I read in Marina Abramovich’s autobiography that she had been planning since she was 31 years old to have a project dedicated to Maria Callas. She tried a few times, in different forms and shapes, and her initial idea was to make a film with seven different death scenes of the characters that Maria Callas had sung during her career, the most representative ones, such as Norma, Lucia, Traviata and so on. Each role, each death scene, will be directed by a different famous stage director. So, she started this project a couple of times, and each time something went wrong in one way or another. Then, she realized nothing would be better than staging a live performance about Maria Callas. Of course, for us, the artists, it is very humbling. During the first day of rehearsals, we were told, “please, don’t try to imitate Maria Callas. You don’t have to sing like her”, and I was like “, it’s not like I’ve been even daring to think about it, you know” (laughs). I am honoured, but I’d never go thinking that far. Marina is with us on stage, and there are seven different singers, six sopranos and one mezzo-soprano, and each of us performs one of the death scenes of the characters that La Callas embodied in her career. I look forward to seeing the final result, to putting everything together – the music, the lights, the stage direction. The premier was scheduled for April 11th, followed by the next performances until April 19th. It will probably happen either only on Livestreaming, or the date will be postponed when things return to normal. We should also visit Florence, Paris, Berlin and Athene on tour with this show.

How about the upcoming performances of L’Elisir d’amore at the Staatsoper Berlin?

That is still on; it hasn’t been cancelled yet. It should be on May 1st. I am working on it. I just received the musical cuts. So far, so good. Fingers crossed! That is another interesting aspect of this time: how do you prepare for a role debut when you’re locked in the house with no piano and no pianist? This caught me on the road. I’m not home where I’d have my piano, and everything would be much easier, but… it’s ok.

You studied at the “Gheorghiu Dima” Music Academy in Cluj-Napoca. What does it feel like to return to the stage of the Romanian National Opera House in Cluj?

I was scheduled for the Opera Ball at the National Opera House in Cluj, but then I got sick. That’s part of our life, you know… I have learnt, thank God, after a lot of time that health doesn’t depend on us. I was looking forward to this event, but when it comes to the point when we have to decide… There have been invitations, and we’re talking about it. I am constantly in touch with the theatres in Romania and am always happy to return.

Speaking about your studies, who has influenced your life and career the most?

I have to say that the school’s principal back very much influenced my life and career in my hometown. I hope she knows that. She is this super strong woman, extremely smart, ambitious and encouraging. I think this is where the roots of my ambition are. When we are talking about singers, even if I’ve never met Miss Zeani, I have lots of respect for her; a huge part of this respect is for who she is. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t appreciate a person only for their career. The career has to go together with a beautiful personality. If it doesn’t, I can listen to their recordings or performances, but they can’t influence me. Also, I can say that my career truly started after Operalia. Until that moment, there had been a lot of studying. So, a huge influence on my career has had Maestro Domingo. First of all, because Operalia opened so many doors for all the singers and then we had so many concerts together where he was either conducting or singing, I had the chance to see how this is to be done by one of the greatest. And also his wife, who is a wonderfully strong woman who knows what she wants. I love her. I can also say without thinking twice that my managing team, which I started working with after Operalia, has greatly influenced my mindset in finding my inner voice and self-esteem, which didn’t exist much before. I hope we will have more fun together in the future!

Tell us more abut what was it like to meet Ms Zeani and other legends of the opera world.

I haven’t met Ms Zeani yet. We only talked on the phone a few times, and I can say that she is fantastic. There are people you know from their first words how amazing, kind, warm and special they are. That is Miss Zeani. She talked to me from the first moment as if we had known each other for a while. She knows a few things about me and my career, but we haven’t met yet, and I truly hope it will happen soon. Other great opera singers I’ve met… Anna Netrebko is amazing, so down to Earth, kind, and funny. I’ve also worked with Piotr Beczala, who is fantastic, friendly, and supportive as a stage partner. He made my life so much easier. I’ve also met Ludovic Tézier, Charles Castronovo, Igor Golovatenko… and I have to say that all of these people have kindness in common, the very big singers. I’ve learnt so much from every one of them. Also, our good thoughts and prayers go to Maestro Domingo for him to get well soon. I met him during the Operalia. I was about to meet a living legend, of course, I was so nervous I hadn’t slept the night before, and I sang very badly at the rehearsal with him (laughs). I was singing Lucia’s mad scene, and he asked me: “Are you sure you want to sing this aria in the Final?” (laughs). He was very well-intended! During all the concerts I had with Maestro Domingo, he was always, at his age, on the side of the stage, encouraging everyone, shaking everyone’s hand, and listening to everyone. He was there for every single one of us – such a supporting and generous presence. We are all thinking about him these days…

Can we see you in some live-streaming since all the theatres now offer a part of their performances through the Internet?

Well, I keep saying that I am a baby singer, and no one believes me, and this would be the proof because I have no opera performance recordings yet. I just started singing in the big houses and everything… And then, I don’t have many recordings because I am a freak perfectionist, so if I were to choose, you wouldn’t have the chance to listen to almost any recording of me. Secondly, even if I wanted recordings, it was difficult to do those because of the copyrights and everything.

How does it make you feel when a celebrity is in the audience at your performances? Would you like to know from the beginning or find out later if a special guest is present?

It depends on who is in the audience. If we’re talking about a good singer, I’d probably be stressed and would rather not know. My agency knows that if someone important comes to attend my performances, they shouldn’t tell me until after. I prefer going on stage, doing my thing as well as possible, and finding out later. But I always like meeting the people in the audience, celebrities or not.

Give us some insights about your warming-up process. What breathing exercises would you recommend?

Well, my warming-up routine is very short at this point. It used to be much longer, but as my technique evolved, I felt my voice was getting ready to sing with fewer exercises. Now I am warming up for about 5 minutes, preferably as close as possible to going to the stage. Warming up an hour before the performance and keeping it warm doesn’t work for me. Because the homogeneity of the voice throughout the registers is very important to me, I start by doing some humming vocalizes with a bit of glissando/portamento on octaves, trying to make the whole voice sound the same. Doing this exercise, I try to involve all the muscles to feel everything happening in the body, not only warming up the resonators, the higher part of the “instrument”. The body has to be involved in every sound. I am also trying to keep the sinuses wide. When I started singing, I used to sing as a soubrette, very lightly, focusing only on the upper part of the voice and considering that it’s enough. But people kept saying, “that is not your voice. You’re not singing your full voice”, and then I realized it was true, of course not by myself, but with the help of my vocal coach with whom I’ve been working for the last seven years, and I’ve found all these new resonance spaces, a whole new dimension. This is how I think about singing: it’s a huge dimension. You must always imagine that you are singing for a 2,000-seat hall, but with a very good acoustic, because otherwise, you will start pushing (laughs). The second exercise I do is a fifth, using the I vowel because it helps me find the height of the sound, and then the O/U vowels to keep it wide enough. And then, I have one more that I choose depending on how I feel on a certain day, probably an octave. Again, it’s very important to be constant on the registers. So, I start from the lower register and go until the sopracuto. No matter what I sing, I always warm up until E flat/E. Suppose I have a lot of adrenaline, even higher (laughs). I have received so many questions about vocal technique on my page, and I keep saying that I don’t feel like I should give advice and I don’t want to do this, but if you like what you hear or how I sound, I can only tell you what I am focusing on. As I said, my voice must be constant, from the lower to the highest register. The thing that I have learnt in the last years that made a huge difference in my singing is how much importance, in terms of support and sound position, should be given to the middle and the lower register. When I learnt to sing the low and the middle register, the acute and supracuto improved by 100%. I have also learnt that the support of the sound is much more active work than I thought before. It’s a controlled system. I also believe that singing should be kept simple. If someone tells you 2 thousand things about what you should be doing with your tongue, nose, forehead and cheekbones, that might confuse you a lot, and you might lose sight of the important things.

I must admit that I don’t do breathing exercises separately, but I always try to be aware of my breath while vocalizing. In breathing exercises, I would use a little machine that makes you breathe in it constantly and offers resistance. That’s the only thing you can do: learn to blow air constantly. There’s also the straw in the glass of water exercise that you can use. Of course, you have to keep the vocal chords relaxed. Singing arias and different musical parts troubling me from that point of view helps. I have to say, I am not a big fan of breathing-only exercises, but it’s not like ignoring them. It is essential.

How do you approach the high notes, specifically the high C and above?

I will be very honest: I don’t think people can talk much about technique. You need to practice understanding it, but I will try. First, everything you sing until the high note prepares the way your voice will sound and feel while singing the high note. It’s about being extremely careful with every sound before that high C or that sopracuto. The high note comes naturally if everything before that moment is well prepared. I don’t understand why I wake up in the morning and it’s there. No, I’ve built it for many years and always focused on improving it. There was a very happy moment in my life when I came to the point of sitting on the stage and not fearing the moments of the sopracuto.

You are one of the most outstanding Violettas (La Traviata) of our times. What are the biggest challenges in performing this role?

First, you are on stage almost non-stop, with two little breaks from the first to the last scene. That’s the hardest part, to learn how to use your energy and voice wisely for 2 hours and a half. And then also has a lower tessitura than I used to sing before, so I had to develop in another direction to sing Violetta. It is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. It is on the top 2 alongside I Puritani, but I think I Puritani is easier for me because it’s Belcanto and higher. Violetta offers so many satisfactions. There’s so much drama. I have decided to be very careful with how many performances I will sing and how often because some moments are so dramatic that if you’re really into the character. You’re dedicated to it, are very dangerous for the voice. I’ve had evenings when I said: “This was amazing, but I couldn’t do this every two days”.

Besides Violetta, what role of those you have already performed is the closest to your heart?

Lucia represents a very special thing for me because I found and discovered my voice with Lucia – that is when things started improving for me. It was my very first bel canto role, and it opened for me the door of the Belcanto So, Lucia will always have a very special place. I also feel that La Traviata is very close to my soul because there are many deep feelings, from the happiest moments to the depths of despair. For me, La Traviata is like a lifetime compressed into two hours and a half, which is a lot to take in. I mean, vocally, it depends… But emotionally…

Still, about the repertoire, have you considered going towards Verdi’s heroines?

Not yet. I have a problem with nowadays opera’s tendency to sing over Fach, which frustrates me. If I attend a performance and my only thought after that is, “why didn’t this singer wait for another couple of years because it was too much for her/him”… I don’t want that for myself, and this is why I am very careful with the roles that I choose. I have refused some roles that I think should come in 5 years. I am focusing on keeping my voice flexible and my high notes. It’s not that I want to sing until I am 60, but it’s about offering the best roles for my voice to shine. I don’t want to sing roles that are too much for me or that I doubt. Now I am 32. In about 4-5 years, a small change will probably come into the repertoire. It’s also that I have just started singing on the biggest stages, and I want people to hear my Lucia, Elvira, and so on. Some titles are very, very special to me. I don’t want to give them up. When the voice asks for it, I will make a change.

For a long time, you’ve been a constant presence on the stage of the LA Opera? Any plans for that? How is it different from performing for the North American audience to performing for the European audience?

Yes, I would return there because I have some beautiful memories of that place. The audience is wonderful. There are many, many people who I still stay in touch with. There are no concrete plans at the moment, but I am looking forward to returning there. There is a difference between the North American and European public. First, it’s about what kind of opera lovers are in that theatre, what kind of atmosphere… I can say that the North American public is very enthusiastic and very nice for a singer. They enjoy every moment. In Europe, we have the feeling that it is usual to have a culture, and sometimes we take it for granted, while in the US, people know that if they don’t make sure that the opera survives, it will not.

Have you noticed any differences between the European and American singing systems and in the taste of the audience?

I have noticed a difference between the European and American singing systems because the Americans tend to produce more big voices. I am not sure if it’s a natural thing or a matter of their singing school, but I’d tend to think it’s a matter of the singing school. At the same time, big voices come from Russia and Georgia… there are some specific countries. Yes, I have been told I have a big voice, and I think it’s silly. I haven’t gotten used to the fact that I am not a soubrette and am lyrical. It’s still new for me. I think it’s a matter of taste and what a big voice means… The discussion is very long.

What are your plans for the next season, COVID-19 permitting?

I am debuting La Sonnambula in the next season, and also I Capuleti e I Montecchi. I will return to Donna Anna, but I will do some Lucias, and I am very happy about it, part of them here, in Munich.

I am so thankful for this conversation with you! You are one of those people who didn’t change a bit after all their success, the thing that I adore the most about you, dear Adela!

How silly would that be! We are all human beings, and we are all beautiful in our mess. As I have said, I am lucky and feel blessed to spend most of my time with people who think like me: we are all equal humans, working and doing our best. Life is short, and we should make it more pleasant for us and those around us. Take good care of yourself!

Thank you, Adela!

RELATED POSTS

Cristina Pasaroiu
I had time for introspection and discovered what’s important for me: being, first of all, a normal human being, being grateful for every small thing I have, and each person that made me a better person and artist.
November 2023
Cristina Fieraru
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo
My favourite characteristic of Verdi's music lies in the author's ability to make the timbre of the voice perceived to its fullest after taking shape.
November 2023
Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.

BIANCA L. NICA

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur