Opera Canada: Artist of the Week

© Bo Huang


by Communications | May 14, 2024 | Artist of the WeekFeaturedNews

The Artist of the Week is Canadian-Hungarian mezzo soprano Krisztina Szabó. Next month she will be taking on the role of Mrs. Grose in Britten‘s Turn of the Screw with Opera 5, running June 12 to 15 (info and tickets here).

Krisztina is sought after for her operatic performances both in Canada and internationally, having graced the stages at the Canadian Opera CompanyVancouver Opera, Tapestry OperaSan Francisco OperaOpera PhiladelphiaStadttheater Klagenfurt, and Wexford Festival Opera. Just before the pandemic, she made her Royal Opera and Netherlands Opera débuts in George Benjamin’s new opera, Lessons in Love and Violence, the recording of which received a Grammy nomination for Best Opera Recording. She has has been nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance in Opera twice for The Woman in Erwartung with the Canadian Opera Company and in Booster Shots  with Tapestry New Opera. Lucky for the next generation of opera singers, Krisztina is sharing her knowledge and experience as Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of British Columbia. Next season, Krisztina will be returning to Written on Skin with Orchestre National de Lille, she’ll be performing the role of Madame Larina in Eugene Onegin and Margret in Wozzeck with Canadian Opera Company, and Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle with Edmonton Opera.

This week we sat down with Krisztina, and she shared what happiness means to her, the funniest thing that has ever happened to her onstage, and what is the best thing about being an opera artist. Read on to find out more.

When was your first singing lesson (and with whom)?
My first ever singing lesson was with Darryl Edwards in 1990. I started my degree in Music at Western University (or UWO as it was called at the time) in 1990 as a piano major but I had always wanted to take singing lessons. After my audition to be placed in a choir, Darryl and I had a chat about singing lessons, and I ended up studying with him privately for 2 years, then I switched majors to voice in 3rd year.

Who inspired you to sing?
I have been singing since I was a kid – nobody in my family quite understood why, but thankfully, they supported me. My grade 3 teacher received a letter from the Toronto Children’s Chorus about upcoming auditions. I don’t know what possessed me, but I convinced my parents to drive me from the suburbs of Mississauga into the Big City of Toronto where I auditioned for Jean Ashworth Bartle, the founder of the TCC. (I believe that I auditioned with “Happy Birthday” and “Oh Canada”). The TCC changed my life… I had found what I loved to do most and a community that understood me.

Favourite place?
On my couch with my cat in my lap.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you on stage?
Opera Philadelphia, 2018, Written on Skin, opening night. We had a rotating set with a big cube – a house – at the centre of it which opened. During the end of the first scene, the set was supposed to rotate and Angel 1 and I were supposed to open the doors to reveal The Protector (sung by Mark Stone) inside the house for the next scene. Well, we experienced technical difficulties and the set did NOT spin. Apparently, every person backstage chipped in to try and move the house into the correct position for that second scene, but it was heavy, so it could only move at a slow crawl. Angel 1 (Alasdair Kent) and I vamped on stage as long as we could, but we had to exit the stage for our next scene. So, poor Mark Stone was left trapped in the middle of the house that hadn’t yet been opened, but he managed to sing his first entrance regardless! I’ll never forget hearing him from the depths of the still-closed house singing away, Alasdair and I wondering what to do, and eventually having to leave the stage with Mark still inside! Sorry, Mark! Rest assured, the set eventually did move into place and Mark was freed… The epitome of “the show must go on!”

What’s something most people don’t know about opera life?
Opera life can be like being away at camp. It is intense, often a heck of a good time, but sometimes very lonely and very disheartening.

Which role do you wish you could sing, but is not in your voice type?
Queen of the Night!

Tent or hotel?
Hotel bed with a million pillows, thank you very much.

What’s your ancestry?
“Talpra magyar, hí a haza! Itt az idő, most vagy soha!” Daughter of two Hungarians 🙂

What’s your favourite mind-calming practice?
I have a notoriously un-calm mind that resists my various attempts at calming. However, I’ve been doing Somatic Bodywork which has kept me sane through an incredibly challenging few years.

What’s your favourite movie?
Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze.. c’mon..!

Where did you go to school?
Port Credit Secondary School (class of ’90), University of Western Ontario (class of ’94) and I did one year at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Where’s your favourite coffee shop?
My daughter now works at a coffee shop, so that’s now my favourite: Dark Horse Espresso in Toronto.

What’s the downside of being an opera artist?
It can be very cruel, particularly for women.

What’s the best thing about being an opera artist?
Making music & playing on stage with lovely colleagues.

Are you a cat person or dog person?
I didn’t think I was either, but my cat has claimed me.

Which album did you listen to last?
George Michael: Faith

What is something most people don’t know about you?
My legal name is Christine. My Canadian birth certificate says “Christine” and my Hungarian birth certificate says “Krisztina”. I started using “Krisztina” after my time at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and thought about changing it legally, but I just never got around to it.

What is happiness for you?
Happiness for me is seeing my daughter happy.

Are you a perfectionist?
I call myself the Imperfect Perfectionist – always trying for perfection, but never quite succeeding.

Favourite social media platform?
These days, Instagram. And I also run my cat, Tilley’s Instagram account, too 🙂

Link to article: https://operacanada.ca/artist-of-the-week-20-qs-for-krisztina-szabo/?