Dina has delighted the Charlotte public with her Tayiana in Eugene Onegin. At the time she granted us a more extensive interview that can be read by clicking [here]. Today we spoke more briefly with her, for an update. This is Opera Lively's interview #156.
Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively – It’s nice talking with you again, Dina. You last granted an interview to Opera Lively in March of 2012 when you were here for Eugene Onegin. Ever since, it looks like some very exciting performances have happened for you (I did see you at the Met in Francesca da Rimini). So, let’s talk about some of those performances of the last three years. I’m curious, for example, to learn about your Cio-Cio San at ENO. I presume it was sung in English as the ENO always does. Was it weird for you to sing it in English? What particular challenges come from that?
Dina Kuznetsova – Yes, it was sung in English. It was challenging because Cio-Cio-San is a part with lots of text, and a lot of what she is saying is full of metaphors and subtlety. So as a result the translation was quite subtle and flowery as well, and it took a while to get it into my heart and mind. Plus, of course, singing in English in England is challenging, though luckily I was a foreign character! But I loved the whole experience; it was not easy, but it was an amazing production (directed originally by Anthony Minghella, the same production shown at the Met), with a great creative team and a wonderful cast. It turned out to be a success, and London is my favorite city, so it was definitely a special time for me.
Opera Lively – You were back to Moscow in September 2012 for another Tatyana. Was it nice, going back home? Now that your career has settled very much in the Western world, how is the experience of going back to Russia?
Dina Kuznetsova – It was a whirlwind trip. Eugene Onegin was performed in concert with limited time to rehearse, so I did not have much chance to take in Russian cultural and musical life at that time. The performance was conducted by Mikhail Pletnev, who has been one of my favorite pianists since my childhood, and his musicianship is so individual and very special! I feel lucky I got to sing under his baton.
Opera Lively – You sang in the Municipal Theatre of Santiago, Chile, in Kat’a Kabanova (which you also did in Hamburg). Tell us about the experience of singing in Chile. How was the working environment there? I know you’re going back there for Rusalka. Do you look forward to it?
Dina Kuznetsova – Yes, I am very much looking forward to returning to Chile! The Santiago Opera house (Teatro Municipal) is an old beautiful theater with great tradition. It opened in 1857 with Ernani, and has had great artists performing there throughout the years, so the sense of pride and tradition is very strong. They treat their artists well, and I loved working with their musical director, a young Russian conductor named Konstantin Chudovsky. And Rusalka, my favorite opera, is going to be conducted in Santiago by Dmitry Jurowski, and I have not worked with him before, so I am very excited! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well, and I stay healthy (it’s always a singer's concern). In fact, I hope to bring my husband and son to Santiago to visit me – who knows if and when we get another chance to explore a part of South America together!
Opera Lively – Kat’a Kabanova must be a difficult role to tackle, from the dramatic and psychological standpoint. Can you tell us about your take on the psychology of this character, and how heavy it is to perform her?
Dina Kuznetsova – Well, I love Janáček very much; I generally love Czech music and Czech opera. It is a difficult part musically, so one of the challenges was simply to learn it. Another challenge is to adapt a very conversational musical language, with lots of wide intervals, numerous consonants and short high notes, let it remain conversational and yet allow it to sound beautiful. I did not find the psychology the most difficult part of it. I grew up with the play that Kat’a Kabanova is based upon (a play by a Russian 119th century writer named Ostrovsky, called The Storm), so the material was familiar. Of course, I have read the play multiple times, and thought about the character as reinvented by Janáček… It is a very theatrical opera, so listening to the other characters and responding in the moment is extremely important.
Opera Lively – You are going next to the Kennedy Center for Rachmaninoff’s The Bells. Tell us about this music. How does it appeal to you?
Dina Kuznetsova – The Bells is a choral piece with soloists, and it has four movements that reflect different life events – youth and falling in love, wedding, fire and war, and death. It is an intense, powerful piece. My part – soprano solo with the chorus – is the second movement, the Wedding. So it is very lyrical, very lovely.
Opera Lively – Back to Turandot, Liù is a very sad character. How do you plan to portray her?
Dina Kuznetsova – This is the first time I'll be singing Liù, so I am still in the process of finding colors for both the character and the vocal lines. Her fate is sad, but there are many more colors to Liù than sadness – love, devotion, caring, hope, fear, despair, sacrifice. I hope to bring the colors to the character, so she feels real and people can relate to her.
Opera Lively – Is there any particular vocal challenge in singing Liù?
Dina Kuznetsova – Yes, absolutely. Although the part does not go extremely high, it is very exposed and has long lines, so it needs a lot of breath control, and it has a lot of pianissimi at the top. But I find that the most challenging feature for me is just how iconic every note of the character is. It has been performed by many of my idols – Tebaldi, Scotto, Vishnevskaya, Caballé… So my challenge is to do my best in the way that I feel the character and can express her.
Opera Lively – What can we expect from this Opera Carolina production of Turandot?
Dina Kuznetsova – It is my great privilege to come back to Opera Carolina. The leadership of Maestro Meena is absolutely amazing; he is one of the very best conductors I have had the honor to work with, absolutely. Turandot has a very demanding chorus part, and the Opera Carolina chorus sounds amazing! Many congratulations to every one of them, and I wish them a big success. A lot of work has gone into it. We have a very strong cast, and wait till you hear our Turandot, Othalie Graham; she is terrific! It’s a very strong cast overall. I had the pleasure of performing with our Timur, Kevin Langan, close to 10 years ago in Chicago, in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette and Janáček's Cunning Little Vixen, and he is as brilliant as ever, and a great colleague. As we are just entering the production week, I cannot tell you much about the special effects, but I hear that some new things are in store, so I am excited to see everything; it should be a beautiful production.
Interview by Luiz Gazzola from operalively.com – click here to visit the full article.