Biuletyn 4(17)/2000 Polski  

Hyenas Of The World – Unite!!!

A few thoughts on Malgorzata Walewska

There are artists blessed with beautiful voices and excellent vocal technique who sing on the most important stages and are appreciated by the critics and, more importantly, by the audiences all over the world. The news of their successes reaches Polish media very rarely, if at all. But those artists are too busy with their work, preparing new roles, improving their skills and so do not have time to promote themselves. There are also singers who, for lack of real successes, create, with the help of the media, a virtual world of their imaginary achievements. A few of such cases were described by Krzysztof Skwierczynski in an article On the honesty of critics, singers and spectators. (Bulletin 4 (13)/1999, p.10). I have decided to touch upon this sad subject again, because for some time we have been witnessing an on-going festival of Małgorzata Walewska in the media, festival which is supposed to make all of us living in this provincial country known as Poland aware of how unbelievably great and successful this mezzo-soprano is. We have been able to see Ms Walewska in numerous radio and tv programmes and read a number of articles devoted to her in women’s magazines, gossip columns and tabloid press. We can learn about tiles in Ms Walewska’s bathroom and other equally fascinating things, but first of all we can learn about the singer’s terrific career. The whole matter would not be worth paying any attention to it if it had not been for two interviews full of inaccurate (to put it mildly) information and, what is worse, full of spiteful and mean statements referring to other singers, who are true artists. First, let me explain the title of this article – where do the hyenas come from? Well, dear fellow Club members, we are those hyenas! We, the public, who come to the theatre with the sole purpose of enjoying the artists' slips and failures!

We can learn about hyenas and other ruminations of Małgorzata Walewska from two interviews she gave: I prefer seducing to murdering (Viva, 11 Sept. 2000) and I live to sing (Angora, 26 Nov. 2000). In those texts we can read that Ms Walewska is the greatest and the best known Polish mezzo-soprano (sic!) and that her voice is considered (by whom?) to be one of the most interesting operatic voices today. Both interviews are full of information testifying to the singer’s modesty: When I sing in Savonlinna, the Polish flag is hung out in the city centre; (…) Today, In order to get to my performances in Vienna, you have to start queuing a month before the performances, ideally, at 6 a. m. The whole world comes to Vienna. The latter statement is particularly funny. It was indeed very difficult to get tickets for a performance of Otello at the Wiener Staatsoper (where Walewska sang Emilia – by no means a very significant role), the queue for the standing room tickets started a few days before the performance and some fans even spent a few nights in the queue outside the theatre. But those difficulties were caused by the appearance of Domingo in the title role and not by those few phrases sung by Walewska! Such fantasizing could be forgiven; in today’s world everybody creates their own image. But Walewska’s rudeness towards her colleagues is simply unacceptable. She describes her participation in a voice competition in Helsinki where she didn’t advance beyond the second round because – according to one member of the jury – her rendition of Dalila’s aria was too sexy. Walewska resents such opinion, because, according to her, Dalila uses sex as a weapon. Walewska very quickly explains the reasons behind the decision of the jury member (and a fellow singer) who was far from beautiful and looked like an old boor. Well, of course, jealous of the beautiful and sexy Walewska she wanted to ruin the mezzo-soprano’s career! But perhaps Walewska should read the libretto of Samson and Dalila, she will see then that the heroine’s main weapon is not sex but tears. Dalila is not a temperamental Carmen whom Walewska presented to us in the Warsaw production of the Bizet’s opera; even Carmen cannot be done with sex only. (After the premiere, a French critic described Walewska performance with one word – 'vulgar'!). At one point Walewska says: I witnessed the two greatest scandals at the Wiener Staatsoper. The first „scandal” took place when Pavarotti cancelled his appearance just a couple of hours before the performance was due to start, and the second – when Domingo, during a performance of Otello, cracked horribly, stormed off the stage and had to be virtually resuscitated; then he was afraid to go out and face the audience, and only when Walewska took his hand, he was persuaded to come back.. I know nothing about those „scandals” (though I know that some of our Club members were present there; maybe they would be willing to tell us what really happened?), but I am convinced that no respected artist would tell such stories about his or her colleagues in such a disgusting manner. Such behaviour is disgraceful and unacceptable. (It is strange that Walewska is silent about another scandal at the Staatsoper in which she was very much involved. The mezzo-soprano was scheduled to sing in a few performances of Carmen, but after the first one both the public and the management found her so poor as Carmen that she was immediately dropped from the cast!). Walewaska’s „friendly” comments about her colleagues do not end there. She says also that Pavarotti’s concert in Warsaw was pathetic, that three quarters of the chorus could hide behind Jessye Norman who was bigger than a Russian tank, and, referring to a concert with Edita Gruberova, When I banged with my voice, her light, tiny soprano could not be heard and I had to tone down while singing duets with her.

Walewska thus creates her own world, a world full of contempt for others and enthusiasm for herself. It is a pity that this enthusiasm cannot be backed up by the facts – Walewska is not and artist to be really reckoned with in the opera world, her tremendous successes exist only on the pages of Polish women’s magazines and in the Polish radio and tv programmes. The only source of information about her successes is herself. And she thinks that everybody will believe her. Well, not everybody…

Tomasz Pasternak