Trubadur 2(19)/2001 (Dodatek Moniuszkowski) Polski  

Moniuszko Competition is extremely difficult
Conversation with Ryszard Karczykowski

How would you assess the competition? What was its atmosphere like?

From the second stage on the level was very high indeed. The atmosphere during artistic competitions is always rather tense, the judges have to evaluate what they have just heard. When one listens to so many candidates, sometimes with wonderful voices, it is very difficult to evaluate all aspects of a singer. Equally important is the assessment of the repertoire singers present. The Moniuszko Competition is particularly difficult because it demands from its participants a variety of styles.

Can the participation in vocal competitions advance a young singer’s career?

It depends. I did not take pat in any competition and despite that I have sang on the most important stages in the world. If a singer does not make it to the final or does not win a prize, it is not a reason for despair. Competitions are needed to give young singers an opportunity to meet their peers, to compare themselves with other singers from various countries. And that is how competitions should be treated.

What it important is the expert opinions of distinguished teachers, music experts who are members of the jury. Of course, each jury member had his or her favourites. The voice itself, and we had many wonderful voices here, is not enough. We had problems evaluating young singers who had evidently made wrong repertoire choices, who pushed their voices in order to be able to finish arias too heavy for their young voices. We, the jury members, are worried about such singers; further development.

Do the prize winners have a chance – in your opinion – to make their mark in the professional operatic life?

Money prizes they receive during competitions will enable them to go to an agency or to a theatre for an audition. But for careers they dream of it is not so important.

You are a voice teacher. What advice would you give to young singers to help them get rid of technical flaws, which were quite evident during the competition?

The biggest mistake was singing with the so-called vocal material. Singers are not like instrumentalists. A singer think he or she can play this God-given instrument. This is an illusion. We saw singers with wonderful voices but with poor technique, singers who could not play their instruments. It is as if a violinist would rasp on his violin using all his strength. Another thing – repertoire choices. This is also teacher’s mistake; they do not see what is best for their students. We had, for instance, a singer with a fine voice, who sang a Wagner aria with piano in a small room. He did it well and got high marks. Let us imagine now this singer singing Wagner with full orchestra on a huge stage, where even professional singers have problems with the acoustics. He will try to produce a big sound and he will not be heard. Moreover, he will strain his voice. So why did he choose this piece? This has a huge influence on the final results. We also took into account the choice of the repertoire and whether or not the chosen works could be well sung. We also evaluated the overall impression a singer made, the ability to express what he or she was singing about, the colour of the voice, the stage presence.

It is a very specific competition. Singers are required to sing Polish works among other things, which is obviously easier for Polish singers. Did this fact influence the choice of the winners?

Nationality should not play any part in any competition. During this competition, for instance, the prize for the best rendition of Moniuszko aria went to an Australian, and for Moniuszko song – to a Russian. The jury included many Poles but this had no influence on how the singers we assessed. I am Polish, I spent many years of my life outside Poland, my sympathy for Poles did not influence my work. I was very impressed by foreigners who managed to learn to sing in our language which is so difficult phonetically. One has to appreciate their effort.

I would like to thank all „fans” of the competition and encourage them to keep coming to the theatre, because the artists cannot live without the public. The number of people in the auditorium during all three stages of the competition shows that the interest in vocal art has not diminished. I would like to wish all readers of Trubadur many opportunities to enjoy great singing.

Olga Deszko