The Prague Summer Nights festival, presented by Classical Movements, continues this week in Salzburg where young artists will have the chance to perform at the legendary Mozarteum.
Among the young artists is Anna Kozlakiewicz, a lyric soprano who studied voice at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw and Art History at the UKSW Warszawa. She is currently studying at Indiana University, where she is working under the tutelage of legendary artist Carol Vaness.
OperaWire had the chance to speak with the Polish soprano about her work at the festival and why she is so excited for Salzburg.
How did you come across the Prague Summer Nights Festival?
Anna Kozlakiewicz: I was singing “Rodelinda” at Jacobs school of Music and [tenor] Ting [Li] told me he got Tamino at the festival. And he said, you should audition for Pamina and I did it the next day. and I got the role.
OW: What are the challenges of a role like Pamina?
AK: I didn’t have a long time to study this role before I came here because I started preparing Vitellia [in “La Clemenza di Tito”], but then I realized I needed to come here and I realized that Vitellia is not as suitable for my voice as Pamina. And “Magic Flute” is also more popular and I realized who the faculty here were and I decided to come. The biggest challenge was to do an opera in German and I didn’t realize how hard it was. The vowels are different and the text doesn’t flow as much. But now that I did it I think it gives another layer to this music and it’s beautiful that it is in German. It’s not the hardest role and it’s not very long. But the aria is difficult because you have to make it gorgeous and you have to pay attention to the colors and making it light. It’s hard because I like to sing forte and I had to force myself to sing with this tiny sound, which is bright. I have a darker voice so I always had to look for something brighter. And of course, acting is always challenging for me.
OW: Why is acting such a challenge and how do you balance it?
AK: My favorite thing about this profession is looking for beautiful quality of sound and that is always what I think of. I love shaping and coloring phrases. So singing is the first thing but when I watch opera then I see how important it is to be in character. Because of that, I am focusing much more on acting and I think there is no such thing as acting and singing. They are one and it works perfectly. It’s just something that can be difficult at the beginning but later it is much easier. When you’re acting it’s also much easier to find these colors in the voice because you have dramatic circumstances.
OW: How did you develop the chemistry with your castmates?
AK: Ting Li, [who is playing Tamino], is my great friend because we are both studying in the same studio under Carol Vaness and also we have the same coaches. So we have sung a lot together. We have sung a lot from “Lucia [di Lammermoor]” together and we have met each other in different festivals and honestly, our voices match perfectly. I don’t know what it is, but it works. And as for Dominic Veilleux, the Papageno, I think he is such a great singer and I admire him. Now I cannot imagine anyone else singing Papageno because he is great for the comic character and I was talking to him and he loves it, so it’s perfect. And with the three spirits, I love that section. I remember when I first heard this opera, that immediately became my favorite moment. It was a great cast.
OW: Tell me about working with your director Joachim Schamberger?
AK: He is amazing. He can conduct when there is no conductor, his acting is amazing and he can sing. He is very nice and it was very good that we were able to work with someone who is German because for me it was a challenge. In Italian, I always think of the double consonants and the vowel. Here I had to think about every single sound. I could hear my Polish accent, which I didn’t really like. But what could I do?
OW: And working with conductor Arthur Fagen?
AK: He has conducted at Indiana University where I study and I saw a lot of performances with him so that was a huge honor to work with him. I felt very safe and I could understand everything that he was doing and I could see his facial expressions and that helped me find colors. I had great contact with him.
OW: What has the experience of being in Prague been like?
AK: I love it and I feel very good here. I wasn’t home for a year and here it feels like home. I came to Prague ten years ago and that was the first time I fell in love with this city. I was with my parents and family and I think it’s incredible that is was not destroyed and there are so many beautiful places. It is really one of the best in the world. And I love that music is lively and a lot of people are coming for performances and everywhere I stop they talk about music. That is incredible and very rare and I would love to see this in more countries because it is getting worse for opera.
OW: What has the experience of performing in this great country?
AK: In Tabor, we had a concert in this small theater and it was amazing. Here in Prague’s Simon and Judes Church, I found the acoustic a bit lively and a difficult at times. I know a lot of people who like it. I like drier acoustics because I feel like I have more control. It’s also difficult to be with conductor because there is so much echo. But on the other hand, when I was singing in the audience I think the voice comes through the orchestra and I liked it. I ended up liking it and I also found it to be a beautiful venue. I studied the history of art so I was looking at the interior and I found it fascinating. The space also allowed for minimalism, which I like and it worked.
OW: How do you think this program has shaped and impacted the way you perform in the future?
AK: I love this program because I can develop abilities which are not possible to develop by myself. For example, when I am in my practice room, I can prepare my part as good as I want and I can work on text and I work on my voice and make it easy for me. But I am not able to work with a conductor or an orchestra and a director. Also, I was able to work with a coach and I think that is essential. You need to have someone tell you how it sounds because working with the voice is hard. And being able to perform is so important. Memorizing for the stage is hard and after performing I was able to observe what I could change, what was working and what wasn’t. It’s also great to be able to have the experience of seeing how an opera is prepared.
OW: What is some of the advice you have been given through your time here?
AK: I got a lot of advice about singing lighter which is very important for me. I also got a lot of acting advice in terms of using space and it is something you can not learn by yourself. You need to always remember that projecting sound is important and that is why using the space wisely is important. There was also a lot of ideas given to me about using text for phrases and that has helped me discover ways to do it differently.
OW: You are performing in Salzburg. What excited you about it?
AK: I am very excited because three years ago I got a scholarship for Salzburg. It was a program that combined Scientists and artists and you had to write about yourself and your interest. and I got it because at that time I was studying the history of art and music and it was a great combination for that. And we spent seven days in Salzburg and we took part in the festival as the audience and also we had the ability to speak with people performing. That was amazing. We also had a lot of exercises about science and music connecting the two worlds. And I also went to the Mozarteum during that program and that was an amazing experience. I saw them play “Metamorphosis” by Strauss and the quality of sound was something which I had never discovered before. I could never forget this. I was in the audience and I thought, I hope I could sing in this hall one day. And now I am getting this opportunity.
OW: What’s next after Prague Summer Nights?
I am going to do some competitions in Italy and Latvia. I will also be in Poland for three weeks where I will be studying five arias for young artist programs. I will spend the next year looking for opportunities and I think it is the best step I can take now.