by Richard Nilsen
Oct. 30, 2009 09:15 PMThe Arizona Republic ©
Mezzo-soprano Viktoria Vizin has sung the role of Carmen 71 times so far, including one production at Covent Garden in England.
She will be doing it again with Phoenix Opera in its season-opening production.
"It is my 10th production," she says. "I've even sung it in German."
Vizin, 35, was born in the same Hungarian village as the famous composer Zoltan Kodaly. From childhood she wanted to be an actress, but soon her voice led her to music instead. She has performed most of the major mezzo roles in most of the major opera houses.
She speaks seven languages and moved to Chicago seven years ago, where she is married and has two children - one named Carmen.
Question: Isn't Hungarian always accented on the first syllable? How can your name be "Victoria"?
Answer: Yes, in Hungarian my name is Vizin Viktoria (VEE-zeen VIK-to-ree-a). But in English, we say it Vic-TO-ria.
Q: But you speak English with no accent at all.
A: I still have a little bit of an accent. I began learning English when I was 13. I had a girlfriend in school who came from California, and I started to communicate with her by arm and leg signals, but we used a dictionary to learn words and, in 10 months, I realized I could speak English.
Q: Is Hungary as cold as Chicago?
A: No. But I've adapted. Anyway, I don't spend that much time in Chicago in the winter. I'm working through the season, so that's good.
Q: Do you miss Hungary?
A: Gosh, I am so Hungarian. My instinct is that I have to go back at least twice a year and get some spiritual energy from my roots. I love being in the United States, I love being wherever I have been, but my roots are very, very deep. Of course, at home I don't stand out for being Hungarian.
Q: You married outside the field. Your husband is not a performer.
A: I never wanted to have someone involved in music. I know what is going on, and I don't need to have another person continuing to talk about all the business we're doing when I get home.
Q: You started as a soprano. Did motherhood make you a mezzo?
A: No. I have two children and I always heard that motherhood ripens your voice. It's fuller, (and) for me it feels much more comfortable, but that's just my anatomy, as my body is structured, my vocal chords are like that and mezzo fits my voice.
Q: This is "Carmen." Do you dance flamenco?
A: Flamenco is my hobby, but you're not going to see it in this production. There is no dancing Carmen. I told our choreographer, if there is any way, can we fit some in. I believe Carmen needs to dance, but not in this production. I'm going to sneak in some flamenco movements, though, I'm sure.
Q: Have you ever sung in a deconstructed "Carmen"? One that was set on Mars or in the subways of Berlin, like so many contemporary opera productions?
A: I sang one "Carmen" in blue jeans, but that's about it. There was one where, instead of castanets, I danced with kitchen knives. I was a dangerous woman, and my Don Jose was afraid I was cutting off something very important to him.
Q: Is love a rebellious bird?
A: Yes. Not just the love, but the person who loves. The woman in me is grounded in freedom and is very rebellious.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8823.
PHOENIX OPERA: 'CARMEN'
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 and 2 p.m. next Sunday, Nov. 8.
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix.
Details: 866-673-7248, phoenixopera.org.