Talented Mezzo raised on the Arts
June 27, 2003
Source: Marc Shulgold
COPYRIGHT ©2003 Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the Dialog Corporation by Gale Group.
Most of us would love to be saddled with the dilemma Viktoria Vizin faced as a teenager.
Seriously talented in a number of artistic pursuits, and blessed with jaw-dropping looks, the Hungarian singer spent much of her school years trying to decide which performing career path to follow.
``In Hungary, there is a deep musical culture,'' the mezzo-soprano said in impeccable English. ``We try out all the arts. When I was 4, I told my mother I was going to be an actress.''
She's come close to that childhood dream. After trying other possibilities - pianist, ballet dancer, musical-theater performer - Vizin has settled into life as an opera singer. Just turning 30, she appears to be on the verge of a major international career. Her appearances this summer in the title role of Central City Opera's L'Italiana in Algeri mark her United States debut.
During a visit at a downtown Denver hotel, she recalled a childhood that seemed occupied solely by artistic endeavors.
She was born in Kecskemet, the hometown of revered composer/music educator, Zoltan Kodaly. From age 6 to 18, she attended the arts-oriented Kodaly School, where she studied drawing, dancing, piano and theater.
Vizin also sang a little. ``I was in a kid's opera when I was 11, and I got the lead,'' she recalled. With her sights set on the light-and-breezy world of operetta, she took her first serious voice lessons at 14. Soon after, Vizin and her family got their first glimpse of the future.
``My teacher took my parents aside and told them, 'This girl has more of a voice than is required by operetta.' So I started singing lied (art songs) and Baroque music.''
Not unlike most American teenagers, young Viktoria was not interested in the advice of any grown-up. Her parents and her keyboard teachers had pushed her toward a career as a concert pianist, but she felt otherwise. ``I started (piano) when I was 5, and played for 17 years. Finally, it was just too much pressure, so I quit. I never discussed it with my parents.''
A naughty little smile crosses her face. ``I never discussed anything with my parents. You see, I wanted to be myself, to find out who I am. One's lifetime is about discovering life.
``I stopped with piano because I didn't like the practicing. You know, everything happens for a reason.''
Early in her voice coaching, she aimed high - toward being a soprano. Through training, her voice matured and darkened. It was soon clear that the lower range would be where Vizin would live as an opera singer.
Surprisingly, she didn't regret giving up the life of a soprano. While most singers cherish such great roles as Mimi, Cio-Cio San, Tosca and Violetta, the Hungarian fell in love with operatic characters who don't live in the vocal stratosphere.
``Actually, we mezzos still have to hit those high notes. There are plenty of them in L'Italiana. Personally, I think that mezzo characters are more interesting.''
One, in particular, has caught her fancy - that sexy, lovable Gypsy cigarette-maker. ``Carmen is me,'' Vizin said. ``I did my first Carmen three years ago, and just this past season, I performed it 20 times.'' When she gave birth to a girl 19 months ago, she and her husband named her Carmen.
In keeping with her lifelong attraction to the performing arts, the singer's infatuation with Bizet's opera led to a fascination with a new form of creative expression. ``My hobby is flamenco dancing,'' she said.
Carmen's Act Two gypsy song is usually accompanied by a little foot-stamping and castenet-clicking. But Vizin would have none of such tokenism. ``Most singers won't dance during that scene, because they want to keep their breath. But I wanted to do it right. I just loved learning the technique. In fact, I brought my flamenco skirts with me (to Central City) so I can practice.''
Though she is fond of the smart-and-sassy Isabella in L'Italiana, the mezzo confessed that she's not a big Rossini fan. ``He's not my type - so much technique.''
She has enjoyed Cenerentola, Rossini's setting of Cinderella. She has her sights on Charlotte in Massenet's Werther and Delilah in Saint-Saens' Samson et Delilah.
Her plate is full with a growing number of engagements in North America and Europe (including a Carmen at Pittsburgh Opera, directed by Opera Colorado's Jim Robinson - a production due to open the company's new home at the Auditorium Theatre in 2005).
With an increasingly busy schedule, it's unlikely she'll ever have use for a doctorate degree she earned in Romania two years ago. Yes, the mezzo admitted, she has a Ph.D. - but please don't call her ``Doctor Vizin.''
The degree (in contemporary vocal music), ``just happened,'' she said. After earning a master's degree at the Romanian university, an application for a doctorate was submitted without her knowledge.
``It's OK to have that degree. There's a bad saying that singers can't be clever,'' she said, pointing her index finger to her temple. ``But I wanted to prove otherwise.''
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