Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: Krisztina Szabo

Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: Krisztina Szabo

Article excerpt

Krisztina Szabo admits she became a singer by subterfuge. Nonetheless, the talented mezzo-soprano, just 28 years old, also knows she was right to follow her instincts. Her rich, plummy voice and dramatic intensity have won her rave reviews in both opera and lieder performances, and as she makes ready to leave the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble, she is fully booked for the coming season.

Born in Mississanga, Ontario, Szabo is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. "My father fled during the 1956 revolution, and like many refugees, education became a big deal with him," she says. "He wanted his children to have secure jobs, and because he associated music with gypsies, it was a bad thing." Although music was not a suitable profession for his daughters, it could be a hobby. Szabo, who loved to sing, became a member of the Toronto Children's Chorus when she was nine.

Szabo compromised with her father by studying to become a music teacher. She enrolled as a music-education student with a piano major at the University of Western Ontario, but it was her singing classes that gave her the most joy. "Practising piano was torture," she says, "but I jumped at any excuse to sing." Her teacher was Darryl Edwards, now at the University of Toronto. With his encouragement, she changed her major to vocal performance in her third year, and by graduation, was actually contemplating the possibilities of a career. Says Szabo: "Being cast as the lead in Vaughan Williams' Riders to the Sea [at university] was a turning point for me. I loved playing Maurya because she was so dramatic--angst and more angst. I realized I loved the acting as much as the singing."

Before Western, the young singer's acquaintance with opera had been limited, but after Riders to the Sea, opera became her passion. Although she was accepted into the Faculty of Education to become a high-school teacher, Szabo lied to her parents and said she had been turned down. After a year off working at temp jobs ("Piano fingers make fast typists"), she was finally able to achieve her goal of attending the one-year opera diploma course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England. "I wanted Guildhall," she says, "because my best coaches at Western had been British."

In London, Szabo was taught by Jessica Cash. The young Canadian revelled in the dress-rehearsal tickets the students were given to Covent Garden, and in the way, under Cash's direction, her voice began to settle down into a high mezzo-soprano. In fact, so amicable was the climate at Guildhall, and so encouraging the staff, that Szabo was stunned when she was turned down for the school's opera program. …

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