(Intermusica)

Singing Violetta

(Interviews)
Published – 22.07.2020
(Writing)

Ahead of her performances of Violetta and Musetta at the Royal Opera House this February, Vlada Borovko sits down to discuss jump-ins, preparation and getting into character.

Do you remember when you first realised that you wanted to be a singer? What encouraged you to pursue a career in opera?

I have adored singing since I was a child. Early on, my grandmother established a tradition in our family for children to attend music school, and as a result, several of my relatives have primary music education and good voices, though none decided to become professional musicians! As a child I sang in a choir and singing stayed my hobby until, at the age of 18, I participated in a local competition with distinguished judges, including a soloist from the Bolshoi Theatre. In that competition, I performed an extract from Diva Dance, which featured in the film, The Fifth Element. The panel were really impressed by my natural gift and recommended that I enrol in a music academy and study lyric singing professionally. Up until that moment, I had never thought about a career in opera.

As well as singing, you studied linguistics. How has that study helped your opera career and why is it important for singers to work on their languages?

After finishing school, I went to Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod to study English, as well as German and a bit of French and Spanish. This knowledge helped me enormously when I started to learn opera singing in Kazan. Working at pronunciation is extremely important, and language skills are useful for more easily learning repertoire. English helped me to communicate with people at my first competition abroad which in turn led to several professional contacts. I’ve found having improved language skills both assists me to polish my interpretation of any role and to be a truly versatile artist. Additionally, while good pronunciation is essential, it is also crucial to know the culture of the country in which the operas and concert works were created. Intercultural communication is one of the most important subjects I learned at the university.

As a young artist with the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, you jumped in at the last moment to play Violetta in La traviata. What skills do you need to step in so successfully when you don’t know that you’ll be performing until the day of the performance?

La traviata was an unexpected surprise and Violetta became the first leading role in my career. I still cannot believe it happened at the main stage of the Royal Opera House! I was a first year young artist with very little stage experience, but I worked hard at the role and was lucky to collaborate with a great assistant director and coaches who truly believed in me. In order to jump in successfully, an artist needs to be well-prepared and to spend many hours in a practice room. It is also important to know the production and be eager to communicate with new partners on stage.

This season you will be reprising your role as Violetta at the Royal Opera House, this time as a guest. How does it feel to go back to Violetta? What do you love about the role?

After finishing Jette Parker, I sang Violetta for Opera Cologne and I jumped in with the role again in Karlsruhe. So, coming back to the Royal Opera House will be my fourth time performing the role, and of course, it is a huge honour to be invited back to sing as a guest in Covent Garden. Violetta is a demanding role that shows different qualities of the voice, and on top of that, you must become her on stage. This means a soprano needs to touch the audience’s hearts in order to be believable as a protagonist. I read the novel by Dumas several times and every time I sing Violetta, I try to go deeper into the character. I like complex characters and Violetta is a truly beautiful one; Verdi is close to my soul. Six months ago I made a debut as Leonora in Il Trovatore and also sang Verdi’s Requiem for the second time in my career. These are incredible pieces and I feel privileged to sing music by one of the greatest Italian composers.

You will also be returning to the role of Musetta in La bohème this season at the Royal Opera House. What do you love about this exciting character and how do you vocally prepare for the role?

I made my role debut as Musetta at the Royal Opera House in summer 2018, and I’m excited to return to her after singing Mimì in Stuttgart the last season. Preparation-wise, I like to work with Jette Parker Young Artists programme coaches, as well as my vocal teacher in Kazan. I also go for coaching abroad and try to study with experienced coaches and conductors. Recently, I had fantastic coaching to prepare a role in Prague. I am starting to prepare in advance in order to have sessions with my mentors and conductors and I also work at the role individually a lot. Nowadays the rehearsal process is quite short in houses, so I feel I need to invest in my education in order to be well-prepared. Luckily, I have met many great people who have helped me to become a better artist in the past few years. Musetta is one of my favourite roles. She is vivacious, extravagant, free-spirited and she has a big heart. In spite of her drawbacks – she is, as Madonna sang, a “material girl”. I really love her and I am looking forward to singing La bohème again.

Borovko performs Violetta in La traviata at the Royal Opera House on 1 February 2020 and Musetta in La bohème at the Royal Opera House from 7 February 2020.

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