Your previous Supraphon album, titled Sinful Women, focused on the
Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss repertoire, music that is not only
challenging to perform but also demanding to listen to. Your new recording,
Wanted, pays tribute to Kurt Weill. How was your journey from Sinful Women to
Sinful Women was a project in which I had to attune both my voice and my mind
to the world of grand opera. And as I have always gravitated to songs,
particularly those dating from the era of the Germanic Late Romanticism (Richard
Strauss, Gustav Mahler), I wanted to continue to pursue in this direction.
I think that it is the most natural path for the evolution of my voice. When
following this musical line, you simply have to come across Kurt Weill. I first
encountered his music back in 1992, in Stuttgart, where I was singing in his
opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. I remember the staging team and
I pondering how to approach the music, and at the time I told myself how great
it was. Some time later, while travelling in a car, I happened to catch on the
SWR 2 radio station a programme dedicated to Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht,
which really fascinated me. So I ordered a set of sheet music right away and
plunged into Weill’s creations. I also became acquainted with the story of
his wife, the Austrian singer Lotte Lenya, and began discovering the enthralling
recordings of some of his songs made by such amazing classical singers as Teresa
Stratas, Brigitte Fassbaender and Anne Sofie von Otter. The general public
mainly knows Weill’s songs as performed by Ute Lemper, yet in my opinion her
interpretation is somewhat shifted towards the present time, so as to
accommodate to a mass audience. When I realise that I was a sort of pioneer in
the Czech record industry as regards Gustav Mahler’s songs, I would also
like to do something similar with Kurt Weill’s music. That is the main reason
why I have made the new album.
Do you think there is a clue as to how to perform Weill’s music?
In terms of the vocal technique and expression.
When it comes to the technique, the basic thing is to manage your voice, so that
it can negotiate the pitfalls of the individual parts. We should bear in mind
that the vocal parts in the opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, for
instance, are immensely difficult, meeting all the criteria of challenging opera
technique. Yet still and all, they should be performed like songs. Then you must
start seeking an emotional path, pursue the feeling the music evokes in you. It
entails plenty of emotions, self-expression, as well as surrounding
Kurt Weill’s oeuvre is relatively extensive. How did you choose
the songs featured on the new album?
According to what my soul told me, absolutely. There are, of course, pieces the
singer simply cannot leave out, the Alabama Song, Barbara Song and Surabaya
Johnny, for instance. I personally am really fond of Der Abschiedsbrief and the
French chansons. And, logically, I have also included on the album some of the
music Weill wrote in America, as it is a pivotal part of his oeuvre.
The best-known of all Kurt Weill songs is Die Moritat von Mackie
Messer, from Die Greigroschenoper, perhaps familiar to everyone. Yet the album
Wanted includes another 14 songs, which many people will perhaps be hearing for
the very first time. Why should, in your opinion, music lovers buy your new
Precisely because I don’t like the fact that the world only knows this one
song. Weill wrote it just a few days before the premiere of Die
Greigroschenoper, to commission from its main singer. Yet he didn’t like it,
and hence it is performed at the very beginning, actually beyond the framework
of the opera’s action. I would like to point out that, in my opinion, Kurt
Weill wrote many better and more intriguing melodies, which take you to a
different universe, and I also think listening to them may become
All the songs on the CD Wanted are in brand-new musical arrangements.
Could you reveal to us how they came into being, and who you asked to create
When putting together the album, we deemed it to be important to unify the
entire sonic component. At the same time, we bore in mind how we could perform
the project live, that is why we also chose the number of musicians with regard
to the number of players who would be on stage. Some of the songs have been
arranged by the conductor and composer Jan Kučera, some by Lukáš Sommer, and
some by the trumpet player Miroslav Hloucal. All the arrangements had to the
approved by the sheet music publishers, as well as by the holders of the
copyrights to Kurt Weill’s pieces. I believe that all of them are satisfied
with the outcome.
You are not the only one to sing on the new album. You selected as
your partner the baritone Jiří Hájek, a soloist of the National Theatre Opera
in Prague. How did you get together?
Our working together resulted from the necessity for me to have a vocal partner
on the album, and also during the stage performances. I was seeking someone to
create the role of Mackie Messer and sing with me on the duets, deliberating
about whether he should be an actor/singer or an opera singer. And one night
I saw Jiří Hájek performing in a National Theatre production and I really
liked both his singing and acting. In addition to the duets, he also performs
two solo songs on the album.
Kurt Weill composed his music in Germany, France and the USA, using
the languages of the three countries. Which of them do you find the easiest to
sing? Perhaps the pieces in German, as Germany has become your second
Yes, you are right, and I could even venture to say that I know subconsciously
the nooks and crannies of the language. Occasionally, I find it easier to
express emotions in German. On the other hand, singing in French is wonderful,
yet I must admit it is quite a challenge for me.
Where did you record the album?
The recording sessions took place at the Czech Radio studio in Karlín. The
premises were far from ideal, though. For the first time ever, I was recording
with earphones and didn’t feel entirely at ease – even though we did record
it concurrently, each of us was divided by an acoustic wall. I simply cannot
help thinking that the best is when you have the entire music ensemble