Aleksandra Kurzak

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Aleksandra Kurzak
Aleksandra Kurzak in La Juive.jpg
Kurzak in La Juive at the Bavarian State Opera, June 2016
Born (1977-08-07) 7 August 1977 (age 43)
Brzeg Dolny, Polish People's Republic
OccupationOperatic soprano
Years active2000–present
Spouse(s)
Jacek Jaskuła
(m. 2000; div. 2007)

(m. 2015)
AwardsCross of Merit
Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis
Websitealeksandrakurzak.com

Aleksandra Kurzak (born 7 August 1977) is a Polish operatic soprano. She received international attention after her debuts at the New York Metropolitan Opera and the London Royal Opera House in the 2004/05 season, followed by invitations to leading opera houses in Europe and Northern America.

She had been successful in lyric and coloratura soprano roles, most notably in operas by Mozart, Rossini, and Donizetti. From the early 2010s, she began taking up gradually heavier roles in the 19th-century Romantic and verismo operas such as Violetta in La traviata, Nedda in Pagliacci, and Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly. Since her marriage with Roberto Alagna in 2015, the couple has been making frequent joint appearances on both concert and opera stages.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Brzeg Dolny and raised in Wrocław, Kurzak is daughter to operatic soprano Jolanta Żmurko and horn player Ryszard Kurzak.[1] She began her musical studies at the age of 7, playing the violin.[2] She had intended to be a ballet dancer, then a violinist. Her singing talent was noticed by conductor Stefan Rachoń when she imitated her mother at the festival in Kudowa-Zdrój. The conductor immediately offered to record an album, which her parents refused.[1] She went on studying in the violin class at the Karol Szymanowski Musical Lyceum.[a][3] She turned to singing after graduation and started voice lesson just before the entrance of the academy with her mother, whom she still considers her primary teacher.[4][5]

From 1996 to 2000, Kurzak studied at the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Eugeniusz Sąsiadek's class,[1] and meanwhile participated in several music festivals and was laureate in multiple competitions.[b] She also received scholarships from the Polish Ministry of Culture and Aleksander Gudzowaty's Crescendum Est - Polonia Foundation. Despite not having entered the final at the 2000 edition of Operalia, she was discovered by Peter Katona, the casting director of the Royal Opera.[4][5] After graduation, she pursued postgraduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg till 2004 with Ingrid Kremling, whom she first met at the 1998 Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition in Warsaw.[2] She received a doctorate degree in music in 2009 and habilitated doctor's diploma in June 2016.[6]

Career[edit]

Earlier career[edit]

On 26 May 1999, Kurzak made her opera debut in the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro alongside her mother as the countess at the Wrocław Opera,[7] where she was a soloist for two seasons (2000-2002).[3] In 2001, she performed Hanna in Moniuszko's The Haunted Manor at the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. She also returned to the role in January 2007 when the production was again revived.[8]

In the 2001/02 season she joined the Young Artists' Programme of the Hamburg State Opera, and then became an ensemble member from the 2003/04 season.[9] After successful performances as Gilda in Rigoletto and the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, she gained recognition and was subsequently engaged in various roles including Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Adele in Die Fledermaus, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro.[10] In 2004, she performed Marzelline in Fidelio.[11] In 2005, she performed Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare and Servilia in La clemenza di Tito.[12] After Fraarte in Handel's Radamisto in May 2007,[13] she embarked a freelance career.

International career[edit]

Kurzak received international attention when she debuted at the New York Metropolitan Opera as Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann in December 2004,[14] and at the Royal Opera, London as Aspasia in Mitridate, re di Ponto in July 2005.[15] She also debuted at the Bavarian State Opera, performing Cleopatra, Adele, Rosina in The Barber of Seville and Fiorilla in Il turco in Italia. She returned to the Royal Opera in the following seasons in Don Pasquale (Norina), the premiere of Pelly's production of L'elisir d'amore (Adina), The Marriage of Figaro (Susanna), and Matilde di Shabran (Matilde).[16] Besides Gilda being her signature role,[17] she also performed Ännchen in Der Freischütz at the Salzburg Festival, Norina in at the Teatro Massimo,[18] Blonde in Die Entführung at the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago.[19] In 2008 she debuted at the Vienna State Opera as Rosina.[20] In 2009, she portrayed Aspasia again at the Palacio de la Ópera in A Coruña and Welsh National Opera, and was later featured in Don Giovanni as Donna Anna and Tancredi as Amenaide at the Theater an der Wien.[21][22]

In 2010, she debuted in the role of Violetta in the Polish National Opera's premiere of La traviata, which revived in later seasons with her in the same role.[23] In October, she debuted as Lucia at the Seattle Opera and was then named 2010/11 "Artist of the Year" by the company for the performances.[24] Despite the success as Violetta and Lucia,[25][26] she performed primarily lighter roles such as Fiorilla,[27] Rosina,[28] Adina,[29] Marie in La fille du régiment,[30] and some Mozartian roles such as Donna Anna and Susanna,[31][32] with Gilda remaining her most frequent role.[33] In 2011, she debuted at the Los Angeles Opera as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte in September and returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel in December.[34] In 2012, she opened Gounod's Roméo et Juliette as Juliette at the Verona Arena and returned to Covent Garden in a revival of Pelly's production of L'elisir d'amore.[35] In September 2013, she went on maternity leave, withdrawing from Rigoletto opening in November at the Metropolitan Opera. She was replaced by Irina Lungu and Sonya Yoncheva.[36]

Kurzak returned to stage in performances of L'elisir d'amore at the Bavarian State Opera in May 2014. She portrayed her role in various productions of the same opera including Pelly's production at her Paris Opera debut and Sher's production at the Metropolitan Opera.[37] She continued to give performances as Gilda in various venues such as the Royal Opera House and Vienna State Opera,[38] as Marie at the Teatro Real and Norina at the Zürich Opera House.[39] She further debuted as Adèle in Le comte Ory at La Scala and returned into a revival of Hansel and Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera.[40] In 2015, she performed in La traviata at the Deutsche Oper Berlin,[41] and returned the London Royal Opera for a revival of Il turco in Italia, for which she won the Best Female Singer in the Bachtrack Opera Awards.[42] She then performed the title role in Maria Stuarda at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.[43]

In 2016, after sharing the title role with Diana Damrau in Katie Mitchell's new Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera,[44] she made several role debuts: Rachel in La Juive (Bavarian State Opera), Nedda in Pagliacci (Zürich Opera House), Mimì in La bohème (Berlin State Opera).[45] In 2017, she debuted as Micaëla in Carmen and Alice Ford in Falstaff at the Opéra Bastille,[46] Liù in Turandot at the Royal Opera, Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito at the Palais Garnier.[47] She was to embody all heroines in The Tales of Hoffmann in Munich, but withdrew due to dispute with the conductor.[48] In 2018, she returned to the Met for Pagliacci,[49] and then to the Vienna State Opera for her first Desdemona in Otello and reprise as Liù.[50] She performed Desdemona at the Hamburg State Opera and,[51] later in the year, Violetta at the Paris Opera, where she would sang Desdemona in the same season, and the title role in a concert performance of Luisa Miller at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.[52][53]

The year 2019 saw Kurzak's performance as Nedda in several venues such as the NDR Klassik Open Air in Hanover and the Liceu.[54] She starred in Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera, and in summer, Franco Zeffirelli's new La traviata production at the Verona Arena, which was a tribute to the late producer.[55][56] She also made role debuts as Cio-Cio San in an open-air concert performance of Madama Butterfly at the Parade Square in Warsaw and as Elisabetta di Valois in Don Carlo at the Paris Opera.[57][58]

In 2020, Kurzak gave performances as Violetta at the Metropolitan Opera and at the Royal Opera House.[59]

Concert and events[edit]

Kurzak was frequently featured in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana as the soprano soloist.[60] In February 2015 she took part in Szymanowski's Stabat Mater conducted by Ingo Metzmacher at the Berliner Philharmonie and Wiener Musikverein.[61] On 20 November 2016, she performed in Nowowiejski's oratorio Quo Vadis at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw,[62] where she returned for Verdi's Requiem conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk on 27 September 2019.[63] She is also an interpreter of songs by Chopin.[64][65][66]

She was featured in the 2011 Napa Valley Festival del Sole[67] and was a guest performer at the 2012 Semperopernball.[68]

Personal life[edit]

Kurzak married baritone Jacek Jaskuła,[3] whom she met during college studies, in 2000. He remained in Wrocław while she was pursuing studies and career in Hamburg. They divorced in 2007.[69][70] She had been in a relationship with Waldemar Dąbrowski, general manager of the Grand Theatre, Warsaw.[71] She met French tenor Roberto Alagna during performances of L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House in 2012. Their daughter, Malena,[c] was born on 29 January 2014.[72] They married in November 2015, between performances of L'elisir d'amore at the Paris Opera.[73]

Awards and honours[edit]

  • 1998: 1st place and special prizes of the V Intercollegiate Vocal Competition in Duszniki-Zdrój
  • 1998: 1st prize at the International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition[74]
  • 1999: Prize for Young Talent at the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in Helsinki[75]
  • 2000: Special Prize ("Ajuntament de Moià" scholarship) at the Viñas International Singing Contest[76]
  • 2000: Millennium Award from the Mayor of Wrocław
  • 2000: Wrocław Music Award
  • 2000: 3rd prize at the International Vocal Competition in Canton, China
  • 2002: Elise Meyer Preis[77]
  • 2006: Dr. Wilhelm Oberdörffer-Preis of season 2005/2006[78]
  • 2010: Annual Prize of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage[79]
  • 2012: Guarantees of Culture Award (Gwarancje Kultury) from TVP Kultura in the Classical music category for her album Gioia[80]
  • 2013: Song and Stage Star of Wiktory [pl] 2012[81]
  • 2013: Crystal Mirrors (Kryształowe Zwierciadła) Award from Zwierciadło [pl] ("Mirror") magazine[82]
  • 2015: Readers' Award of the International Opera Awards[83]
  • 2015: Gold Cross of Merit[84]
  • 2016: "For Merits for Poland and Poles in the World"[d] Award from TVP Polonia[85]
  • 2018: Gold Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis[86]
  • 2019: Golden Bowtie (Złota Muszka) of ORFEO Foundation Bogusław Kaczyński[87]

Opera roles[edit]

Roles which have been performed on stage or fully recorded in studio. Small roles during the years at the Hamburg State Opera are included.[88]

Publications[edit]

  • Laskowski, Aleksander (2015). Si, Amore – Aleksandra Kurzak w rozmowie z Aleksandrem Laskowskim [Si, Amore – Aleksandra Kurzak in Conversation with Aleksander Laskowski]. Polish Music Publishing House. ISBN 978-8-3224-0960-2.[89]

Discography[edit]

Kurzak signed an exclusive contract with Decca Classics in January 2011, being the first-ever Polish singer to do so.[90] She signed to Sony Classical in May 2018.[91] The Szymanowski album won the Album of the Year – Choral Music, Oratorio & Opera in the 2018 Fryderyk Award.[92]

Year Title Type Credits Label Peak chart positions Certifications
POL FRA
2009 Chopin: Songs Joint recital Nelson Goerner
Mariusz Kwiecień
Fryderyk Chopin Society
2011 Gioia! Solo recital Omer Meir Wellber
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana
Decca Classics 8[94]
2012 Hej, kolęda! Solo recital Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka Universal Music Poland 16[96]
2013 Bel Raggio: Rossini Arias Solo recital Pier Giorgio Morandi
Sinfonia Varsovia
Decca Classics 50[97]
2017 Szymanowski: Litany to the Virgin Mary, Stabat Mater, Symphony No. 3 "The Song of the Night" Full works Agnieszka Rehlis / Dmitry Korchak / Artur Ruciński
Jacek Kaspszyk
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir
Warner Classics
2017 Nowowiejski: Quo Vadis Full work Artur Ruciński / Rafał Siwek
Piotr Sułkowski
Warmia and Mazury Philharmonic Orchestra
Dux Records
2018 Massenet: La Navarraise
(as Anita)
Full work Roberto Alagna / George Andguladze
Brian Kontes / Issachah Savage / Michael Anthony McGee
Alberto Veronesi
Opera Orchestra of New York / New York Choral Ensemble
Warner Classics
2018 Deliverance Single Roberto Alagna Deutsche Grammophon
2018 Puccini in Love Joint recital Roberto Alagna
Riccardo Frizza
Sinfonia Varsovia
Sony Classical 38[98]
2020 Desire Solo recital Frédéric Chaslin
Morphing Chamber Orchestra
Sony Classical
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Polish: Liceum Muzyczne im. Karola Szymanowskiego
  2. ^ Prizes are specified in the Awards and honours section.
  3. ^ Spelling varies between Malena, Maléna, Malèna
  4. ^ Polish: Za zasługi dla Polski i Polaków poza granicami kraju

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Talik, Magdalena (2005-12-31). "Aleksandra Kurzak, sopranistka z Wrocławia, podbija świat". NaszeMiasto.pl.
  2. ^ a b Schulz, Tom R. (2005-02-20). "Glückliche Nonne im Orden des Gesangs". Die Welt.
  3. ^ a b c Domagała, Adam (2004-10-06). "Rozmowa z Aleksandrą Kurzak". Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish).
  4. ^ a b "A Very Polished Performer: The young soprano Aleksandra Kurzak talks to Jim Pritchard". MusicWeb International (Interview). October 2008. Retrieved 2019-02-28. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b McDonnell, Keith (2010-04-01). "Features: Aleksandra Kurzak". musicOMH.
  6. ^ "Aleksandra Kurzak doktorem habilitowanym Akademii Muzycznej" [Aleksandra Kurzak habilitated doctor of the Academy of Music]. Wroclaw.pl (in Polish). 2017-03-31.
  7. ^ "26th of May 1999 - my first ever performance in the Opera House..." 2015-05-26. Retrieved 2019-06-17. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Dębowska, Anna S. (2007-01-16). "Warszawa. Aleksandra Kurzak w "Strasznym dworze"". Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish) – via Encyklopedia teatru polskiego.
  9. ^ "Wiedersehen mit Aleksandra Kurzak, Olga Peretyatko und Maite Beaumont" (PDF). Hamburg State Opera (Biography) (in German). p. 2. Retrieved 2019-03-10. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Stimpson, Mansel (2007-11-04). "Spreading Happiness: Aleksandra Kurzak". Classical Source (Interview).
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