Spotlight on: Eszter BaloghInterview
Nearly a year after her win at the 2019 Handel Singing Competition, Hungarian mezzo-soprano Eszter Balogh is looking forward to more from the 18th-century operatic titan.
At this year’s London Handel Festival, Balogh joins Adrian Butterfield and the London Handel Orchestra for a concert presentation of Parnasso in Festa, 10 March at Wigmore Hall. And on 15 March, she’ll give a recital of Handel and Vivaldi at St. George’s, Hanover Square.
We spoke with Balogh about what good singing feels like, and why Handel is an excellent teacher.
Why do you sing, and why are you doing it professionally?
I have been singing since I was two years old. I would sing even when I was supposed to be doing my math homework, I just couldn’t keep quiet. I would spend most of my time playing my violin, recorder, my piano or singing, mostly pop music at the beginning. Then, when I joined the Hungarian Radio Children’s Choir at age 9, I was surrounded by classical music every day, which had a thoroughly deep impact on me.
What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?
Good singing for me is well directed energy and total freedom, both mentally and physically. Singers work hard to gain this freedom. I work very hard to find this every day so I can express all the music and emotion I have in me. Sometimes it is not easy to conquer all the physical and mental blocks but it is worth working for.
Speaking in technical terms, if I can let my body and the resonance do the work, I can release my jaw and tongue, and it feels like I am a resonating tube. I need to train and discipline my body so that my voice can truly be free.
What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?
I can only tell you the lessons that I have learned. They should be less critical of themselves and when they are critical, it should be healthier, more constructive self-criticism. They should be more patient with themselves. They should search for the right singing teacher, even if it takes a long time. A teacher who will help them build a healthy, sure technique that will allow them to sing well for a long time.
What do you think are the unique challenges and pleasures of singing Handel’s music?
It is a pleasure for me to sing Handel’s music. It can express the whole range of human emotions. His music is a great teacher for me. The sometimes never-ending coloraturas teach me a lot about breath management. The power of his music can help to overcome the technical challenges.
Do you have any bucket-list roles you would like to sing (realistically or otherwise)?
I don’t really have a bucket list. I really like English baroque music, that’s why I participated in the Handel Singing Competition. But I also like other types of music, from baroque to contemporary, as well as popular music. I like to take part in performances that mix genres, like jazz and baroque. I find it very exciting. One of my dreams is to sing spanish Zarzuelas with an orchestra. That would be great fun for me. I am really an omnivore when it comes to music.
How do you explain your job to non-music folks?
When I tell them I am a classical singer they generally know what it is. Sometimes they stare at me and say, “Wow, that’s crazy, you mean like Paul Potts?” And I’ll say, “Yeah, something like that.”