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Harmonizing Languages: The Multilingual Mastery of Opera Singer Aleksandra Kenenova

Updated: Apr 3

Multilingual writers navigate numerous languages, engaging with various roles akin to translators, interpreters, and, intriguingly, even opera singers! Consider the demanding task faced by opera performers: they must master classical opera languages such as Italian, German, French, and Russian. Moreover, as noted by Freya Parr in BBC Music Magazine in 2022, opera librettists are now crafting works in an array of languages, ranging from Polish and Spanish to Hungarian and Armenian.


While fluency isn't essential for singers, understanding the meaning behind their arias is crucial for conveying the appropriate emotions. Angharad Morgan, a Welsh soprano, highlighted in her 2023 interview the significance of grasping the nuances of different languages. She emphasized that singing in the original language provides valuable insights into the composer's intentions, allowing performers to better express the desired emotions.


Angharad candidly admitted that Russian poses the greatest challenge for her. Conversely, for mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Kenenova, a native Russian speaker, singing in her mother tongue presents no hurdle. With an extensive repertoire spanning Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Shostakovich, Aleksandra effortlessly transitions between English, French, German, Italian, and Russian roles*.


In her interview with LGMW, Aleksandra expressed a fondness for singing in German, particularly enjoying the lyrical and tender qualities of the language, especially in Lieder. However, she finds Italian the easiest to master, while French poses pronunciation challenges. Aleksandra's performances in Russian often draw from literary masterpieces, exemplified by her roles in Prokofiev's War and Peace and Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.


Aleksandra's mastery of multiple languages can be attributed to her innate talent and rigorous opera training. Supported by Dennis O'Neill, she pursued an MA course at the Wales International Academy of Voice in 2021. Subsequently, she showcased her skills in various productions, including performances at Normansfield Theatre in London and participation in projects like Linda Kitchen's art song initiative.


In August 2023, Aleksandra further honed her craft at Michael Chance's Opera School SienAgosto in Italy, sponsored by the Music Community in New York. Later that year, she recorded an album "Rachmaninoff Variations" at Abbey Road Studios as part of the R.A.C.H. project with pianist and composer of the album Fyodor Biryuchev.

As we anticipate Aleksandra's future performances, one can't help but marvel at the incredible linguistic prowess of opera singers. Whether in English, German, Italian, French, or Russian, each aria promises to captivate audiences worldwide, showcasing the extraordinary talents of these multilingual maestros.

*Aleksandra’s French roles included Carmen in Carmen by Bizet and Charlotte in Werther by Massenet; her Italian roles ranged from Sesto from Giulio Cesare in Egitto by Handel, Sesto from La clemenza di Tito by Mozart, Rosina from Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini to Frugola from Il Tabarro by Puccini and Alisa from Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti. Aleksandra sang in English for her leading role of Dido in Dido and Aeneas by Purcell.

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