„For children I’d sing even for free”

Csaba Szegedi is 32 years old. He was a student of Mária Fekete at the Béla Bartók Conservatory  and later became a student of Sándor Sólyom-Nagy at Budapest’s prestigious Ferenc Liszt University. The young singer represented Hungary  in Cardiff at the BBC Singer of the World competition. In 2011 he received the Junior Prima Award and later, in 2012 the Juventus Award.

Six years ago he was the youngest student to win a fellowship to the Hungarian State Opera. His first role was Figaro from Rossini’s famous The Barber of Sevilla and with it he exploded into opera-life. Today he is one of the most popular baritones in Hungary.

Anyone in Budapest – even if not an opera-goer – would recognize the face of Csaba Szegedi : he is seen all over the city on giant posters with the logo of the Sevilla football team on his chest and  a rasor in his hands, looking fierce – popularizing the Hungarian State Opera. He is one of the youngest opera singers of the institution, however, he didn’t want to become one for a long time.

’I was raised in Perkupa, a small vilage near Aggtelek. I was a good student not interested in soccer, and I had a stammer for years – so I was a bit of an outcast at school. I felt that the only one who really understood me was our preacher at the church, his services made a huge impact on me, so I decided to become a minister myself. However, after graduation my application to the university was not accepted. I felt everything fell apart but in fact my life has just begun. After a short period at the Faculty of Law of the University of Miskolc and the choir of the National Theatre of Miskolc, I suddenly found myself at the Béla Bartók Conservatory in Budapest.

Just a few years later, as a student of the Ferenc Liszt University of Music, I could sing the famous role of Figaro from The Barber of Sevilla at the Opera. Since then, the roles kept on coming: Biberach, Don Giovanni, Papageno, and one of my favourite roles: Háry János.

For children I’d sing even for free. They are the most honest audience, they are not easy to please. Children only applaud if the performance really captures their attention. At the beginning of the season, I played Háry János at the OperaAdventure, – organized by the Erkel Theatre – I sang for 23 thousand kids. It was a great pleasure and honour to sing the role of the famous hero on the CD published by the Opera, which is spread in high schools and libraries.

You never know who’s listening… Sylvia Leidemann, leader of the Hungarian community of Buenos Aires heard one of my performances. She invited me to Argentina where I gave three concerts and a workshop for the students of the Music Academy. Those few weeks were unforgettable.

Since May, I prepare for the new production of Iphigeneia in Tauris directed by Róbert Alföldi. This is the last production of the season in June: I’m playing the mad tyrant, King Thoas. This character is the greatest challenge for me this season: the register is incredibly high, and the role involves singing one of the most difficult baritone arias. As an actor it is also a great opportunity, the character can be really memorable for the audience. The personality of King Thoas is entirely different from mine – neither am I mad, nor a tyrant – you can ask my wife.

I met Franciska at the Opera House, I heard her footsteps at the staircase. As it turned out, it was a good idea to find out whose footsteps they were. As a result of a long and persistent  courting we got married last August and this year we are expecting our baby boy. This is the happiest period of our lives.

Gyöngy – 2014/4
Translator: Fanni Sólyom – Nagy