Mezzo - Soprano Ruža Pospiš - Baldani
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
|Born: July 25, 1942 - Varaždinske
Toplice, Croatia (former Yugoslavia)
The Croatian mezzo-soprano, Ruža Pospiš-Baldani, made her professional opera
debut in 1961 at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb as Konchakovna in
Alexander Borodin's Prince Igor.
She remained active at that theatre and at the National Theatre in Belgrade
throughout the 1960’s. In 1965 she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera
in New York City as Maddalena in Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto. From 1970-1978 she was committed
to the Bavarian State Opera. Between 1973 and 1987 she was a frequent guest
artist at the Wiener Staatsoper; drawing particular acclaim there as Brangäne
in Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
In 1976 she made her debut at the Paris Opera as Amneris in Verdi's Aida, and made her first appearance at
the Opéra de Monte-Carlo in the title role of Georges Bizet's
Carmen. She has since appeared
as a guest artist at the Cologne Opera. the Edinburgh Festival, the Greek
National Opera, the Hamburg State Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Hungarian
State Opera House, La Scala, the Liceu, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the National
Opera of Sofia, the Salzburg Festival, the San Francisco Opera, the Savonlinna
Opera Festival, the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, the Teatro di San Carlo, and
the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro among others.
Formally, this mezzo-soprano has been known by different combinations of
her three names. She has appeared at Lyric Opera of Chicago in four
seasons (three opening nights) in three different operas. Her first,
as Ruža Pospinov, was Marina in Boris Godounov
which opened the 1966 season. The cast included Nicolai Ghiaurov, Carlo
Cossutta, William Wildermann,
Margaret Roggero, Milen Paunov, and Lorna Haywood in various
roles, with Bruno Bartoletti conducting the Nocola Benois production.
She returned as Ruža Baldani (which name she would continue to use) to open
the 1969 season as Marfa in Khovanshchina
again with Ghiaurov and Bartoletti in the Benois production, and Harry Theyard,
Norman Mittelmann, Boris Shtokolov and Florindo Andreolli in
other roles. Then in 1972 she was Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera with Martina Arroyo, Franco
Tagliavini, Sherrill Milnes,
Urszula Koszut, and Arnold
Voketaitis, with Christoph
von Dohnáanyi conducting the Robert Darling production staged
by Tito Gobbi.
Finally, Marina again in the 1980 opening night of the new production of
Boris by Ming Cho Lee with costumes
by Peter J. Hall, conducted by Bartoletti, with Ghiaurov, Hans Sotin, Wiesław Ochman, Jacque Trussel, Noel
Tyl, and David Gordon.
Maria Tallchief was
credited as the Ballet Director. It was during this last visit in 1980
that she graciously agreed to sit down with me for a conversation.
[Note: Names which are links refer to my
interviews elsewhere on this website.]
Her English was a bit rough, but she made her thoughts very clear.
In this transcript, I have smoothed out many of the problem areas, but I
have also left in some of the flavor of her mannerisms.
Since the first use of the material was to be in Wagner News, we started out with those
roles. Naturally, however, the conversation did range through more
of her repertoire. Because I knew her as Ruža Baldani, that is how
I have identified her in this presentation.
Here is what was said at that time . . . . . . . . .
Bruce Duffie: You
are about to undertake the role of Brangäne in San Francisco?
Ruža Baldani: Yes,
in a new production with Gwynneth Jones and
Spas Wenkoff, with Maestro
Adler conducting. This is a role I've sung many times in many cities
in Europe, even Vienna. During the 200th anniversary season of La Scala
I did the role with Wenkoff and Ligendza, and there was a production in Buenos
Aires a few years ago. In that one I sang the Warning from another room behind the
audience, through a hole in the wall. It was good, but I don't have
enough contact with the maestro.
BD: Did you have a TV monitor?
RB: Yes, but it's
too difficult that way. I prefer singing it on the stage. I've
also sung Brangäne with Zubin Mehta in Berlin,
and in Dusseldorf, also at the Salzburg Festival with Karajan [shown in photo at right], and in Munich
BD: Have you sung
it in Yugoslavia?
RB: Yes, but it
was just a concert version. In my country we don't have so many great
tenors; for Tristan especially it's difficult to find them.
BD: That problem
is not peculiar to Yugoslavia!
RB: That's true.
This season I'm going to do it again in Rome with Matačić. I sing a
great deal of Wagner and I enjoy it because it is different. He wrote
differently for the voice. It's different from Russian or French operas,
but I don't sing it differently! I sing Wagner like I sing Carmen.
Many people believe that you must sing these roles in a different way, but
there is just one way of producing the voice, and I can find no other way.
BD: Do you enjoy
these parts you sing, or would you rather sing, say, Isolde?
RB: No, that would
be no good for my voice. I prefer to stay in my own register, my own
tessitura. If I were to start with other parts like Venus or Ortrud,
I am sure that I would lose my middle register. It would not be good
for me to go into these higher parts.
BD: When you sing
the heavy Wagner parts, do you find you need a bit of rest before you can
sing Bach again?
RB: I need two
days rest in between performances. I can sing Brangäne, and with
just one day in between do the St. Matthew
Passion. I don't like to do it that quickly, but I can if it
is absolutely necessary. But I prefer to have a little rest.
I've canceled some Carmens because
they would have come too soon after the Tristans in San Francisco.
[Note: Later I asked Miss Baldani
about shifting her schedule when traveling, and like so many others, she
said it was easier when going from Europe to America
— from East to West — than when returning east again. She mentioned
having sung in Tokyo with Karajan, and I suggested that she should just continue
on around the world in a westward direction, and that brought a hearty laugh!]
BD: Tell us about
your other Wagner parts.
RB: He didn't write
so much for the mezzo-soprano. I've done Waltraute before and will
do it again this year in Rome. It is very low, but I like it very much.
It's just the one scene, but very lovely. Something like Fricka, which
is all together in that one scene, is much shorter than Brangäne.
I have sung Erda in Siegfried at
the Met with Leinsdorf,
and I also do Ulrica in Ballo.
My voice is still really good down low, but that part is for a contralto.
BD: Do you find
that parts like Fricka and Waltraute can be sung more often because of their
RB: Yes, I could
sing Waltraute every day!
* * *
Do you prefer doing staged opera or concerts?
RB: That’s very difficult. Maybe I prefer
stage, but also I like very much concerts and oratorio. Mahler lieder
is beautiful for voice. I sing Das
Lied von der Erde and it’s very nice, also the Second Symphony. It’s really difficult
to tell what is best. I like to do Carmen and during the anniversary year
in ’75, I sang forty performances in just that one season. Now I can’t
hear it anymore. You cannot play every day Carmen, because you must live with Carmen.
It is not like Fricka. You can sing Fricka, maybe, seven times in a
row because Fricka is not going so much through your heart as Carmen does
BD: Carmen takes
more out of you?
RB: Yes, that’s
Do you identify with Fricka, or do you just come out and sing the part?
RB: I try identifying
with her, but that’s not good because we Slavic people always live too much
with the part which we’re going to sing. So you are always drained
physically and emotionally. This becomes especially true with parts
BD: It’s too taxing
to do very often?
RB: Yes, that’s
BD: So now you
will leave Carmen for two or three
years, and then perhaps come back to it?
RB: Oh, no.
I am not leaving for two or three years, just for a few months.
BD: When you sing Carmen, do you always sing it in French?
RB: In French and
in German. In Munich I sing it in German, and in Yugoslavia I sing
it in Croatian, in our language.
BD: Do you prefer
singing it in original?
RB: Yes, I do.
I think opera is no good in translation because it sounds different.
Wagner in Italian is also terrible.
BD: What about
RB: That’s not
for me, comic opera. I’m not the type for the comic opera.
[Note: Later I asked
Miss Baldani if there were to be a production in America of Ero the
Joker (the "national" opera of Yugoslavia
by Gotovac), would it be better in the original or in English translation,
and she agreed that it would be better in English. She said it would
lose something, but because it is so unknown here, and that a first production
should be understood by the audience.]
Have you played with partners you don't like?
RB: Yes, but I
will not name names.
BD: I understand,
but what can you do as a performer to overcome this particular problem?
RB: That's very
difficult. I play Carmen very often with a tenor I don't like, and
especially in Carmen it's very important to have contact with someone like
Jon Vickers. He's
just wonderful! I like singing Carmen with him, and also with Domingo.
Marina is nice part. You can really have something to play.
BD: Do you like
playing it with Wiesław Ochman?
He’s nice. He’s a very nice partner.
BD: Besides Boris, what other Russian operas do you
RB: I do Khovanshchina, Onegin, Prince Igor... I do every Russian
opera which has a mezzo soprano role for my voice.
What about working with the different conductors?
RB: I like working very much with Karajan because
he feels the singer on the stage and follows you. But there are others
I enjoy including Zubin Mehta, Sawallisch, and Carlos Kleiber is very good!
I like very much to work with Richter because he’s a very beautiful
conductor for Bach and this kind of music. We’ll do every year maybe
ten concerts. [Note: Richter has
some very complimentary things to say about Miss Baldani on her recording
of Bach arias which is shown at the bottom of this page.]
What if you must sing with a conductor you don't particularly care for?
RB: That's very
difficult. With the conductor there must be that something between
the pit and the stage. Whenever I am asked to sing, I ask who is conducting,
and if I don't like him it is better that I do not accept the engagement.
BD: What about
stagings and productions — do you like the more modern
RB: If they are
good, yes. But I think that the modern stage directors make too many
experiments, and I don't like that. I sang Fricka at La Scala a few
years ago in a production by Ranconi. He's very talented, but I didn't
like this one. Fricka was dressed like something else, and arrived
in a large chariot. But, they did not try the machinery, and at the
general rehearsal the chariot did not fit through the door! So they
stopped the rehearsal for a half hour, and I ended up just walking onto the
BD: Would you be
willing to try being in a way-out production?
RB: I don't know.
You have to try and rehearse it to see how it feels, and to see how you feel
Do you rely on the prompter at all?
RB: Yes, they can
help sometimes. They can help very much, but if it’s not good, better
don’t have it. One time I sang an opera in Zagreb with Matačić in Croatian
language, and I always before sing it in original language. We don’t
have the prompter in the front of the stage, because it’s a small stage, so
the prompter was on the side of the stage. You can hear him very well.
If it’s prompted down in the middle front of the stage, they can help you.
But this time I made a mistake and he started to talk, “No, no! Please
don’t sing this. Don’t sing this!” It would have been better
for him to just be quiet. [Both laugh]
How do you prepare for your new roles?
RB: I take a look
at some books. I read something about it first, and I think about the
character of what I have to play. Then I go to music. I start
with the score and then I go with my professor, my teacher. I work
with her together in Zagreb on the technical ideas.
BD: You still study
all the time?
When I am at home, I study... when I have time. That’s good for the
voice. It’s helped me and has been a good thing because you do not
hear yourself exactly. Maybe you think something sounds nice, but it’s
very important to have the control.
BD: It's good to
have another person listening and then telling you what it sounds like?
Do you help other singers?
RB: If I can, I
try. I would like to, yes.
BD: Have you done
RB: Not yet.
BD: Do you think
you’d like to?
RB: Maybe later.
It’s very interesting, but you have to know the person you are going to teach
very well because everyone has some differences in the throat. Each
voice is different. For me this might be good, and for another maybe
it’s not so good this way to sing.
BD: When you study,
do you study with a man or with a woman?
RB: My voice coach,
it’s a woman. She’s professor in Academia Zagreb, but my literature
coach professor is a man.
BD: Do you think
a woman should study with a woman or does it not matter?
RB: No, I think
that’s not a difference.
BD: Some singers
prefer one or the other.
I don’t know, because my first teacher was also a woman, a very good teacher,
and now the second is also a woman. Maybe. I never think about
it. I just think about producing the voice.
* * *
BD: You’ve made
Recording is very difficult. I made with Karajan last year a video
cassette of the Missa Solemnis.
To read my Interview with Anna Tomowa-Sintow, click HERE.
To read my Interview with José van Dam, click HERE.
BD: Do you think
they recordings have helped the public, and brought more people into the
RB: Yes, I think
so. They buy many records in Yugoslavia. Many people like to
hear them. We have all the big labels there.
BD: Is there a
young group of singers coming out of Yugoslavia?
RB: Yes, they have
very good young singers, but you have that in every larger city. Yugoslavia
is very small, but in Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Osijek, Ljubljana, they
have an opera house in every city. And it’s not stagione; it’s open all year. They
work, they have some ensembles, chorus, orchestra, always stable.
BD: Then do they bring in some international stars?
RB: Yes, they bring
some from Italy as guests for some performance, also from Germany and Austria.
BD: Do you go to
performances when you’re not singing as part of the audience?
BD: If you go to
a performance where someone else is singing a role you sing, what goes through
RB: I like to hear
it. Maybe I can study something. You can always study something,
bad or good. Yes, that’s true.
BD: You enjoy singing!
RB: I enjoy.
I like to sing, but I don’t like to travel too much. It’s together,
though. You can’t sing without the travel. [Laughs]
BD: Would you rather
stay in Zagreb and sing there all year ‘round?
RB: No, no, no.
That’s not possible.
BD: Would you rather
stay in Vienna and sing there all year around?
RB: Yes and no.
Vienna is different. Zagreb is a good house, but if you are a good
singer, you have to travel around. People have to hear you.
What about modern music? Have you done some very new operas?
RB: Not so much.
I have not done them because when people are tired after work, if they go
to theater they would like to hear something nice to relax. You don’t
want to go out of the theater more tired than after work. So I prefer
the normal music. Also, I like blues and I like the jazz very much.
BD: What about
a jazz opera?
RB: Oh, that’s
interesting. We have in Yugoslavia also some jazz opera. That’s
very interesting, but not to just do something with very, very much noise.
BD: It can be too
RB: Too loud.
BD: Do you like
RB: No. It’s
too loud. I am too old for this. [Laughs] Years ago I went
to disco, but I like to talk if I am with somebody to dance. I would
like to talk, and not just to hear this loud music.
BD: Is your husband
supportive of everything you’re doing in your career?
He gives me support, but he is not musician. He is professor at the
Universitate in Zagreb. He likes music, he like opera, but he has other
interests, too, and it’s better that way. I can’t talk always about
the music. If my husband was a musician, we would have to talk
always about the music, and that would be terrible. It would be too
BD: So, you try
to keep separate your career and your home life?
BD: Does he travel
with you at all?
RB: Yes, he travels
with me enough, but now it’s a little difficult because we have another child
who is six years old, so we cannot both be away. One of the parents
must be with them. We both can go away for one week, but not for one
month. We can do it, but I think it’s not good for the children.
We have at home a governess, but that’s not the same.
[Note: During our conversation,
we had a guest — her son, whom she says she will not pressure
into a performing career.]
He looks tired.
RB: Because he
watches too much television. I can do nothing with him! He stays
up until twelve o’clock and watches television. He likes it.
BD: Do you like
RB: I watch television
here, but I never watch in Zagreb or in Europe, when I am at home.
I don’t have time. I always have something else to do, but here I have
more time, and I watch. I like these old movies, and that’s interesting,
so I watch. You have so many of these channels, so you can find what
you like it.
[Coming back to our musical topic] What about early music such as Monteverdi
RB: I like it.
I like it to sing.
BD: Do you have
some parts that you enjoy of Monteverdi or Cavalli?
RB: I haven’t sung
any yet, but I love it. It’s beautiful. I like to sing Orpheus of Gluck. I sing that very
much and I love it. It’s very good for voice. It must be very,
very technically perfect, because you hear everything in this kind of music,
not like Marina. [Both laugh]
BD: Do you sing
RB: I never sang
Mozart. I like it, but nobody asks me for Mozart. Everybody ask
me for Trovatore, for Aïda, for Brangäne, but they
never asked me for Mozart. That’s funny, no? If you start with
the kind of music like Amneris and Brangäne, they don’t ask you for Mozart.
I don’t know why.
BD: Would you enjoy singing it?
RB: I like Cherubino,
but I don’t sing it.
BD: Tell me about
the Verdi operas. Do you enjoy singing those? [Vis-à-vis
the recording shown at right, see my interviews with Ghena Dimitrova and
I like Verdi operas. This summer I was singing Aïda with Karajan in the Salzburg
Festival, with Mirella Freni
and José Carreras.
BD: Do you like
having the lighter voices for those roles?
RB: Yes, but they
sound beautiful. Mirella made it really beautiful.
BD: Does Karajan
keep the orchestra down enough so that they can be heard?
He kept it down. He likes very much Mirella Freni, and they work together
just perfectly. They breathe together, and that’s the important thing.
I love the Aïda of Mirella Freni. Why must it be always the heavier
BD: That’s interesting,
because we are used to hearing a big voiced Aïda.
RB: I know, like
Zinka Milanov. She was beautiful. She is also from my country.
One of her greatest roles was Gioconda. Have you sung in that opera?
RB: Yes, I have.
I sang Cieca, but now I’m going to sing Laura. For me, I think it’s
better as Cieca because she has more to sing. Cieca has the beautiful
aria to sing.
BD: Do you prefer
longer roles or shorter roles?
When I sing Boris here, after performance
I felt I don’t have enough to sing. I would like something larger,
something more to sing.
BD: We will write
another act just for you.
[Laughs] That’s nice, then we finish at five o’clock in the morning.
Thank you for coming back to Chicago this season.
RB: Thank you.
I like Chicago, and it’s nice to talk with you.
© 1980 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on October 13, 1980.
Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1997. About half was transcribed
and published in Wagner News in
December of 1980. This full transcription was made in 2015, and posted
on this website at that time.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed
and posted on this website, click here.
winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago
from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.
His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since
1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well
as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.
You are invited to visit his website
for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other
interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call
your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather,
who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.
You may also send him E-Mail with
comments, questions and suggestions.