Vera Rózsa

Budapest, 16 May 1914 – London, 15 October 2010
Rózsa Vera (Fotó: Zeneakadémia képgyűjteménye - Felvégi Andrea fotó)
Rózsa Vera
(Fotó: Zeneakadémia
képgyűjteménye
Felvégi Andrea fotó)
Vera Rózsa began to play the piano and wanted to be a conductor; for that, however, she needed to study composition. She began her studies in Zoltán Kodály's class, but a few months later started to sing. Between 1932 and 1938 she was at first Imre Molnár's and then Anna Rosthy's pupil at the Music Academy. Even while studying in the vocal studies department, it became clear that she should prepare for a career not primarily as an opera singer, but as a performer who attracts her audience by creating characters and conveying her natural humour.
 
She gave her first song recital while still a student, in the Great Hall of the Music Academy, with Ottó Herz as her piano accompanist. At this concert she sang the Üllői úti fák (Trees of Üllői Street), a poem by Dezső Kosztolányi set to music by Béla Reinitz, who had died not much earlier. The master works of new Hungarian song literature continued to be in her repertoire. When the Universal Publishing House published in Vienna new songs by Bartók and Kodály, at Kodály's request Vera Rózsa travelled to Vienna to sing them in the Staatsoper, where she also had an opportunity to introduce herself to Josef Krips.
 
She had her debut in the OMIKE (Translator's note: the Budapest Jewish community's professional music and theatre group) Opera Ensemble in 1943, singing Cherubino. In 1945-46 she was a member of the Budapest Opera House, thereafter, till 1951, of the Vienna Staatsoper. She sang in Rome and Brussels as well (Carmen, Cinderella, Azucena, alt-Rosina). From 1954 onwards she lived and taught, as well as propagated modern works as a concert singer, in London.
 
As a result of the hardships she experienced during the war, Vera Rózsa became physically incapable of singing for any lengthy period, i.e. singing operatic roles. She could, however, sing shorter pieces, so she started to concentrate on recitals and teaching.
 
The scene of her new, once again harmonious, life was London, where a few years later she met János Starker and Mihály Kuttner. After a successful performance of Pierrot lunaire, Mr Cox, the head of the Royal Northern College of Music, sought her out and invited her to teach. She taught there for ten years, then came her Paris period, teaching at the opera studio. On her return to London, it was the head of the Guildhall School of Music who went to see her; the result of their discussion was twenty years of cooperation between her and the college. In the meantime she also held courses in many countries of the world, teaching in various languages. What she was most proud of is that none of her pupils ever had to go to a throat specialist.
 
She was very conscious of the difference between regular teaching and giving master classes. With regular teaching the responsibility lies with the teacher; he or she is the one who shapes the pupil's talent and makes the most of the pupil's natural gifts. With a master class the task is to say something new without diverting the pupil from the path he or she was already following. In this case the task is to give something extra, advice that the student has not heard before, or even to express a contrary opinion.
 
She was made an OBE in 1991, and in 1992 received the Gold Medal of the Ferenc Liszt Music Academy. She regarded it as the culmination of her career that in 1999 she was made a Freeman of the City of London. According to the speaker on this occasion, she was the first Hungarian since Lajos Kossuth to be so honoured.
 
Vera Rózsa died in 2010.
 
A.T. 

 

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