Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

La Scala soprano: Opera singers are athletes

From Anita Hartig, Special to CNN
updated 10:56 AM EDT, Fri October 19, 2012
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anita Hartig recently made her debut at La Scala in Milan in the role of Mimi in La Boheme
  • Hartig's rise began after she was recommended to director of Vienna State Opera
  • Latest in a long line of gifted Romanian opera singers to perform internationally
  • Hartig: There are lots of times where I feel depressed or lonely

Editor's note: Anita Hartig, 29, has just debuted at La Scala in Milan in the role of Mimi in Puccini's much-loved La Boheme. The Romanian soprano rose to fame after a critic mentioned her to Ioan Holender when he was the musical director of the Vienna State Opera.

(CNN) -- A friend of mine told me (when) I was 17 years old (that) I should sing opera because I had an interesting voice. I said: "Oh my gosh, No! These fat ladies singing on stage!"

She gave me two Maria Callas CDs, I listened to them and I started to sing the high notes. I started to hear the orchestra and the emotion -- and the power to express so many different feelings through voice, through instruments, through feelings. That was the beginning.

This talent I have got, I had to develop it, because it was a burning flame in my heart.

When it started, I knew. I don't know how to explain it. Maybe different people feel that with love -- you just know it! I felt that with music and opera.

You can compare being an opera singer with being an athlete: Both have to practice a lot to focus on the distance
Anita Hartig, opera singer

Virginia Zeani, Ileana Cotrubas, there are so many great Romanian singers, but from my little town in the north, I think I was the first one. I come from Transylvania in the north of Romania. The city I am from is called Bistrita. My parents are very proud of me and so are other people in our little town.

So I worked through the summers so I could get professional singing lessons and then I got into the music academy in Cluj where I studied for six years. When I finished at the music academy, Ioan Holender from the Vienna State Opera heard about me from a critic.

He sent me an email (saying) that he wanted to hear my voice and from that moment on everything changed. I don't know the details about what the critic wrote -- it must have been something that made him curious.

More from Human to Hero: Boxing's first female Olympic gold medalist Nicola Adams

The difference between one singer and another is of, course, the talent he or she got from nature. The color of the voice, yes you could say that, but the most unique thing, the thing that makes a difference, is sincerity. It's not that easy to open yourself to the audience -- to be sincere, to open your soul, to say, "This is me with my talent, my insecurities, with everything I am. This is me."

Human to Hero: Anita Hartig

Of course, technique is important too, but there are lots of singers with good technique who don't take enough time, maybe, to develop the other part -- the sensitivity.

Inside the mind of a piano prodigy

My technique is not perfect all the time -- if I am not sleeping enough or having problems and too many thoughts. You can't force your voice to sound the same all the time because lots of exterior things influence your resonance and your energy, and all that feeds into your voice.

How Nicola Adams punched her way to gold

The voice is a very sensitive instrument. It's not that easy, it's not just going out there and singing and your voice comes out. It would be so easy if it was like that. Can you imagine how hard it is without a microphone to have the force and the power to sound through an orchestra of 80 people playing loud music? That's not normal, right? You have to be patient and focused and to love what you do and to understand there are lots of moments where you feel very down.

As an opera singer you have to understand that going through those rough moments is part of the lesson, of development, of enrichment. Going through those moments, you can learn to inspire yourself. I inspire myself when I have to interpret a role where the character is very sad or very depressed.

I think what I am doing to project that sound is connecting with something beyond this world. I just take a breath, and try to focus on one point. I can't push the sound out; it feels more like I'm just connecting myself with the universe.

There are lots of times where I feel depressed or lonely or misunderstood and different. I don't have a normal life with family or a partner who can help me from time to time.

More from Human to Hero: Top designer Lydia Maurer shares secret of staying in vogue

It's more than a dream -- it's that the most pure desire I had in my heart that came true
Anita Hartig, opera singer

The most interesting thing (is) that we always work with new people -- new conductors, new musicians, new partners -- on a new repertoire or a new role. This is the most beautiful thing that keeps me awake and makes me discover more of myself, to want more.

You can compare being an opera singer with being an athlete: Both have to practice a lot to focus on the distance. I also have to somehow know when I can hold myself back to maintain energy.

Some days I practice three, four, five hours, it depends. Some days I'm just reading, going through the score.

We are in the most beautiful and the most known theater in the world, La Scala in Milan. Great musicians, great tradition -- opera was born here.

I'm so happy to be here, I could cry with gratefulness and joy for the emotions I feel. It's more than a dream -- it's that the most pure desire I had in my heart that came true.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:41 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Olympic hero Kosuke Kitajima is hoping to inspire a new generation of Japanese swimming stars ahead of his home 2020 Toyko Games.
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Kosuke Kitajima is the first Japanese swimmer to win two gold medals in two consecutive Olympic Games.
updated 5:35 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Much may have changed in post-Communist Romania, but its production line of gymnasts continues to generate champions.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
Taking time out to eat a homemade chocolate cake is hardly the conventional way to win a mountain race, but don't tell Emelie Forsberg.
updated 3:59 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
He grew up in a surfing party town on the U.S. "space coast" and has conquered waves in the world's most exotic locales.
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Christian Taylor knows all about putting his best foot forward -- but the Olympic triple-jump champion has had to rewire his muscle memory.
updated 9:42 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
It's a surfer's paradise -- but Diah Rahayu is out on her own when it comes to professional women's wave-riding in her native Bali.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
His friends said he was crazy, but a regime involving trash cans and coconuts has helped Vinicius Font become a beach tennis star.
updated 1:25 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
When a young girl called Australian sports star Adam Goodes "an ape," the Aboriginal AFL legend took the chance to make a public stand.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
"Sorry -- the sun is shining so I've gone to sleep on a hill." When adventurer Alastair Humphreys leaves an "out of office" message, it's for real.
updated 9:18 AM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Kurt Fearnley has defied the odds to become one of Australia's most successful athletes, conquering challenges on land and sea.
updated 9:23 AM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
A remarkable journey that started in Africa ends in the Scottish city of Glasgow -- and Rio de Janeiro is next up for Ghana's new inspiration.
updated 9:54 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Her surname means "fighter" or "warrior" -- and Christine Ohuruogu has done her best to fulfill that prophecy throughout a stellar running career.
ADVERTISEMENT