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Soprano Kathryn Lewek: How I made my name as Mozart’s Queen of the Night

August 10, 2023 | BBC Music Magazine

The coloratura soprano describes her journey to become the most world’s most prolific Queen of the Night from Mozart’s Magic Flute

I took a deep breath, trying to look relaxed and confident, but auditions are never easy. I felt alone in the crook of the piano of an almost entirely empty stage, save for the supplied pianist who I had only met seven minutes earlier, briefly describing my cadenzas for the aria I was about to sing, ‘Regnava nel silenzio’ from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. I felt good, I had sung my first aria well. But, even in the best circumstances, auditions always leave one feeling a bit like you are in that dream where you suddenly realise you are naked in public.

‘Thank you, Kathryn. Would you please sing Queen of the Night?’ a friendly, professional, German-accented male voice announced. I blinked and strained to see who was speaking from far back in the nearly empty, dark and cavernous theatre. There must be some mistake. My heart started pounding so loudly in my chest that I could hear it inside my head. ‘I’m sorry,’ I squeaked, ‘maybe you have someone else’s list? Queen isn’t on my rep list.’

‘We know’ the mystery voice replied, casually. ‘Can you sing it anyway? The pianist knows it.’ Did someone just turn up the heat in here? I was suddenly sweating. ‘I’m sorry,’ I apologised again, ‘but, I don’t know it.’ The mystery voice was mildly incredulous: ‘You don’t know it? You are a coloratura soprano and you don’t know the Queen of the Night?’ He sounded… annoyed? Slightly charmed? A bit prodding, as if he was teasing me, or maybe I was teasing him. It was a tone I would become much more accustomed to in the years to come; the smilingly honest and blunt nature of many German colleagues that has become endearing to me, but at the time froze me in my tracks and left me shaking, and barely able to explain myself.


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