Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My grandfather was a great accordion player and he loved to sit in his old kitchen playing the accordion and singing folk songs to it. I was 4 years old when he asked me to sing some songs with him and to prepare a programme for the New Year’s concert in our small village in the middle of nowhere. My grandmother made a traditional Russian dress for me especially for this event and I knew that this moment would always be a very significant one. So I gave my very first concert at the age of 4. My grandfather definitely inspired me to sing.
Later my father supported me and made it possible for me to have singing lessons in the city of Bishkek (the capital of Kyrgyzstan). I had two teachers: one for the classical singing lessons and another one for a pop or rather musical singing class. I didn’t like the classical singing because to me at the time, it felt rather artificial. So I decided to sing musical and folk songs in the Kyrgyz and Russian languages.
When we moved to Germany, my interest in classical music was revived as classical music is so much more present here. Learning some pieces by Bach and Schumann truly was the turning point.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Being on stage, being present there and performing in front of an audience always is a challenge and it’s different every time. For example, I had the great honour to sing at the opening night of the Elbphilharmonie [concert hall] in Hamburg in 2017. I kept up to date on the entire construction period of this very special concert hall, and, honestly, I didn’t dare to even think of singing there one day. So once I was on stage of this wonderful hall I was incredibly excited just because of this special, breath-taking moment to be there. That was definitely an emotional challenge. I was near to a heart attack with all the excitement of this unique event in front of around 2,000 people. That was a dimension which I never experienced before.
A rather physical challenge has always been travelling, as I did in 2018. I was “on the road” all over in Germany for more than 3 months without coming home. So I took my summer, autumn and winter clothes, my pillow for a more comfortable night’s sleep, and my husband was with me which was the best so I was not alone. Such situations ask for a detailed preparation so as not to overlook any detail, which makes me physically and mentally feel comfortable. Of course, to be well-balanced is the key to perform at one’s best.
Now in these pandemic times the new and really big challenge is to perform without an audience and in special cases with cameras more or less right in front of your face for livestreams. I do feel really alone on stage and I certainly miss the energy of the audience. I miss the energy from the audience which certainly helps me to balance my performance and to keep a kind of non-verbal conversation with the people.
But for me the most important and challenging part of my career is to find the right people who encourage and strengthen me in various difficult situations and with whom I feel comfortable and love to share happy moments and success.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Of course, right now, my new album Liebende (“Lovers”) is my pride and joy! These songs by Franz Schubert, Richard Strauss and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were recorded during the quiet time of the pandemic in 2020. I do feel a deep affinity with these three composers. They all wrote wonderfully for the light lyric voice which I have and every single song strikes a chord with me.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I love to sing works by Richard Strauss, Mozart and Schubert. Currently, I am rehearsing at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich for the Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss. I’ll perform the role of Sophie which is an absolutely dream part.
For recitals I mostly sing Schubert with great enthusiasm because of the way he brings the lyrics to the highest level and his music seems to be very ingenious.
I also adore repertoire from Russian composers like Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky and I love to sing songs by these two romantic composers. I guess it’s my Russian native language which makes it so natural for me to empathize my feelings which for me seem easily to be expressed by their compositions.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
Honestly I love being in nature. It gives me a lot of strength and inspires me to observe my own life and my performing from another perspective. Being in nature, being outside, makes me consider difficult situations in a more simple way, and I then try to focus on simplifying life and take it with me on stage.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I have some of my absolutely favourites among the concert halls:
For recitals I adore the great Wigmore Hall in London. It is for me a holy temple for Lied-singing. You can sing with the quietest piano in the world and your voice unfolds in a flowing and soft way. This is the best place to transmit the text very clearly. And the audience in the Wigmore Hall, these are real song lovers, who listen with an open heart and the warmest emotions. I love that audience!!!
For the opera I love my ‘Home Stage’ of Hamburg state Opera. Every time I work in this house I feel secure and comfortable, it’s like coming home. This is quite an important feeling while making music.
I also adore the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany, an opera house with a great history. The hall is so perfect for voices in such a way that you can sing really lightly and piano and the acoustic transform your sound in a warm, rounded way.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?
I really believe that if children and pupils in schools would listen to and learn a lot more of classical music, they would grow up with a greater understanding of this type of music. I think that the listening of classical music needs to be learned and we should start to listen to it step by step in childhood. Classical music has power and is a source of timeless emotion. It is always up to date and has inspired us for centuries. Children must know that all of popular music comes from classical music.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
To maintain a balanced professional and private life. To be able to bring my life experience on stage and to enrich my everyday life with the joy of making music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
My most important credo is to be authentic on stage.
I always need to be truly excited for what I do on stage. In this very moment of a performance it is the most important thing in the world.
What is your present state of mind?
Due to the pandemic around the world, I feel like a tree in winter covered by snow.
I feel the energy and power I’ve gained during these months at home and I am longing for the blossoming season, looking forward to growing again, which to me is the best symbol for making music, and to bring music to the people who obviously miss it so much.
Katharina Konradi was born in Bischkek, Kyrgyzstan and is the first soprano from this country to have an international career as a lied, concert and opera singer. In 2009 she began her singing training with Julie Kaufmann in Berlin and subsequently completed her master’s degree in lied interpretation with Christiane Iven and Donald Sulzen at the Munich Academy of Music and Theatre. Attending masterclasses by Helmut Deutsch and Klesie Kelly-Moog gave Katharina Konradi’s career as a soprano further musical and artistic momentum. In 2015 Katharina Konradi became a member of the ensemble of the Hessen State Theatre in Wiesbaden for three years, where she sang many important soprano roles, including Pamina, Gretel, Adele, Susanna, Zerlina and Nannetta.