Alexandra Ivanoff: Voice Coach, Arts Journalist

  • 22 May 2020 12:41 PM
Alexandra Ivanoff: Voice Coach, Arts Journalist
This New Yorker came to Hungary for the rich musical life. Since living in Budapest since 2015, she’s been learning and listening to as much Hungarian music as possible.

She has written for the New York Times about the Hungarian State Opera and contributes articles to HungaryToday.hu. 

Alexandra attended the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, and performed with the San Francisco Opera and the New York Shakespeare Festival’s award-winning production of “Threepenny Opera,” as well as in several films, radio and tv commercials.

When not writing, Alexandra vocal coaches in her private studio, and for the Budapest Operetta Theatre, and regularly with KaraokePlus Budapest at Vibe Rooms. Her own singing of “Ave Maria” can he heard in the John Huston film, “Prizzi’s Honor.”

(The KaraokePlus sessions will resume in the summer, after the completion of the covid-19 shutdown. Please check listings for updates!)
 

1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?
My first visit was as an arts journalist, covering the Kaposvár Music Festival (Kaposfest) in 2013 for an English-language newspaper in Istanbul. What I heard in Kaposvar changed my life.

There I was, with two degrees from two music conservatories, and I realized I didn’t know anything about Bartók, Kodály, Dohnányi, Ligeti, or even the delightful operettas of Kálmán — five of Hungary’s most legendary composers! I vowed to come back. Each time I returned I made it my mission to hear more of this Hungarian music — so much of it attached to its folk roots, yet so innovative in creating new musical languages in the 20th century.

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?
Yes, I emigrated from the U.S. to Istanbul in 2007, where I taught music in a conservatory and got my first job as a music critic for the daily newspaper Today’s Zaman. I moved to Berlin in 2014 and stayed one year before moving to Budapest. I clearly needed to hear more Hungarian music, but also feast my eyes on the thousands of eye-popping examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Almost every day I walk around photographing it.

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?
That so many people speak English!

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?
Well, first I ask them what their interests are. If they like high culture, I’ve already pre-mapped several itineraries for them. If it’s food and wine, I tell them they’re in luck - there’s always a food and wine festival somewhere in this city! But an absolute must is seeing, from the Buda side, the beautiful Parliament all lit up at night.

5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?
I love Bableves (bean soup) the most, followed by Rakott Krumpli (layered potato/cheese/sausage casserole).

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?
Törley sparkling wine, Székely Sör, fresh veggies, and those large eggs with orange yolks from the farm.

7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?
I’m a fan or umlauts and palatalized sounds, so these words get the prize: egy nagy és nagyon gyönyörű gyöngy (a large and very beautiful pearl).

8. What do you miss most from home?
New York Jewish humor, from which we get the colorful words “schlep” and “oy vey.”
 
9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
A psychiatrist/psychologist. I’ve always loved the study of human behaviour. Having some of that basic knowledge helps me when I teach singing.

10. What's a job you would definitely never want?
Accountant.

11. Where did you spend your last vacation?
The Edinburgh Music Festival in Scotland.

12. Where do you hope to spend your next holiday?
When the pandemic is over, I’d love to visit Finland’s Savonlinna Opera Festival, which is held in a castle.

13. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?
Buying fabrics. I’ve been sewing all my life and I have a serious weakness for anything woven.

14. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
Playing the violin in the local symphony orchestra.

15. Red wine or white?
A full-bodied Malbec (red) always captures my heart.

16. Book or movie?
The book “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. It changed my life, by changing my way of thinking.

17. Morning person or night person?
Both: “carpe diem” (seize the day), for as long as possible.

18. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?
I think it should be mandatory for all schools to teach psychology, human biology, all about money, and how to grow your own food. Having that kind of knowledge will give everyone better coping skills for a better life.

19. Buda or Pest side?
I live in the center of Pest for convenience, but I love to walk in the Buda hills for the greenery and fresh air.

20. What would you say is your personal motto?
“Whatever works.”

  • How does this interview make you feel?