My freedom is the only proncipal I can work from – interview with Zoltán Balázs

The Rennes Opera House will present Heinrich August Marschner’s opera The Vampire, directed by Zoltán Balázs, at the Opera Competition and Festival with Mezzo. The Jászai Prize-winning actor-director was a member of the Bárka Theater for a long time, and he is currently the artistic director of the Maladype Theater.

Many consider him a maverick director. He is currently directing a romantic opera with a lot of conventions. At the same time, the musical theater is probably not far from you, because in your directings rhythm and music are dominant. Such an example was the awards-winning Teomachia.

My main interest with Sándor Weöres’s piece was to make invisible theater visible. Weöres did not write instructions. We are wandering at the borderlands of Gods, in an incomprehensible world. A piece without a prescription can give a young director much freedom. This is why I am excited about this task. Fortunately, I have a stable team, we have learned each other's way of working and we trust each other.

Perhaps there are more conventions in directing a romantic opera because the music and libretto are given. To what extent can The Vampire turn into “balázszoli” feeling?

Although many people say that I have my world, to be honest I don’t know what this “balázszoli” feeling is. One thing is clear, whatever genre we work in, we need to be very precise. In an opera reading rehearsal, I must be fully aware of the musical-acoustics, visuals and thoughts of the piece. If I am a little insecure about anything, I cannot expect the actors to follow my lead with absolute dedication. Although many things can change during the rehearsals, I need to know where I started and where I am heading. It’s easy to create dumb performances from operas. Most of the librettos are almost offering this option.

Vampire stories in particular.

When you discover symbols, associations, depth psychology in a fairy tale, you start to be more interested in it. Like in The Vampire’s case. It can superficially be interpreted as a strong, lustful, erotic, romantic opera, but I am more interested in the underlying content. There are a lot of loose ends in the piece, a lot of incomplete thoughts. This is also a story without a prescription, which deserves further consideration. One thing is certain, the vampire won’t have long, blood-dripping fangs.

I thought so.

Everybody has a distorted and healthy part. This is a constant struggle but also a desire for harmony. The Vampire can’t find this harmony, and this is his tragedy.

At the auditions, did you want to find the most talented actor or this imagined character?

Of course, I had a vision about a figure, a personality that can represent the concept I’d imagined. The point was not Brad Pitt, Antonio Banders or a dwarf to enter the auditions.

If a “very romantic” figure would have entered, would you’ve considered changing the concept because of him?

I can think on a large scale, but believe, if we can precisely imagine that creature, which can show the deep psychological aspects of the vampire that I’m thinking of, then an adversary creature cannot destroy it. That doesn’t mean I can't “fall in love” with a different eye-color, an extravagant rock star who sings opera superbly. That character may find its place in another opera. In many cases, the competitors were switched between the directors. In the end, all the actors found their places, no one was clinging to anyone. This was because everyone had an exact idea of their characters.

As far as I know, you don’t gladly accept any jobs.

I've rejected many requests. I'm not interested in great opportunities if they divert me from my path. I believe in a sense of commitment, and I'm not inspired by its absence. So I walk my path freely. If behind any of the requests I feel like they want me to narrow my freedom, I will immediately refuse. My freedom is the only principal I can work from.

Mihály Kal Pintér, kultissimo.hu
Translation by Brigitta Erőss