pianist. vocal coach
Extraordinary pianist, recitalist, coach, prompter and assistant conductor, Yelena Kurdina is among the most sought after collaborators in the opera world today.
A specialist in Russian repertoire at The Metropolitan Opera for over 20 years, Ms. Kurdina became Placido Domingo’s private coach for his preparation of “one of the most important roles of his career,” Ghermann in Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades”. Ms. Kurdina joined Mr. Domingo for the productions in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and the Vienna Staatsoper, and also accompanied him in concert on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in a program of Spanish music.
Indeed, Ms. Kurdina has partnered with many of the most outstanding singers of our time. Yelena was the coach and consultant for Renee Fleming’s recordings of “Night Songs” and “Homage: The Age of the Diva”, as well as her televised appearance as Tatiana in “Eugene Onegin” with the New York Philharmonic on PBS’ Great Performances and later on the Met HD telecast. Ms. Kurdina’s recitals with the remarkable Dmitri Hvorostovsky, have been called “rich and haunting collaborations, beautifully judged and impeccably ardent”.
No stranger to the leading international opera houses, Ms. Kurdina has brought her distinguished musicianship to such renowned festivals and opera houses as the Opera National de Paris, Houston Grand Opera, Saito Kinen Festival in Japan, Summerscape in the new Frank Gehry theater at Bard College, Cincinnati May Festival, Teatro de la Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain and the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera in Washington, DC. Ms. Kurdina has been the assistant to a host of extraordinary conductors - Seiji Ozawa, Vladimir Jurowski, Antonio Pappano, James Conlon, Valery Gergiev, Jiří Bělohlávek, Fabio Luisi among others - with whom she has worked not only on Russian operas, but also on many Italian operas, as well. Among the highlights of her operatic career are Verdi’s “Otello” and “Don Carlo”, Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades”, Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” and Prokofiev’s “Gambler” and “War and Peace”.
Hailing originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Ms. Kurdina is a protégé of John Wustman - the “Dean of American accompanists” - with whom she studied at the University of Illinois. Like her illustrious mentor, an important part of Ms. Kurdina’s career has centered on working with young artists. Ms. Kurdina has been on the faculty of the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv for many years, she is a regular guest of the Domingo - Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington Opera and Domingo - Colburn - Stern Young Artist Program at the Los Angeles Opera, SIVAM in Mexico City, and maintains a vibrant private studio in New York City, where she has coached innumerable singers who have gone on to major operatic careers.
Ms. Kurdina has also developed an outstanding system of transliteration for Russian opera that has been lauded by houses across the country. Ms. Kurdina’s transliterations of such scores as “Eugene Onegin”, “The Queen of Spades”, “Khovanshina”, “Boris Godunov”, “The Gambler”, “Mazepa”, “The Nose” and “The Maid of Orleans”, as well as many others, are currently in use by such companies as the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera and the American Symphony Orchestra.
The bravura aria from Borodin’s “Prince Igor” gave both artists a chance to shine, the baritone’s canny sense of drama matched by Kurdina’s almost savage grace at the keyboard. “Maria, dearest Maria” from Tchaikovsky’s “Mazepa”, was an equally impressive vehicle for the pair, beautifully judged and impeccably ardent.
F. Paul Driscoll, Opera News
Why did I start making transliterations?
The answer is pretty simple: most Americans do not read the Cyrillic alphabet.
Years ago I would write the transliteration in each singer’s score. After a while the task became tiresome so I decided to transliterate certain, well-known scores and then simply copy them when needed. My first complete transliteration was “Eugene Onegin.” The transliteration became very popular and prompted me to work on other opera scores. Soon, opera companies and other institutions commissioned my transliteration work.
What is wrong with most transliterations?
Many transliterations are done with spoken Russian in mind, which is quite different from singing Russian.
They often reflect SPELLING of words rather than what these words sound like.
They are full of mistakes/misprints.
They are visually hard to read.
They are inconsistent. The same sound is often represented by different symbols.
Mostly they are done by people who do not have experience as musicians or more
specifically as Vocal/Diction Coaches.
Why do I not use IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)?
IPA is a wonderful tool for those who know how to use it. Unfortunately there are many singers who have never studied IPA and can’t use it effectively. Also most people prefer to see something that looks like a real alphabet on the page.
Why do I believe my transliterations are superior?
They are as simple as possible considering the task: practical, consistent and
They are based on years of professional experience coaching non-Russian speakers.
They are visually easy to read.
They reflect a more contemporary use of the Russian language.
L I S T E N... W A T C H... R E A D...
After 20 years of coaching and accompanying professionally in New York, it has been interesting to think about the role of a vocal coach, accompanist, collaborative pianist, language coach, or some combination of the above as part of a team that supports a singer’s career. While each specialty is part of the same big picture, and many of the skills overlap, the focus varies...
July 4 - 25
Artescenica Summer Program
July 26 - August 7
Institute for Young Dramatic Voices
September - December
"La Boheme", "Aida"
Metropolitan Opera, NY
Mr. Hvorostovsky’s able and supportive collaborator was Yelena Kurdina, who was at her best in the appealingly detailed accompaniments to the five Tchaikovsky songs and an aria from “Mazepa.”
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times