Performing in the family tradition Her father is a famous violinist and conductor

her mother is a flutist. But Arianna Zukerman found a musical voice that is all her own.

Classical Music

June 28, 1998|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN STAFF

A chip off the old block. Fruit does not fall far from the tree. And of course, like father, like son.

Except in this case, it's daughter Arianna Zukerman and her famous dad, Pinchas Zukerman, who teamed up last Saturday for an evening of music-making with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Violinist Pinchas Zukerman, who directs the BSO's Summer MusicFest series, led the orchestra as it accompanied Arianna in a couple of lovely concert arias for soprano in an all-Mozart program. It was a scene that would have warmed the hearts of the young Wolfgang Amadeus and his violinist dad, Leopold.

"I was never pushed by my parents to become a musician," Arianna insists. "If anything, I was pushed to discover my own direction."

But though the choice of career was her own, once she settled on it, both her parents - her mother is flutist Eugenia Zukerman - lent their encouragement, support and considerable experience.

"I've known over the years people who were children of musicians, and it's very complicated," says Pinchas Zukerman of his daughter's development as an artist.

"It was not something I said or her mother said for her to do. But it was her choice to become a singer. And knowing that you don't deter, it would be a mistake to deter any child from a constructive element they want to include in their lives.

"But the other thing is knowing the downside of the profession and how difficult it is. You try to be very honest with your child about what that entails, not just as a parent but as someone who gives advice."

And what advice does a world-famous musician give to an offspring just starting out?

"Actually, I don't give advice," demurs Zukerman. "I go with what she feeds me. When she gives me information on a particular thing, I talk to her about it as I would on anything - a boyfriend, a bank account, flowers.

"I don't direct her by saying, 'I think this is better for you.' I think it's very important that they find out for themselves at a certain point in life. As a parent, you just give advice as a person who's been out here a little bit longer than they have and know that maybe there's going to be a pitfall, but you don't say, 'Stop, that's going to be a pitfall.' That's why I don't call it advice. I call it a discussion."

Which is maybe what you call being a parent, the modern way.

At 25, Arianna has been around music and music-making all her life. She started taking piano lessons when she was 4 - but not because her parents were trying to make her into a prodigy.

"My mother always said that we had to play instruments in our house. It was part of our education. She believed it inspires discipline, frees the mind and allows us to expand into other things. So it was a rule, basically, but I never thought of it as a rule. It was always a privilege."

After graduating from high school in New York City, Arianna attended Brown University for two years as a theater major.

"In college, I was in a lot of theater productions and was kind of the only person around who could sing," she says. "So I got cast in more and more musicals, and after a while I felt the most complete expression of myself was when I was on stage singing. I thought, 'This is a great thing, because you feel it.' And I thought, well, the ultimate expression of this is classical music, is opera singing. So I decided on a whim basically to ask my mother if she knew of any voice teachers."

Arianna's mother suggested she call Marlena Malas, who taught at the Juilliard School in New York.

"We had a lesson together, and Marlena said to me, 'Are you very sure you want to go to Juilliard, not finish at Brown?' When I said yes, she said, 'Well, I think Juilliard is where you should be.' "

Arianna graduated from Juilliard in 1995 and has continued to study privately with Malas and a small group of vocal and drama coaches in New York. She made her operatic debut in 1996 at the Chautauqua Institute in the title role of Handel's "Alcina" and sang the role of Berta in Rossini's "Barber of Seville" for the Connecticut Grand Opera later that season.

Next year, she is scheduled to sing the role of Susanna in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" with Opera Illinois.

"As I get older, the voice is growing more and more, and I'm able to express what I'm feeling vocally as well as dramatically," she says. "It's an interesting juggling act for me at this point, because I've always had this desire to communicate, and that conflicted for a long time, because I didn't have the voice to match the ideas in my head."

Still, the younger Zukerman realizes that she has embarked on a long and difficult journey, one in which her famous name may initially help open some doors, but certainly won't guarantee that they stay open.

"The downside of having a famous name and a famous family is that people expect more on some level," she says. "Because you're somebody's kid, you have to be fantastic.

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