Interview Orpheus

The 1001 secrets of “Baddi Building”

The Georgian tenor Simon Baddi (Bagdadichvili) studied singing in Tiflis and Moscow and debuted at the age of 22 years at the opera of Tiflis as Rodolfo in “La Bohème”.
What followed was a career that spread over many years as dramatic tenor at all important opera houses in Eastern Europe, such as Tiflis, the Bolschoi or the Kiev opera, where he sang such roles as Otello, Radames, Calaf or Hermann in Pique Dame. Since he was not a member of the communist party he was not allowed to sing in the West for many years. Shortly after the breakdown of the Soviet Union he got a position at the Belgrade state opera. In 1991, shortly before the outbreak of the war, he fled to Vienna, where he has been living and teaching ever since. He developed a special training method for his students – fondly called the “Baddi Building” by them!

Simon BaddiMr. Baddi, for many years you have been teaching opera singers, musical stars and actors in Vienna. Everybody adores you. What is the secret of your success?
I don’t know if it is a secret, but I mainly give technical lessons. I do not care so much about interpretation, I try to build the technical bases for the singing. My first goal is therefore to teach my students the correct breathing technique. Breathing is the most important thing, everything depends on it, even our own physical wellbeing. Many people breathe completely incorrect, only up to the upper lung but not into the abdomen. I was a guest professor at the Britten-Pears School in London, and there are not many teachers who care that much about the pure basics which actually make good singing possible. It is the old singing technique which I want to transmit, a technique that only the really great singers still know or knew, like e.g. Maria Callas, Franco Corelli or Mirella Freni.

Do you think that everybody can sing?
Every instrument has a mechanism, and the voice is an instrument. You can play everything on a piano, from jazz to rock and classic, of course. I am convinced, that everybody can sing, even beyond his or her own range. But this does not mean that everybody is a singer; this requires, of course, also musicality, discipline and a feeling for interpretation. But everybody can sing. Nevertheless, in many cases it is necessary to bring out the voice first.

So, does “Baddi Building” mean to build the right breathing technique?
Yes, but not only. Baddi Building is a comprehensive method and derives from the primitive force. With Baddi Building there is no more artificial singing, no grimacing, because the voice emerges automatically by itself from a secret place – IMMEDIATELY! My goal is to set the voice free, to link body, soul and voice and to raise the awareness. First of all, this requires to understand the mechanism of the voice. When I was young and taking lessons myself, the old singing schools would organize auditions in front of a commission 3 months after the beginning of a course. And if a student’s performance was bad, he was not held responsible but his teacher. Nowadays so many singers are studying at the conservatories, who sing maybe twice a week for half an hour and the rest of the time they spend with theory or musical instrument classes. That can’t be right. They learn a hundred things, graduate with an academic title, are professional opera singers and still have no voice.
My goal is to open up the voice, to give the people a timbre and to get the high notes out. Some singers leave from here with double the vocal volume from when they first arrive.

Simon BaddiHow long do you work with your students?
In the past 16 years I had about 200 students. It depends on how fast one wants to progress. Many have reached their goal after three to six months; I can open up a voice within a very short time. But I also have singers who stay with me for a long time. The jazz singer Timna Brauer (daughter of the famous painter Arik Brauer) is such an example. She has been taking classes with me for several years now, she is mainly singing jazz, and with this technique she sang now the Traviata aria until the high Es. Of course not with a real opera voice, but she has all the notes. She says that I have influenced her career as performer substantially. Artists from all fields come to me, rock, pop, musical or opera singers from the Vienna Volksoper and the state opera. But I also worked with actresses, with Nina Proll, Natalie Allison from the RTL serial “Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten” or with Andrea Eckert.

Do you work with musical stars in another way than with opera singers?
The breathing technique is the same. But musical stars have to open their voice more and sing “clearer”. An opera singer has to sing rounder and more covered, the Italians call it “coperto”. I had all the main singers of the musical “Mozart” from the Theater an der Wien here. These singers had to be on stage and sing every other day and they all managed. Thank goodness I could help them, none of them got exhausted, none got vocal cord problems.

What are the problems of the singers today?
Nowadays many careers do not last very long, because people overdo it. Look at the opera singers of the previous generation. A Plácido Domingo has been singing for more than 40 years. Today, singers have to be lucky to stay at the top for 10 years. I try to transmit a way of singing that does not exhaust the singers. I want them to be able to sing for hours without any problems. This is also valid for people who have to speak a lot. I once had a university professor who – after my training – was able to speak for eight hours without interruption and did not get exhausted.

Anything you wish to do in your career?
Yes, I would love to work with Rolando Villazón. He is such a great talent and a fantastic singer.