Anita Rachvelishvili, La-Scala’s Georgian Mezzo Soprano
“I started to sing in my childhood. I was singing Pop and Soul music. My family thought I had talent and decided that I could be involved in opera art as well. I was 16 years old when my father decided to search for a good voice teacher in Tbilisi, who would prepare me for passing entrance exams to the Conservatoire. We found Mrs. Mzia Davitashvili, who was a former opera performer. She was a fascinating soprano and she started giving me lessons, preparing me for the Conservatoire. Mzia was a great teacher and in a very short period, she taught me everything that a young singer could learn.”
“I started lessons in September and I had to pass exams for the Conservatoire in July. Fortunately I passed the exams and became a student of the Conservatoire. Manana Egadze became my teacher there. She taught me for 6 months. After that I decided to go to Europe and pass exams to enter the La Scala Theatre Academy.
“Unfortunately my teacher Mzia Davitashvili died before I had started studying at the La Scala Theatre Academy, she would have been so very happy to see my success. The La Scala Theatre Academy is the best place to receive the chance to get noticed in the big theatre and to represent yourself. It gives you big professional experience, but it’s not as good for a singer who wants to study how to sing. There are many of the famous faces of opera art, but unfortunately as teachers they can’t transfer their knowledge to their students that well.”
In April 2008 Rachvelishvili was in front of the great conductor Daniel Barenboim. He was looking for an artist for the role of Mercedes in the opera Carmen.
“Barenboim made me sing nearly all of the songs of Carmen. A few months on from this event I was notified that I was going to sing at the premiere of Carmen on the opening of the season in 2009. It appeared that Barenboim was really impressed with my voice and my appearance, as I looked very like Carmen. During the meeting, the theatre director told me the following words: “Over 1 month we have listened to many Carmens, but neither Barenboim nor I want anyone except you to sing Carmen”. It was a great happiness for me and a big step forward in my career. I had to perform at one of the world’s biggest and most famous theatres in the main role of Carmen.”
“It was huge responsibility for me. I started serious preparation for this role. Even during my time in Tbilisi, I had prepared some parts of this role, but of course the level of preparation in Europe is much higher. They emphasize more on pronunciation of words in Italian or French languages and it’s a very important factor. Due to improving pronunciation and studying the French language, the La Scala Theatre sent me in Paris, France to the pianist of Maria Callas. She is an old woman, who plays the piano herself, her name is Janine Rice and she works on improving one’s master of the French language and develops pronunciation.”
“I worked with her for two months. She is a fascinating piano player. I was pretty much practiced when I started rehearsals at the theatre. I was also meeting the conductor before starting the rehearsals. I worked hard with the great drama theatre director Emma Dante, who was staging opera for the first time. Working with a director of drama theatre gives you much more than working with just an opera director, who emphasizes more on the general aspect of the play. The drama theatre director works much on the character itself. It was a great experience for me.”
According to Rachvelishvili, when she went out on stage on 7 December for the opening of the season she was very calm as she had practiced much and was prepared for the performance.
“I stayed so calm on the stage, due to the fact that I was so prepared. I wasn’t nervous at all. I remember that Italian and French newspapers noted that I had iron nerves. They noted that I wasn’t nervous about anything or else I just couldn’t realize the importance of what was happening around me at the time. I was actually very aware of the situation around me. It was a big risk for me, because if any small detail had gone wrong my career would have ended on the very day it began.”
“I was well prepared for the performance and I felt much support from the theatre, conductor and my colleagues. Even my colleagues remained quite sceptical about my debut on stage, but after seeing how hard I was working they began to support me and gave me some good advice. It was a very beautiful, unforgettable debut which will stay in my memory and my life for a long time. I think that the main determiner of my success was my preparation. Everyone has talent in different areas, but there are people who just don’t develop it, they are lazy. At the other end of the spectrum there are people who try hard and work hard to achieve their aim. I am sure that those who work hard always achieve their goals.”
New York is the favourite city of Rachvelishvili, while performing in front of viewers. She says that that city has very exceptional viewers who greatly respect opera.
“My favourite city where I enjoy being and playing in the theatre is New York. The viewers there are very generous and they stand up after the end of the play and applause. Germany is also a nice place to perform; viewers are very emotional on the whole, as opposed to in Italy as Italians are always very critical. It’s very hard to sing in Italy, they even go so far as to whistle if they don’t like the play. Of course this fact hasn’t happened in my case, I performed my debut in Italy, people respect me there, I have many admirers there and am in close contact with them.”
“My favourite plays are Carmen, Werther - Charlotte’s Aria, and Dalila’s Aria. At the age of 26 I am singing only French operas, I have very limited repertoires. The mezzo sopranos of Verdi have to sing more difficult arias and it’s too early for me to sing such kinds of arias. At the moment I am working on French operas and I like Werther and Dalila very much.”
“I will make my Dutch debut in my first performance of Dalila in Samson et Dalila at the Concertgebeouw in Amsterdam on 21 May, which will be broadcast by radio in nearly all European countries. I look forward to my performance as Dalila’s Aria is really difficult. Then I will come back to Rome to my Maestro where we will practice much on my plays. After Rome I will come back to La Scala to prepare for Gioacchino Rossini - The Italian Girl in Algiers. It’s a very beautiful role and I look forward to performing this difficult role.”
“I also have a visit to Spain with the Orfeo ed Euridice opera of Christoph Willibald Gluck. It’s an old opera and I am singing a man’s role. A mezzo soprano sings Orfeo’s role, it’s a kind of tradition. After my Carmen debut in New York in January, the theatre gave me 5-6 new contracts. Two of them will be Carmen and in 2012-2013 I will be back with a role as Carmen in New York’s Metropolitan Opera. I will also play The Italian Girl in Algiers in New York together with two Russian operas Boris Godunov and Prince Igor.”
Rachvelishvili is also planning some debuts in German theatres with the same roles. She will have concerts with the maestro Barenboim, who will play the piano. She has also planned a Russian and German music concert.
“I was the first Georgian singer to have opened a season at the age of 25 in La Scala and performed Carmen. Many Georgians have sung important arias there, but I was the youngest singer who opened a season in the main role. During the La Scala Premiere, a delegation from Georgia visited us. We hosted the Minister of Culture and even President Mikheil Saakashvili visited our 4th play.”
“There are many famous, Georgian opera singers abroad like Nino Suruladze, Nino Machaidze, Lado Ataneli, Gia Gagnidze and many others. All of them are very good and successful singers with beautiful voices and they know how to sing. People all around the world have started talking about Georgia. My colleagues abroad are really enthusiastic about Georgian opera singers, it’s a talent that God gave us as present.”
“The concert which will take place at Rustaveli Theatre on 29 March was planned in November when Nika Memanishvili arrived at La Scala to see my Carmen role. He attended the play and was fascinated, so it was at that time when we decided to hold a concert in Georgia together with the Georgia state philharmonic orchestra and choir with Nika Memanishvili.”
“I had the idea to perform Tamar Salukvadze’s compositions at the concert. She is a young, really talented, in my view world-level composer who is not so famous and I decided to perform her vocal music at our concert. I have known Tamar for a long time already and I have performed some of her compositions at the Tbilisi Conservatoire. I offered Nika Memanishvili to perform Georgian music in the first part of the concert. French music will be represented in the second part. It was Nika’s idea to perform some parts from the play Carmen together with other compositions at the concert.”
“I am very happy that I am here in Georgia and for me as a Georgian singer organizing a solo concert here is a really big responsibility. I know that almost all tickets have been sold and many people will come. I am nervous because Georgian viewers are very critical and are awaiting something exceptional from a singer who performs abroad. I hope I will justify their hopes, because I am working very hard for this concert.”
Rachvelishvili is happy to be performing at a concert together with Nika Memanishvili, she thinks he is a gorgeous conductor. She says that Memanishvili breathes together with the singer. There is a great harmony between the singer, conductor, choir and orchestra.
“I hope that Nika will have more support in his future projects, because cultural development is really important. The country’s cultural development means the country’s economic development. It reflects so much on people’s intellectual development. People should visit concerts. I am happy that the ticket price for this concert is pretty normal and starts from GEL 5-30. I know that Georgians have economic problems but they have managed to buy tickets regardless, because they want to listen to a great orchestra with great choir, see a professional conductor and listen to a professional singer.”
“A singer should work hard on their development, they should never stop. My aim is to work hard and sing as long as I can. I want to perform different repertoires after 10 years, which will be harder I know, but I will manage it,” Rachvelishvili said.
Rachvelishvili says it does not matter how often you travel, nothing compares to your home.
“Returning home is always an opportunity to take a deep breath and have a rest. I love Georgia very much. I want to tell Georgians to remain more positive and hopeful for the future. I know that Georgians have material problems, but if a person wants something enough then he/she can definitely achieve it. If we have the desire to develop, we will reach our goal. The world has started to notice us, when just a few years ago they didn’t even have any information about the country.”
“During the last 2 years many things have changed. When I was flying to Georgia before I only saw Georgians or Turkish people on the plane, but now I can see French, German, Italian, American and even South Africans. Many foreigners are visiting Georgia which makes me very happy. I am trying hard to make foreigners interested in our country. I have a kind of authority and many people in the world are acquainted with me. I am always speaking about our culture, our cuisine, wine and everything that our country has. We have lots of things but unfortunately we ourselves don’t respect them enough.”
“I can assure you sure that there is no other nation or people in the world like Georgians. We are very honest and hospitable and everyone notices it. Unfortunately most Georgians have lost hope. I know that everything will be ok. If I managed to achieve success and if many other Georgians from different spheres have also achieved it, we all can stay positive for the future.”
“There are only 5 million people in Georgia, that is seen as a small dot on the world map, but this country has many great people,” Placido Domingo told Anita during her premiere at La-Scala.