6 No.23 APRIL 12, 2018 CULT URE WWW.DAY.KIEV.UA “I am afraid of expensive gifts...” By Alisa ANTONENKO World-famous opera singer Montserrat Caballe to celebrate her 85th birthday in Kyiv Works of this talented Kyiv artist, art historian, teacher, and art critic fascinate with their craftsmanship, because they are decorative panels made of... straw, which, by their artistic qualities, are not inferior to works of painting! The artist prepared her exhibition for the Easter holiday. The compositions are housed on the premises of the National Sanctuary “Sophia of Kyiv” (in the Zaborovsky Gate museum). The exposition presents about 30 decorative panels, as well as straw Easter eggs made in the artist’s unique technique. According to the organizers of the exhibition, Denysiuk continues the Ukrainian tradition of decorative applied art which involved straw, and uses only natural materials, namely barley or rye straw. This technology makes each composition unique. Work on each piece is very painstaking and lasts for at least six months! The master’s pictures are complex compositions, which feature volume and perspective. The creator deals with the issues of nature, spirituality, and tradition. Visitors have the opportunity to look into the world of art, ethnics, philosophy, and folk culture. The “Easter Peals” exhibition represents the artist’s creative work for the past 15 years. These are, first of all, religious compositions, architectural and landscape motifs. Specially for this project, Denysiuk has chosen panels that demonstrate uniqueness and, at the same time, unity of different parts of Ukraine, its various religious “poles,” and also call for spiritual unity. All works on display are united by the theme of the bright holiday of Resurrection. They comprise the artist’s landmark and already wellknown compositions, such as Entry to Jerusalem, A Cathedral, The Essence of Life, Madonna, and Festive Peals, as well as those that are exhibited for the first time, including A Bell Tower, The Golden Field of Ukraine, and An Angel of Easter Egg Painting Art. The works are done in an elegant and at the same time very complicated technique. The artist “molds the shape” with straw, using only natural shades of barley or rye straw, without any By Anna SHESTAK REUTERS photo April 12 is the 85th birthday of “Senora Soprano.” The prima donna is going to celebrate it in Kyiv. There will be not only a soiree in honor of her and her daughter Montserrat Marti, but also a gala concert for all opera buffs. Caballe and Marti, as well as Ukrainian stars Zlata Ognevich and Oleksandr Ponomariov, will sing on the stage of Ukraina Palace on April 14. Ponomariov says he has been dreaming of a duet with the legendary diva for 30 years. On the eve of her birthday, Senora Caballe answered The Day’s questions. You haven’t been to Kyiv for as many as seven years… “Yes, but I remember well the last concert, as if it had taken place yesterday. I cried on the stage. There was such a long line of devotees to approach me after the performance! Each wanted not only to present me flowers, but also to say something good. Although I don’t know the Ukrainian language, I could see that people were speaking sincerely from the bottom of their hearts. This impressed and touched me very much.” Word has it that opera singers are cold. All they care about is to sing right… “Nothing of the sort! I have never been as imperturbable as a statue. Whenever I am told that I am such a strong woman, I answer: ‘The only force I can’t overcome is my emotions.’ For me, the stage is like a temple. Do you think it’s just exalted words? It may be so, but I feel uneasy every time, although I’ve appeared on stage innumerable times. And those were the best-known opera housed of the world!” Does the level of uneasiness depend on the level of the opera house? “Absolutely not. Audiences are exigent everywhere. If you are an artiste, you must not disappoint them.” Could you share the secret of preserving your voice? “Do you know a joke? ‘The secret of beauty is simple, but a secret is always secret.’ (Smiles.) I just avoided doing what opera singers should not do.” Drinking cold beverages… “And being overloaded and overtired. I’ve never made long pauses in work. The career of an opera singer means continuous work on yourself, a constant improvement of what nature gave you. Naturally, you should train, as it were in sport, and I begin each of my mornings with breathing exercises which I learned back in school. Then I warm up.” At home? “Yes. My neighbors are patient (laughs).” They must be pleased with living next door to you. Is it true that you are a vegetarian? “Yes, for a long time. It is not a diet but a persuasion and a way of life. I don’t eat meat and have a healthy lifestyle. For example, singing and touring do not mix with smoking. So either nasty habits or stage!” Many musicians tried to mix these things. “And what was the result? It’s better not to discuss this. We have a positive subject of the conversation (smiles).” Panels and Easter eggs made of... straw “Easter Peals” is the name chosen by Olha Denysiuk for her new series of filigree-like works OLHA DENYSIUK. AN ANGEL OF EASTER EGG PAINTING ART, 2017 colorants. Art critics note the innovative nature, uniqueness, and originality of the master’s creative manner. Each work is unique, because it is impossible to make an exact copy of it, just like there cannot be two identical stems. According to Denysiuk, it is the straw as material that defines the style of each of her works... ■ The exhibition will last till April 30. Photo replica by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day Is it true that you are preparing a surprise and will try to sing in Ukrainian? “I am getting ready for this. One of your singers will help me. We have not yet sung together, but, who knows, this may result in a nice duet, quite unexpectedly for both of us. After all, all of my best duets were an improvisation of sorts – with Frank Sinatra, with Marilyn Horne whom I replaced in 1965 in New York and became what the press calls a star.” After all, with Freddie Mercury… “No, we planned that cooperation. I needed something new not to stick in the opera. Freddie and I met in Barcelona at his hotel room. He said at once that he was my admirer and had attended one of my recitals as a spectator. Now I can understand: it is acclaim! But at that moment it seemed to me: OK, good. I took it for granted. I even showed him my operatic snobbishness. “Freddie sat down to play some of his compositions on the piano, and I was so much surprised! ‘You know how to play?!’ He looked at me reprovingly and began to play Chopin without a score. Of course, he knew! “Then it turned out that he could have found his place in classics, too, for he had a nice baritone. I couldn’t hold my tongue again: ‘And why don’t you sing in this voice?’ ‘Because my aficionados will not then come to me,’ he answered. It is a pity that this superb musician passed away so early.” Will you sing your joint hit, “Barcelona,” at the Kyiv concert? “I like ‘Barcelona’ very much. After all, it is an extraordinary honor to perform the anthem of your city. But whether I will sing it now and who with… Come and you will know! Incidentally, is there a song like this about Kyiv?” There is one. It’s called “I Can’t Help but Love you, my Kyiv.” “If I don’t forget, I will ask your artistes to sing it to me at least a little. It’s interesting to me. I think it is a nice song.” What are you usually presented with on your birthday? “My kin present their presence and, maybe, something simple and handy. At their own discretion. For me, the best gift is when the family gets together.” I wonder what your aficionados present you with. “Usually flowers, sometimes ornamentations. I am afraid of expensive gifts and have never hunted after luxury. I grew up in a poor family and see no reason why I should spend a fortune on diamonds. Costume jewelry looks no less effective from stage.” What do you wish yourself? “First I will thank fate and the Lord. I am living such a life that it would be a sin not to thank for it. Then I will ask the patron saints of my family, whose little images I always wear on a chain, to protect the ones I love. And only then I will say: ‘And for me – health, if possible, so that can I see everybody successful and happy and be a friend and a solace, rather than a burden.” Your example inspires many! “They say it is a story about a Cinderella from a poor Barcelona family, who always wears the same dress and works at a handkerchief-making factory… You know, but for faith and efforts, nothing would have come out. I will tell you one thing: believe in yourself and work. I am saying this not only to you personally, but also to all of your country. Work and never lose faith. See you soon!” ■ THE DAY’S REFERENCE Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepcion Caballe i Folch, better known as Montserrat Caballe, born on April 12, 1933, in Bracelona, is a Spanish and Catalan opera singer (soprano). At age 31, Caballe married her colleague, operatic baritone Bernabe Marti. Her husband and she sang on the same stage. The couple still remains married. They have two children: a son and a daughter. The latter has followed in her parents’ footsteps. Caballe has received international acclaim, first of all, owing to her bel canto technique and singing in the operas of Italian composers Puccini, Bellini, and Donizetti. She has an enormous repertory of 88 roles and about 800 chamber pieces. Throughout her career, she has been performing various parts – from Pamina to Isolde, from Donna Elvira to Turandot. She is known to rock music buffs for the album “Barcelona” (1988) she recorded with Freddie Mercury, the front man of the band Queen. The lead song dedicated to Barcelona, Caballe’s native city, became one of the two official songs of the 1992 summer Olympic Games in the capital of Catalonia. In 1997 she recorded the rock ballad “One Life One Soul” with the Swiss hard rock band Gotthard. The singer also experiments with electronic music – she has recorded several pieces with a Greek composer, Vangelis, one of the authors of new-age music.
WWW.DAY.KIEV.UA CULT URE No.23 APRIL 12, 2018 7 By Natalia SEMENENKO, musicologist Afull house at the recent performance of Eugene Onegin in the National Opera hardly surprised anyone, although the performance was not a premiere. Most of the music fans came to the theater to hear the baritone voice of Yurii Yurchuk, who, having arrived from London on a tour to his hometown, performed the part of Onegin for the first time. The show took place within the framework of the project “Ukrainian Opera Stars in the World.” The partners of the baritone were soloists of the National Opera, including Ksenia Bakhritdinova-Kravchuk (Tatiana), Dmytro Ivanchenko (Lensky), Serhii Mahera (Prince Gremin), and Oleksandr Hurets (Triquet). Bohdan Plish held the conductor’s baton. Having seen a boisterous final ovation of the Kyiv public, we met with Yurchuk, who is now a soloist at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. It should be noted that the rapid career of this young artist has been impressive and fascinating. In general, many singers have risen fast to the peak of world fame, including both foreign stars and domestic celebrities. Suffice it to recall the famous Ukrainian bass Borys Hmyria, who at the age of 36 graduated from Kharkiv Conservatory having abandoned the career of civil engineer, or the prominent tenor Anatolii Solovianenko, who, having already graduated from Donetsk Polytechnic and started working as a college teacher, began his opera career in his 30s and finished the conservatory education while already holding the title of People’s Artist... As Yurchuk admits, he radically reconsidered his life objectives after 10 years of a successful career as a financier in Chicago and made a sharp turn towards classical vocal art. Starting in the 2014-15 season, the Ukrainian baritone has been a participant of the Jetter Parker Young Artist Program for young opera singers at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. It was during this period that he performed on that famous stage small parts in the operas Tristan and Isolde, Andre Chenier, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, and others. ● “MY LIFE WAS SPLIT IN TWO” After getting acquainted with your, to put it mildly, unusual biography – you admitted in an interview that you first visited the opera at 28 and, without knowing the basics of musical notation, quickly burst into the ranks of high art, and now already perform on the stage of the famous Royal Theater in Covent Garden, and this took you only three years (!) which were full of musical events – it is clear that you completely refute the deep-rooted stereotype of the opera singer’s necessarily long and tedious path to Olympus. Why have you abandoned the steady career of a successful financier and took the shaky path of an opera singer? “I think that it is just because one of my numerous and persistent attempts to realize my musical potential finally worked. In fact, from the early years, I tried to get closer to music and immerse myself into such a mysterious and beautiful world of art in order to move from the category of listeners to one of performers. While living in Kyiv, I tried to create my own band, but that plan failed. My singing teachers, whom I encountered when my voice was mutating, refused to train me outright, citing my complete absence of any vocal talent. However, after some time, and at a certain stage, when I was already working for a Chicago financial company, I was fortunate enough to meet a very experienced, erudite teacher Michael Embree, who had faith in me and offered to teach me academic vocal art. Embree was a soloist with the New York City Opera for about two decades, and after hearing me at the Queen Sonja International Music Competition (where I successfully performed Riccardo’s aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera The Puritans and Falstaff’s aria from the opera of the same name by Giuseppe Verdi), he was the on- How a financier became an opera star Baritone Yurii Yurchuk is an extraordinary individual who sings at Covent Garden now ly one among the members of the jury to analyze in detail my performance in contrast to others who simply said ‘Well done, a good job.’ Embree wrote a detailed commentary that took a whole page and offered a professional ‘flight analysis.’ This, of course, got me thinking, because vocal art is not mathematics or finance, and it is very difficult to learn classical singing. Even before meeting Embree, I tried to take lessons from two teachers who did not have an idea what to do with my voice. And here, in the person of Embree, I found a combination of deep professional knowledge and pedagogical talent, which are the most important qualities for training a beginner singer. I know a lot of singers with good voices who have not managed to develop their talent because they lacked sustained professional teaching support.” But private vocal lessons are not cheap, are they? “In fact, I was lucky that at that time I already had a stable income from my company. But after deciding to become a professional singer, I managed to negotiate working half-days in the office, and devoting the other half to classes with a vocal teacher. I worked in that way for two years, won a scholarship from DePaul University of Chicago, which allowed me to pay for a music course. At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised at how empathetic and kindly the people who surrounded me turned out to be: both those who studied classical music and my colleagues in the company. When they found out that I needed additional funds for vocal training, they offered me to sing for a certain reward at a church choir during Sunday masses. At first, I was not quite prepared for it, because I could not sight-read sheet music. But this experience became very useful to me later. It was in the choir that I refined my hearing and learned how to sing in an ensemble.” At what age did you make that fateful decision to start systematic vocal training? “It happened at the age of 29, when I entered DePaul University’s School of Music. My life was split in two.” ● A TIP FOR BEGINNING SINGERS What did the most crucial stage in your singer’s career, I mean voice training, start with? Probably, you began with purely technical exercises and chants, which is a long and not very interesting period for ambitious beginners, who dream of singing opera arias and leading parts at once. It is known that the famous Italian teacher Nicola Porpora, who educated the legendary Baroque soprano singer Farinelli, limited his students to performing vocal pieces only for the first five years of study. And how was it with you? “After six months of studies or so, my teacher realized all the seriousness of my intentions and advised me to stick to exercises for a year at least, and only then to embark on the first aria; however, considering my ‘advanced’ age, he recommended me to improve vocal skills as intensively as possible. So we did corrections over time from the very beginning. I still have with me that notebook with exercises with which I started and which I learn from even now. I also have audio recordings of these lessons, and often listen to and analyze them. By the way, a tip for beginning singers: make sure to record yourself, listen to and analyze your vocal performance. But it is better not to use for it an iPhone or Android, which significantly distort the real sound of one’s voice, so one would do well to use special recorders. After all, when you are singing, you do not hear yourself and cannot adequately appreciate yourself. However, I benefited in this case from analytical approach that I always used successfully back when I was engaged in financial activity.” And which work did you start your practice with, in what language did you sing first, because English is not the best phonetic material for an academic singer? “After about two months of classes, I began to sing Neapolitan songs, and later Embree offered me to learn Aleco’s cavatina from the opera of the same name by Sergei Rachmaninoff, YURII YURCHUK PERFORMED ON THE KYIV STAGE THE TITLE PART IN THE OPERA EUGENE ONEGIN, WHILE KSENIA BAKHRITDINOVA-KRAVCHUK PLAYED THE ROLE OF TATIANA tra, so maybe not everything was perfect in terms of balancing the sound of the voice and the orchestra.” Did you ever ponder where did you get that gift of heaven, meaning your voice? What ancestral genetic codes did you manage to inherit? “I was born in a family where parents had nothing to do with music. The only childhood memory that can shed some light on this issue is that of my grandfather, who often sang folk songs when he carried me in his arms... “Since I have positioned myself as a baritone for good, my ambitious dream is the gradual inclusion of all baritone parts in the operas by Verdi, one of my most beloved composers, in my repertoire.” ● “EVERYTHING HAPPENING IN UKRAINE NOW PAINS ME GREATLY” While performing on different scenes and continents, do you feel the importance and special responsibility of the mission of the artist who can carry the message of peace and beauty to a world currently in a state of anxiety and social turbulence? What do you think, what can curb wisely deciding that the original work’s language would facilitate to some extent the process of studying the musical text of the cavatina with its unique cantille-like melodic.” After this latest performance in Kyiv and the prolonged ovation you received from the public, has the leadership of the National Opera looked at you and made some suggestions for further cooperation? “The theater management noticed me a year before my debut on the Kyiv stage. Having auditioned at the National Opera, I received an offer to sing in Eugene Onegin. Before the show started today, I felt how the waves of positive energy went through the auditorium to the stage. During the performance, I completely switched to my emotions and focused on controlling the sound flow to the parterre. Unfortunately, I could not rehearse on stage, I only had a rehearsal with the orches- Photo by Oleksandr PUTROV the aggression that is currently bursting through at different spots of the planet and has not spared Ukraine as well, which has been fighting in our eastern regions for the past four years? “I guess I pondered these questions for the first time after my workmates came to hear me sing, and for many of them it was their first ever visit to an opera house. I saw that some of them were even tearful after the show... And this became a real shock to me, because at that very moment, suddenly, I realized the enormous power of art, the fantastic magnetism of musical images... After all, the soul of a musician is always particularly vulnerable to external influences... Everything happening in Ukraine now pains me greatly, because my parents and relatives live here. “Living through strong emotions gives an invaluable experience of understanding and perception of certain dramatic collisions, and opens up the opportunity, if necessary, to transfer this experience into real life, to make the right choice, to quickly get one’s bearings in any situation as we face the real existential challenges of the time in which we live today...” You are a permanent member of the Royal Opera Company. Would you risk switching to contractual terms of cooperation? “Until this year, I was part of the opera ensemble, but I decided that it would be advisable to switch to contractual terms for a time, in order to have more artistic freedom and to try to perform on different scenes around the world. I also hope to have more meetings with Kyiv music lovers, whose reception’s warmth I will take with me to London...” ■ THE DAY’S REFERENCE The Ukrainian baritone Yurii Yurchuk is currently a member of the Royal Opera company in London. The Times called the singer “a wonderful voice with an impeccable Italian legato,” and the influential online resource Bachtrack described him as “a rich, deep voice capable of great versatility.” In the 2017-18 season, the artist’s engagements include Count Rodolfo (Wexford Festival Opera), Eugene Onegin (Ukraine National Opera), Ping (Zurich Opera), as well as covers of Alfio and Don Giovanni for the Royal Opera House in London. Yurchuk is a prize winner in the Queen Sonja International Singing Competition (Norway), Montserrat Caballe International Singing Competition (Spain), Ottavio Zino International Singing Competition (Italy), Monastero Foundation Bel Canto competition (US), Fritz and Lavinia Jensen competition (US), and other events. His other high-profile appearances include the King of Egypt in Verdi’s Aida excerpt in tribute to Martina Arroyo at the 36th Kennedy Center Honors Awards in Washington DC, concerts in the Buckingham and Windsor palaces for the royal family, and the debut at the BBC in the Shakespeare birthday anniversary series. The Ukrainian baritone was a member of Royal Opera young artist program in 2014-16 seasons, entering the ensemble in 2016 with more than 180 appearances on the Royal Opera’s stage. Born in Kyiv, Yurchuk claims to have discovered his passion for opera after moving to Chicago (US). He studied at DePaul University’s School of Music in 2012-13. The singer also holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees in finance and accounting from Kyiv National Economic University. He taught at that school’s department of finance for a year, then worked at the Kyiv office of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and in 2010 he joined the Chicago office of the same company. Before embarking on a singing career, he was a financial advisor with PwC for nine (!) years, but the art ultimately won him over.