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The step to the Olympus

Eugeny Belzhelarsky

2 June 2008

The closing ceremony of the Galina Vishnevskaya II International Opera Singers Competition took place in the Svetlanov Hall of the MIHoM.

This time the competition was dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich , whose unseen presence was felt in the hall – after all he also was an inspirer of the undertaking, launched and implemented by Galina Vishnevskaya. The competition was meant to be a jumping-off place for the young singers. The contemporary opera is a subject to innovations and sometimes to directors’ inventions which keep singers going hot and cold. There is only one thing in which it is still conservative: to get to the top of the opera Olympus just for the vocal abilities is not fairly easy. Young singers have to pass an obstacle course so to say. Here we have prejudices, envy, and fear of competitors. For someone it’s easier; for someone it’s harder; as ever. The idea of Galina Vishnevskaya is to help the youth to overcome the first difficulties which is patronage of art in its best meaning. Splendid opera singer (who does not remember the Tatiana’s part in her interpretation on the stage of GABT!?), she has decided to use her good name, authority and credibility among the world music elite in a best way – for promotion of talents. The goal is – not to let those who are worth of the best stages of the world disappear in obscurity.

The fist part, as usual, was absolutely official. The minister for culture of the Russian Federation Mr. Alexander Avdeev has congratulated the laureates of the competition, the medals, diplomas and symbols have been given. And during the second part, laureates have shown what they are capable of. Russian baritone Roman Burdenko, soloist of the Saint-Petersburg Mikhailovsky Theatre, won the first prize (and 450 000 rubles). His interpretation of parties from “Pagliacci” and “The Queen of Spades” was perfect. And if the previous year winner’s (bass Alexei Tikhomirov) singing aroused admiring and joking whisper “Shalyapin”, then one could whisper “Tito Gobbi” in address of Roman. By the way, not so long ago Burdenko has become a winner of the I international baritones’ competition named after Pavel Lisitsian.

Other laureates also made a good impression – baritone Elchin Azizov, tenor Alexei Sayapin, mezzo-soprano Alexandra Kovalevich, mezzo-soprano Anna Goryacheva… I would like to emphasize that the jury pays attention not only to the singing technique, but also to the artistry and rendering so to say. With such approach, a singer will never become a soulless mechanism for director’s whims, who is not able to explain even to himself (we don’t talk about the audience) the difference between Stanislavski and Brecht or between the two parts of “Faust”.

It is supposed that in ideal situation the winners of the competition could count on engagement from the best opera houses – from “La Scala” to “Metropolitan”. I am not ready to judge if this maximum is achievable. But the major part of the laureates, chosen two years ago, does not complain on their destiny. The laureates of the new wave also expect this. After all along with Galina Vishnevskaya the members of the representative jury guarantee the contestants’ talents and professionalism. The members are: Tamas Bator and Mauro Trombetta from Budapest and Roma operas, Brad Jarrett (Opera Queensland), Cristina Ferrari (Teatre Carlo Felice Genoa); also, famous singers Mimi Coertse and Irina Bogacheva and head of the opera agency “Stagedoor” Angelo Gabrielli, who did a lot for the artistic career of recently well-known in Russia Rene Fleming (who is going to visit us once again soon). And finally, conductor Eugene Kohn, who has accompanied to Maria Callas, now accompanied the laureates of the Moscow competition with the “Russian Philharmonic” orchestra.

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