Opera diva Tsvetana Bandalovska:
I am like a priestess on stage
A singer has to be pure within and humble before a great work and the audience
14 January, 2012Close-up:Soprano Tsvetana Bandalovska was born on 15 April, 1976 in Syktyvkar, Komi, Russia. She studied at Pancho Vladigerov State Academy of Music, Sofia. She received a silver medal in the Boris Christoff competition in 2004, and was selected to represent Bulgaria in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2005 and Placido Domingo's Operalia (Washington, DC, USA) in 2001. Presently, she is a contract principal artist at the Sofia National Opera. Her roles have included Mimi (La Boheme); Liu (Turandot); Cio-Cio-San (Madame Butterfly); Marguerite (Faust) among many others. Tsvetana Bandalovska has performed in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, USA, Russia, Great Britain and Tunisia. In end-2011 for her performance of Sieglinde in Wagner's Die Walkure she was awarded a Golden Lyre by the Union of Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers.- Mrs. Bandalovska, was 2011 the hottest streak in your career?- It was a success indeed, but I think that with me things have been gathering pace for three years now. It all started with Salome in Salome by R. Strauss and I gradually mastered the German repertoire. I then played Elsa in Lohengrin and with the parts in Wagner's operas things gathered momentum.- In 2009 you were the first Bulgarian, who performed Salome on Bulgarian stage. Another Bulgarian woman, Ljuba Welitsch is reputed to be the greatest Salome of the twentieth century. Was it the most difficult role you had done?- It really was very difficult. When I leafed through the score I wondered whether I could cope with it. Still, with a skilled mentor like Anna Tomowa-Sintow, one does not have to feel uneasy. I somehow suited ideally to the role of Salome. I believe roles go to an artist in their own right. I sang it by intuition wondering, though, whether I was not too young to perform it. Later I gathered that I was cut out for it and that there was no need to dramatize though colleagues warned me that I might well lose my voice. - Your father is a Bulgarian; your mother is a Russian. You have said that you had the taiga deep in you heart. What could you possibly mean by that?- My special sensitivity. I think that voice is not my only talent, but a means to convey strong emotions. I lived in Komi until I turned ten. I had a very strong affection for nature. In my tender years I walked a lot in the woods. My granny lived in a small village, which looked like just parachuted amid the trees. Nature endows one with a different sensitivity, different view of life, of human soul.- Your parents are not musicians, far from that. How come you became enthusiastic about opera?- I was destined for it. My mother told me that as an infant I would kick to the beat of music. As a kid I was unaware, of course, that I would make a career in opera. At the age of 13 I watched Casta Diva, a biopic based on the life of Vincenzo Bellini and I was thunderstruck. Until then I only knew that I was going to tread the stage, but was unaware in what capacity precisely. I identified myself with that movie. Since then life has been supportive to lead me up invisible paths to tread the stage. I started playing the piano at 6, but it was not my cup of tea. I was drawn to singing and dancing. In Salome a dream of mine came true: I danced onstage for 10 minutes. I had never even dreamt of being given the chance to. When I was a child, my mother took me to a ballet school. They said that I was physically unfit for a ballet dancer though my body was supple and I had an ear for music.- What invaluable advice were you provided by the great Bulgarian divas Raina Kabaivanska, Ghena Dimitrova, Cristina Anghelakova, Anna Tomowa-Sintow you happened to know?- To be myself, to be true to the composer and rely on my artistic intuition. The latter proved to be very strong with me. All these singers told me to follow my voice. I still keep in close touch with Anna Tomowa-Sintow. She is my advisor. I tell her about my achievements and hardships. - What does your career give and denude you of?- I almost have no private life. Music alone is my life.- You are interested in esoteric literature; you practice yoga and are enthusiastic about Eastern cultures. Why?- I have always searched to know why this is the way the world wags. One takes to reading such literature in times of distress. I read also works by Western philosophers and these also pose challenges to me. Both the Eastern and the Western ones influence my work. I believe that an artist is a priest of a kind and ought to enrich their own mind on a regular basis. Onstage a performer is as though naked, displaying his or her story, everything good or bad in them. Audiences feel that. Opera is much more than just a beautiful voice or music. The performer is a mediator. He or she has to be the instrument through which a masterpiece ought to come home to audiences. I believe that the greats have drawn from sources unknown to us. A singer has to be pure within and humble before a great work and the audiences. We deal with human souls. Sound is a mighty means. I have happened to emerge sick from a concert because sounds have been disharmonious. Musicians bear a great responsibility. We deal with vibrations acting directly on the unconscious. The effect is similar to a seed planted in human souls, which would sprout in them for we spend a lot of time studying a role.- Do you have a dream role? - Yes, I do. Norma. It is a great role; she is a priestess. Artistically, I identify myself with this image, one way or another. My life, devoted to art, is partly like Norma's. Her heart is rent by the choice between priesthood and love for an enemy of her people.- You are said to be incredibly good in Wagner's or R. Strauss' roles.- Yes, I am. Interestingly, I am only now awakening to Italian music. Most of the singers begin with it, for it was Italy where opera originated. I did the other way around: I began with German opera as I felt it more congenial to me. Someone might find it ridiculous, but I just discovered Verdi. I am going to sing Elizabeth in Don Carlo on 3 February. Everyone has to follow one's mindset. My colleagues used to wonder why I said that Verdi was not my cup of tea. German authors were my key to him. This is what they call individuality, I guess.