Dolora Zajick: Bulgaria has great voices

If I've touched someone with my art, then I've done something good in my life

You have had such great artists as Ghena Dimitrova, with whom I have worked together, same for Raina Kabaivanska. But my impression is that there is something like a break assessing the Bulgarian vocal school. Every talent must be brought to light and developed. Money is needed to develop the so many talented singers that you have, people need to do their job well, Metropolitan Opera star, mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick says in an interview to Europost.

 

 

When you look back at your career, how do you assess it? Were there any pivotal moments in it?

I remember having a talk with a hermit who used to stop by to converse with us, and then he would return to his seclusion, he lived a solitary life. I told him that I nurtured the idea of leaving my singing career. And he told me the following: In India we distinguish four life stages. The first one is when you study. The second is when you pass over to the next generation what you had learnt. At the third stage you recluse from the world and during the fourth you lose touch with it completely. I thought his words over. And this is how I see things now: During the years of schooling you think that you are learning something. At the second stage you pass over your own ignorance to the young. At the third stage you think that you recluse from the world not being aware that you carry it with you wherever you go. And at the final stage you realise that you will leave this world naked and barefoot without having learnt or understood anything. The only thing you will take along with you is what you have achieved. To me life is what you have accomplished. When I look back I ask myself: What was important in my life? Whether these are people whom I touched or emotionally affected in some way? This applies to my teaching practice. If I have touched somebody then I've done something good in my life. That's how I see things.

You have written an opera. What is it about?

So far I'm ready with only one scene of it. But it was so highly appreciated that I started performing it. I showed it in Madrid. The story is based on the life of Teresa Avila and her spiritual quest against the backdrop of the Inquisition. She had rather extraordinary antecedents: her family were Jews who adopted Catholicism. Teresa was under the sway of Sufi mysticism and Zoroastrianism. At a certain juncture, the letter of the law gets the upper hand over its spirit in Catholicism, and the spirit evaporates. It is under the conditions of extreme oppression when mystics like Teresa come into being. Her faith was very authentic and she had many followers. Much later, the Catholic Church became very grateful to her. This story is real, it is based on historical facts.

Are you set to finish this opera?

This is why I'm planning to withdraw from my singing career. To be able to finish it.

I read that you are planning to come back to Bulgaria in December. What could we expect?

I am not sure it will be in December but I am sure that I will make my schedule so that I'd be able to come back to work with your singers. You have many talents in Bulgaria. And you need tutors for the different voices. You have to think how to find them.

And how do you asses the Bulgarian vocal school?

My impression is that there is something like a break. You have such great artists as Ghena Dimitrova, with whom I worked together, same as Raina Kabaivanska. Some have passed away while others didn't have the chance to get such engagements. One person is not enough to create a community. People are needed who will do their job well. When they work together things work out. You have many talented singers, voices for different parts. But money is needed to develop them. Everywhere across the world, the training of an opera singer is ten times as expensive as the training of an instrumentalist. Sometimes those who oversee the distribution of money in conservatoires and theatres tend to underestimate many aspects in the training of an opera singer. It is not only about voice, acting mastership is also important, learning how to move around the stage. I know that in the US, when they get hold of some money, they divide it in half between instrumentalists and singers. However, the instrumentalists need classes and a room for exercising with their instruments while the singers need at least ten teachers who would train them. Every talent must be brought to light and developed.

Would you tell us in brief about your master class in our national opera theatre?

Here I see people who are eager to upgrade their skills. Such attitude towards work is very important. Maybe to some extent it is good not to be satisfied with your material status. In the US, I see schools which have good financial standing and their students don't pay tuition fees. But they often do not appreciate all the conditions they enjoy. I'm sure about one thing: here in Bulgaria you have terrific voices. And I very much like the atmosphere in your national opera, it is very nourishing. All of the time everyone is pushing to improve things. This drive is very important for a theatre company. So, the singers here are lucky to be in an environment which helps them to grow professionally. I must say that to be an opera director is a very trying job. You have to make hard decisions, to maintain high standard and take care of all people who are in the company. Here you have this very valuable combination.

What are the most difficult pieces of advice that your tutors gave you, and which of them do you pass over to your students?

“Learn how to sing, to sing really,” they told me. It's easier said than done, isn't It. There are things that a person does not realise at a certain point but comes to appreciate later. I think that the best piece of advice I got was when my teacher kicked me out from the vocal school in Reno, Nevada, where I lived. I wanted to stay there but he told me: “You have to go to New York to make a career.” He used to send there only his best or his poorest students. At that moment I didn't know what category I belonged to. I asked him who will teach me there. “I don't know,” he said. “You will find out when you get there.” And he proved to be right. Because the ability to understand that you've come across a good teacher is one of the most important components of the ability to make a successful career. If a singer cannot distinguish between a good and a bad teacher, he or she usually fails to make progress. Real singers feel who is right for them.

You are hailed as a “force of nature” (Variety). Where from do you draw this strength?

Maybe my main trait is that I am stable. If you are such a person you can turn even the worst things to good account. I always concentrate on what I am doing, want to accomplish it, to upgrade my level in one field or another. Or to help someone else to make this transition. Simply, this is the way I am.

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Widely regarded by critics and fans as the Verdi's mezzo-soprano of our time, Dolora Zajick has won international acclaim for her extraordinary voice which enables her to brilliantly perform the famous and difficult composer's parts. Her expressive vocal palette, impeccable technique and the ability to portray the most complicated characters, made Zajick famous at the world's most prestigious opera venues in the roles of Azucena in Il Trovatore, Amneris in Aida, Eboli in Don Carlos. In parallel with her artistic career, she shares the wealth of her experience with the young generation. The Institute for Young Dramatic Voices which she founded is designed to encourage their first steps on the professional stage and to help their training. In Bulgaria, Dolora Zajick gave a master class for the young artists of Sofia Opera.

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