Lucy Diakovska: I am a servant of the audience

Music gives people the impulse to take a step, move forward

I studied math and physics in school and as someone who has been steeped in exact science I cannot believe in the idea of one celestial being. But there has to be something. And music, when it is played right, is a perfect evidence for how big our world is, this galaxy contained by matter, singer Lucy Diakovska says in an interview to Europost.

Hi, Lucy. Are you really moving to Plovdiv?

Yes. I will be living there for two months while rehearsing with the Plovdiv State Opera for a very unorthodox tango opera - Astor Piazzolla's Maria de Buenos Aires. The premiere is scheduled for 15 January and we have four shows planned already. I assume the project will garner interest outside of Plovdiv, too, because it is an opera that is rarely staged. Even in Germany right now it is running only in Hale. It is a very complex story about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, told in a unique way through the eyes of a Buenos Aires prostitute. The personage of Maria feels like the sequel of a role I played in Germany - the prostitute Lucy Harris from the Jekyll and Hyde musical. Opera is my first calling. My first appearance was at the age of six and I portrayed Gherardino in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.

Are you still dividing your time between Germany and Bulgaria?

It is a 20% to 80% ratio. Unfortunately, my time in Germany is not about relaxing and socialising but strictly about work and this weighs on me. I try to stay for another day or two and simply cannot afford more than that because I am the engine of all the projects I am involved with in Bulgaria - I make the posters, the programmes, the music arrangements and am the contact person because people trust me.

Are you religious?

Not in the monotheistic sense. I studied math and physics in school and as someone who has been steeped in exact science I cannot believe in the idea of one celestial being. But there has to be something. And music, when it is played right, is a perfect evidence for how big our world is, this galaxy contained by matter. I see music as a way of providing people with an impulse to advance, take a step, move forward. Energy is a real thing.

Where does your boundless energy come from?

Perhaps I have just found a way to channel it. Since childhood, no matter how expressive and boisterous I could be, I have always known where I can afford to be this version of myself, and where it is simply inappropriate. For example, whenever I was around my parents during rehearsal, I never acted like a child. Music has always made me, in the best possible sense, harness my energy. The best thing was accompanying my mother to rehearsals and watching her work. She would move her head in one direction as a sign for me to turn the music score to the next page. I was like a regular worker in the opera. But when I was outdoors playing with my friends, all that restrain went out the window. This is how I got my balance.

After all those years spent in Germany, how would you compare and contrast the two countries in terms of business environment in the music industry?

Things are difficult here because Bulgarians have not been taught that music costs money. Period. In the early 1990s music was for free for quite a long time. Moreover, the success of a music artist here is rarely measured in concerts. The quantifier is virtual, and this is unique. Everywhere else, if an artist has unimpressive physical sales of music and concert tickets, they are not viewed as successful.

Would the introduction of a quota for Bulgarian music in radio and TV content be of help?

France introduced such a quota policy in the late 1990s. The change launched the careers of many performers, who even went on to have success abroad. Such an approach was adopted in Germany in 2000, laying the groundwork for a completely different generation. German music got its label. It allowed hundreds of German musicians, the so-called poets with guitars, to gift the audience with unique music, and now we are at a point where there are hardly any English-speaking artists thriving in Germany. And this is after they had dominated until 2003, with the German language reserved for old-style popular tunes and folk music. There is a “but” though. People buy music in Germany in contrast to Bulgaria. The problem here is not financial resources but that, in my opinion, there are still not that many musicians who can impact the audience so greatly that people would want to buy music. And one more thing, almost none of the successful artists in Germany make music as a form of an ego-fuelled trip. All decisions are made by producers who then mould the overall sound so that music is accessible. At this point in the conversation many would say, “I refuse to be a servant, I am an artist and I will create art.” My grandfather Ivan Valev, founder of a folklore ensemble, used to say, “I am a servant of the people, not their master, because my job is to do everything in my power to showcase their talent.” We are all servants of the audience and our mission is to give it something special, an experience, it is not to stroke our own egos. In the past, classical music was also commissioned. Kings wanted to give their servants, courts and peoples a present, send a message.

As a child, did you have an idol you aspired to emulate?

I admired my grandfather greatly. He would stand in front of a female choir of more than 30 members and with a slight move of his hand would bring the most marvellous sound out of them. He used to regularly call my teacher and ask her to let me skip school and travel with him, promising that I would study on my own and not fall behind. I was with the company several times a month. I would go to work with grandfather in the morning, sit in his office and listen to him conducting meetings. He loved people unconditionally and loved creating for them.

Have you had any regrets about coming out as gay?

No, if I had stayed in the closet, I would not have been able to help others be honest with themselves. When they saw the way my family treated me, many realised that they could live like this.

Do you want to have children?

I have lots of friends but I do not have a significant other. I have two amazing nephews who are musically very gifted. I think I will want to help them one day. I am 42 now, not that it is too late but… Let me put it this way, if surrogacy was allowed in Bulgaria, perhaps I would take that step.

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Lyudmila Lyubomirova Dyakovska (artistic name: Lucy Diakovska) was born on 2 April 1976 in Pleven. She has been on stage since the age of six, with her very first appearance in an opera performance alongside her father. Her entire family are musicians. Her mother is a pianist, her father - an opera singer, and her grandfather - a folklore music composer. In 1995 she left for Hamburg to study at the Stage School of Dance and Drama. In 2000 she joined the girl band No Angels, which brought her international recognition.

Her new Christmas project Ave Maria will be presented on 27 December at Bulgaria Hall together with the Sofia Philharmonic under the conduction of Maestro Nayden Todorov.

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