Maria Guleghina: Wagner is not music, he is a philosophy

I feel like a real queen in the role of being a mother, it is my greatest moment of glory

To me, an opera house is a place for worship of art. I came to Sofia to pay my tribute to the memory of my great colleagues and friends - Ghena Dimitrova and Nicolay Ghiaurov, opera diva Maria Guleghina says in an interview to BTA.

Ms Guleghina, you are a dramatic soprano. What does this really mean?

Dramatic soprano is a voice with unlimited potentiality. It can convey a wide range of emotions - passion, jealousy, love, tenderness. The dramatic soprano is a Ferrari of a voice. Even in a garage, it is still a Ferrari. Actually, it was Riccardo Muti who first drew this humorous comparison, he would always tell me, “Guleghina, you are like a Ferrari with a powerful engine”.

To put it in plain words, the dramatic soprano has special prowess and power, its scope of possibilities is unlimited. It is capable of singing absolutely anything, provided the singer went through the right vocal training in addition to the voice quality given by God. I would say I was born lucky and the doors got wide open for me. I started working on my voice at a very early age, when I was barely 15. At that time I had not even finished my secondary education but I already spared much of my time for singing and professional vocal training. I also attended singing courses on a regular basis. The problem for a dramatic soprano is a deficit of good teachers who can help develop your vocal prowess from the very start and teach a singer to use it properly.

I would like to draw one more comparison to make it clear to all. If you accidentally find a diamond in the street, which then goes to the wrong hands, it will eventually break, its carats will lose value and the diamond may turn into an ordinary stone not worth even to be thrown out. But if it comes into the hands of professionals, they will cut and polish it to perfection and make it shine in its entire beauty and power.

You boast over 165 performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. What does it feel like to sing at this venue?

In fact they are more, I featured in over 200 performances there in the title roles in Aida, Turandot, Tosca, Norma, Macbeth, Nabucco, Andre Chenier, The Queen of Spades, Cavalleria rusticana and many other operas. I wouldn't have time to list them all. I'll be frank and put it in a nutshell - this is a unique experience! I adore singing there. The level, the class are incomparable. The last time, which was two years ago, I sang Tosca in the Metropolitan Opera.

The critics pronounced you as “Queen of opera”, in what role do you feel like a real queen?

I feel like a real queen in the role of being a mother. No one can substitute the happiness I feel in this role with any other role on stage. I am a mother and it makes me most happy, it doesn't compare with the entire stage glamour. I have two children - son and daughter. The difference between them is twenty years. To be their mother is my title role, my most important production, my greatest moment of glory.

They also call you “the Russian soprano with Verdi flowing through her veins”. Why Verdi? Do you have special passion for his operas?

Verdi charges me emotionally, he charges me with a feeling which is intrinsic to my inner self and I rediscover it in his music. There is a belief that a person cannot become a singer within just one lifespan. In Tibet, they claim that all singers were singers in their previous lives. As a child, I had dreams - or maybe visions - about sailing along the canals of the beautiful Venice. From my early years I have identified myself with Consuelo - slim, dark, a bit fearsome, and endowed with powerful captivating voice. Most probably my love of Verdi's music stems from my previous reincarnations.

However, you also have a flair for Wagner. Is it difficult to switch from one composer to the other?

To me Wagner is not music but philosophy. One has to tune up one's soul to be engaged in his music. It is similar to painting an icon, before doing it you have to take Communion. Of course, broad experience with the Italian school of singing is also a must. For years on end, I refused to sing Wagner, but when the invitation came from maestro Plamen Kartaloff to take part in Parsifal at the Sofia Opera and Ballet, I decided to learn more, not only about the opera, but also about the director's vision of it, his production and means of expression. I read through the libretto and listened to the music over and over again. I watched it with utmost attention and finally made up my mind to take this step. I started learning German in Munich, commuting by plane all the time in order to be able to spend hours and days with my German teacher who insisted on the perfect pronunciation of every word, having in mind that German is a very difficult language phonetically.

What made the part of Kundry in Parsifal appealing to you?

This part is touched by genius, I'm in love with it. What grabbed me in the production of maestro Kartaloff is the motion on stage. I have to move all the time, turn and roll around and sing at the same time. It is a unique idea! So far I have never taken up a role in an opera which I didn't like. And I don't just like this one, it has literally captivated me.

How was it to work with your colleagues from the Sofia Opera?

To me, an opera house is a place for worship of art. I came to Sofia to pay my tribute to the memory of my great colleagues and friends - Ghena Dimitrova and Nicolay Ghiaurov. In Parsifal, a mythological drama written by a musical genius, the title roles are performed by preeminent Bulgarian singers, e.g. Kostadin Andreev as Parsifal, Atanas Mladenov (Amfortas), Peter Buchkov (Titurel), Angel Hristov (Gurnemanz) and Biser Georgiev (Klingsor). I worked in perfect harmony with all my colleagues from the Sofia Opera. Constantin Trinks, the conductor, and maestro Kartaloff have also taken a special place in my heart thanks to their exceptional professionalism.


Maria Guleghina was born on 9 August 1959 in Odessa, Ukraine. Her international debut came in 1987 at La Scala in Milan where she sang opposite Luciano Pavarotti. In January 1991 her star rose again in the Metropolitan Opera, New York. She is a laureate of multiple awards and distinctions, among them Premio Puccini (2009), gold medal Maria Zamboni, gold medal at the Osaka Festival, Bellini Award (2001) and the Arte e Operosita nel Mondo prize.

On 30 January and 1 February, Guleghina appeared on the stage of the Sofia National Opera and Ballet theatre where she performed the role of Kundry in Parsifal by Richard Wagner.



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