Vesselina Kasarova: The voice is like a gift

It's similar to a millionaire's child who inherits capital and then has to preserve it

I love watching people and then recreating their behaviour on stage. If I have to be frank, I think that as an actress I am better that as a singer, opera prima Vesselina Kasarova says in an interview to Europost.

Ms Kasarova, when you were giving instructions to one of your young students you said that money comes to those who know how to handle it.

Oh, did it sound that way? Maybe because the girl was Finnish and I thought that if I put it this way she will understand me better. You see, the voice is like a gift, like you are a millionaire's child who inherits capital. However, if you don't know how to preserve and grow it, that capital will vanish and you will be left emptyhanded. After 30 years on stage, I think that I have mastered the technicalities of singing and this enables me to be at my best, even when I have a cold or am upset about something.

How do you manage to combine your duties of an art director with taking part in performances and concerts around the world?

I hope I manage. When I got the invitation three years ago, I made it a condition that I will not stay in Bulgaria all the time. I agreed because they told me that my very name will help the troupe which faced problems at that moment. My family is in Switzerland, my son Yves is a first-year college student.

Some time ago, you said that your dream is to see him on stage too.

Yves has chosen to become a medical doctor and aspires to become a cardiac surgeon. This makes me very proud.

Going back to the beginning of our conversation, what “heritage” did Vesselina Kasarova, daughter of Ivan Kasarov, a taxi driver from Stara Zagora, took along on her way to the opera world?

Yes, my father was a taxi driver but he had terrific “antennae”. He knew more about the world of music than some people who at that time considered themselves great music connoisseurs. He always told me that I can do it and must not stop. From him I inherited the credo of my life: “If you want to get something you have to give first!” He taught me to be diplomatic, although sometimes I think that it makes me look in the eyes of some people like a… dupe. I remember that when I got the invitation to become a soloist at the Zurich opera, some officials at the Bulgarian Concert Directorate told me: “Well, Kasarova, they only want to use you, you have to pursue your studies.” I know that saying so they wanted to set me back. My answer was that if I felt used, I would simply come back to Bulgaria.

You boast 50 opera parts, over 40 CDs, you take part in operas staged all over the world. Is there anything else that makes you press ahead?

Certainly, I am still at the age that lets me use the entire potential of my voice spectrum. Now I am preparing for the part of Azucena in Il Trovatore, the premier will be in Wiesbaden the next spring. By the way, in March of the current year, on that stage I sang Judith in Bluebeard's Castle by Bartok. Again next year, I will sing in Tokyo with Maria Guleghina in Nabucco. There are a couple of other parts which I would like to prepare.

You have also sang male arias, was it a challenge?

And why shouldn't I, when I have the necessary potential? It was an interesting experience to try for size the part of Romeo, for instance. Of course, my phantasy does me a favour too. I love watching people and then recreating their behaviour on stage. If I have to be frank, I think that as an actress I am better that as a singer. Quite soon, I guess in October, I will have to record an oratorio composed by the great Argentinian tenor Jose Cura, who recently visited Bulgaria and sang Othello. I will perform his new piece singing opposite Ramon Vargas.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of opera and what do you think about the attempts to “take it out” of the theatre by staging opera performances at stadiums, squares or among the pyramids?

Of course, I am an optimist, this is an eternal art. As regards taking it out of the treater halls, I am all for it, especially if this is the way to attract young audiences.

Do you keep in touch with Anna Tomova-Sintova, you are both from Stara Zagora?

She is a remarkable person, extraordinary musician and true erudite. Let's not forget that she used to work with Maestro Karajan and he was exceptionally demanding and exacting. I am well aware of that, although I worked with him only 10 days and at the very start of my career at that. Some time ago, Anna wrote me a long letter which I'm still keeping and reread from time to time. Regrettably, we do not meet as often as we should. Maybe it is time now to invite Anna Tomova-Sintova to Stara Zagora again so that she could meet with her fans who remember her on stage, as well as with those who know her only from her records. I would put her alongside my idol, soprano Martha Moedl, who died in her chair while performing the Countess in The Queen of Spades. She was an unsurpassed actress despite the fact that she was 80 years old. I played in The Queen of Spades with her nine times. My dream is one day to play her part the way she did. Great personalities do not talk much. They say simple but authentic things which last a lifetime. I thank my destiny for meeting people who had what to say!

Are you still looking for the next Vesselina Kasarova?

Who needs a next one? It would be better to just play a CD with my performances, a replica would only bore the audience. People need a new, different singer, the name is of no importance. The girls who currently attend my master class have the potential to become great singers.

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Vesselina Kasarova was born on 18 July 1965 in the city of Stara Zagora, in central Bulgaria. She started taking her first piano lessons at the age of four. After she graduated in opera singing from the State Conservatoire in Sofia, she joined the ensemble of Zurich Opera. In 1991 Kasarova debuted at the Salzburg music festival where she was declared a sensation. Two years later she started a meteoric career as a guest singer. Within those years she built up a repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Handel and Mozart, through bel canto composers such as Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini, to Berlioz, Massenet, Bizet, Sen-Sans, Verdi and Wagner. Apart from her performances at the world's most famous opera houses and most prestigious concert halls, Kasarova can also boast with a rich discography. She is a laureate of many international awards and distinctions, she was named Kammersangerin of Vienna State Opera and Bavarian State Opera. She is an art director of the opera house in Stara Zagora where she recently held a master class.

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