Young Russian-American mezzo-soprano Elizaveta Agladze has been seen as a recitalist and concert soloist throughout the eastern United States. She received her Master’s degree in Organizational Sciences from George Washington University, her Bachelor’s degrees in Music and Psychology from Emory University, and her Associate Arts degree from Emory University’s Oxford College, where she returned as a guest recitalist this fall. Elizaveta is currently a student at Galina Abiyakiy Voice Studio in Washington, D.C. and a graduate of the OperaWorks Advanced Artists Program in Northride, California. We were so lucky to grab a few moments with her…
photo: Shawn Flint Blair (used with permission)
Elizaveta, thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed for this site.
The pleasure is all mine, Michael.
What is your first memory of hearing Tchaikovsky’s music?
I’m afraid I would be very unoriginal in answering this question – it must be the music from either Swan Lake or The Nutcracker. I don’t remember which one I heard first. When I was a child, my mother took me to the Bolshoi Theatre every year to see Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. I’ve been in love with this music ever since.
To a Russian woman, how “Russian” does Tchaikovsky’s music sound?
I find Tchaikovsky’s music to be very Russian, even though I cannot really explain what “Russian” music means. But when I hear an unfamiliar piece of music from the Romantic period, I can almost always tell correctly whether it’s Russian or not. On a subjective level, it is something that resonates with my soul and makes me feel at home, as if the music ran through my blood. But I think many people feel that way about Tchaikovsky’s music, regardless of nationality. Tchaikovsky’s music is deeply emotional, revealing openness and great-heartedness, while at the same time intertwined with vulnerability, heartbreak and tragedy – I think that is pretty Russian.
What is the popular view of Tchaikovsky in modern Russia today?
I think Pyotr Ilyich is as popular as ever! And the fact that his first piano concerto was performed at the end of the Olympic Games closing ceremony stands as a good proof to that.
What was the first music by Tchaikovsky you ever sang? Did this make an immediate impression on you?
I played Tchaikovsky on the piano before I sang his music – the Neapolitan song, a few pieces from the Children’s Album, and later Dance of the Little Swans. I must admit that that was not my favorite music to play at the time – I was more of a Chopin girl. But, of course I was eager to learn the Dance of the Little Swans! Singing Tchaikovsky (which I started later on in life) has been a much more pleasurable experience, since by that time I had matured to feel and express his music better.
What is your favourite piece/aria/song by Tchaikovsky?
There are so many! I love singing Da, chas nastal from The Maid of Orleans – there is just so much passion and drama in that piece. My very favorite aria by Tchaikovsky, though, is Lensky’s aria Kuda, kuda from Eugene Onegin. Too bad it’s not written for a mezzo!
Here is the aria Elizaveta chose as her favourite; Kuda, Kuda from Eugene Onegin (also known, more accurately, as Yevgeny Onedin). Placido Domingo sings it wonderfully here…
And here is my favourite aria in an opera so rich in wonderful moments. If you listen to the two one after the other, you will hear that each one begins with a series of descending notes. When the main theme, heard timidly at first, returns, it truly is one of the greatest moments in all Tchaikovsky…
The whole opera may surprise you; it is not on the same scale as Verdi (and certainly not Wagner!) If you can find a version with a good translation, then you really are in for a tragic treat.