Ildar Abdrazakov: My career started with Verdi.

The best gift OPERA Charm Magazine could have received for the anniversary of our 1st year is, with no doubt, having ILDAR ABDRAZAKOV as our cover artist. In our conversation with our founder, Bianca L. Nica, the bass talks about the beginning of his career & his debut at Teatro alla Scala at the age of 25, about his association, about mentoring with the young generation of singers & his advice for them & last, but not least, about his family. 

“One of the most exciting Russian singers to emerge on the international scene in the past decade”, Ildar Abdrazakov has established himself as one of opera’s most sought-after basses of our times. Since making his La Scala debut in 2001 at the age of 25, the Russian singer has become a mainstay at leading houses worldwide, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, WienerStaatsoper, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera. His powerful yet refined voice coupled with his compelling stage presence have prompted critics to hail him as a “sensational bass…who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse” (The Independent). Also an active concert artist, he has performed at London’s BBC Proms and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as with leading international orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic.

Ildar Abdrazakov conquers the 2020-2021 season as Filippo II in Verdi’s Don Carlo. He opens the season at the Vienna State Opera in Peter Konwitschny’s production and returns to Berlin’s Deutsche Oper before appearing in a concert version with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, with Sir John Eliot Gradiner conducting. Another highlight of the season is a new production of Boris Godunov at Opera de Monte-Carlo, where the bass performs one of his signature roles. Besides that, he appears in two operas by Charles Gounod, as Frere Laurent in Romeo et Juliette at the Metropolitan Opera and then as Mephistopheles in new production of Faust at the Paris National Opera. On the concert stage, Ildar Abdrazakov can be heard in Shostakovich’s Symphony nr. 13 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Andris Nelsons, Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with Stavanger Symphony Orchestra with Andris Poga conducting and Verdi’s Messa da Requiem with Staatskapelle Berlin under the baton of Zubin Mehta.

Words can’t express my joy and gratitude for having the opportunity to interview one of my favorite opera singers – I had to say it! Thank you so much for your generosity and for the prompt  response to all of our invitations! First of all, I am curious. When did you decide to follow a career in the world of opera? Do you  remember the moment when you truly realised that this was your path? 

As a child, of course, I listened to other music. I myself, from the age of four, sang songs from the repertoire of Muslim Magomayev, Kobzon, Leshchenko. I became interested in classics thanks to my brother Askar, who studied at the Institute of Arts and learned arias from operas at home. When I was already studying vocals, I came across a recording of the opera Attila with the great Samuel Ramey,  and he captivated me so much that I just got sick from this music and ran to his vocal teacher, Milyaushe Galeevna Murtazina, and asked: “Give me something to sing from this opera!” That’s how my career began.  And it started with Verdi’s music. 

This last year has been extremely hard for the arts and for those involved in live performances. Unfortunately you also suffered from this terrible illness that has stopped the entire world for such a  long time. Tell us your secret – what is Russia doing in order to keep the theaters opened despite everything, and what are the restrictions and the health protocol there? In your opinion, what is Europe lacking from this point of view? 

Indeed, the pandemic has changed… the world incredibly as a whole and the art world in particular. Many theatres are still closed. The government in Russia is making huge efforts and increased control so that key theaters (Bolshoi, Mariinsky, Philharmonic) can work with partial loading. This is very important because an artist without a stage and spectator loses a lot of energy. This forced stagnation will especially affect the art of ballet and sports. But it is also important for opera singers to sing and play performances. I think that in Russia the situation is such because the Sputnik vaccine was developed. This has slowed the spread of coronavirus. And although I am talking to you now from Monaco, where I am rehearsing the upcoming premiere of Boris Godunov in the opera Monte Carlo, the art world will need a lot of time and effort to restore itself to its previous level. 

Read the entire interview & many other interesting articles here, in the one year anniversary issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.

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