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Conquering opera peaks

Soloists of Astana Opera theatre are successfully performing on both home and foreign stages.
courtesy of the theater’s press service
Kazpravda.kz correspondent talked to the theater prima Saltanat Akhmetova.

- At what age did you realize that singing is your cup of tea?

- I always sang: from childhood I knew what I would do; I went to a vocal studio, and then to a music college. In many ways I owe it to my first teacher Zhakyp Kushkembaev. I went to music school at the age of 14 years, when such a school was usually started at the 17, the end of body maturing, but he fearlessly took up teaching me in my fragile age, for which I am immensely grateful to him. Lots of examples are known, when because of inept teachers their students never became singers. Zhakyp Muhamadievich advised me to go to the classes of People's Artist of Kazakhstan professor Horlan Kalilambekova. He was training me for it and personally talked to Horlan Kalilambekova. I will always be grateful to my teachers.

- As a rule, singing runs in the family. Are there other singers in your family?

- There are no singers in our family, but my mother had been dreaming of doing music since childhood, but their large family of five children couldn’t afford it. Instead, she sent my younger sister and me to a music school in piano. As my teachers said back then, my voice was already mature.

How often do your next-of-kin, your mother visit your concerts?

- My family live in Kokshetau and my mama attends my performances as often as she can.

When did you start singing at the Astana Opera theater?

- In 2013, first as a trainee soloist, and a year later after audition I became a leading soloist of the theater.

Do rehearsals take a long time?

- I cannot say I rehearse fanatically. Usually, I go to the class, then at home look over the score, practice in uttering out the lyrics and pronunciation of the words.

Are there dietary restrictions or musts for opera singers? Does it take long to restore the voice?

- Of course, there are, but it’s all individual. For example, I would never, for the life of me, go to a swimming pool in winter. Ice cream or husking sunflower seeds is surely out of the question. And to restore the voice takes a rest of voice and a good sleep.

In what theater premieres do you perform this year?

- These are Kyz Zhibek and Magic Flute operas .

Saltanat Akhmetova as Musetta in La Boheme opera

What do you think needs be done to make people more appreciative of opera and ballet? Not so many people understand these arts?

-Right you are, for centuries opera and ballet were mostly available to high societies alone and theaters existed at the kings’ courts or in rich people’s homes. But I think that love for them can and must be cultivated, and that is where the role of media is immense. What we need, is interesting productions that will attract people. Love for music should be nurtured from early childhood. I like the policy of our theater in this respect: we have a children's music studio, where children are taught and perform in concerts. And there are many children's productions in the theater too.

And how do you feel about the trend of late to rehash the classic works, to dress them up in a modern garb? How is this trend reflected in the opera?

- This trend is traceable in Europe. They can make any classical work a modern piece. The main thing is to make it beautiful and not hackneyed. As for our country, it is too early for us to modernize anything, as we need to hone the staging of classical performances first.

What did you gain by participation in the Russian television project Grand Opera?

- To me it has been a good experience, stressful at the same time. It is good by the way, when people who have never been to a theater or opera performance, and then after watching on TV this project, do not pass by the posters next time, but are willing to buy a ticket and come to the theater. It is a good way to popularize opera.


What other television projects did you participate in?

- While studying in college, I was in the SuperStar KZ casting. My friend, a pianist actually made go to the casting on the last day of auditions. In the end, I passed the selection and reached its semifinal.

How do you feel about the popularity?

- I try not to think about it. I like this popular saying “The bigger a man, the smaller he is” Attraction of the people, who achieved something, is just in not showing to everyone that they are exceptional, in not blowing their trumpet, but continuing to polish their skills.

What is your Kazakhstan dream and what is your idea of patriotism?

- To me, patriotism, first and foremost, is the ability to show Kazakhstan to the world, to make them see that we are a modern state, able to compete with other nations, and have enough to offer to the world.

Are you active on social networks?

- I am in them, but do not “live” in them. As a rule, I view something concerning my work, or e-mails, nothing more.

How long is an opera singer’s life on stage?

- It's all very individual, some singers can remain on stage into a very old age. Opera singer’s stage time, though, is shorter than that of pop singer. They can use voice correcting technique, and we do not have such an opportunity.

Were there any offers from pop music producers?

- I have no experience of pop singing. But I would gladly consider such an offer and try myself in rock or soul music.

And do you sing at karaoke?

- Very seldom, and usually flying into the wrong key (laughing). I sing something from the repertoire of Adam Lambert.

What are your hobbies, interests?

- Oh, there’s a joyous event in my life: I bought a car recently, and became a qualified driver. And my main hobby at the moment is driving. I want a good practice in it. Last year, I took sewing classes, bought a mannequin and a sewing machine. Also I love languages, and want to learn French or Korean. I have fairly good English and Italian already.

Do you belong to the category of strong women?

- Rather yes than no.

Jania Urankaeva
22:51,4 February 2016


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