The outstanding singer Khibla Gerzmava has a unique voice. She conquered the best stages of the world and at the same time for almost thirty years stays true to her home – the Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Quite recently, the First Competition of vocalists and accompanists of Khibla Gerzmava took place, which became a landmark cultural event. And for me, it is a great joy to meet my favorite singer again!
Hibla, I always admire your irrepressible energy. With your colossal creative demand, you also came up with your own music competition. I can’t imagine how you get enough. Where do you get your strength from?
And what, Vadik, is strength for a creative person? When you do what you love and do what you feel confident in, the Lord gives you strength for this – just as much as you can bear.
When did you realize it?
I realized this after the death of my mother: a lot of trials fell to my lot then.
You were still incredibly young.
I was 17 years old, and I was going to enter the Moscow Conservatory. Mom really wanted me to connect my life with music. It is so important when they believe in you! This is what I have carried through my whole life and carried out in my competition, which will be held once every two years. The opera jury included agents and directors of theaters and concert halls. The jury of concertmasters united two Pleiades – the Moscow and St. Petersburg schools. Our program was different from all competitions.
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It was woven from different music: an obligatory Mozart aria, arias of different centuries and styles, an operetta, a folk song, a duet, and all this took place on the opera stage of my native theater! I am happy that the Presidential Fund for Cultural Initiatives believed in us and gave us the opportunity to make the competition at the highest level. We have a genuinely nice prize. This is an amazing art object – not a figurine, a flying note, a living flying note. We paid for all the contestants’ travel and accommodation.
There is a lot of creative energy in our participants, young people. There are many excellent singers who seem to be already engaged in the profession, but they do not have a main career. After all, it is important that at some point they help you and believe in you. I always knew that a creative person needs encouragement, needs the right upbringing and teacher, the right educational institutions, the right competitions, and the right concert halls and opera houses. This is all the way, especially important and difficult. After all, it is important that at some point they help you and believe in you. I always knew that a creative person needs encouragement, needs the right upbringing and teacher, the right educational institutions, the right competitions, and the right concert halls and opera houses. This is all the way, very important and difficult.
After all, it is important that at some point they help you and believe in you. I always knew that a creative person needs encouragement, needs the right upbringing and teacher, the right educational institutions, the right competitions, the right concert halls and opera houses. This is all the way, especially important and difficult.
In this sense, everything happened quite quickly for you. You studied at the Moscow Conservatory with excellent teachers – Irina Maslennikova and Evgenia Arefieva, they loved you, and believed in your talent. While still a student, you were expected to triumph at the International Tchaikovsky Competition – the Grand Prix and this highest prize was awarded for the first time in the history of the competition. You ended up at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater – and immediately there was a colossal creative interest in you from the head of the opera troupe Alexander Titel.
Behind all this is the enormous work of those people who guided me on this path, and my enormous work, because it is important that a person works and serves the music.
Is this efficiency that you are talking about in your blood, also from childhood?
Perfectionism, yes. I have been like this since childhood, since school. This is when you try to be an excellent student in everything. Sometimes it even gets in the way, sometimes you need to let it go a little, but it’s difficult to do this, because you were brought up like that, in such a family. It was all in the right direction, so to speak.
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You can talk as much as you like so that you can let go of yourself a little – you definitely won’t succeed. So, the results are like this.
I really don’t want to let anything go. It’s like that horse: if you don’t guide him, he can run away in the other direction. You need to know what is important to you, to know where you are going if you have a specific task. Then you can distribute this perfectionism, and your strengths, and a sense of duty, and honesty before the profession. Ambition and honesty in the profession are the main components of an opera singer. I am happy that I studied in Moscow, at the conservatory. I am happy and proud that I am a Russian opera singer, that I am a People’s Artist of Russia, and a laureate of the State Prize of my country.
You are a happy person also because you realized early where you were going, in which direction and who you want to be. Although I know that as a child you dreamed of becoming an organist – even at the conservatory, in parallel with the vocal faculty, you studied at the organ faculty for two years.
The pianistic past helps a lot in my current singing life.
How does it help?
First, the singer begins to hear differently. It seems to me that you still need to be able to play some instruments, at least the piano. And listen to music, not only vocal, but also symphonic and piano. I grew up in Pitsunda next to the temple, where there is a beautiful organ that was specially built for this temple. And what amazing music sounded there – organ, symphonic and vocal! And for 21 years now, the Abkhazian-born festival “Khibla Gerzmava invites …” has its own bright musical history. It seems to me that the singer should be brought up on different music, it forms the taste and style.
You yourself play different music. For example, your jazz concerts are no less luxurious than opera stories.
My career is developing in such a way that I sang the main parts in the first theaters of the world: in Covent Garden, La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the Bavarian Opera, the Vienna Opera. I am happy that I can serve both at the Mariinsky Theater when Valery Abisalovich Gergiev invites me, and at the Bolshoi Theater when Vladimir Georgievich Urin calls. The Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater has been my home since 1995, from which I would never leave. That is why I came up with the contest: for an artist, the origins and everything connected with his formation are so important.
I agree with you, especially since for many years I hosted the program “Who is there …” on the Kultura channel, just about beginners, about young talents.
Yes, I, unfortunately, did not get into your program, it did not work out for you and me. (Smiling.)
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It’s because you became a star very quickly. But later you starred in our program “2 Vernik 2” with Igor. And how the audience loves you! Your performances and concerts are always sold out.
I can say that I am spoiled by the fact that I always have full halls. And I bow low to my viewers. They come with flowers, gifts, they applaud, they like what I do – and this is happiness. At some point, especially after 50, you especially begin to appreciate it.
Listen, are you talking about your age so easily?
I calmly speak about age. You know, I’m proud that I look great at 53.
I can confirm it!
I’m fine, pah-pah-pah, I sound. I hope that my voice will be fresh for a long time because I have a purity of timbre and an excellent vocal school.
You once told me that when your son was born, your voice became softer and more lyrical. Does it really have that effect?
Some other notes appeared in my voice, the timbre became richer, more round, more refined. Your whole body sings – I fully felt it just after the birth of a child. But it’s very individual, it’s different for everyone.
It turns out that after the birth of your son, you began to get to know yourself, with your voice again?
Maybe yes. The repertoire has changed a bit. A woman becomes softer, more feminine, her eyes are different, the feeling of the world and music is different.
You returned to the stage very quickly. This is also perfectionism: your son is 4 months old, and you are already on stage!
No, this is ambition, this is purity in work and profession. First you need to see how the voice feels. If you are restored, then you can slowly start singing. We are now talking about Sandrik, and I wanted a chocolate bar. (Smiling.)
The son, when he was little, sang in the children’s choir of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater, but did not become a musician.
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This is one part of raising a child when he listens to music at home and is brought up with good music. We have a wonderful children’s choir in the theater. Children sing in our performances in different languages. This is also education. I was glad: my son is next to me and performs in performances. He was so wonderful in “La Bohème” – in a cap, a real Gavroche! We called him Znayka because he was wearing such small round glasses and a cap. We had an amazing production of La bohème, which I consider to be one of the best in the world. And for me, this performance is historical, because I came to the Stanislavsky Theater precisely to the production of La Boheme. And then I was immediately invited to the Mariinsky Theater to sing in the opera Ruslan and Lyudmila.
Great. Here is the song: he sang in the choir, participated in performances, but did not get sick with music …
Sandrik is very musical, he sings beautifully. He did not become a professional musician, but he is still engaged in the theatrical business. He is 24 years old and is studying art business management and stage design.
Well, in the future you may develop a creative tandem.
He has an emphasis on drama theater, but the main thing is that he turned out to be a theatrical child (smiles), which I am very happy about.
And I’m glad that when we talk about your son, you eat chocolate.
Yes, because my child is sweet. He is very stylish, and elegant, and most importantly – he has a masculine core. I believe that boys should be brought up in this way, with a rod. A man must be a man. He must be strong, respect elders, and adore women, children, and old people. He is a Universal person, but we do not give birth to ourselves, it is at some point they are nearby, and then they are Universal people. We give birth to them for the Universe. They are free.
What a wise mother! I want to ask about the Bolshoi Theater. Each of your performances at the Bolshoi is an event. But when you were called to the troupe, you refused. Was it not tempting to become the prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre?
It seems to me that the time of prima donnas was when Elena Obraztsova sang, Irina Arkhipova, Galina Vishnevskaya, Makvala Kasrashvili, when there were Atlantov, Sotkilava, Nesterenko – this is the famous galaxy of singers we followed, we were small, for us they were great names . I was invited several times to the Bolshoi Theatre. Maybe, at the very beginning of my journey, I made a mistake when I refused the Bolshoi Theater. It seemed to me that since they brought me to the Stanislavsky Theater and I had already begun to grow up here, it was unfair to leave here. And I understand that I did the right thing. You can sing in different theaters, but you always have to return home. I am happy to come to visit when I am called to the Bolshoy to sing and teach in the Youth Program.
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“Khibla” in translation from the Abkhaz – “golden eyes”. Does it mean anything to you?
I believe that the name given to a person is his energy. I am very grateful to my parents for naming me Khibla. This is a strong name. Khibla Gerzmava is a combination of first and last name…
… and “Gerzmava” is a “wolf”.
Do you have something wolf in you?
Maybe there is. What is a wolf, she-wolf? This is a family heart, strength, this is the ability to lead, right?
Yes. Still a stern disposition.
And harshness. Yes, I have it all.
At the same time, in addition to the “wolf”, you have a sea of \u200b\u200bcharm. Such soft power. And on stage – incredible amplitude! Many of your heroines live through tragedies. Passions rage, tear to shreds, and suddenly such subtle lyrics appear, as, for example, in Medea. How much energy each of your parties requires? And you are still a steadfast tin soldier: no matter what happens, no matter how you feel, you always go on stage.
I very rarely cancel something, and if I cancel it, it means I really got seriously ill.
How do you spend the day before a performance?
Both before the performance and before the concert, the voice must rest. This is silence and stillness. I sit with the clavier, repeat the text, and watch the whole fabric of the play, not just my part. I must repeat the parts of my partners, and watch the orchestration when I enter … This is such a separate musical life before the performance. I sing very early, I always want my voice to sound and not be dry – saline solution comes to our aid, which makes it possible to slightly moisten our voice. Of course, they paint me, I comb my hair because the singer must be very beautiful on stage. I always arrive three hours before the start, prepare special decorations, check my dresses and shoes. You definitely need to walk around the stage in advance, even if it is not ready yet – this is how you tune in to the performance, there is a feeling of freedom.
And the next day – already the usual rhythm?
Sometimes, after Medea or other very difficult performances, you need to rest a little longer, but there are so many things to do that you get up and go. You have to learn something new all the time. We are always pupils and pupils. As one day my friend, not a musician, joked that everything will always be fine with my head and brains because I am constantly learning something – new parts, romances …
Is it true that you do yoga?
Not now, but I breathe yoga exercises. And before, yes, I was very seriously engaged in yoga. I had a teacher, I came to do gymnastics, for me, it was instead of fitness.
So, you said that it is important for you what kind of jewelry and jewelry you are wearing on stage. What do you prefer in life?
I always dress casually, elegant but amazingly simple. I love jewelry, I have jewelry for the stage, and I have jewelry for life. They are necessarily different for each individual case: to go out, to the theater, to a rehearsal. We, women, want to look beautiful, and if something glitters, it is incredibly beautiful. It’s always nice when it’s natural stones.
I come to a rehearsal, and on my little finger, I have an elegant ring or something beautiful in my ears.
“I’m only friends with men” – your phrase uttered a few years ago. Has anything changed in this regard?
I have two friends who have been with me since childhood, and so, in principle, only men’s friends – it happened. I guess I trust them more. As a child, we had such boyish company. They took me in, guarded, guarded. It was very touching, really.
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Why did the guys treat you like that?
I don’t know, maybe because I know how to make friends. In friendship, you must not only love yourself but also the person with whom you are friends. It is the same with music: I love the music in myself, not myself in the music. And I understood this a long time ago.
From your student days?
I think even from school. I just realized that first I love music, and then myself. I always thought it was right.
And the music loves you back. Are there any unknown horizons that you want to get closer to?
I need to make a new camera program. Now we are preparing it with Katya Ganelina, an excellent pianist, my accompanist, with whom we have been together on stage for 30 years. Then I need to prepare Aida, Elvira from Hernani, and Adriana Lecouvreur – these are the three canvases I am preparing. And in autumn, traditionally, I invite my audience and those who love theater and music to the Mariinsky Theater for the Onegin Prize.
Hibla, dear, I’m glad we’re talking. We have been friends for so many years, and I am constantly discovering a new Khibla Gerzmava for myself. And may it always be so!