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Lyubov Kazarnovskaya: "I failed to bring my documents to the MSU Faculty of Journalism"

She is an opera singer, but first, she wanted to be a philologist. She studied at the Faculty of Musical Theater of the Gnessin State Musical College, then – in Conservatory. Lyubov Kazarnovskaya debuted on the stage of the Moscow Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre when she was 21. Sang solos in the leading theaters of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Is welcomed by the Metropolitan Opera, the Covent Garden, the Vienna Opera, and other world-famous stages.

The correspondent Olga Bubnova talked to Lyubov Kazarnovskaya.

What performance made you think that Lyubov Kazarnovskaya is not an upcoming novice opera singer, but the real "star" of a stage?

Interestingly enough, I have never felt like a star who wakes up and says, that from now on and forever, I am the one you have been waiting for. It has never been like that. When you work a lot, evil thoughts of stardom, bronze monuments, awards and so on, recede into the background. As for the public recognition, some response in the hearts of people, it happened practically at once.

Being a fourth-year student, I made first appearance in Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko's, I played Tatyana. My teacher Nadezhda Matveevna Malysheva-Vinogradova taught me following Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavsky's clavier, and she studied with me in depth all remarks for Tatyana, Onegin, Lensky, Olga, all relationship on stage, with great perfectionism, very carefully and attentively, therefore, in this performance which had been staged long before my debut, I felt like a duck to water, Moscow audience gave me such a warm reception. I was welcomed, and there were such great reviews from the audience that I thought that I, apparently, was becoming the leading singer of the theater.

Being in a theater made me happy, it had always been my big-big dream! They invited me to concerts, to the radio, and to the television. My name appeared in the list of interesting and promising singers. It was, of course, incredible, because in those times, I was just a young girl.

My teacher told me: "You should never make me see a real-life star in you. You have to be a good professional with a good status. In life, you should be an ordinary, normal, absolutely adequate person."

First, you wanted to study philology, but what made you finally choose the musical theater of the Gnessin College?

I wrote very good essays in school, I am a human science person, I was not fond of mathematics, physics, exact sciences. As for philology… we had philologists at home, mother, the specialist in Russian philology, told me, read the story by Pushkin and write an essay based on this story for me, for example, on "The Lady Peasant". And so I did. I said: "Mom, girls are playing hopscotch in the yard, they sit in summer houses and chat". She said to me: "Let they play, and you will write your essay."

And really, I won all high school Olympics, got such references from wonderful teachers: "She is a good writer, she should be a philologist or a journalist". And I was going to be the one.

And then after school, when I was 16, we walked along Povarskaya Street near Gnesinka with my mom. And mom says: "Oh, look, the second tour has already started in Gnesinka, don't you want to try?"

I answered her that no, I had already missed the first tour. I… didn't notice how I appeared in the middle of an incredibly big hall where the examination committee sits and says: "What do you want, girl?"

And I say: "I don't know, mother told me I should try."

"And what can you do? How old are you?"


"Oh, you are too young for the vocal faculty, we admit students older than 18, we are only starting the admission, try the course of actors of musical theater, you’ve got your posture and you are obviously a talented girl."

I read the fable "The Fox and the Crow" from the school program.

"And can you sing? "

"I can, but I haven’t brought my music sheet, I didn't expect it all. "

"And what do you sing? "

" It's not the Wind that bends the Branch…" (a Russian folk song).

"In what key note? "

"D-minor. "

Right then and there, an experienced pianist sits down, accompanies me, I sing. And they say: "There you go to the third tour!" That’s how I failed to bring my documents to the MSU Faculty of Journalism.

But journalistic skills appeared to be useful to me today. Really, the Lord knows what he does. All my today’s experience on television, on the radio, show that mother taught me not for nothing.

Then I asked my mom: "And why did you do it, why did you push me into Gnesinka?"

She answered: "Your eyes were shining, I understood that I would never forgive myself if I didn't give you a chance to try."

Because I sang for as long as I could remember, I sang at all school, kindergarten events. Everyone said: "Who will sing? Lyuba!"

And when they say: "Lyubov Yurevna, please sing something"… What will you sing? What is the first thing that comes to your mind?

It depends on a situation. But in general, I don't like it because I think that everyone expects that a singer will get up and sing what an audience wants to hear, beautifully, with no humming. Doing it beautifully, powerfully, brightly. All in all, when they ask you to sing in a company… Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko, Meyerhold fired from theater for things like that, if you begin to sing in a company, particularly boozy, they said that it doesn't correspond to the image of an actor of a serious theater. Amateurs can afford it, but not professionals.

You have just called yourself a singer, and I have often heard that you call yourself a singing actress, is it true?

Yes. I think that the theater assumes that you are, first of all, an actor. If you are Tatyana, then do a favor, be Tatyana from the first second you appear on a stage, but not a vocalist that has come on the stage and hit the note. God forbid! I hate this. If you are Traviata, you are to come as Violetta. The actor's voice of your "interior", it is much more important than those "little notes" you hit and some vocal position you show to the audience. You have to be an actor!

Today you teach students, and do you teach them both singing and feeling the music piece?

Yes, of course!

And what is more difficult – to sing something right or to teach someone else how to do it?

I think, both are very difficult tasks. It is incredibly difficult, because when you live through some image, you allow it pass through yourself. You have to give not your own feeling to the student, because they are very different in nature, both acting and vocal, all of us are different. But you are to give them the feeling of time, era, assumed circumstances; and their sound, their actor’s presentation – they should initiate them.

When mother brought me to your concert for the first time, I was 8, I did not really understand who Lyubov Kazarnovskaya was. Mother explained to me that Lyubov Kazarnovskaya is worth seeing! This is the best illustration of what you are telling now. The foreign audience, probably, saw and recognized you after your successful performance in Salzburg? What foreign tours were the most unusual and memorable?

I was invited to Salzburg by great Herbert von Karajan, he was called "the musical director of the whole world". This man was really followed by everyone and everything. And when it happened, when Karajan invited me to Salzburg, I understood that he set the highest bar for me. Carreras, Agnes Baltsa, Samuel Remy – the top singers were my partners.

When I received tremendous comments and tremendous criticism, and the "start in life" from the greatest – I got the invitation to all well-known theaters, and got contracts. But there were also theaters, which, maybe, are not so very famous, but they gave me an incredible experience. For example, there was Salome, I worked on it with great Julia Taylor. Julia – she is an outstanding woman, with an astonishing taste. She worked with me because she is a theater and cinema director. She sat next to me, just like you are sitting now. I’m singing some song, and she says: "Sit down, let’s work together on meanings, on intonation". She was looking at me like this and said: "No."

"No what? "

"Eyes left aside for some reason."

"Who cares about the eyes? Nobody will see them from a 20-meter distance."

"No, Lyuba, it is very important for your internal state."

When we speak about world classical music, we mean mainly Europe. Did you go on tour to BRICS countries: China or India?

Yes. I not only performed in China, I also gave a number of master classes in different conservatories. I remember one of them, it is the conservatory of the city of Chengdu, 10 thousand people study there. Vocal faculty – 2 thousand. When the rector told me: "Madam Kazarnovskaya, vocal faculty wants to be on your master class."

"How many of them?"

"Two thousand!"

"How do you imagine it, I need to spend 2 months on your master class."

"No, no, you choose the ones you want to work with. And the others will sit."

And there they sat, with claviers of those arias on which I worked with other singers, and they devoured every word. I love this audience very much, I like performing for them, they are very serious. Even those who aren't so familiar with classical music, they show fantastic respect, they know everything about the performer and the composer, they come to you and ask interesting questions. It is a very prepared audience, disciplined in some oriental way, and I liked working with this audience very much.

And Africa?

I have never performed in Africa. It would be, I guess, entertaining and interesting because the art of Africa, their songs, their ritual dances, that absolutely fantastic, special face of the African continent, it would be very interesting to me. I missed the deadlines of my tours to South Africa twice. I would like to go to South Africa very much.

And what are your short-term plans, maybe, new projects, tours, trips, interesting duets?

There are a lot of plans, I don't like to speak about them, but the nearest plans I can say about are the following: my new book is just out, fresh, still hot. The book is called "Opera Secrets" – this is my second book, the first is called "Love Changes Everything".

In the second book, I slightly open the opera secrets. The experience given to me by opera roles and parties, composers, partners, habitats of composers, inner workings, lives, etc., a wide range of opera secrets.

And then there will be quite a big project which we have just begun. There is Vyatka village in the Yaroslavl Oblast, it hosts my festival "The Province — Soul of Russia". You get to Russia of the 19th century, to the places where Nekrasov lived.

We have just signed the contract on twinning with two communes, French and Italian. We have big programs for tourism, cultural exchange and youth projects, joint movies. And by the way, you are just in time asking about BRICS, we are going to sign contracts between Vyatka and the most beautiful places of China, Vietnam and Japan.