The Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus held the Minsk International Christmas Opera Forum for the sixth time

Final chord

According to tradition, the Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus held the Minsk International Christmas Opera Forum for the sixth time. The forum is known as both the theatre`s calling card, and the cultural brand of the country. This culmination of the theatrical year also saw the second annual vocal competition.

These competitions for young performers are an obligatory part of the image of large theatrical companies. Dozens of international contests, held annually, have one aim: to find new names and to help young and talented performers to master new stages, and to make creative progress. Many contestants are invited to sing in the most prestigious theatres and cultural spaces in the world, including the Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus — a member of the Opera Europa Association.

Winner of the Singing Competition Nadezhda Pavlova (Russia)
At the gala concert of the finalists of the 2nd Minsk International Christmas Singing Competition, the spectators heard the voices of young artistes from Russia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Ukraine and, of course, Belarus. The judges had to admit it was a difficult task to choose the very best, ultimately Nadezhda Pavlova (Russia) won the Grand Prix, while Mikhail Malafiy (Ukraine) won the 1st prize, Victor Mendelev (Belarus) came 2nd and Yelena Stikhina (Russia) was awarded 3rd.

The selection of finalists was held over three stages. During the first round, contestants, accompanied by piano, performed one of the arias from a repertoire chosen by the organisers. During the second round, the participants appeared on the stage and performed two arias from operas by Russian or Belarusian and European composers. The third round included a performance by the finalists in scenes with various stars of world opera accompanied by the symphonic orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre.

The international panel of judges was headed by Vladimir Gridyushko, the Director General of the Bolshoi Theatre. The jury was filled with new names such as the Director of the Opéra de Rennes and President of the Professional Chamber of Directors of Opera Theatres Alain Surrans. For the first time, the future stars of world opera were judged by Christoph Meyer, the Director General of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and also the director of the Opera Europe Association Nicholas Payne and Rector of the Belarusian Academy of Music, Yekaterina Dulova. They quickly found a common language with the more experienced judges and paid particular attention first of all, to vocal and professional skill as well as performance. Modern opera is not static, as it was in the past, and the ability of performers to hold the stage is important in dramatic theatre.

The spectators were almost unanimous in their appreciation for the contestants and voted enthusiastically for those they wanted to receive the People’s Choice Award. To a storm of applause, the awards went to Nadezhda Pavlova and Mikhail Malafiy. It was clear that the public were pleased with the news: in the near future, the young artistes will perform in one of the performances of the Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus, and Victor Mendelev — in the Montreal Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20. The Director General and Artistic Director of Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20 (Canada) Alain Nonat presented the special prize to the Belarusian tenor. Michail Malafiy became the holder of the special award at the international contest of vocalists in the French city of Marmande, and the Art Director of the Nuits Lyriques en Marmandais (Lyrical Nights in Marmande) music festival, Philippe Mestres presented the award to the tenor.

Venera Gimadieva, laureate of international contests and soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia, performed the part of Marfa Sobakina. On the right: Stanislav Trifinov — the Honoured Artist of Belarus — as Gryaznov

The Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus once again gave people an unforgettable week of opera. The heart of the programme was made up of main performances staged in the theatre over the last year: ‘The Tsar’s Bride’ and ‘Carmen’ (with invited guests), opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ and the concert of young performers ‘Italian Passion’ (La canzone italiana), featuring Belarusian stars — Maria Shabunya, Yuri Gorodetsky, Ilya Silchukov and Alexander Roslavets.

Venera Gimadieva, laureate of the international contests and soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia performed the part of Marfa Sobakina in ‘The Tsar’s Bride’. The critics variously describe her voice as having a ‘brightness and deep timbre, sparkling and soaring, with a transparency of top register with no hint of sharpness, with a warmth and velvety tone to the bottom notes’.

Yekaterina Shcherbachenko, also a laureate of the international contests and soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia, won over the audience with Tatiana’s part in the opera ‘Eugene Onegin’, which she herself regards as her signature role. In 2015, she received the Maria Callas award for the best debut in the prestigious Dallas Opera, performing the part of Iolanthe. The appearance on stage of Anzhelina Shvachka, the People’s Artiste of Ukraine and prima donna of the National opera, who is considered one of the best performers of Carmen in the world, caused a storm of applause. Though the artiste has travelled halfway around the world, she has never performed before the Belarusian public. In an interview with the magazine Parterre, she described the Belarusian audience as welcoming and sincere. They undoubtedly also have an appreciation and understanding of music.

Anzhelina Shvachka, the People’s Artist of Ukraine, is considered one of the best performers
of Carmen in the world

The festival concluded with a magnificent Final Gala concert. On January 13th and 14th, the Bolshoi Theatre hosted a grand ball, leaving guests with an unforgettable impression of the rustling of magnificent ladies` dresses styled in the fashion of past centuries, cheerful laughter, the clatter of glasses, amusing conversation, beautiful music and dances from the waltz to the polonaise.

As well as the Christmas festival, a grand cultural project by the Bolshoi Theatre has already become a tradition. Many of the townspeople can’t imagine the first month of the year without this grandiose holiday with ladies in evening dresses and hooped skirts, men in elegant suits, tuxedos and tailcoats. This year’s New Year ball followed the theme of Ancient Greece: it saw visitors welcomed by charming muses and, of course, the golden-haired Apollo, god of light and patron of the arts.

Chief choirmaster of the Bolshoi Theatre Nina Lomanovich:

“I serve the theatre. The specificity of my profession doesn’t allow to come in the evening, to get everything out of my head and to start doing household chores not thinking what expects you tomorrow at the theatre. No! After the performance I analyze what succeeded and what, maybe, went wrong, think over the work plan for tomorrow, which means what not to forget to say at the rehearsal. You can’t escape from it — such a profession.”

Yekaterina Shcherbachenko — soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia, laureate of international contests — in the opera ‘Eugene Onegin’:

“Tatiana’s part is my talisman. Wherever I sing the area from it, it always gets the positive reaction of the listeners.”

By Valentina Zhdanovich

Photo: Mikhail Nesterov
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