Alexander Gelakh is a rising star of the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre. Not long ago, he demonstrated the depth of his talent at the theatre’s premiere of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.
It would have been a challenge for even the most experienced singer but Alexander performed Beppo perfectly. Children’s works and classical plays are also in his repertoire; The Bat, Yunona and Avos, and Aladdin and His Magic Lamp. His senior colleagues feel sure of his bright future.
Alexander, how would you advise young artistes on gaining attention?
Truly, I have no idea. In my case, it was probably the alignment of the stars.
Certain prerequisites exist for a successful career. Do you come from a musical family?
I don’t, although my father and both grandfathers were amateur musicians, playing the harmonica in clubs. None had a professional education. Nevertheless, I’ve definitely ‘inherited’ my sense of rhythm and musical ear from them. I was keen on singing even in early childhood. At kindergarten, I could hardly fall asleep during the day as I was always singing — disturbing other children. It was a challenge to calm me. Logically, my mother was invited to take me to a musical studio, where I could study singing. At the age of five, I began attending the Centre of Children’s Art, in my native Kobrin. I even toured with concerts.
Is Kobrin a musical town?
Certainly. It has raised many talented young people — including singers.
When did you decide to ‘conquer’ the capital?
That was another turn of Fate. After graduating from the musical school and from Brest’s Musical College (where I studied the button accordion), I was eager to continue my education. I decided to move to Minsk, entering the Belarusian State Music Academy’s Preparatory Department with ease. I didn’t want to be dependent on my parents and needed pocket money, so I began working at a shop near our hostel. I was invited to take part in an audition at the Musical Theatre and had nothing to lose, so I dared. The chief choirmaster, Svetlana Petrova, heard me, alongside Alexey Isaev — the Artistic Head at the time. As a result, they took me on part-time in the choir for the next three years. This was the beginning of my ‘affair’ with musical theatre.
Do all choir members secretly wish to launch an independent vocal career? Or are some content that choir singing is their vocation?
I believe that choir singing is a vocation; I’ve met people who adore it. Meanwhile, I’ve always loved singing alone, taking responsibility for my own mistakes, rather than others’. Moreover, I feel freer artistically, avoiding the restrictions of particular frameworks. I can sing as God guides me.
How were the rehearsals for Pagliacci? Is Ruggero Leoncavallo ‘your’ composer?
My part isn’t complicated, being simple for audiences to understand. However, it was a challenge for me to find the best way to perform the role; I’m still pondering this. The opera involves much acting so I have to work hard in every sense; I’m just 24 so I still have time to polish my mastery.
Do modern musical theatre artistes need acting talent?
I think modern artistes must possess a range of qualities, to satisfy the demands of directors and audiences. Naturally, acting talent is welcome, since musical plays combine drama with singing. It’s important not only to sing from the score, but to interpret the role in a way that creates empathy. To achieve this, you need more than a perfect musical ear.
Do you have your own favourite classical operetta role?
Alfred, from ‘The Bat’; it’s a great role for any artiste. I’m happy to sing it.
Are you anxious when singing along-‑side stars from the Musical Theatre?
On the contrary: I feel at ease. I know that I can rely on my older colleagues, who’ll help me anytime. They are experienced artistes and would help if I made a mistake.
Is there much rivalry among Musical Theatre artistes?
I have no sense of this: I’m simply doing my job.
How do you feel about children’s performances and your role of Aladdin?
Each role is complicated in its own way. ‘Aladdin and His Magic Lamp’ is good ‘training’ for me, as children never pretend to enjoy themselves.
Do you dream of singing in another opera, after Pagliacci?
I need to grow into the operatic genre and have made no plans regarding my future career.
The Musical Theatre also premiered Imre Kalman’s Mister X operetta recently…
I performed the role of Tony.
Was it a ‘traditional’ telling? It was your second role directed by Anna Motorina — who staged Pagliacci…
Ms. Motorina explains her desires clearly, making it easy for her actors to follow what’s required. Of course, something might not be fully achieved immediately but we know the ultimate goal. Sadly, I haven’t seen any previous version of this operetta (which has been staged by the Theatre in the past); the present ‘Mister X’ is quite a ‘traditional’ performance, in my view.
Should classical operettas be given a contemporary interpretation?
I’m probably being seditious but I prefer original interpretations, to avoid losing the author’s style and intention. Classical operetta is the highest in taste, with no need for alteration through a director’s wild fantasies or a fusion of genres. We simply need to follow the author’s thoughts.
Actors dream of playing Hamlet, Chatsky and Treplev; what do tenor singers dream of?
Probably, playing Vodemon, in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Iolanthe’. However, this role is for a dramatic tenor, so I need to grow into it. Lensky, from ‘Eugene Onegin’, is also a very beautiful role.
Does this mean that Alexander Gelakh admires theatrical traditions and classics?
Yes, and I’m proud of it.
By Valentin Pepelyayev
Follows tradition while being young
[b]Alexander Gelakh is a rising star of the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre. Not long ago, he demonstrated the depth of his talent at the theatre’s premiere of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. [/b]It would have been a challenge for even the most experienced singer but Alexander performed Beppo perfectly. Children’s works and classical plays are also in his repertoire; The Bat, Yunona and Avos, and Aladdin and His Magic Lamp. His senior colleagues feel sure of his bright future.