Vincenzo Villani interviews the Russian bass Grigory Soloviov

July 2012

We are in Ischia, in this hot month of July, in one of the most beautiful places on the island, Forio. We're sitting at the little table surrounded by greenery of this splendid garden of one of the most prestigious hotels in the center of the town, interviewing the bass of the Russian origin, Grigory Soloviov.

Q. Is it the first time you find yourself on this wonderful island? What motivated you to spend your vacation here?

A. I already visited Forio d'Ischia five years ago, in July of 2007, to perform the role of Colline in Puccini's La Boheme, and to take part in various concerts that Opera Ischia Festival organized on this island. I've had such beautiful memories of this place, that I decided to return here this year.

Q. How did you discover this splendid and powerful bass voice? What is your professional background? Do you have any other singers or musicians in your family?

A. I have neither singers nor musicians in my family. At the age of 13 I became interested in the rock music of different styles, I was listening to the Beatles, Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin. I also started to learn how to play electric guitar and to play in a rock band. Later, when I was 16 and as my voice matured, I decided to study voice to become a rock singer, but at the very first lesson I found out that my voice can go very low, and I was told that I had a bass voice. Having heard the recording of Boris Christoff, I fell in love with the opera genre. I continued to master my singing skills and prepared myself to enter Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory. In 2007 I graduated from the Conservatory with degrees in Opera Singing and Voice Teaching. I graduated with the highest marks and Cum Laude. Prior to this, in 2002, I had graduated from the Moscow State Pedagogical University, having acquired the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication.

Q. For how long have you been singing professionally and in which major theaters have you sung so far?

A. My official career started in 2006, when I debuted at New Opera Festival di Roma, in the roles of Colline in G. Puccini's La Boheme, Sparafucile in G. Verdi's Rigoletto and Sarastro in W.A. Mozart's The Magic Flute. I have sung in many fine theaters throughout the world, among which are Metropolitan Opera in New York, Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Opéra de Lyon, Teatro La Fenice in Venice ....

Q. Where do you actually live? Do you miss your country and your family?

A. Although I reside in Washington, I continuously travel for work. Of course I feel nostalgic about Moscow, my native town; I miss it so much that I get back to Russia twice a year.

Q. What is your favorite Russian dish? And, after having tasted all the specialties of our typical Mediterranean cuisine, what dish did you appreciate most of all?

A. My favorite Russian dish is Borsh. This is a very rich soup, based on beetroots; it is very well adapted to our winter temperatures which can reach - 25° C. I go to Italy at least once a year and in Ischia I've had a chance to try some local specialties, but I've particularly enjoyed the Ischia-style stewed rabbit with bucatini.

Q. Getting back to your career – you have debuted in many different roles. Which are the characters that you have performed and have in your repertoire?

A. I have debuted in the roles of Don Basilio in Barbiere di Siviglia by G. Rossini at Washington National Opera, Sparafucile in Rigoletto by G. Verdi at Palm Beach Opera (the role that I have also sung in Beijing with Plácido Domingo as Rigoletto), Colline in La Boheme by G. Puccini with the Philadelphia Orchestra and many others.

Q. Of all the theaters you have sung at, which are the ones that you especially liked and where you would definitely return to sing? And why?

A. It has always been my dream to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, and I was able to fulfill it in 2010. I would absolutely go back to sing there – I was really impressed by the professionalism of all the people that I have had a pleasure to work with. Another theater that is very close to my heart is Opéra de Monte Carlo, for its beautiful productions and the beauty of the place itself. And of course, I would like to specially mention Washington National Opera, where I participated in the Young Artist Program under the leadership of Plácido Domingo. Thanks to the program I grew artistically, made a lot of friends, and had a wonderful time.

Q. After Ischia vacation, what artistic engagements await you? In which theater will you perform?

A. This September I will perform the role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute by W.A.Mozart at the Chicago Opera Theater.

Q. Do you have an example to follow among singers, who inspires you, and who you would like to learn from to master your singing technique?

A. Yes, particularly the great Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, who was married to bravissima Mirella Freni.

Q. As a last question I give you carte blanche. Tell me about the things that you would personally like to cover in this interview; please speak freely on any subject you like.

A. I am going to tell you about what I do when I'm not singing. To keep myself in good shape I do athletics, given the importance of the physical image in this field. Besides, I love to travel, read and spend time with my friends and family, but I also dedicate a lot of time to my other professional activity. Not so long ago I became a co-founder of a Public Relations company. As a young singer in an art form where severe competition is the norm, I quickly realized the rising importance of self-marketing. An opera critic who I had come to know well, Steven David, and who has a background in Market Research, shared the same ideas and suggested we join forces in partnership. From different perspectives, we both appreciated the critical difference media coverage could hold for talented artists with great potential. I found the idea very interesting and well timed, and thus Federal Arts Public Relations came into focus; I very much enjoy the company's growth. These days we represent a number of important names not only in the field of opera, but also in other art forms.

Q. I forgot to ask you about the website address, where your fans could follow your professional life.

A. My website is: www.grigorysoloviov.com