Eteri Gvazava is a soprano from Siberia who had a spectacular rise to international fame in the last three years of the twentieth century.
She is half Russian and, from her father's side, half Georgian. The half that derives from that small republic in the Caucasian Mountains is, she says, the part of her that is "warmer, and more passionate, like Italians."
As her musical interest and talents became evident, she studied at theRead more Conservatory of Novosibirsk, which was an overnight train ride from her hometown of Omsk. Her teacher was Nina Lubyanovskaya, considered by Eteri as her "real master, like a mother for us singers, available at any hour."
After graduating from the Conservatory in 1995, she pursued further studies at the Musikhochschule in Karlsruhe, Germany, with Maria Venuti. She also intensively studied the German language and formed friendships. One friend pianist and accompanist Peter Nelson, suggested Eteri was ready for participation in international competitions. She entered the "Neue Stimmen" ("New Voices") Competition put on by Bertelsmann, the major record and book publishing concern, winning first prize with the famous aria "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì" from Puccini's La Bohème.
In 1997, she unexpectedly received a phone call from an agent offering to represent her. Behind the scenes, pianist Charles Spencer, an acclaimed accompanist, had noticed her talents. Spencer, who regularly worked with major singers such as Christa Ludwig and Gundulka Janowitz, had been watching Gvazena's career since before the competition, and suggested her to producer Giorgio Strehler.
Stehler was working on an unusual project: To organize, from scratch, a company of singers for his own Piccolo Teatro to perform Mozart's Così fan tutte. He desired unknown singers of freshness, time to devote four full months to coaching and rehearsals in the part, and possessing the physical attractiveness implied in Mozart's story of two pairs of young lovers.
Gvazava auditioned for the part, but thought it went poorly-she was ill that day. However, Carlo de Incontrera, who attended the audition in Berlin, thought the voice was exciting and expressive and realized the problems were due to illness. He gave her a second chance, then accepted her as "a perfect Fiordiligi."
Rehearsals began in December 1997. Strehler died on Christmas Day. Nevertheless, the show went on. It was booked at the Nuovo Piccolo Teatro of Milan and ran for forty-three performances, a remarkable record for an opera. It was broadcast by Italian television, then elsewhere in Europe and in Japan.
Gvazava next acquired a position at the opera theater of Bielefeld, in northern Germany. Here she would learn the routine of a repertory company and learn new operas. Though the end of 2000, she sang Tatyana (Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin), Liù (Puccini's Turandot), Micaëla (Bizet's Carmen), Gretel (Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel), Donna Elvira (Mozart's Don Giovanni), and the title role in Dvorak's Rusalka.
Meanwhile, another producer with a big idea became interested in Gvazava. Andrea Andermann, who had produced the international hit television production "Tosca, in the times and places of Tosca," wished to mount a similar production of Verdi's La Traviata. He engaged Gvazava to sing Violeta in his "Traviata á Paris," to be broadcast live over a two-day period in June 2000 to an international audience on networks reaching over a billion homes. Zubin Mehta would conduct, and the locations would be on the streets of Paris. Her co-stars were José Cura as Alfredo, and Riggiero Raimondi as Germont, pére.
Within a month of this unprecedented international exposure, Teldec released an audio CD of the production. Gvazava has also released a Teldec recording of a Russian song recital. Read less