“God has endowed me with voice and talent which require exceptional work.
I am happy!”
Mr. Konsulov, who lit your song sparkle?
- My father. He had listened before 9 September 1944 the most famous at that time singers like Pertile. Because of my father and the ceaseless turning of gramophone records, at the age of 9 I was already singing Italian canzonets. I graduated the Varna School of Music with piano and trumpet. At the vocal faculty of the Academy of Music I was student of Prof. Ilia Yosifov. I specialized in Italy by the eminent Aldo Protti. Each role which I am making at the moment is my favourite one. When I was asked some time ago which party do I belong to, I replied: I belong to the party of the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.
I will remain Verdian forever.
The more opera of his I get in touch to, the more I see that he has made happy a great number of singers. He has left to us, baritones, fantastic parts. Incomparable pleasure, gratitude is to give stage life to his music. I think that among the Bulgarian singers I have made most of all Verdi roles. In the West I have enriched my repertoire mainly with his characters. I had the chance to get in touch with 15 of all his 26 operas.
- 2006 is the year of Mozart – are you marking it with participations in titles by him?
- I debuted on Ruse professional stage as Papageno from Mozart’s "Die Zauberflöte". In Bulgaria I was also Guglielmo from "Così fan tutte". I have also more than 60 spectacles as Don Giovanni. A singer’s career abroad is not possible without Mozart. There, however, I am engaged with the dramatic Italian repertoire and most of all with Verdi. My singing is an actor’s one, the time imposes it. According to me the participation in a spectacle is equal to 5 km. quick running. It means nerves, stress. And the more higher you go, the more you are afraid the spectacle of today not to be worse than the previous one. I am on the stage for many seasons, today for me it is a temple for ritual, where one cannot walk around with a hat on his head and with a cigarette in the mouth. The art of the opera is only for those, who are really glowing with it. With the accumulation of the years one has the desire to sing more and more. It was not by chance that also before us famous colleagues said: "One learns to sing at the age of 50." If only we could have so many decades more for artistic activity...
- Not one or two are your meetings with the golden Bulgarian voices, with the great names of modern world of music. What are the stars like outside the lights of the theatre?
- We haven’t crossed our artistic ways only with Raina Kabaivanska. You feel really elevated, when next to you are the superb partners Nicolai Ghiaurov, Ghena Dimitrova, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Alexandrina Milcheva, Stefka Evstatieva, Nicola Ghiuselev. As winner at the competition of the name of Luciano Pavarotti I had the chance to sing with the renowned Italian tenor in three spectacles of "La Bohème" and two of "L’elisir d’amore" in Philadelphia (USA). With Placido Domingo we were together in "Cavalleria rusticana" and "Pagliacci" in Berlin. Unforgettable memories I have also from the performances with Mirella Freni, and also so many other great singers. All of them are very humane not only on the stage, but in life too. If humanity isn’t there, one could turn into a mere Narcissus. His life would be abnormal and he couldn’t be franc, true in art. Famous singers have achieved their exceptional technique at the price of a lot of work. A question of intelligence is to know how to arrange your artistic life in order to go forwards and upwards.
- The modern world, crazy about profits, entangled in the net of Internet, doesn’t it kill the arts, including the art of the opera?
- Yes, it is so. But the opera theatre has a four-century history. On the other hand, today the mankind is seized with fear of its life, of its survival, it is tired of the information and advertisements showering it from everywhere. That is why I think that the return to the beauty and romantic of the music and stage arts is inevitable. An example is the celebration not only in his fatherland Austria, but all over the world of the 250th Anniversary of the great Mozart. The halls are filled with people who, after the daily stress, are looking for something of real worth – the classic. Once the singers were the most important in the spectacles. Then came the time of the great conductors of the rank of Karajan. At the moment are dominating the directors. Unfortunately, in Europe there are many things which are distorted in a modern way.
I would like to remind you that "the king of basses", the Bulgarian Boris Christoff had everywhere defended his competent opinion against the misunderstood modernism. I am for modern spectacles, because one cannot show productions the way they were made a century ago, it’s absurd. But I would like the modern director to explain his motivation. Why his reading of an opera is such and not a different one. I want professionalism, to understand that he doesn’t exalt his own ego with scandals and he not only knows the notes, the music, but also loves it. I would like to be enflamed by a modern motivated thinking.
- Along the balance for the jubilee, do you outline some roles to which you have given the best of yourself and they have brought you joy?
- It is difficult to answer, to explain what it is to be in one or another costume. Great satisfaction has always given me the role of Macbeth from Verdi’s opera of the same name. In spite of Macbeth’s fear, in the role there is everything, it is a man’s role. Poetical, humane and just is the part of Simon Boccanegra (again Verdi). Rich with vocal and artistic nuances is also Iago ("Otello"). Namely Iago, the most evil character in music literature, gives the key to the good characters. Most of all I have sung Falstaff – the part is like champagne. "Otello" and "Falstaff" are Verdi’s two last operas. They are magnificent, grandiose and require vocal and artistic richness, mastery.
Why Boris Christoff was unattainable on the stage? Because he was not only a phenomenal voice, but he carried also a divine artistic flame.
At small, as well as at big theatres it is difficult to prove yourself again and again. You go and it is as if you throw yourself in deep cold waters. From each production, if you are a smart, seeking artist, you could learn something new. Last summer I was invited as Giorgio Germont ("La Traviata") at a festival in Germany and France. I have sung the part dozens of times. I had to sing in three consecutive performances – in Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This mobilized me to demonstrate 100 percent concentration, mobilization. I am critical towards myself and I make no compromise in my work. When one knows well his body and voice, nothing stands in his way to be sought after 3-4 decades, even 50 years like Ghiaurov.
It depends on where you come from, what is your strain, by whom you have studied. I had the luck at the Academy of Music to chance on great teachers. In life and in the family, with the great stress around us, it is not possible without compromises. I call them good ones, because they help us. The one who yields is the strong and intelligent one. The Germans have the following expression: to stand above dreams. Or to be the warm one, the good one. Looking back with faith at the years, I am glad to confess that I have never been a skunk, arrogant. Malicious is the one who has no abilities.
I was taught that to a certain extent by the gallery of characters which I continue to present with love before the people. Character strength is required to surpass small-mindedness, wickedness. Here helps also my wife Stephanie, the former conversations with Ghena Dimitrova. She was telling me: "The time has not come, don’t push things. I think that we are coming with a mission in this world. It is a sin, if you don’t fulfil it, if you don’t bring it to the people."
My characters, my partnership with eminent conductors, directors and singers taught me most of all to the high, real professionalism, to sincerity in art. I will remind to the young colleagues, aiming at quick success and big fees, that even if they are talented, if they don’t have respect for what they have dedicated themselves to, if they take up unsuitable repertoire, if they don’t have good technique, they would remain at the theatre at most 4-5 seasons.
- You started a successful career in Bulgaria, why didn’t you stay here?
- Nothing and no one. The awards from international competitions were my chance, the power of fate (so is called one of Verdi’s operas). After so many years I convinced myself that we, singers and instrumentalists, abroad are greater Bulgarians than our compatriots here. It is not by chance that we are called consuls of the culture of Bulgaria around the world. And by me also my family name is such – Konsulov. I have a very well arranged home in Switzerland, a united family, quite a lot future engagements. But can you imagine what I am feeling abroad, when I hear on the radio or television that over Varna or Sofia the weather will be sunny. Without provoking fate, I would say that I am a happy man with beautiful and very talented wife, with fantastic son among us – he himself made the choice to play the violin.
It is luck that I got in touch with works of art of genius, that I was born in a people with musical inclination. Nowhere around the world people sing so much, as in Bulgaria. God has endowed me with voice and talent which require exceptional work and privations in many aspects.
Interview by Ivanka Ivanova