Nino Machaidze, the 28-year-old soprano from Georgia, graduate of Milan's Teatro alla Scala Academia, is in Los Angeles with Romeo and Juliet which is boomeranging her around the world's opera houses for the last few years. The first four years of her professional career have been highly successful, and the LA Times recounts how she was thrust so suddenly into the spotlight:
In January 2005, Los Angeles Opera's production of Gounod's “Romeo and Juliet” helped catapult into operatic superstardom young singers Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón. Soon these two were headlining at major houses and in 2008 were set to re-create their L.A. roles with a highly anticipated new production at the Salzburg Festival — until Netrebko dropped out due to a much publicized pregnancy.
Enter La Nino.
Having just turned 25 that year, the soprano was singing for only her second time at Milan's La Scala where she had recently graduated from their Academia. Jürgen Flimm, the head of the Salzburg Festival, happened to be there shortly after Netrebko canceled. After hearing the Georgian soprano sing “O mio babbino caro” at La Scala, Flimm declared: “This is our new Juliet.”
And she did become Salzburg's Juliet, a role she sang again at La Scala before the summer and at Verona's Arena during August. In a society fixed on labels she is called the opera world's Angelina Jolie, mainly because of her (naturally) plump lips. She has made her base in Milan with her newlywed husband, baritone Guido Loconsolo but, like all singers, is always on the move.
Before her début, she spoke to the LA Times:
On Los Angeles.
I like L.A. so much because it's very beautiful and [has a] positive aura,” she gushes. “The audiences are fantastic. I'm really a fan of L.A., I really love this city. Every time that I'm working here I'm happy … so I hope to do a lot of and lot of and lot of and lot of operas here!”
On a singing career
You know, our job is so beautiful, but it's also so difficult because we are traveling, doing crazy things like: Do one performance in one city, and the day after do a concert in another city. I think if you take a job like this, and don't have attitude like, ‘OK, let's do it,' you get crazy. So definitely this is my personality, I'm happy that — thank God — I'm like this.”
It's useless to be nervous … if you worry about what will go wrong, it's dangerous. I think it's personality, it's something inside that you can change. You are like this or like this. It's a lot of practice, when you are doing this all your life. When you are enjoying what you are doing, the happiness is so big it kills everything else.”
“I think it helps when you are comfortable with a part that you are doing, that you know this part fits really well on you… I was feeling exactly like this way with Juliet. Because from the first rehearsals that I did, I said: ‘Oh my God, this is my part. I love this part.'”
On less-comfortable roles
I think Lucia is really difficult, as a woman and as a part. So to do well, I think you have to understand this woman; but if you are trying to understand Lucia, it's so dangerous.”
Musically I always find small details, something should be more ‘piano' that I didn't do last time,” she says, “I am always discovering something new about this girl.”
Photo by Uli Weber
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.