26 June-7 July 2017; Royal Opera House, London
Albina Shagimuratova; Bejun Mehta; Lucy Crowe; Michael Spyres
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; conductor: Christophe Rousset
Acclaimed Russian soprano, Albina Shagimuratova, will make her role rebut as Aspasia in Mozart’s early opera, ‘Mitridate , re di Ponto’ from 26 June-7 July 2017 at the Royal Opera House in London in Graham Vick’s acclaimed production.
Ms Shagimuratova most recently thrilled UK critics and audiences alike when she appeared at the BBC Proms in 2016 in the title role of Rossini’s opera ‘Semiramide’, causing The Times to write of her “...extraordinary gifts. Shagimuratova’s voice appears to have no weak spots in tone, technique or strength...” and The Guardian to comment: “Albina Shagimuratova dazzled in the title role with her high-lying coloratura”. Furthermore, The Classical Source praised her, noting that “...for sheer technique, she has few rivals in this repertoire. The voice is rich yet bright over a huge range...”.
The Opera Rara recording of ‘Semiramide’ featuring Ms Shagimuratova is scheduled for release in Autumn 2017.
Ms Shagimuratova first seized the spotlight when she won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2007. Just four months after taking the prize, she dazzled in her European debut as the Queen of the Night at the Salzburg Festival under conductor Riccardo Muti. It became her signature role, earning accolades like “technically flawless, luscious-toned and chilling,” (The New York Times); “every note is luminescent,” (The Times); “a phenomenon that must be heard to be believed,” (Opera News) and “she walked away with the show ... the soprano received a rapturous standing ovation on opening night.” (Chicago Tribune).
With a vocal talent that moved one Houston critic to want to “sit at her feet as she sings us through the gates of heaven”, Ms Shagimuratova has conquered the most renowned and challenging heroines of 19th century opera, performing on celebrated stages worldwide. In 2011, she made a spellbinding debut in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in a new production at Houston Grand Opera, drawing comparisons to Callas and Sutherland. The notoriously unforgiving La Scala fans gave Shagimuratova a 20 minute standing ovation for her Lucia when she starred in an Italian and Metropolitan Opera co-production. Several years later, Los Angeles Opera General Director, Plácido Domingo, chose the soprano to star in the company's first staging of a new production of 'Lucia di Lammermoor' in more than a decade, noting: “Albina has a phenomenal vocal technique that reminds me of the golden age of bel canto.” She has repeated the role numerous times as well as triumphing as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Gilda in Rigoletto, Violetta in La Traviata and Ludmila in Ruslan andLudmila, thrilling audiences at the Metropolitan Opera; La Scala; the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; the Bolshoi Theatre; San Francisco Opera; the Lucerne Festival and the Glyndebourne Festival, among other top venues.
As a concert soloist, Shagimuratova has appeared with the world’s leading orchestras. Underlying the emotional truths Shagimuratova reveals in the determined women she plays are personal triumphs over tragedies, economic hardships and political turmoil. Chief among them, the death in 2004 of her younger sister, who had just switched from pursuing a career in law to singing opera. “Now I needed to succeed for us both,” she says.
Born in Tashkent, music was a central part of her childhood, though she never then considered a career in opera. Her father had his own vision for his daughter and wanted her to be a pianist. As ethnic Russians, with the fall of the USSR and the independence of Uzbekistan, Shagimuratova’s family found themselves considered outsiders. Not allowed to attend music school there, the singer and her family fled Tashkent, all their belongings stuffed in three suitcases. “It was a scary time, difficult, no money, four of us in one room, an empty refrigerator” she says. “But everything you go through in your personal life, you can bring to the stage. You bear your heart and your soul to the audience.” Ms Shagimuratova switched her studies from piano to that of a choral conductor. Meanwhile, inspired by hearing a recording of Maria Callas singing Violetta when she was 12 and then seeing The Three Tenors on TV, a new passion was taking root. “I was so moved,” she says. “I just fell in love with opera. But I never thought I had a voice or that this could or would be my life.”
The encouragement of Russian opera star, Haydar Begichev, would change the course of her life. She convinced the Kazan State Conservatory to allow her to also study in the vocal department. Helped out financially by some family friends, Shagimuratova was finally on her chosen path and got to audition for Diane Zola of Houston Grand Opera. Zola eventually invited the gifted soprano to join the HGO young artist programme and the rest, as they say, is history. A documentary about the coloratura aired on Russian TV’s Channel 1 earlier in the year. Crews followed her backstage and on stage as she performed in London, San Francisco, Vienna, St. Petersburg and Moscow. She was also been asked to play the legendary soprano Adelina Patti in a new film version of Tolstoy’s 'Anna Karenina', filmed in summer 2016.
In 2016, she performed at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Lucia in Donizetti’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ and at the Metropolitan Opera, New York as Konstanze in Mozart’s ‘The Abduction from the Seraglio’. In the early part of 2017, Ms Shagimuratova appeared at the Opera National de Paris as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ and as Anna in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ at the Vienna State Opera. Further appearances at Houston Grand Opera and the Montpelier Festival are also in the diary with a packed schedule planned for 2018 and beyond. Ms Shagimuratova comments simply: “This is truly a passion, so I have to sing.”