Regina Rustamova: "Azerbaijan does not leave me, and I don't leave it too"
The 11th Uzeyir Hajibayli International Music Festival ended in Baku. On the final day, performers from Uzbekistan, Georgia, Russia and Azerbaijan appeared on the stage of the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall named after Muslim Magomayev, accompanied by the Hajibeyov Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mustafa Mehmandarov. The host country of the festival gave the world many talented performers who successfully perform on world stages. So, the soloist of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers, whose voice became the jewel of the final day of the festival, Regina Rustamova was born in Baku, but has been performing on the Mariinsky Academy stage for 13 years. Speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, the singer spoke about the festival and performances in her native city.
- This year, the Ministry of Culture held the Uzeyir Hajibeyov festival on a grand scale. What are your impressions of the performance?
- The festival in Baku is held at a very high level, it involves the best musical, cultural forces of our country - the State Symphony Orchestra, with a magnificent, wonderful, talented young conductor, Rauf Abdullaev's protege. They all worked together: soloists from different countries, an orchestra, conductor, the Ministry of Culture, which took over the organization of the project. There were no inconveniences, problems with flights, with accommodation. It was very comfortable.
- You were announced as a Russian-Azerbaijani singer. How much do you like the role of a cultural link between Azerbaijan and Russia?
- The bridge in the cultural sphere with St. Petersburg was established by Sultan Gasimov, the new Consul General in St. Petersburg, who loves art very much, knows art, attends performances. Having met with me and principal ballet dancer of Mariinsky theater Timur Askerov, he noted that we became the first artists to work at the Mariinsky Theater being citizens of Azerbaijan who received the title of Honored Artists of Azerbaijan. Now, reading about performances in the Mariinsky Theater with our participation, people see the word 'Azerbaijan'. It is very important. Many journalists and critics in Russia also emphasize in their articles that, despite my fairly young age, I am already an experienced singer and I am an honored artist of Azerbaijan. I have not changed Azerbaijani citizenship, although I have been living in Russia for 13 years, I have a permit for temporary residence in the country, a work record book and all other privileges of a Russian citizen.
I had the honor of several times becoming the first prize winner at international vocal competitions, where I have always represented Azerbaijan. Also at festivals, at concerts, I always represent my country.
I had a few performances in Baku, but all of them were significant. 10 years ago I made a debut here as Carmen at the Akhundov Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. In March of this year, I was invited by the Azerbaijan Opera and Ballet Theater to play the role of Amneris in a production of Aida. I arrived here and did it, after which I received an invitation from the Ministry of Culture to take part in this festival. That is, Azerbaijan does not forget me, does not leave me, and so do I.
- How did you start performing at the Mariinsky Theater?
- It was an accident. When I was in my last year of the Baku Music Academy, I took part at the Rimsky-Korsakov competition in St. Petersburg. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture and Tourism paid for tickets and accommodation for me and several other students of the conservatory. Then I received an invitation from Larisa Gergieva for an internship at the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers. I was still studying in Baku, so I asked the rector of Baku Music Academy Farhad Badalbeyli to let me go there, but allow to sit examinations. He gave his permission, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism supported me again by paying for my ticket to St. Petersburg.
In St. Petersburg, I was supported by the Mariinsky Theater, which fully paid for my training, did everything so that I could live and study with dignity. After a year of training, I made a debut at the Mariinsky Theater with Valery Gergiev in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Benjamin Britten. The performance is complex, the music is modern; It is quite popular in Russia and worldwide, but has not yet been staged in Azerbaijan. By the way, it has a wonderful part for a countertenor, which are very few in the world, and we have an amazing Azerbaijani singer Ilham Nazarov. So, if the opera is staged here, we got a guy to sing the male lead.
- What makes performing before your native audience different?
- It's exciting. All my performances are attended by my vocal teacher, my accompanist, as well as the head of the orchestra. By the way, they have many interesting projects - they go on tour both in Russia and abroad. I was at their concert in St. Petersburg, which was a great success. Many of my colleagues, classmates are also here. For example, four of my classmates are in the orchestra. Therefore, for me, performing at home is a big responsibility. My mother and all my relatives live in Baku, everyone expects me to perform well. I can not let them down.
- What is the difference between the Azerbaijani public and the Russian one?
- In St. Petersburg, since it is a cultural capital, everyone loves opera very much, they're really looking forward to it. Some of them make special preparations for specific performances. Even if the artist did not perform very well, the audience applaud vigorously support him. In Baku, such events are mainly attended by musicians, people linked to music, or by people who are not related to music at all. And it's difficult to make them like you, you should impress them with your art and win their attention. The Azerbaijani public does not immediately accept you. They want to know, understand you first. Then people will love you wholeheartedly.
- Have many modern Azerbaijani opera singers managed to win international recognition?
- Now the world is open to youth, you can travel everywhere. We have a lot of amazing artists abroad who studied abroad and work there as well. Maharram Huseynov, Elchin Azizov, Azer Rzazade, a terrific tenor who sings main tenor arias in Italy, Avaz Abdullaev, who works in Germany, Dinara Aliyeva, our greatest opera diva, who sings at the Bolshoi Theater, but has many foreign contracts...