We speak to young tenor Pavel Kolgatin – who makes his Semperoper Dresden debut this month as Count Almaviva in ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia’ – about how he became a singer, his Dresden debut, working at the Wiener Staatsoper and more.
How did you get into singing opera?
I started from an early age at around four years old. The stage became my ‘drug’ – it was addictive and something I had to do. I couldn’t live without it!
Did you come from a musical family?
No I didn’t; my parents are not musicians. My mother is a doctor and my father is a professional painter so has a direct relationship to the arts. I think that the family’s love of art helped to introduce me to the arts in general.
When did you realise singing was going to be your career? Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?
Firstly, I think that everyone in life has their own lightbulb moment. It is important and I think that you can’t survive without one! It gives you an insight into something to strive towards in life. My own was when I heard a recording of Robertino Loreti. From that moment, my light lit up and is still alive today. It really made me realise that singing is what I want to do – it grows stronger every time I sing a new role.
We’re talking as you make your debut at Semperoper Dresden.
This is a very important time for me as I am preparing my favourite role ready to perform in Dresden. The rehearsals are intense and there are lots of new things to learn in this production which is a modern production directed by Grischa Asagaroff. It is an honour to be a part of this project.
Why is this role important to you?
For me every role is important – every aria and every role. There isn’t one role that is not important to me. Every note matters and I analyse myself all the time to be the best I can – I’m very critical of myself!
What are you looking forward to about performing this role?
From every performance I expect a lot from myself and each time I sing, I strive to be better, always improving and understanding more about myself. In this production, I wanted to show more about myself as an actor – a modern character, straightforward, even a little arrogant and an honest character. It is fun role to present in a different way!
You’re currently on a Fest Contract at the Wiener Staatsoper – how is it going? What’s it like performing at one of the oldest and most significant houses in Europe?
Every artist has a theatre they feel very close to and for me, I feel most at home at the Wiener Staatsoper. There are so many great artists that perform and have performed there – it is very special to be a part of the stunning history and contemporary productions. I have sung in ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’, ‘Eugene Onegin’, ‘Boris Godunov’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘The Barber of Seville’, ‘Rigoletto’, ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ and ‘Idomeneo’ here.
We also do some performances for children which I love to do – watching their eyes widen as their hearts fill with the experience is very pleasing for us! They are truly loving it. Here I sang ‘The Magic Flute’ and ‘Undine’ for children.
What else have you got coming up this season?
At the end of the season I will sing ‘Boris Godunov’ at the Wiener Staatsoper [Pavel will perform the role of Gottesnarr from 6 – 16 May, alongside fellow Askonas Holt singer Aida Garifullina]. Five years ago, I sang this part at the Bolshoi Theatre and after the performance, the legendary Russian bass, Yevgeny Nesterenko came to my dressing room and he told me how wonderful and ‘innocent’ I was on stage and compared me to the great tenor Ivan Kozlovsky – he said that the way I interpreted the role was very different and was amazing! This was such an honour to be told this by someone like him. In May, Yevgeny will be a special guest in the theatre again whilst I am there, so I look forward to seeing him again.
In June, I will sing concerts in Dresden [at the Musikfestspiele] and Bad Kissingen [at the Sommer Festival], and will be devoting my summer to the Salzburg Festival. [Pavel will sing one of the Four Kings in performances of Strauss ‘Die Liebe Der Danae’, alongside fellow Askonas Holt singer Jongmin Park]
Outside performing, how do you relax?
I rest only when I’m with my family. We love being by the sea in Croatia and Spain. We like to go for walks a lot too and I like to go to my son’s football matches. I also relax when I hear my wife playing the piano; she is a composer and writes beautiful music. I also actually feel relaxed when I sing, because it is my nature, I feel that I was born to sing.
Finally, what are your hopes for the future?
My plans for the future are focusing on going only forwards! I would like to cover all roles written for my voice type and each time give the public a feeling of a role and show new colours in my voice. I plan to grow and to be the best. Is that arrogant? Yes maybe, but this is what I hope!
Pavel makes his debut at Semperoper Dresden on Saturday 23 April, with a further performance on Friday 29 April. Find out more on the Semperoper Dresden website.