In 2022, People's Artist of Abkhazia, Honored Artist of Russia Alisa Gitsba became the initiator and director of a music competition aimed at identifying and promoting young performers. The following year, the competition expanded its geography and was held in two capitals - Sukhum and Moscow. Today, the opera singer and her team of vocalists actively hold concert events. Alisa Gitsba told about life after the competition and creative plans in an interview with the WAC information department.   

Interview by Esma Golandziia   

— Alisa Shalvovna, today you are actively holding concert activities. Tell us where and how the performances take place.

— The second competition took place in October, we had many special prizes from partners and jury members. We started a big concert run in November. We held our very first concert in Chernogolovka, it was “Gindin-fest” - a festival of jury member, Honored Artist of Russia Alexander Gindin. It was a great success. Then, as a special prize from jury member Viktor Abrahamyan-Eshba, a concert of our laureates was held in Pereslavl-Zalessky, then in Moscow, in the Ushinsky Library. In January we went to Voronezh, where we performed a very complex program, or rather, there were two different programs that ran for two days in a row. The first concert was dedicated to the work of Verdi, and the next day we performed masterpieces of world opera classics - such a musical assortment was presented to the public. The audience was delighted. In February, a gala concert of our soloists took place in Ostafyevo. Ostafyevo is one of the most beautiful places in Moscow and the Moscow region. This is the estate of the Vyazemsky princes, where Pushkin and other representatives of the intelligentsia and the elite of the then Moscow stayed. There is a very special atmosphere there.

— How were the concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg?

— On February 29, a concert was held at Mosconcert Hall with the Moscow Camerata chamber orchestra. Everything went quite successfully, it was also a gala concert for our guys. We recently went to St. Petersburg. This concert was presented to us as a special prize by our partner “Petersburg Concert” in the person of its director Ekaterina Artyushkina. Honored Artist of Russia Olga Viktorovna Stupneva came as a representative of Artyushkina. So she presented such a gift to our children - a concert at the Catherine’s Assembly. What was the difference between this concert and all the others? The fact is that the laureates of the first and second competitions live in St. Petersburg, so the idea came to unite them. Our baritone Alexey Yurkovsky, who won the Grand Prix in the first competition, is from St. Petersburg. Elizaveta Aksagova - third prize of the first competition, also from St. Petersburg, one might say. Ekaterina Shpilman, winner of the second prize of the second competition, lives in St. Petersburg. The result was a very interesting fusion of the first and second projects. However, unfortunately, Yurkovski fell ill and was unable to take part.

— How did the St. Petersburg public greet you? - The welcome was very good and warm. Yet, it was very nice that our community supported us - they came and gave us gorgeous bouquets of flowers. It was especially pleasant as well because our Sofya Sakania, a very promising and talented vocalist, took part in the concert. She is only 19, but she already has such a track record - Grand Prix of several competitions, very respectable ones. And she is not going to stop there. This year Sophia graduates from college and plans to enter the conservatory. In a word, it was very nice that they heard about her, came, listened and supported.

— Did you even expect that all this would gain such scales?

— When we just started the competition, I had no idea how it would all turn. To be honest, I was very scared because this is a big management job.You are always looking for partners, convincing them, writing letters, that is, a lot of effort goes into organizing. Since I didn’t have a large management team, the three of us did the whole thing. There were many different difficulties, however, we carried both competitions on our shoulders. Over time, experience comes - you begin to plunge into the intricacies of the work and understand what the right solutions are to use in different situations. Of course, the most important thing is that there must be a large, friendly team that works like a clock mechanism, where every bolt, every screw is responsible for a specific function. And then everything will work out. I already have such a team. Here we are, working.

— If you compare the first and second competitions, were there more applications the second time? Has the project format changed?

— Yes, there were more applications. The first competition was held locally, only in Sukhum. We didn’t have a qualifying video round based; people came right away. I didn’t know anyone, there were even very few familiar names. Many came from Belarus, from different cities and regions of Russia - from Siberia, Vorkuta, Chita. They were not afraid of border closures; they came. They performed in Sukhum. Several concerts have taken place, but there have never been so many special prizes. So, we came up with the idea of holding the second competition in two cities - Sukhum and Moscow. We had the 15th anniversary of the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia by Russia and the 30th anniversary of Victory Day, that is, I wanted to expand the competition and give it more weight. Therefore, the competition has expanded geographically, the number of participants and jury members has increased, and a new nomination has been added - “Ensemble Art”. The first project was called an international vocal competition, and the second became a musical one - not only vocalists, but also instrumentalists took part in it.

— What other venues do you plan to perform at?   

— On April 9 there will be a solo concert of two laureates of the second competition. This is the winner of the first prize, Vladislav Biryukov, and Kristina Popova, the winner of the third prize. They won a special prize - a solo concert at Helikon Opera from the artistic management of the theater. We are now thinking about what the name of the program, how to stage and present it in an interesting way. After this, on April 13 we are going to Klin, to the estate - Tchaikovsky Nature Reserve. There will be a gala concert of our laureates. Further in Moscow, in the Glazunov Gallery from our partners “Musical Cup” and “IES – Fund” there will be several of our laureates and diploma recipients.

— It turns out that not only laureates take part in concerts?

— Yes, we are not limited to only laureates. Both diploma winners and prize-winners quite often take part in concerts. The most important thing in our competition is promotion, the opportunity to perform on stage. This increases the professional level, because the artist needs the stage like oxygen. In her opening speech at the concert in St. Petersburg, Olga Viktorovna Stupneva noted that in many competitions they simply give out prizes and then move on to the next competitions. They care little about the fate of their laureates. It happened so that since October we have been giving concerts all the time, and we have our own friendly family. The Gitsbik family.

— You often post videos and photos from performances and rehearsals on social networks. You can feel the warm relationship between you and your students.

- We all became friends, we are already family to each other. Of course, all these concerts and new projects unite us very much. Everyone in our team is easy-going, no one has ever refused to participate anywhere.

— Are there plans for a third music competition? — We are now working on the third project. I won’t reveal all my cards yet. Let's see how lucky we are this year and who will support us. I know that the Government of Abkhazia always supports us.Both the first and second competitions, and the third have already been given the green light.

— Will it take place this year?

- Yes, in October.

— Is it difficult to combine concert activities and work in the theater?

— It’s difficult, but nevertheless, sometimes you have to deny yourself something, pay more attention to something. My life, in principle, changed when I had a competition. I have already completely dissolved in this creative atmosphere. And to be honest, I’m very happy about this, because I feel like I’m doing the right thing. I see how their eyes are sparkling. This is why it’s worth doing all this.

— We wish further creative achievements to you and your team!

- Thank you. I hope to see you in October in Abkhazia.