On January 6, 1970, the future opera star of the world stage and the pride of Abkhazia, the "golden soprano" Khibla Gerzmava, was born in Pitsunda. Like most talented musicians, she began to study music from childhood: she sang and played the piano. Khibla studied at a music school in the town of Gagra, and then entered the Sukhum Music School, where she graduated in piano.
A huge influence on the formation of the singer had a musical culture, the center of which was the Pitsunda temple of the tenth century. It was here, as a girl, that she came to listen to the organ; it was here that she saw many famous artists. For some time, Khibla even considered becoming an organist. The strongest blow for the young pianist was the loss of parents. She was only 16 years old when her mother died, and two years later, her father was gone. Khibla recalled that she was caring for her sick mother and did not know that she had cancer and that she would never recover. It was in those years, according to the memoirs of the singer, when her vocal opened.
"Somehow I didn't expect my mother to leave ... And I started to sing after her ... everything. It all was through pain. I don't know why this voice appeared after my mother's death, but there's probably some explanation from above".
From the documentary "Diva. Khibla Gerzmava. Eternal Love"
Khibla Gerzmava received her first vocal lessons from teacher Josephina Bumburidi in the Sukhum Music School. Already in 1989, Gerzmava successfully passed the entrance exams to the Moscow Conservatory, where the People's Artist of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic - ed.) Irina Maslennikova and the Honored Artist of Russia Yevgenia Arefyeva educated her.
During her student years, Khibla participated in international vocal competitions. She drew attention to herself, taking third place in the "Verdijevsk Voices" contest in the Italian city of Busseto, and then ranked second in the Rimsky-Korsakov singing competitions in St. Petersburg and Francisco Viñas in Barcelona.
The young singer experienced the real triumph at the International Competition of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in Moscow in 1994. At the competition, 24-year-old Gerzmava performed Rosina's aria from the opera "The Barber of Seville" by the Italian composer Rossini, and the Snow Maiden's aria from the eponymous opera by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The performance of Gerzmava at the contest became a real furor, and the jury made an unprecedented decision. For the first time in the history of the competition, the Grand Prix was awarded. Neither before nor after Khibla the Grand Prix was given to anyone. This award has become a significant springboard for the artist's singing career.
In 1995, Gerzmava became a soloist of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Musical Theater (MAMT). She is the lead singer of this theater today. Receiving many other proposals, including from the Bolshoi Theater, the singer has always rejected them, remaining faithful to MAMT. Often in interviews, she calls the theater her home and highlights the role of its artistic director Alexander Titel in her singing career.
"One can work in the Metropolitan Opera or in Covent Garden. However, I never wanted to stay there. It's a different world with different people. My soul says: I should better live in this crazy metropolis - Moscow. Then get on a plane and in two hours be back home, in Abkhazia, where they wait for me, love, adore, where our "Kibla Gerzmava invites ... " festival has been taking place for so many years".
From an interview with the magazine "Arguments and Facts"
Khibla defines herself as a "lyric-colotural soprano with an emphasis on lyrics." Her repertoire included many different parties, including Lyudmila in the opera "Ruslan and Lyudmila" by Glinka, the Queen of Samakhan in the "Golden Cockerel" by Rimsky-Korsakov, Adina in the "Love Drink" by Donizetti, Violetta in the "Traviiate" by Verdi, Mimi, and Musetta in "La Boheme" by Puccini, donna Anna in "Don Juan" by Mozart, Liu in "Turandot" by Puccini, Amelia Gimaldi in "Simone Boccanegra" by Verdi and many others. At the same time, the singer meticulously refers to the choice of repertoire and never agrees to sing those parts that she considers to be "not her own" for one reason or another.
"I call my roles "my girls,". If I single out one of them, others will be offended. They are very different, like my voice. It is a separate man in my life. We have to negotiate with him, we have to persuade him, and sometimes he does not like the weather conditions, the pressure. My voice, you know... it is like a separate state, so to speak".
From the documentary "Diva. Khibla Gerzmava. Eternal love"
In 2001, Khibla Gerzmava founded the annual music festival "Khibla Gerzmava invites ... " in Abkhazia, which is successfully held every year and even expanded its geography. In 2014, festival concerts were held in Moscow; the XIV festival opened in Vienna on the stage of the famous golden hall "Musikverein", and was closed at Carnegie Hall in New York. XVI and XVII festivals took place in the Swiss city of St. Moritz. During the existence of the festival, such giants of world music as Vladimir Spivakov, Elena Obraztsova, Denis Matsuev, Ildar Abdrazakov, Deborah Brown etc. participated in it. Art historian Svyatoslav Belza was a long-standing permanent host of concerts. The festival is of particular importance for all music lovers in Abkhazia, because every year Khibla Gerzmava brings the best musicians and the best music programs to her homeland.
"Khibla Gerzmava invites ... " festival on the stage of the Abkhaz Drama Theater, Sukhum, 2017
"From the first days of its life, the "Khibla Gerzmava Invites ..." festival attracted the attention of all lovers of our incomparable Khibla. For 15 years of its existence, the festival gave residents of Abkhazia a sea of emotions. For post-war Abkhazia, the festival became a great cultural event".
From the speech of the Minister of Culture of Abkhazia and the historical and cultural heritage of Abkhazia at the opening of the XV Festival, August 2016
The name of Khibla in translation from the Abkhaz means "gold-eyed", and critics have long called her the "golden soprano" of Russia. In 2001, she received the Golden Orpheus Theater Award as the best singer. In 2006, she received the title of People's Artist of Abkhazia, and later - the People's Artist of Russia. In addition, in 2010, Khibla Gerzmava received the most authoritative award in the Russian theater world. She received her first "Golden Mask" for her role as Lucia in the play "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Gaetano Donizetti. Director Adolph Shapiro, making this performance on the stage of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko MAMT, had only one candidate for the role of Lucia - Khibla Gerzmava.
"She not only performed all the roulades and graces intended for her heroine with jeweler accuracy, but she never left the image of Lucia, who was a little detached, imparted to loyalty and silent. She had a wonderful tandem with the performers of the parties of the beloved Edgardo (Chingis Ayusheev) and the tutor cleric Raimondo (Dmitry Ulyanov). Manlike, passionate and full-fledged parties of these heroes advantageously set off the impeccable lyricism of the warm soprano of Gerzmava".
The year of 2010 was one of the most prominent in Khibla Gerzmava's professional life. In addition to the "Golden Mask", she received two important awards. This is the Russian opera prize Casta Diva and the first non-state prize for achievements in the field of culture and art "Triumph".
Khibla Gerzmava performed on the stage of the best musical theaters in the world. The first foreign theater that was taken over by talent, was the Royal Covent-Garden Theater in London. On its stage, Gerzmava made her debut in 2008 as Tatiana in the opera "Eugene Onegin" by Tchaikovsky. The debut was so brilliant that the very next year she made her debut there in the role of Mimi in the play "La Boheme" by Puccini.
"Every time I sing abroad, I feel a great responsibility, because I represent my country and defend its honor. It always says that I am from Russia, but I was born in Abkhazia on posters of the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden - this is also very important. Still, one's roots should be remembered. When a singer doesn't remember her roots, it's sad and wrong".
From an interview with AiF weekly, 2016
In October 2010, Khibla first performed on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, performing the role of Antonia in the performance of "The Tales of Hoffmann" by Offenbach. Subsequently, these theaters began to invite her as performer of the title parties more and more often. In 2015, after the native theater of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Gerzmava presented the CD "Vocal Cycles and Romances of Russian Performers" at the Metropolitan Opera and became the first Russian opera singer who held an autograph session there. Among other scenes on which Gerzmava made her debut and successfully performed are the La Scala Opera House in Milan, the Vienna State Opera, the Comunale Theater in Florence, the Champs Elysees Theater in Paris and many others.
In September 2011, Gerzmava conquers Paris. She's made it out of the opera "The Grace of Tit" by Mozart.
"Vitelia is my first major Mozart party. I read quite a lot of historical literature on the history of ancient Rome, about the time of the reign of Emperor Titus Flavius. However, the main thing, of course, is the brilliant music of Mozart, which is like "above the plot". I came to Paris not just with a learned party, but also with a prepared role. A lot became clear to the director and conductor right away, at the very first rehearsal" .
From an interview with the portal operanews.ru
Having performed three roles at once in the performance of Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann", Khibla Gerzmava became one of those rare performers who had ventured to do it before her. Of Khibla's contemporaries, only German opera singer Diane Damrau could do this, who performed the same roles on the stage of the Bavarian Opera.
"The next day after the closure of the Olympics, I went to the graves of my parents, kissed their monuments and said again many thanks. I think they were happy for me. I always see my mom and dad in my dreams when something very important happens in life. I hold on to the memory of the ancestors very much, they have been helping me for so many years, they are always near ... Roots and homeland are the most important thing that we have ... ".
From an interview with the weekly "Arguments and Facts"
In 2014, the company "Melody", celebrating 50 years since its founding, for the first time in the last twenty years has released a disc of opera classics. Especially for recording of this disc, Khibla Gerzmava performed the arias of Mozart, Bellini, Verdi, Donizetti and Rossini, accompanied by the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia.
2016 brought another "Golden Mask" to the treasury of numerous awards of the singer - this time she received it for the role of Medea in the "Medea" play by Cherubini, staged at the MAMT by director Alexander Titel. The role of Medea is one of the most hard-won in the artist's career. After all, Medea is a Colchian princess from the ancient Greek myth of the Argonauts. Actually, Abkhazia was called Colchis in ancient times, that is, the events of the ancient Greek myth, in fact, occurred in the singer's homeland, only in ancient times.
"Medea" L. Cherubini at the "Khibla Gerzmava Invites ..." festival, Sukhum, 2016
"Medea is ominous in the performance, but not a villain. In a simple black dress, not suffering, but majestic - Khibla Gerzmava. In her Medea, from the first sound, intentionally forcing internal tension, a huge abyss suddenly opened, dragging into its depths through the dope of the most beautiful coloratura, explosive reactions, terribly increasing pulse and suddenly changed voice, turning into almost falsetto in the moment of killing children, not shown on stage. However, it was clear that, having killed the children, Medea would later kill herself. They simply cannot live without love, in one hatred".
"Rossiyskaya Gazeta" on the "Medea" play
The performance of the "Medea" opera by Cherubini was the culmination of the 15th anniversary "Khibla Gerzmava Invites ..." festival. The singer finally realized her old dream and brought her theater to Abkhazia, including all the sets, the whole troupe involved in the production. The opera was given on the shore of the capital of Abkhazia, but it was not possible to finish it until the end. Immediately after the first act, heavy rain fell on Sukhum. The action had to be spontaneously transferred under the roof of the Samson Chanba Abkhaz Drama Theater.
"After our duet with Jason heavy rain fell which resulted in a flood that took cars away floating. There has not been such rain since 1995. That is, there was calm throughout Abkhazia, I even wrote it on Instagram: "The sea was treacherously silent ". I also think about it. Our elders in Abkhazia told me, [they say], maybe you shouldn't sing Medea. And, of course, it is a very difficult role, each time I recover from it uneasily, it squeezed all the strength out of me" .
From the Enigma TV show of the "Culture" channel. Kibla Gerzmava
In March 2017, Gerzmava made her debut on the stage of the Milan Theater "La Scala" in the title role of Anne Bolein in the eponymous opera by Gaetano Donizetti.
The premiere of the opera "Anne Boleyn" staged by Marie-Louise Bischofberge took place in "La Scala" for the first time in 35 years, the last time Anne's role in this opera was performed by the great opera singer Monserat Caballe in 1982.
The singer's special love is jazz music. Often Khibla's concerts include well-known classical works in jazz treatment, in the framework of the festival as well. It was in this vein that Gerzmava collaborated with the famous musician Daniil Kramer, jazz trio of Jacob Okun, pianist Denis Matsuev, American singer Deborah Brown, famous jazzman Georgy Garanyan and some other musicians. Jazz standards are included in the program "Opera. Jazz. Blues".
There are several folk songs in the repertoire of the singer. Surprisingly, the Abkhaz music is the most often asked encore by the overseas audience.
"Jazz music, it is from childhood. I cannot say that I have listened to classical music all my childhood and all my youth, this is not true. In Pitsunda my family was very musical, everyone was. We had a wonderful polyphony - both grandfathers, and from my mother's and father's sides - we all sing polyphony, and we know how to do it, which helped me a lot. And we have always listened to good, beautiful, stylish music".
From the Enigma TV show of the "Culture" channel. Kibla Gerzmava
Khibla Gerzmava supports young talented performers from Abkhazia. Young people often take part in her festival, and often the opera diva herself performs with performers on stage. The artist provides great support to the native music school in the town of Gagra, the Sukhum Music College, the Ochamchira Boarding School. More than once the funds raised at the festival went to the needs of various cultural institutions of Abkhazia.
"Golden-eyed" Khibla Gerzmava - favorite of fashion and glossy magazines. Her inherent sense of taste is considered a reference; she has a whole army of fans and imitators. She herself does not hide that she never misses the opportunity to follow the fashion, it happens at fashion shows. Gerzmava admits that for her the benchmark in everything is the legendary Maria Callas.
"She (Khibla - ed.) is not just the best soprano in Moscow, but also one of the metropolitan style icons, people prefer not only to listen to her, but also to look at a beautiful, always well-dressed woman. She comes to the VOGUE shooting with her own stylist and a suitcase of Carolina Herrera and Halston dresses - all from the latest collections. Mrs. Herrera herself helped her to bring to perfection one of her dresses in New York. Another, favorite one, was made in Moscow a couple of days before the important concert by Alexander Terekhov. She orders dresses from Varduhi Nazaryan. Khibla is an opera singer of a new type, when not only voice is important, but also a show, brilliance of diamonds, elegance of movement on the stage, an acting game".
Sergey Khodnev, Vogue Russia columnist
"Talent, genius, delight, admiration, beauty in a single image. And this image is called Khibla Gerzmava".
Deputy Minister of Culture of Abkhazia and historical and cultural heritage of Abkhazia
Text by – Arifa Kapba, bild editor – Naala Avidzba, editor – Olga Soldatenkova, editor-in-chief – Amina Lazba