Author: Elia ANVARLI
The soloist of the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, famous singer Farida Mammadova has an unusual and beautiful appearance combined with her natural giftedness, high intelligence and broad-mindedness. She is a musician of the new generation. Demanding to herself without any oddities of the prima donna and completely engaged in professional activities, she is away from all the unnecessary things that hinders her creative activity.
Farida Mammadova is a regular of many foreign festivals and solo concerts held in Germany and France, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, and Ukraine. This is not the whole list of countries she has toured. We have met her after the New Year holidays.
Farida-khanim, when did you start singing?
I have always sang. My first emotional shock in childhood was Verdi's Rigoletto, which I have watched in our theater. When I studied the piano at the Bulbul Music School, my teachers have repeatedly told me that I had to think about singing seriously. When I was 15 years old, I suddenly started singing Habanera from Carmen in French at one of the events held in our school. After this, the professionals prophesized to me the fate of an opera singer. But the main prophecy came from my father, who gave me my birth name in honor of the main character of the Turkish writer Reşat Nuri Güntekin’s novel Çalıkuşu (The Wren). Kamal Mammadov, my father, had worked as a conductor at the Musical Comedy Theatre but, unfortunately, he died in younger age and I do not have any memories of him except photographs, posters, and booklets. My mother has created all the necessary conditions to provide me with musical education. After graduation, I entered the Baku Music Academy (BMA) and, as an exception, I was admitted to two faculties (piano and vocal) simultaneously. I have later graduated BMA with honors. After studying in Baku, I have attended various classes and master classes in Europe. An important creative stage in my life was the participation at the 2nd International Bulbul Competition in 2000, where I became a laureate. This event has opened up new horizons for me. The chairperson of the jury, the People's Artist of the USSR Irina Arkhipova wished me all the best in my future career.
How has your career developed since?
I am very curious and I study constantly. I like challenges and try myself in new genres and images. In addition to various opera performances (this year is my 20th year on stage!) and a large number of performed roles and premieres, I constantly expand my repertoire also in the chamber genre. I perform solo programs; receive invitations to international festivals both in Azerbaijan and abroad. To date, my record of accomplishments includes opera and chamber classics from baroque to avant-garde, including the works of Azerbaijani authors. I often perform the works that have never been performed in our country. I also like solo performances, concerts with performance elements or projects with a small number of performers. We had a great success, for instance, with a collaborative project with pianist Salman Gambarov called Lieder Leaders, a synthesis of classics and jazz, which we have performed several times abroad. One of my last works was the play Walk also known as A Story of Love directed by Rauf Mammadov and played on piano by Gulshan Annagiyeva. The premiere took place in Moscow, at the Meyerhold Center. The play is based on the songs of German-Austrian expressionism. It is a story of a restless soul, a musical monologue of a woman about her life and destiny; two parallels - one on stage, the other one on video projections.
You have seen and heard how teachers from other countries are working with vocalists. You have participated in many master classes. Can you tell us about the peculiarities of the Western system of training?
It is probably harder to teach singing than playing a musical instrument, because the vocal cords are not visible to the naked eye and the teacher needs a lot of experience, patience and sensitive hearing to help the beginning singer to find appropriate muscle reflexes. The role of the vocal accompanist is also important. I like it when the specialists of a narrow profile are engaged in works of a certain style, each of which can manifest the specifics of the performance. The system of open lessons, presence of other teachers in the class, democratic approach to learning, and indispensable benevolence are important factors of education.
You are also teaching, are not you?...
I am. For several years, I have been teaching vocalists at the Bulbul Music School. Starting from this, I have been a visiting teacher at the department of solo singing at BMA, where I lead a vocal ensemble. I teach students the art of interacting with stage partners and the ability to listen to each other.
How do you learn new works?
I usually start with a thorough analysis of the musical and poetic part of the work. Then, together with my accompanist and conductor, we work on the interpretation and stylistic features of the work. I usually record the rehearsal on my portable recorder to be able to hear myself from the side and polish the nuances with a certain amount of self-criticism. I am very glad that for many years a large team of like-minded people - colleagues and professionals - has formed around me. Communication and working with them is mutually enriching.
For many years, you have been closely working with foreign embassies taking part in various cultural events. Can you give some examples?
One of the brightest concerts this year was the commemorative event dedicated to the Greek and American singer, one of the greatest opera singers of the 20th century, Maria Callas, organized by the Greek Embassy. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of this outstanding personality. I have a huge responsibility and am honored to perform the most famous arias from the Callas repertoire with the State Symphony Orchestra conducted by E. Guliyev. In addition, our concert was broadcast live from the Philharmonic Hall in Baku for the EU delegation, which at that time was in Lankaran as part of the Days of Europe.
What do you find particularly attractive during your frequent trips to other countries?
Any trip is always an opportunity to get acquainted with the culture, art and history of other countries and peoples. Museums, architectural monuments, temples and picturesque places… I still keep vivid memories of the ruins of ancient Ephesus, Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia, the Ghent Cathedral in Belgium, and the Dresden Gallery in Germany...
How do you spend your leisure time?
I seldom have free time, which I usually try to devote to reading and self-education. Since my childhood, I am fond of history, literature, and foreign languages. I can speak and read in a few fluently. In addition, I have studied ballroom dancing for seven years, which gives me an additional charge of energy.
What do you expect from this year?
The implementation of my creative plans, professional growth and new perspectives. Seizing this opportunity, I would like to wish all of your readers health, prosperity and happiness in the New Year, prosperity to our people.
Thank you for the interview!