Ilina Mitrevska is inspiring 17 year old young woman that is learning opera music here in Skopje.
- When and how did you start with opera singing?
All my life I’ve had singing as a way of expressing the joy, the sadness, the excitement. I remember the first time I saw an opera, I was very young and i thought it was surreal, majestic. I had never seen such world full of drama, fantasies. I truly realized the power of the human voice, the powerful, extraordinary emotion. You could say i knew all the words to “Rigoletto” Or “La Traviata” Ever since I was nine years old. So, of course, from singing Shakira or Lady Gaga I shifted to beautiful operatic arias that I tried my best to imitate. At the age of 15 was when i actually started studying, and i would say it is a good age to start. I was accepted at the high school of musical arts in Skopje – Ilija Nikolovski Luj. I was practicing every day wanting to even skip ahead, wishing to be closer and closer to the stage. Although it is a fact that my talent was only 10-20%, the rest was truly hard work and dedication.
- What fascinates you about Opera singing?
You ask me this and I think to myself – how can I not be fascinated? First of all, to be fair, I am an extremely emotional person, and opera is so much more than singing and acting, as some might say. Opera singers don’t just put themselves in a costume they put their heart and soul into the sound. They literally use the voice to cry, to scream, to laugh. It fascinates me how singing an aria is a process that requires 100% of your concentration while at the same time complete relaxation and ease. A process that lets your mind transfer into freedom. Singing satisfies me completely – that’s as concise as it gets. I feel more myself when I’m singing Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Donizetti, than when I’m actually talking.
- Who are your role models that you look up to?
They are the people that in a way motivate me each and every day. The people that bring me joy make me want to perfect my technique so badly… I have to mention some of my icons: Anna Natrebko is someone whose emotions touch my heart so deeply, that woman gives me goosebumps, often makes me cry. Diana Damrau is someone who fascinates me so much; you can see how she feels at home when she’s on the stage. Then of course I have to mention Lucia Popp, Kathleen Battle – the women I associate simply with the word ease. It is incredible how lightly they open their mouth and let out a sound made for the heavens. Elina Garanča or simply said – the woman that represents drama. I have to mention Dimitri Hvorostovsky, he owned the stage and i honestly cry to this day when I think of him and how he played with his voice, enjoyed it to the fullest. Of course I bow down to legends like Pavarotti, Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, one of the greatest faces of Opera. And as for the rising stars- the bold sound of Anita Rechvelishvilli’s voice, Pretty Yande and the magical enthusiasm in her eyes.
- What are the most interesting and the most difficult things in your studies?
Well I would say that an opera represents pure magic that lasts 4 hours, but stays, lives in your heart. It is so much more difficult than it looks. As my teacher says- we think of minimum 10 things before we even open our mouth. The technique we use to make even a single sound, needs to be so perfect so that each and every person in the crowd can hear it as though they’re sitting right next to us. Quite frankly, it is a true compliment when people look at as and think – that doesn’t look that hard! Because the second most important thing is to do all that with ease, the voice should be floating on top of the orchestra. And as for acting, an opera singer acts mostly trough the voice, the movements and facial expressions come after. So it is truly difficult, but as for me, there is no possible way to let that stop me.
- What effort do your studies require? How does it affect your personal life?
Well, it affects my life on a higher level. Unlike other students, opera students have to take care of themselves rigorously. Certain actions like partying, staying up late, not eating well can be extremely consequential for singers. In a way, our voice is a “living instrument” Many things affect our voice, from our lifestyle to the way we’re standing while singing… It is truly fascinating. Furthermore there is our psychological situation. It affects us on a deep, emotional level. It is fair to say that every time I disappoint myself while singing it affects my overall mood, I’ve had days where I’ve felt like crying all day just because I couldn’t hit a note the right way. Anyway I’ve been told it is quite normal to take something like that so emotionally, after all, opera is not something that I just study, it represents something that is mine and only mine, my greatest purpose.
- What are your future plans, how do you imagine your future career and where?
I would say that I dare to dream. I definitely have many goals regarding my success with opera. I would definitely call myself a beginner, there is so much more to experience and I am so excited to learn more. My main goal of course is to have an effortless technique, the ability to “play” with my voice. And as for the near future I hope to get accepted at a conservatory where I would fit in, above all I expect to continue my studies with a mentor that would concentrate on me, understand me deeply, i certainly feel like a good relationship between the student and the mentor is crucial. I want to spend as much time as I can “exploring the beauty of the stage” and one day hopefully be a part of a production at one of the most renowned opera houses in the world such as the Wiener Staatsoper, the Sydney Opera house, the Metropolitan Opera, the Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera, etc…. I’m happy doing what I love and I feel lucky to have found out at this age that my true passion is Opera. Above all, I have to be grateful for having the chance to continue my journey. Thankfully I have wonderful parents who support me.
- What kind of advice or words of wisdom to you have for young people and their parents that are interested in opera singing?
To every aspiring musical artist out there: – Try to understand and accept the fact that it is hard. It is brutal; your success will depend on many factors. You will have to fall and stand up straight many times. Even sacrifice some things. – If you see it as work, as a job rather than pleasure – you’re better off without it. Make sure you enjoy it because you’ll constantly need to practice, that is the only right way. – Being a true Opera singer requires much more than just a good voice. To study the crucial opera languages such as Italian, French, German, Latin, Spanish. To be able to communicate with the audience and show them what you’re feeling, expressing an emotion. Make sure you do it thoroughly or don’t do it at all. Be a professional even at a young age – Know what you want and go for it. Confidence is essential. It’s fair to say that with this profession, confidence is the thing that will keep you alive. Believe in what you’re doing, there will be a lot of criticism, so just learn from it instead of letting it bring you down. – Be realistic. It’s the surest way to keep on improving yourself, thus going forward. Be happy with your results but try to find something about your performance to criticize, In other words – try to combine the confidence with some self-criticism. – Ignore the negative comments. Even at this young age of mine, I’ve had people that bring me negative energy. There will be people with mean comments, people that will try to get under your skin… after all everyone wants to be at the top spot. It is crazy how many “Stories of extreme jealousy” I’ve heard. It is quite normal the end of the day. Try to see it as an everyday logical occurrence. -BE PATIENT! This is truly the key. Just don’t try to skip ahead. After all it requires maturity, experience…. It simply requires so much time for the art to start growing as a part of you. As for the parents: Don’t expect your child to be a prima donna, a maestro, or simply a renowned artist at the age of 16. The only real path to success is the one that comes naturally, so let your child to first of all be a beginner, an amateur, to then one day become a real professional. In the words of the legendary Operatic Soprano -Kathleen Battle -” at 16 years of age, your voice should sound like 16 years, at 20 your voice should sound like 20, at 35 years your voice should sound like 30. Just don’t force you’re children thinking that will make them better. From what I’ve learned – it is not the best ones that make their way to the top, but rather the patient ones, the ones that keep pushing forward. Simply said – the ones that don’t quit.
Interviewed by Madis–Siim Kull