"Natela Nicoli On the Great Career Leap"
Maria Reiter met the mezzo-soprano between two guest performances.
She was awarded the Festival Opera Prize for her portrayal of Carmen, and she is a successful and sought-after artist in many opera houses and concert halls - mezzo-soprano Natela Nicoli.
The singer graduated with honors in piano and voice and lives in Austria. In 1996 she was awarded Austrian citizenship for her outstanding artistic achievements.
Today you are in demand as a singer at numerous operas and concert halls. You began your training at the university in the so-called traditional way.
If by traditional you mean proper training, then you are right. I was fortunate to enjoy both my piano and voice training at the college with excellent teachers who were also always eager to introduce me to tasks and roles.
My activities have been in many prestigious opera houses and various festivals in Central and Eastern Europe, where I have sung Olga, Eboli, Cherubino, Zerlina, Suzuki, Komponist, Orlofsky and Polina. Guest performances at the Prague State Opera, at the Festival in Tours and also at the Vienna Klangbogen were next steps. From 1992 I was engaged at the Graz Opera House as a member of the ensemble.
What opportunities for development did you find in Austria at the Graz Opera House or in the art scene in general?
Certainly it was a big change for me. First of all, I had to learn the language and, above all, make friends with a very different scene in art and culture. At the Graz Opera House I had excellent conditions for this. In particular, I had the opportunity for further training with the best professors, such as Renata Scotto, Ruthilde Boesch, Horiana Branisteanu and Marga Schiml. I had the opportunity to study new roles, and I was able to put this into practice on stage, for example with Dorabella, Cherubino, Zerlina, Nicklaus, Rosina, Dalila, Octavian and many others. The collaboration with Edita Gruberova was a very beautiful and valuable experience for me - the live recording of the opera duet evening in the Philharmonie Gasteig in Munich is commercially available under the title "Adagio - Between Heaven and Earth".
As a member of the ensemble - didn't that severely limit your artistic development?
No, I have never felt that way, although I am very active myself, have dealt with many new themes and have been given the chance by the management at the time to be artistically active in other ways whenever opportunities arose. Performances and concerts with renowned conductors such as Jury Bashmet, Ivor Bolton, Sylvain Cambreling, Christoph von Dohanyi, Martin Haselböck, Milan Horvat, Dmitrij Kitaenko, Fabio Luisi, Ernst Märzendorfer and Emil Tabakov have allowed me to work successfully in various concert halls and opera houses. I have sung several times at the Salzburg Festival, for example in the "Magic Flute" by Achim Freyer, as well as in the "Troyens" by Herbert Wernicke, but also a wealth of concerts e.g. in the Musikvereinssaal Rossini's "Stabat Mater", Bruckner's VIII Symphony below Milan Horvath, "Alexander Njevsky" in the Gasteig Philharmonic in Munich. I will be able to sing this wonderful music again in March in Vienna with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Vienna Symphony.
I love songs! When I sing opera, I slip into a role, which requires an intensive study of the subject and the person. Of course, the interpretation is also massively influenced by the director and conductor. When singing songs, I am the sole interpreter and can really sing from the heart. The preparation of a song recital is not only a great and exciting task for me, but also an interesting vocal and emotional challenge. I have already worked on song programs with the pianist Maris Skuja in my Graz days. Last year, together with Helmut Deutsch, I sang a recital of Spanish songs by Garcia Lorca and Manuel de Falla as well as songs by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in the sold-out Brahmssaal of the Vienna Musikverein. It is in recitals that I find this incredible closeness to the listeners. The evening was recorded for a video production.
What is your attitude to the discussion of modern direction and director's theater?
My attitude to it is very simple: as long as the text, the music and the singing are not watered down or even distorted and the audience gets the feeling of being in a different play, I think opera is subject to change. A thoroughly positive development. I just sang in Florence with Carlos Alvarez and Rámon Vargas in "Rigoletto," under the musical direction of Fabio Luisi. A modern production with a lot of style and taste although a bit provocative for the conservative Italian audience - why not?
Do you have something like a career plan or a future management?
Of course there is something like that, because singing and interpretation also need constant development. The technical perfection and the development of expression and interpretation take a lot of time. Since the summer of last year, I have been working with Christa Ludwig, who has been a great idol for me since my youth. I remember that my mother gave me a record of Christa Ludwig for my 18th birthday. Her interpretation of Schubert's "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" (The Shepherd on the Rock) was a great inspiration to me, which is why I have included this work in my repertoire.
At the moment I am working with Mrs. Christa Ludwig on a "master plan" for my further artistic activity.
The main focus is on the development into the dramatic field and in this context on the further development of the color of the voice, the content of the texts (e.g. Amneris, Azucena, etc...) and above all on not losing the fun of singing, having enough time to study my roles well. In addition, it is very important to have an appropriately balanced private life.
I have a son who is studying, and I have been living with my partner for over three years. The center of our lives is Vienna. Thank God my partner is not in the music business, although he is a music lover and opera enthusiast. He works as a businessman in the economy, this also enables me to get to know and see other aspects of life, for which I again open many a window for him into the art of music.
Of course, my many trips are often a strain on my private life, my life partner always tries to visit me and takes the opportunity to get acquainted with the local economic situation, social developments in these areas. In recent years I have also learned how important professional time management is, especially for artists. Today, managing my time potential has become very important to me. It's about having enough time for my job, for my further development, but also for my family and my private life. Not so easy with my busy schedule and all the traveling I do. It is very important for me to create an atmosphere in which I feel comfortable and can work, but also relax, when I am abroad for longer periods of time.
Necessary for both of us is a circle of friends that also needs nurturing. All this is important to me because I have also very often seen the isolation into which fellow artists have slipped. My partner has also shown me a lot of my now home country Austria - a country that is beautiful and that I have come to love very much. A few days of vacation in the snowy mountains of Tyrol give me strength and positive input for the next tasks again
I love being in our beautiful home, seeing friends, cooking for them, but also being cooked for. My partner surprises me again and again as an amateur cook with his creations. I love taking care of the flowers and plants on our rooftop garden. Places like Florence, for example, are tempting for me because I am a lover of beautiful things and often can't pass by stores without shopping.
And your next plans?
I am currently on my way to Leipzig for concerts and CD recordings of "Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln" with Fabio Luisi. Then it's back to Vienna, where rehearsals begin at the Volksoper for Carmen. I like this role very much, because the character of Carmen fascinates me - she has something originally feminine and tremendously emancipated. In between there are concerts, as already mentioned with the symphony orchestra. A concert tour in Germany and France is being planned, as well as other projects and CD recordings. In the summer I'm looking forward to singing in Austria with Harald Serafin in Mörbisch."