CULTURE

A true 21st century diva plays wicked Abigaille

Maria Guleghina has given over 100 performances at the New York Metropolitan Opera and is the only living soprano to have sung in 14 new productions at Milan’s La Scala. The Ukrainian singer, who claims to have Verdi running though her veins, is today one of the greatest divas on the international opera scene and will be in Athens performing the role of Abigaille in the National Opera’s production of Verdi’s «Nabucco» (tonight, March 2 and 4) at the Olympia Theater. Guleghina, a rich and emotional interpreter, is made of the same stuff as the legendary divas that came before her and has fought her way to the top, from the time she was a child in Odessa. The soprano admits to getting into scraps with the boys in her neighborhood and returning home to hide her cuts and bruises from her parents. The next morning, when her mother would find traces of blood on her bedsheets, the doctor would be summoned to tend to her wounds. «My father didn’t want me getting into fights and arguments,» she reminisces. «But, he also said: ‘If you have to fight, you either have to win or be brave enough to lose. You can’t come back home crying.’» It is of little surprise that a person with such gumption is not intimidated by a role such as the bellicose Abigaille. «The hardest thing of all is to play the bad guy,» says Guleghina of the role of King Nabucco’s foster daughter who tries to usurp his throne. As far as the sacrifices an opera singer has to make to meet the rising demands of the stage today, she says: «It’s like asking a fish if it finds swimming hard. Does it ever think about it? It doesn’t.» «Every person has a cross to bear. My voice is my cross and my paradise. It’s my hell, my prison, my kingdom, my everything.» What is her hell? «I’ll give you one image,» says Guleghina. «I am here in Athens, and it’s fantastic, because my career requires it. My son, Ruslan, is back home in Luxembourg, thousands of kilometers away from his mother. Is that enough?» The celebrated soprano also agrees that the modern audience has become more exacting in what it demands from an opera singer. «It is correct for the audience to want to see an interpreter who is not just a piece of furniture with a charismatic voice but also more than that: a regular person with good movement. I don’t see anything wrong with that.» Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias, tel 210.361.2461.