On October 26, at the Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater, Ruggero Leoncavallo’s ‘Pagliacci’ will be shown. The role of Nedda will be a home debut for the world acclaimed Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri. To date, she has sung it at the Theatre du Capitole, Toulouse, and at the Staatsoper, Vienna, at the performance of the outstanding opera director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Iveri will be partnered by: Anzor Khidasheli (Canio), Sulkhan Gvelesiani (Tonio), Giorgi Tsamalashvili (Silvio, intern) and Irakli Murjikneli (Pepe). The choir and orchestra of the Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater will take part. This version of ‘Pagliacci’ was first staged in 2006 by Temur Chkheidze. The debut of ‘Pagliacci’ took place on October 13, 1893, at the Tbilisi Opera Theater, shortly after the world premiere in Milan on May 21, 1892. It retells about the passions of the strolling cast of actors, with a fatal end, based on real life. ‘Pagliacci’ is among the 20 most frequently staged operas of the world. GEORGIA TODAY met Tamar Iveri to find out more.

How did you become such a success and so beloved by audiences?

Sleepless nights and a lot of anxiety are needed for your name to become a brand. The more famous you become, the more requirements emerge from the public. Of course, talent is the most important thing, merged with emotion and expression. There are some singers who possess a certain technique and voice, but have a lack of inner drive. A singer should ennoble the public for some hours.

As for my path, I won a contest at Bussetto, homeland of Verdi, in 1997. Then, in 1999, I came first place in the Salzburg Mozart Competition. After that, all doors opened to me. It was 1990s, the hardest years for Georgia, it was real ‘impudence’ to surpass even Italians and there are very few singers who can claim they have won both the Verdi and Mozart competitions. It was my niche – Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Tchaikovsky- a niche of absolute diversity. After winning, I became a soloist of the Graz Opera, Austria. When Ioan Holender, legendary director of Vienna Staatsoper, listened me in Graz, he proposed I sing in La Boheme, in Vienna. I accepted his proposal and studied the role of Mimi in two weeks. Since then Mr. Holender has invited me each year to different performances in Staatsoper, Vienna. He even awarded me the Eberhard Waechter Medal for the best interpretation of Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugeny Onegin’.

You performed on the new Opera House stage here in Zakaria Paliashvili’s ‘Abesalom and Eteri’ last year. How do you feel leading up to ‘Pagliacci’?

Prior to the restoration of the Opera Theater in Tbilisi, there was a real fall and stagnation in Georgia. I had invitations during David Sakvarelidze’s period [former artistic director of Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater], but those parts did not suit me. I was a regular guest at ‘Iavnana’ charity concerts. Then, following the restoration, I sang ‘Abesalom and Eteri’. Before that, I sang at the Batumi Opera Theater in ‘Othello’, where I was a soloist. Avtandil Javakhisvhili, my father, was a famous Baritone who dreamed of seeing me sing on the Tbilisi opera stage. Unfortunately, he died when I was only 19 but I made his dream come true and dedicated my first show to him. He used to sit in the tier, as he considered good singers were best listened to from there. I had a feeling he was sitting somewhere in the tier again while I sang.

Tell us about the part of Nedda

I often sang this part in Vienna. I believe that the Austrian public was deeply in love with my Nedda. The Toulouse staging was very beautiful, too. Nicolas Joel, Intendant of the Opéra National de Paris, told Mamuka Kudava, then- Ambassador of Georgia to France, that he loved Georgia because of me. Nedda is a strong woman, but the public detests her, considering her a negative character. Nonetheless, in spite of her being an adulteress, I do not blame her, as her spouse Canio treats her very badly. There is an age difference too. In Silvio, Nedda saw a person with whom she escaped with the hope of starting a new life. Nedda is close to me for her strong character, principles and stubbornness.

If not an opera singer, what you would be?

An actress. I’ve always liked the idea of taking part in films. I like the expressiveness, especially tragic roles.

What are your plans for the future?

November 3 is the 100th anniversary of the Tbilisi State Conservatoire. Various Georgian stars will participate in this concert. For me, this building is sacred, as I was raised there. Later, George Gagnidze, my partner, has a charity concert. Then, I leave for Hong-Kong.

Exclusive interview by Maka Lomadze