When I first sat down, I had a split-second “what have you gotten yourself into?” moment. The room – a poorly labeled IAB conference room that took me an embarrassingly long time to find – was filled with glamorous people all speaking Russian. Probably the youngest person present by at least ten years, I took my seat next to a woman who looked to be the carbon copy of Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday.
Anita Rachvelishvili herself is exactly as divalicious as one would expect. With dark hair and bright red lipstick, I could easily imagine her belting out Carmen on the Met stage. But Anita has much more than the hair of a Disney villain. Her voice is so spectacular that she is one of the youngest opera singers to ever take on the role of Carmen. However, youthful vigor can come with drawbacks. Rachvelishvili says that she plans to stay with Carmen for a couple of years because her voice is not yet mature enough for other roles.
Anita’s rise to operatic fame started at the age of seventeen. Born in Georgia and coming from a musically inclined family (her father was a composer, her mother a singer and ballerina), Anita has been singing her whole life. Surprisingly, though, Anita wasn’t originally interested in singing opera; instead, she spent the formative years of her life obsessed with rock music. Led Zeppelin, she says, is still her go-to music choice. When Anita turned seventeen, her father brought her to her first opera lesson. Like nothing she’d ever heard before, Georgian opera instantly enchanted Anita. Within months, she was well on her way to becoming an opera star.
When Anita first auditioned at the Met, she wasn’t trying for the part of Carmen. Instead, she had her sights set on a much smaller role; one so small, in fact, that she had to audition with one of Carmen’s songs because her character didn’t have enough pieces to sing. After singing the part of Carmen, the show’s director ushered her aside and asked her to accept the role of the title character. So it was basically a fairy tale!
But wait! There’s more! Although Anita is trained in the traditional Italian style, the director of Carmen needed her to learn French. Upon receiving the role of a lifetime, Anita was jetsetted off to Paris to study the language. Her pronunciation is perfect…even if she doesn’t know what she is saying. Though she can sing beautiful French songs with perfect inflection, she must study their meanings in her native tongue to absorb any meaning from them.
At this point in the lecture, the man to my left raised his hand and asked a question in Russian. Anita responded in Russian, and the entire lecture dissolved into rapidfire Russian conversation. I found myself looking around thinking, “am I really the only one here that doesn’t speak Russian?” Everybody else seemed to be following the course of conversation perfectly as I sat quietly and waited to switch back to English.
Anita is not what you would expect from an opera star. Although she looks the part, her boisterous personality and penchant for rock music make her really stand out in her field.