Taking tradition to the stage

Ketevan Kemoklidze Every Friday evening on El Punt Avui Televisió, Nicole chats with an English-speaking expat. For this month’s interview, she had a chat with Georgian opera singer Ketevan Kemoklidze.
You’re from Georgia?
Yes, a very beautiful country, spectacular nature and wonderful culture, and wine and food and special music. We have great Georgian Folk music. It’s thanks to this great Georgian tradition of music that I’m singing and lots of Georgian people are singing.
It’s so nice to see someone so passionate about their home country! Now you live in Barcelona?
Yes, my husband is a professor at a university so we have been here two years. We live here with our son, who’s like a kind of Catalan! He speaks Catalan very well and goes to school here.
Does your son feel like he has Georgian roots or does he feel more Catalan?
Here, he’s proud of being Georgian and in Georgia he’s proud of being Catalan. Apparently, he tells his friends at school lots of beautiful stories about Georgia and when he’s in Georgia he tells everyone that Barcelona is the best city. And I agree with him!
That’s wonderful, he has the best of both worlds. How do you find life here? Do you miss home?
I feel like it is home here. I have always dreamed of living in Barcelona, so I’m happy to be here. I love the city, I love the people. They’re so helpful and so warm. And I love the sun and the sea.
You’re a Mezzo-Soprano. How do you get into something like opera singing?
As I said, in Georgia we have a great musical tradition and I was singing Georgian Folk songs. The Georgians are always singing, through war and peace, we are always singing. I was also learning the piano and singing in the choir at school. I was advised to try operatic singing, so I did and continued. I always enjoyed being on the stage and opera is the best way to mix it all together.
Had you been to an opera before you started singing it?
Yes, my family enjoy going to the opera very much. I’ve been going since I was very young.
You were the winner of the Plácido Domingo Operalia in 2009?
For me, and I’m not the only one, I feel that this is the most important competition. You get the opportunity to meet the great Plácido Domingo. Then he offers young singers lots of possibilities, as he invites a lot of important directors from Opera Houses.
There’s a selection process, and only 40 young singers from around the world are selected.
It was something I thought I could only dream about, so it was amazing.
Was this a breakthrough moment for you?
Yes, it was. Before the competition I was singing professionally on the stage. I had already made my Spanish debut. But after Operalia a lot of doors opened. A lot of theatres invited me. I went to Madrid, Covent Garden, a lot of theatres invited me.
You’ve also entered other competitions?
Yes, I did but once I had done Operalia, I stopped entering competitions. I couldn’t top that one.
You perform all over the world. How long are you away when performing?
I’m away from my family for at least one month. We rehearse for 3 weeks and then we have performances.
What’s your most memorable performance?
I can’t say, when you’re singing, you’re totally in love with that role you are playing. You can’t choose one role over another. It’s like your children, you love them all.
How do you prepare to change roles and become that person on stage?
That’s quite difficult. Sometimes I prepare trouser roles, which means I’m a boy on the stage. It’s really different and can be really difficult. I try to find the main line of the character within the music. I read a lot of stories about the character, about the period, about everything. We have to, we are a lot of singers and we have to perform in our very own way.
The acting part in an opera is huge as well, it isn’t just the singing. Is there anyone who can sing but can’t act?
No. Some years ago, singers weren’t acting as much as they do now. But now having TV, films and Internet we’re used to seeing very good actors a lot more. We need to have the music plus very good acting to make it convincing and to show people that this art is very interesting and that you should come to the opera house.
Has opera declined in popularity over the years?
I think it’s still very popular, maybe it isn’t as popular as football! Now some performances are shown in the cinema and people enjoy coming to see live performances.
What’s next for you?
I’m going back to Georgia to bring Catalan music to Georgia for the first time!
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