Q & A: Moldovan Baritone Andrey Zhilikhovsky On Cultivating Balance & Enjoying His JourneyBy Jennifer Pyron
(Photo Credit: Askonas Holt Management)
After making a strong first impression with his debut in a new production of Prokofiev’s “Betrothal in a Monastery” at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin and looking forward to his Met Opera debut in October for the 2019-20 season in the role of Schaunard in Puccini’s “La Bohème,” Andrey Zhilikhovsky returns to Glyndebourne for the summer 2019 season performing the role of Figaro in Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia.”
Zhilikhovsky was born and raised in the Eastern European country and former Soviet republic of Moldova. He completed his studies in choral conducting at the Stefan Nyaga Musical College in Chișinău and since then has taken a unique path of his own while navigating his career as an opera singer.
In between all the excitement at Glyndebourne, Zhilikhovsky took a moment’s pause to visit exclusively with OperaWire about his past, his present and how he plans to navigate his future while unfurling amid his heart-driven success.
OperaWire: In regards to work and life, physically as a singer it’s a challenge to maintain anatomical balance. This means getting enough rest, drinking enough water and managing everything in one’s personal life while traveling abroad. As you are unfurling into a massively successful career in the opera world, how do you manage everything?
Andrey Zhilikhovsky: I don’t know. I don’t have a schedule. All the time, it’s like the first time. These times, I’m missing my family. But it’s a wonderful job. It’s what I love. And for that, I am here in England. And it’s very important to me while at Glyndebourne, to make good music. But I love my job. And when you love your job, your life, your journey in life, you absolutely find your way. A balance. The family. The personal life. Is balanced. And when you love your family, you love your job, you love your life, you absolutely have found what is most important. Firstly, I think what is most important in life is love. It’s love. And in that love, you try to find your way. The balance. No area of life is more important than the other. All is important. All is absolutely important.
OW: I read in your bio that you studied choral conducting and I found this most interesting. And I believe this has made you a strong singer because from the start of your studies you had to create an inner metronome. A strong sense of direction before signaling the first entrance. How has this translated into your career now?
AZ: You know, first I studied violin in music school. And after that I studied conducting. When you study conducting, after, it’s more simple to understand the director, the orchestra, to understand where you are within the entire score. Not only your line, your vocal line. And when you understand the whole page together, it’s very interesting. It’s important. Also, it’s important to understand the language. You understand that all that happens now, in this moment, is not only your line.
OW: And in regards to the sense of community and the sense of family here at Glyndebourne, do you feel at home to a degree while here as an artist?
AZ: Well, this is my second time here. My debut was in 2017 as Dr Malatesta in Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” and of course I fell in love immediately with this place, with this view. It’s amazing. You know, as artists while here, we live in Brighton or Lewes or London. Not here. And Glyndebourne is beautiful but we are all working here, ultimately. But for me, Brighton is good because after Berlin, Moscow, New York, after a big city, I miss the relaxing time. The peace. And (takes a deep breath) the silence. And it’s interesting to change your temple of your life. Your center.
OW: What do you find excites you most when you have quiet time? When you have enough space to breathe, to think, to feel the present moment. What do you enjoy doing during that time?
AZ: You are right, I like to feel the present moment. Only this moment. Because we don’t have yesterday, we don’t have tomorrow. And it’s interesting because I usually think about this: how to feel more grounded in life. And how to feel more of the right feeling, the goodness that is life, we need more of this ‘present moment thinking.’ And I enjoy thinking about my beautiful family. My two boys are six and a half, and two: Sebastian and Christian. And I have a gift-of-a-god my wife, who helps me. And my kids help me live in the present moment. And I also like reading something interesting in my quiet time.
OW: What are you reading right now?
AZ: Right now, (reaches into his backpack) I am reading the Bible. I have my copy of the Bible translated in Russian and this is what I’m reading. I like the Bible and for me, I want to read this now.
OW: And what do you enjoy doing with your two sons? What are you teaching them right now?
AZ: Oh, I think they are teaching me! I feel like I’m reliving my childhood. Because in my time, it was a childhood without much, without water, without anything really. It was absolutely not a life. And I was there until sixteen. And my first boy, before bedtime loves to hear stories about my childhood. He asks me, ‘tell me about your time.’ And until he falls asleep I tell him about that time. And it takes me back and shows me how much it is like another life compared to now. Another time.
OW: When did you first discover music and an innate love for music?
AZ: From the very beginning. My father was a choir conductor for the church and I started singing in the choir when I was eleven or twelve years old. And I started playing violin. I played without notes. I learned by ear. And I found my way. What I love most about music is that it is a big beautiful world. And I started conducting after music school because I didn’t have a diploma and I needed this to begin my way. And after this, I started singing more and that’s when I found ‘my way.’ Through my voice. Music to me is too big to understand. It is powerful. And there are many ways.
OW: Do you feel that you learn something new every time you perform? And if so, do you feel that it further evolves you as an entire person through that transformative moment that you have when you sing?
AZ: Yes. Because I like the feeling. But, if I stop the singing and stop finding ways to keep it interesting, then I lose the feeling, I lose the moment, and I lose the way to share the feeling with others that are listening in the audience. For me, every performance is like the first one. I say this because it gives me hope that there is a small amount: three, four, five people, that will understand for the first time. And they will get it. And I think of them. I sing for them. And I know they fall in love in the same way that I fall in love. For the music. And I believe it is hard to understand opera the first time. Yes, one time is good. But two, three times, at the opera and it gets easier to feel. To feel the love that is opera.