We love to make comparisons. And not in an unpretentious way! Every aspiring football talent is called the next Johan Cruijff and a somewhat deserving soprano quickly becomes a future Maria Callas. Fortunately, this lady is spared that comparison, but even 31-year-old Nino Machaidze is not allowed to be just Nino.
“People always say that I am a new Anna Netrebko. I am not. Anna is a fantastic singer and I admire her and her voice very much, but I am not her! I am Nino Machaidze. And I keep repeating it endlessly: I am Nino Machaidze!”
Her extraordinarily beautiful appearance, with her toned body and sensual mouth, has also earned her the nickname ‘Angelina Jolie of opera’. It makes her laugh heartily. “It is of course a great compliment, because Angelina Jolie is a very attractive woman. So: thank you!”
She is fully aware that her appearance plays a not insignificant role in her career, because a beautiful voice alone doesn’t get you anywhere these days.
Nino Machaidze, born in 1983 in Tbilisi, is a proud Georgian.
“My mother was a great opera lover. I remember that even in the bad times, when there were problems with the electricity or when there was not enough food, we always went to the theatre. And it was always filled!”
“For as long as I can remember I have been singing. I think I was eight years old when I started singing arias. Unlike what is common in the West, in Georgia it is natural for children to start taking singing lessons at a very early age. It is something I really agree with.”
“I was eight when I started taking singing lessons in the Tbilisi music school. When I was seventeen, I started my studies at the conservatoire. I did my training in Georgia and my technique is also Georgian. My debut, at seventeen (Norina in Don Pasquale), was in Tbilisi. Even now, as I am travelling around the world, my whole singing basis is and remains Georgian. So: yes, you can say that everything in and for me remains linked to Georgia.”
She was 21 when she was accepted into the program for young singers at La Scala. After winning the Leyla Gencer Vocal Competition in 2006, she was offered the lead role in La fille du régiment.
Below, Nino Machaidze and Antonio Gandia in La Fille du Regiment:
Her career went off like a rocket when she unexpectedly had to take over the role of Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette in Salzburg from the pregnant Netrebko.
“I was at La Scala when the offer came. I sang Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi by Puccini and suddenly there was a lot of buzz: they wanted me in Salzburg. The funny thing is: I didn’t know anything about it, I was not even aware that this decision had been made. I was taken by surprise, because I did not know the role and I did not speak French. I had to learn everything in one month and my very first step was to find a French teacher”.
Below Machaidze as Juliette in Salzburg:
Nino Machaidze, only a few years ago one of the most promising young sopranos, has now grown into a real diva. Juliette, a role that made her the talk of the town overnight, has become her flagship. After her amazing debut in Salzburg, she also sang the role in Amsterdam at the ZaterdagMatinee as a last-minute replacement for Patrizia Ciofi.
After the performance I wrote:
“That cancellations do not always spell disaster was proven on 8 November 2008 during the performance of Romeo & Juliette by Gounod. After the cancellations of first Patrizia Ciofi and then Matthew Polenzano, the casting director managed to engage two fantastic replacements at very short notice: Nino Machaidze, who has already sung the role of Juliette in Salzburg (as Netrebko’s replacement), and Sébastien Guéze. Their infatuation splashed off the stage, and, since not only the two lead actors but also the rest of the cast were very young (and very good), the performance was very realistic; it was like a bunch of excited teenagers.”.
In 2009, Machaidze sang an unequalled Lucia di Lammermoor in Brussels, a performance that, to my great regret, has never been released on DVD. Guy Joosten’s direction was very innovative and yet anchored in tradition. He created a world in which nobody loves anybody, and in which Lucia is not only the victim, but also the instigator.
In his view she was an adolescent; a horror stories loving ‘gothic girl’, who has a screw loose even before she goes mad for “real”. The madness scene itself was breathtaking: accompanied by the delicate sounds of the glass harmonica, Lucia rubbed her fingers over a glass that stood on the party table, creating the illusion that the sound was coming from under her hands. Nino Machaidze was a formidable Lucia: a hysterical teenager who, with a sardonic smile on her face, sang the most perfect ‘Regnava nel silenzio’.
How does Machaidze like to prepare for her performances? Beforehand, she talks as little as possible. In fact, she only talks to her husband (baritone Guido Loconsolo) or her father, who accompanies her on her trips as often as possible. “My father is really the best father in the whole world! He can’t always be with us – he still lives in Georgia – but when we are in Europe, he comes and stays with us. He and my little boy are the best of friends!”
When it comes to food, too, the soprano has her preferences, she recently confided to German magazine Concerti. “Before a performance I like to eat pasta. Preferably with olive oil and parmesan. It is good for my stomach and it gives me a lot of energy. Sometimes I take some extra vitamin C. And I never sing without a proper warming-up. I always have to be in the theatre at least two hours before the performance, I take enough time to vocalize and so to warm up my voice in the best way. I also try to have as much rest as possible two or three days before a performance and not to do parallel productions. It is too dangerous to travel back and forth between rehearsals and performances.
Machaidze is never nervous, she said in the same interview. “There is no point in being nervous. It brings only trouble when you start worrying about everything that could go wrong. But I think that also has to do with your personal disposition. You’re like this or that…”
What does sometimes bother Machaidze is the eternal travelling that is inextricably linked to life as an opera singer. But singing brings her so much happiness that she can live with the discomfort.
“Now that I am a mother, my happiness has only increased. Being a mum is the best thing there is! And it’s not so bad to combine motherhood and a career, at least, for me. There is nothing better than being able to sing and then go back home and cuddle your baby. That feeling is indescribable.”
In 2011, at 27, she signed an exclusive contract with Sony, which – so far – has resulted in two solo albums: “Romantic Arias” with mainly Donizetti and Bellini, recorded with the orchestra and choir of the Teatro Communale di Bologna, led by the young conductor Michele Mariotti and “Arias et Scenes”, in which she already took a tentative step towards Puccini and Verdi. On the second CD, conducted by Daniele Gatti, she was assisted by the young Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan (Rodolfo in the Amsterdam La Bohème).
Machaidze is very active on Facebook, where she shares many photos of herself and her two great ‘amores’ – her husband and her two-year-old son – with her fans. All this is accompanied by lots of hearts and kisses.
Yes, Nino Machaidze is very amiable! And she is very fond of Amsterdam. “It’s a great city. When I was here recently, I had a fantastic time. It makes me really happy that I can be here again and that I am going to perform in this wonderful opera, in your beautiful opera house. The audience here is also so warm! Can’t wait!”