I am Nino Machaidze!

© Wilson-Santinelli. Courtesy Zemsky/Green Artists Management

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).


Here is my gorgeous dress 💖 I feel pretty, super cool and I’m in love

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!”

Castellucci’s Salome from Salzburg released on DVD and Blu-ray

Salome Asmik coverBy Peter Franken

Romeo Castelluci’s production of Salome was a remarkable success at the Salzburg Festival in 2018. Not least because of the phenomenal interpretation of the title role by Asmik Grigorian. The premiere was broadcast live on TV and, supplemented with material recorded during two subsequent performances, recently released on DVD and Blu-ray. Last summer, the production was repeated three times, again with great success, after which the visitors could have their previously purchased copies signed by Frau Grigorian.

A production by Romeo Castelluci is in fact a Gesamtkunstwerk. He directs and designs the costumes and the scenery. Only for the choreography does he allow someone else into his world. Castellucci is said to be not so much a director of persons as one who stages the entire space. His Salome therefore does not lend itself very well to wide-ranging interpretations, but can best be experienced as it is.

The broad, shallow stage of the Felsenreitschule is used in its entirety. The arches in the back wall have been closed, so that the audience is looking at a closed, greyish back wall, which contributes to the oppressive atmosphere. The stage is empty, with the exception of a number of gold-coloured objects, which sometimes play a role in the action, sometimes not.

The floor is shiny gold, making the light reflect in such a way that the players seem to be standing behind a transparent curtain. This is a small disadvantage of a recording in HD, the public in the auditorium did not notice it, as I know from my own experience. A large opening in the floor gives access to the cistern where Jochanaan is kept prisoner.

The costumes are fairly uniform: men in dark suits with faces partially painted in red. It is difficult to distinguish between the different characters; all of them are merely secondary figures in the drama that takes place between the three protagonists. Herodias, with green makeup, is also emphatically kept in the background.

Salome appears in a white dress holding a royal white cloak with a crown in her hand.  A red spot suggests that she is menstruating, emphasizing that although she is unmarried, she has more than reached the age of marriage. Moreover, this makes her extra untouchable for the prophet; she is in all respects an impure woman. When Narroboth gives in and has the Prophet brought up, he remains largely shrouded in darkness. We only see a black shadow. Salome speaks to him, he answers and curses her.

So far, the libretto is followed fairly closely. But after Jochanaan has retreated to his dungeon, the action takes a remarkable turn. During the overwhelming musical interlude, Salome lies on her back and performs a complex, erotically tinted ballet with her legs. Cindy van Acker’s choreography is sublime and the mastery with which Grigorian performs this ballet is phenomenal. The eroticism of course relates to the excitement generated by the encounter with the prophet. He grossly rejected her and even cursed her, an entirely new experience for this luxurious creature. At the same time, a horse wanders around the cistern, a reference to the fascination of young girls with large animals. A bit of a cliché, but very effective.

Sallome asmik-grigorian-r-castellucci-rezisuotoje-salomejoje-5b6078eedf35d

Salzburgerfestspiele © ruth waltz

On the front curtain the text “Te Saxo Loquuator” was written, meaning “what the stones may say to you”. Castellucci uses this reference to the supposed strenghth and power of stones to give a different meaning to Salome’s dance. At the beginning she is hidden from view by a group of extras and suddenly appears lying almost naked in a fetal position on a golden block, on which SAXO is written in large letters.

During the musical intermezzo, a large block slowly descends from above and threatens to crush her. Instead, however, Salome is enveloped by the descending block, hidden from view. She has turned to stone, a gem, but still. The enormity of what she intends to do has made her an undead in advance.

Dramaturge Piesandra di Matteo gives the following explanation:  „In ihrer Eigenschaft als Objekt verweigert sich die Figur“, so erlischt der Trieb, wodurch sich neues Potenzial erschließt.“  Be that as it may, the above mentioned ‘ballet’ clearly ends with the suggestion of an orgasm, so ‘Trieb’ will play less of a role by now. There is no longer any question of revenge sex with the head, it is now about the revenge of ‘a woman scorned’.

Opera singer Grigorian performs during a dress rehearsal of Richard Strauss' opera "Salome" in Salzburg

Opera singer Asmik Grigorian performs as Salome during a dress rehearsal of Richard Strauss’ opera “Salome” in Salzburg, Austria July 24, 2018. Picture taken July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

While Herod wringing his hands tries to get Salome to change her mind, she bathes in a large puddle of milk. He gives in, but instead of Jochanaan’s head Salome does not unexpectedly first receive a horse’s head and only later the body of the dead prophet. Salome’s final monologue is directed at Jochanaan’s torso. She also briefly puts the horse’s head on it. Finally she goes down into a second cistern and we only see her head when Herod gives the order to kill her.

Salome really is an orgy of sound and visuals, an overwhelming theatre play. And it only really comes into its own when there is a Salome on stage who is in charge of everything and everyone, including the huge orchestra, no matter how loud they play. This makes Asmik Grigorian the ideal Salome. She has a large voice, with which she is able to cut through the orchestra at any moment, without forcing it for a single moment. A Salome should have everything: an Isolde, but also a Chrysothemis and a Zdenka. With her clear, agile voice, Grigorian can convincingly perform these different types. What makes her a unique interpreter of the famous title character, however, is her ability to make singing and acting an organic whole.

John Daszak is vocally a strong Herod, but cannot make much of an impression: it’s all about Salome here. Even Jochanaan remains, literally, in her shadow. Bass-baritone Gabor Bretz is above all a strongly singing shadow. The only time he appears is when he is sprayed clean with a garden hose by a couple of helpers.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the house orchestra of the Salzburger Festspiele, under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst, provides a hugely successful musical support, claiming the leading role here and there during the interludes.

This recording by (C-major 801704) is an absolute must for lovers of this masterpiece by Richard Strauss.

Trailer of the production:

Asmik Grigorian, John Daszak, Anna Maria Chiuri, Gábor Bretz, Julian Prégardien
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst
Directed by: Romeo Castelluci

In Dutch:
Castellucci’s Salome op dvd en Bluray uitgebracht

Translated with

LE NOZZE DI FIGARO: discografie, deel 1

Günther Rennert Salzburg 1966

Mozart - Le nozze di Figaro (Salzburger Festspiele, Arthaus Musik ...


In 1966 werd in Salzburg een pracht van een Nozze vastgelegd.
De regie van Günther Rennert is (uiteraard) traditioneel en zeer fascinerend, en de decors zijn een genot voor het oog.

Gezongen wordt er op een niveau waar je tegenwoordig nog van kan dromen, want waar vind je nog zulke ensembles, waar niets, maar ook totaal niets is op aan te merken?

Iedereen zingt en acteert ongekend goed, en de interpretatie van Edith Mathis is het bewijs dat Cherubino door een sopraan gezongen moet worden. Luister alleen maar naar haar o zo mooi gezongen “Voi che sapette”, nou, dan weet je het wel…..
Het beeld is zwart/wit, maar – who cares? (Arthouse Music 107057)

Jean-Pierre Ponelle 1976 (film)

Mozart-Bohm -Les Noces [Edizione: Regno Unito]: Karl ...

Ik ben een echte fan van Jean-Pierre Ponelle’s barok-theatrale verfilmingen van de opera, maar de in 1976 gerealiseerde Nozze is voor mij een regelrechte fiasco.

Fischer-Dieskau mag dan wel mooi zingen, maar zijn sex-appeal is gelijk aan dat van een ijsberg. Prey en Freni zijn optisch te oud, wat des te meer opvalt daar ze op de huid gefilmd worden. Kiri te Kanawa lijkt totaal niet betrokken, en alleen Maria Ewing is zeer overtuigend als de onstuimige Cherubino.

Een aardigheidje voor wie daar prijs op stelt: in de rollen van Basilio en Don Curzio treden twee Nederlandse tenoren op, resp. John van Kesteren en Willy Caron, maar het playback is werkelijk storend (DG 0734034)

hele film:

John Elliott Gardiner Parijs 1993

Nozze De Figaro: Alison Hagley, Hillevi Martinpelto ...

In 1993 dirigeerde John Elliot Gardiner een ‘authentieke’ uitvoering van Nozze in het Parijse Palais Garnier. Zelf ben ik er niet zo gecharmeerd van, en dat ligt niet alleen aan de instrumenten en de snelle (toegegeven: wel mooi licht gehouden) tempi. De aankleding vind ik knudde en de make-up van de zangers ronduit stuitend.Het zou eigenlijk niet storen als er goed werd gezongen, maar dat doet op Bryn Terfel en (de onherkenbaar toegetakelde) Rodney Gilfry na eigenlijk niemand.
Wat wellicht interessant is, zeker voor de wetenschappers onder u: Gardiner gebruikte de ‘Moberly/Raeburn’-herziening van de partituur, waardoor de volgorde van de nummers in de derde akte anders is en de aria’s van Marcellina en Basilio in de vierde zijn gesneuveld. Nou ja, het staat allemaal in het tekstboek. (Archiv 0730189)


Christoph Marthaler Parijs 2006

W.A. Mozart / Le Nozze di Figaro / Peter Mattei / Lorenzo Regazzo ...


De in 2006 eveneens in Garnier opgenomen voorstelling heeft de nodige commotie veroorzaakt.

Marthaler is een goede regisseur en zijn personenregie is zonder meer fantastisch, maar zijn productie heeft bijzonder weinig met het oorspronkelijk verhaal te doen, en dat niet alleen maar omdat het zich in een hybride combinatie van een bruidswinkel en een onpersoonlijk (Oost-Europese?) kantoor afspeelt.

Ik moet toegeven – het is allemaal zeer boeiend en fascinerend gedaan, maar de vrijheden die Marthaler zich veroorlooft gaan me op bepaalde momenten echt te ver: niet alleen voegt hij er een personage aan toe, hij permitteert zich zelfs om muziek(jes) en rare geluiden aan toe te voegen.

Christiane Oelze (Gravin) is niet om aan te horen, en Lorenzo Regazzo (Figaro) chargeert te veel, maar Peter Mattei is een prima graaf en Christine Schäfer schittert als een kostelijke Cherubino. (Opus Arte OA 0960)

David McVicar Londen 2006

Nozze McVicar

Het kan ook anders … Zelden zie je de opera zo intelligent en liefdevol geënsceneerd, met zoveel respect voor zowel het libretto als de muziek.

De actie is verplaatst naar 1830 en speelt zich af in een kasteel in het postrevolutionaire Frankrijk. De strikte restricties tussen de “upper class” en de bedienden zijn aan het wankelen – er is nog een kloof, maar niet zo diep meer. Ze zoeken toenadering tot elkaar: niet alleen voor een seksueel pleziertje (seks is overigens zeer nadrukkelijk aanwezig, zonder dat het plat of vulgair wordt), maar ook voor de goede raad en ondersteuning. En er is ook moreel verval, iedereen bespioneert iedereen en niemand is eigenlijk te vertrouwen.

De oogverblindende decors en kostuums zijn zeer realistisch, en Paule Constable verdient een Oscar voor de belichting.

De hele cast, met Gerald Finley als Almaviva voorop, is fantastisch en Pappano ontlokt het orkest (en de solisten) de mooiste versieringen. Adembenemend, en wat mij betreft al een klassieker. (Opus Arte OA 0990 D)