Q&A with opera singer Luisa Islam Ali Zade

  • 25 April 2006
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Edward O'Hare speaks to opera singer Luisa Islam Ali Zade.


Tell me about your childhood in Uzbekistan. Did you come from a musical family?

I come from Samarquand in Ukbekistan. Samarquand is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is 3,000 years old and very beautiful. My family had no interest in music of any professional kind. They all studied medicine. I too studied medicine for several years.


How did you come to discover your talent?

When I was three years old I had a terrible fear of the dark. This fear of the dark was so bad that it made me stammer. I could not speak properly. One day my father said to me "Do not speak the words, sing them." I discovered my voice and decided to learn how to sing properly. I went to a school where I learned musical instruments and did ballet. I also sang to children and the children said that I had a lovely voice. From that day on I committed to becoming an opera singer.


Is our impression that the opera world is filled with vibrant, colourful and temperamental people a truthful one?

Yes I think that is true in some ways. These productions cost so much that there are always arguments. There are also some people who like to keep opera exclusive, elitist. A singer cannot be the only important person in a production. The whole production is like an orchestra. When all the members work together then the production has vision and is spectacular.


Which singers have inspired you?

Oh I have loved so many. Do you know that singers are like fingerprints? There are no two the same. Even the voices of identical twins are different. A singer who I believe was very special was one who is not known very well at all. Her name was Conchita Supervia (1895-1936). She was a very talented Spanish Mezzo who was popular in the 1920s. I collect recordings and I have her singing Rossini's Maometto Secundo, and she sings a huge role Rossini wrote for his wife superbly.


You have studied in many different countries and travelled all over the world. Where do you enjoy performing most?

I love performing in France. I especially love performing in Dublin. Irish audiences know their opera so well and they are generous. I could give my life for them.


Where do you live when you are not on tour?

I have a house in Germany, in the Black Forest. I have lived there for six years. I am very happy there because it is so quiet. I have cats, dogs and an aquarium.


What are your feelings about the plight of Uzbekistan in the face of Russian interests?

Well I am a musician not a politician but I still feel very strongly that Uzbekistan is not being allowed to develop. The Russians are wonderful people who have given much to world culture in terms of music and literature. I have Russian heritage because my mother was a Tartar but I also have Sufi Muslim heritage of which I am very proud. All the former Soviet countries need time to rebuild, to find themselves again. I pray Uzbekistan will find itself again.


The opera you are performing here, La Cenerentola, is based on Cinderella but it is very different from the fairy tale. Do you like to perform operas that have a message?

Yes I do. I think a good message is very important. The message in La Cenerentola is very personal for me because it is about the transformation of a person into something great. It says believe in your future. If you live up to your heart then good things will come to you in the end.

More Gaiety Theatre until 30 April. www.operaireland .com, 01 872 1122