Belarus: At the age of 16, he had never even studied music. Now, he is an opera singer: This is Andrey’s story

13-06-2019

Until he was 16 years old, Andrey Mikulchik, from the Belarusian city of Maladziečna, had never studied music. However, he went on to become an opera singer, and has already performed in both Italy and Belarus.

Last August, Andrey Mikulchik participated in the fifth edition the Studio Lirico opera music festival in Rufina, Italy. Alongside him, musicians from various different countries participated in the event: Czechia, Germany, Russia and South Korea. At the end of April, a joint concert was then organised for spectators in Maladziečna.

Andrey’s trip and participation in the Italian festival became possible thanks to the “MOST” mobility scheme, supported by the European Union.

As part of this support, Andrey completed a course of study, participated in six concerts along with others, made many professional contacts, and is now planning new projects that he intends to implement in Belarus using the experience he acquired in Italy.

How he applied

Andrey found out about the opportunity to participate in the project by chance, when a friend mentioned it to him. A string quartet from Andrey’s music college, with whom he had staged an opera in Maladziečna, also decided to take advantage of the opportunity. His travel expenses, accommodation and studies were paid for by MOST. 

Many ideas have emerged as a result of the collaboration. Now, the young people are planning to stage another opera together with Studio Lirico, an international association that supports young opera performers. It is largely thanks to the project that they had the chance to realise this venture.

Andrey filled out his application and sent to MOST a year ago. He made a plan for his trip and explained why he wanted to go, how it would be useful for him personally and for his country, and what professional contacts he would acquire.

At first, when Andrey applied, he was rejected. He was initially very upset, but within a few hours he received a call to tell him that he had been rejected by mistake and his application had in fact been accepted. “My heart almost burst with joy,” he recalls.

What his trip involved

In addition to his studies and performances, there was a pleasant bonus for Andrey: learning the Italian language. At the Oginsky Music College, understanding Italian is considered mandatory for vocalists, as when they sing operas, they need to understand their meaning. Working with his Italian teacher Giaddo Tonini on an advanced study course helped Andrey to understand some subtleties of the language.

His other main classes were with maestro Paolo De Napoli and pianist Marco Baroni.

The festival in which Andrey participated on his exchange was held in the Italian city of Rufina. At the festival, performances by programme participants from different countries were held at one of the city villas. The participants stayed in a small house near the villa.

Every day, Andrey studied vocal techniques with Paolo De Napoli. They also worked on diction with Marco Baroni, who explained the peculiarities of opera music.

In Italy, they performed concerts and twice sang the La Serva Padrona opera. Residents of Maladziečna also saw Andrey perform twice, in June and November of last year. Both in Maladziečna and in Italy, the opera was very warmly received.

How he became a singer

For Andrey, it is important to study a lot, whatever one does. “One can be very talented and love music. But if they do not know something, then they simply do not know how things should be. Such cooperation helps a lot to be able to learn new things,” he explains.

Andrey grew up in Maladziečna and opted to take the physical and mathematical route at school. His mother played the violin in the Symphony Orchestra of the Musical College; his father played the guitar, sang and wrote songs for himself.

Andrey, on the other hand, had nothing to do with music up until the age of 16 and had never studied at a music school. His mother suggested that the head of the Ministreli group, Aleksander Vazhnik, listen to Andrey’s voice. Later, Andrey took private lessons from Vazhnik, who really believed in him. Creative people are often involved in singing, music and dancing from their childhood. But sometimes, persistent training discourages the person from being creative. In Andrey’s case, he chose what he wanted to do himself.

In addition to singing, he learned to play the guitar and piano. Vazhnik advised that he go to a music college to study singing.

“If one really wants something and studies [towards it], it is possible to achieve everything. When I was singing at school, my classmates told me that I could not hold a tune! Even my mum, who is a musician, said that I did not hit any of the right notes!” Andrey reminisces.

Everything changed when Andrey started practicing with maestro Paolo De Napoli. He explained that, like everything else, singing can be taught and learned.

Andrey did not finish his studies at his music college; he dropped out in his third year, because he started studying with the Italian maestro. The vocal techniques of the college and the maestro were different, therefore taking both programmes would have been conflicting.

How he met the maestro

Andrey was in his third year at music college when Vladislav Sulimskiy, a former student of the college and soloist at the Mariinsky Theatre, came to Maladziečna. Vladislav needed a ride to Minsk, where he was taking lessons with Paolo De Napoli, and Andrey offered him a lift. When they arrived in Minsk, Andrey asked the Maestro if he would listen to him sing too. He did, and since then the Maestro has been teaching Andrey too.

Previously, Andrey was a bass singer. Now he is a tenor.

“I fully trusted the maestro. He sometimes said weird things, but they always worked. If you learn from someone, the dictatorship of a mentor must prevail. He took the responsibility to teach me, he knows why it should be this way.”

“This model was also successful for Vladislav Sulimskiy, who listened to the maestro unconditionally. Now he is one of the best baritones in the world.”

For Andrey's mother, this process brought a lot of stress: at first, her son decided to go into music; he even got into music college. And then, he decided to quit. “My father said that if I could convince him why it was important, he would support my decision,” says Andrey. “Now my mother is happy with how everything went, and she comes to my concerts with pleasure.”

Why it is essential to work with Italians

“It is possible to show the opera as it should be only with the help of Italians. Thanks to the MOST programme, we learned a lot of nuances and traditions. And even though the opera is performed in Italian, it is of high quality, which is why it was well received in Maladziečna.”

“While in Italy, the programme participants decided to organise a big concert that was held in Maladziečna on 29 April. All the singers that came to perform in Maladziečna were in Rufina when the idea of a concert was discussed.”

There is a plan for future international music projects that the young people of Maladziečna will be able to enjoy. The development of opera music affects the residents: the so-called “city of the sun” is known as the cultural capital of the Minsk Region. In Belarus, the opera was staged only in the capital and in Maladziečna. High-quality music not only brings pleasant sounds; it influences the development of musical tastes. Through the opera, residents of Maladziečna will develop some of the Italian taste and style.

Author: Zoya Khrutskaya

Article published in Belarusian by Rh.be

MOST” mobility scheme website