A soprano's land of opportunity

Maria Kabelsky, a Russian songstress with an angelic voice, followed her heart (and her ear) all the way to Israel.

maria kabelsky 88 224 (photo credit: )
maria kabelsky 88 224
(photo credit: )
Soprano Maria Kabelsky, who sings the solo part in the rarely performed and extremely difficult "Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra" by Russian/German composer Reinhold Gliere tonight, says that although she was already a professional singer when she arrived in Israel, it was only here that things really started to happen for her. "I realize that mine is kind of a Cinderella story, but above all I love to sing, no matter what it be - an opera, a concert aria or a romance - because it's all about sharing the beauty of the music. Even if it's a contemporary piece in which beauty is not immediately obvious, I try to find it and to show it to the audience," says Kabelsky as she sits late at night on the rooftop of the rented Tel Aviv apartment, her three-year-old son Daniel sleeping inside. Born in Cheliabinsk in the Urals region of Russia, Maria has been singing since she can remember. She entered a music school as a child where she studied voice and piano, and also sang in a choir. But when she was about to choose her future profession, it became obvious that her younger violinist brother, Fyodor, was on the brink of a solo career. Their musicologist mother insisted that she would be unable to support two musicians in the family and decided it would be best for Maria to become a physician. "Being a good girl, I agreed," says Kabelsky. Four years later she graduated from nursing school, but kept taking lessons in voice and trained during her night shifts in the intensive care ward. Once a patient coming out of coma even said: "That was you? I thought I heard the angels singing!" To make a long story short, Kabelsky failed to fulfill her parents' dream and entered the local conservatory, where it took only a year for her first tutor to nearly ruin her voice; the same period was needed for her other tutor to bring it back to normalcy. At the prestigious Bella Voce contest in Moscow she was very close to victory, but failed to win due to her lack of musical education. She found herself a private teacher in Leningrad who turned her professional. Yet there was a lack of demand for someone like Kabelsky in Russia's northern capital. "One night, I heard a voice in my dream, saying 'Go to the the Jewish Agency,' which I did next morning - it seemed to be the only place where they were really happy to see me." Quite soon, she found herself in Haifa, walking by foot from club to club, asking if they needed a singer. "I just followed my ear," recollects Maria with a smile. "In those days, I gave up to 15 concerts a month, but instead of treating the audience to the typical popular classics, I learned a repertoire that best suited my voice." It was at the Opera Workshop, held each summer in Tel Aviv by Joan Dornemann of Metropolitan, where she met her future husband Hanan Ben Yehuda, a divorced businessman, who was involved in the local music scene. "At first, when he was giving me a lift to a remote district of Tel Aviv, I was too ashamed to tell him that I worked there at the local branch of Superpharm. I used to say that I was going to my English teacher who lived there," she laughs. Since then, her vocal instrument has developed immensely. She's sung with the Israel Opera and with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, as well as with other local orchestras. She participated in fully or semi staged opera productions with the Chamber Orchestra and on the opera fringe. And now she has emerged as a fine singing actress who can project the the passion of her music to a hall full of people. Maria Kabelsky performs the Concerto for Coloratura Soprano by Gliere with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra under Gil Shohat tonight at the Tel Aviv Arts Museum at 8:00 p.m. On November 8 she will perform at the Rapaport Auditorium in Haifa at 8:30 p.m. and on November 9 in Or Akiva at 10:00 p.m. The program also features pieces by Borodin, Glazunov and Prokofiev.