Touching bass

Opera star Paata Burchuladze is headed here for a recital next week, and he'll be back to perform more extensively in February and June.

Georgian bass singer Paata Burchuladze. (photo credit: PR)
Georgian bass singer Paata Burchuladze.
(photo credit: PR)
"Since 1994, when I appeared in the title role in Boris Godunov at the opening of the Israeli opera, I make it a point to return to Israel at least once every two years - each time I receive an invitation," says Georgian bass singer Paata Burchuladze on the eve of his upcoming recital in Tel Aviv on January 26. "I enjoy an excellent, almost family relationship with Hanna Munitz and Michael Ajzenstadt from the opera house. For me, Israel is not only the Holy Land, but also a place where many of my friends live. Coming to Israel is not work - it is rest for the soul."
Burchuladze's international career is as busy as usual. This interviewer's phone call finds him in Barcelona, where he sings Ferrendo in Verdi's Il Trovatore at Gran Teatre del Liceu. After that comes the role of Don Basilio in Rossini's Barbiere at Deutsche Opera, Berlin, and, before his Tel Aviv recital, an appearance on the stage of the Nationaltheater in Munich as the Grand Inquisitore in Verdi's Don Carlo.
But it was more than just opera that brought Burchuladze to Barcelona - there was also a special charity concert. "Georgia is a wonderful place to live when things are good," he has said in one of his interviews. But nowadays life is far from easy there, and the charismatic and noble Burchuladze does a lot to help his compatriots. More than five years ago he founded
Iavnana ("Lullaby" in Georgian), a charity organization, which supports orphans of the Civil War in Georgia and now also those of the latest war in Ossetia. Characteristically enough, back in 2004, Iavnana's inauguration concert took place in Tel Aviv.
"THERE ARE orphans and there are large families with many children that lost their homes as a result of the armed conflicts," he says. "The parents are unable to support their kids and are forced to send them to orphanages. We raise money for them, we provide poor families with allowances and we buy homes for them - we hand the keys to them right on stage. So far, over 300 families were able to take their children back home."
And now, together with prominent Spanish singer Montserrat Caballé, Burchuladze has inaugurated in Barcelona a new branch of Iavnana - Iavnana Art. "When was began the project six years ago I never thought we would reach this far," Paata confides.
Burchuladze's forays to Israel seem to be more often these days - in addition to the upcoming recital in Tel Aviv he'll be back again in June to sing one of his signature roles - Zaccaria in Verdi's Nabucco - in a larger-than-life Israeli Opera open-air production at Masada. But even before that, between February 9 and 23, he returns to Tel Aviv as Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust.
"The dates are important for me, because on February 11 I celebrate my 55th birthday together with orchestra, soloists and choir!" he smiles.
Paata Burchuladze, with his long-time musical partner Liudmila Ivanova at the piano, will perform romances by Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Rachmaninoff and other Russian composers, as well as Italian arias, on January 26 at 8:00 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. For reservations call (03)6927777.