I had the pleasure of interviewing a woman that’s set her sights on learning more about herself and the world around her; and, if possible, changing both for the better through her art.
Today, I’m talking to the opera singer, Marilena Christofi
My father is from Masari, Morphou Region, and my mother is from the village of Agia Eirini, near Troodos. I was born in Nicosia and spent most of my childhood summers in my mother's village. In fact, I’ve never been to my father's hometown and region.
I had a classical vocal education and studied opera at the Arte Music Academy. It is a surprisingly beautiful experience; its demanding: a lot of work, both physically and mentally. In other words, if you’re not prepared to throw yourself into it heart and soul, nourish and sustain this artform, then it’s not worth even starting out down this road!
Actually, when I was little, I didn’t enjoy the music lessons we had at primary school. What’s more, I never liked singing in the choir. I always thought my voice sounded strange and I just forced myself to sing. Back then, I wanted to be a dancer!
Later, I got fixated on the idea of becoming a pilot! Of course, I ended up changing my mind… several times until I was 17 in fact! It was then that I decided that opera is my calling.
I was inspired by the Finnish symphonic metal band, Nightwish!
I was visiting a friend one day when he played their music. That was my first experience of listening to opera singing. Then, when I heard the opera performance in the musical, The Phantom of the Opera, I felt something wake up inside.
I don’t know how or why but I was convinced I could sing just like her! I didn’t want to be an imitation, however. I always knew I wanted to do something meaningful and that meant studying classical music and opera. To be honest, I've always loved Rock/Metal but it doesn’t interest me professionally.
The thing I like most about my profession is that I can express different aspects of myself. I can discover them afresh with every role. What else? Opera helps me break down and go beyond my own boundaries as a human being, both physically and emotionally.
I believe it is our willingness to push our limits that allows us to pursue something as fully and extensively as we can. A great musician once said: «Music is not simply playback or a profession, it's a mission!»
That’s our mission: conveying a composer’s music to the listener while adhering to their idea, hopes and desires as close as possible. All the while leading the audience on a trip beyond reality into a world of dreams, poetry and love.
On this, a great poet once said: «I write poetry because I want to create the world I’d like to live in». Another said: «If we have a credo about creating the world we want to live in, then we simply must create this world!»
I am inspired by the absolute devotion to art that some artists have. I have always sought out the perfect voice both in others and myself. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as the perfect voice! There is, however, complete devotion! The emotions emanating from each and every particle of our body are in each note and every word. They create the effect of perfection. And, of course, there’s the matter of good technique, which no one can master without putting the effort in!
Opera is always a story. Maria Callas was a singer, of course! She was both incredibly musical and artistic. The words, meaning, and power coming forth from the text held great importance for her. She never betrayed the lyrics or the music.
That’s why she had everything: Callas’ on-stage presence had a captivating power. Feelings must be bestowed with expression! The action and the theatre of it all must come into play!
Unfortunately, in Cyprus I don’t get to use my vocal skills. I don’t perform classical music here, except for when I’m studying!
It’s because people here are not really interested in classical music and not simply because they don’t want to be, but because they are not taught to appreciate music from a young age like they did in centuries gone by or continue to do so in other countries such as Russia and Germany. This is the main drawback of secondary education and why «cultural knowledge» falls into second place in Cypriot life.
As a result, staying here is no longer an appealing prospect.
Right now, I’m working as a shop assistant. I need this job to support myself and have the chance to travel on short trips abroad where I can go to concerts or take lessons from the masters – just like any opera singer that’s starting out!
Therefore, I’m planning on moving abroad very soon to start a new life in a new place. I always thought about escaping the everyday humdrum life; now I think the time has come to really pursue my dream.
In my free time, I enjoy reading classical and modern poetry, and listen to all kinds of music: jazz, rock, pop and classical, and watch a lot of films. I'm also completely obsessed with learning new languages!
I'm planning on learning several European languages and, if I can, I’ll give Arabic and Hindi a go one day!
I just love being able to communicate with other people in their own language. It's a joy to see people's faces light up when you talk to them in their language or even just say «Hello»!
I’d love to visit every country and learn about other cultures. I'm fascinated in what life is like beyond the coastline of our little island; how others live and what they think and know about life. I’d love to see children playing and singing!
One of the countries I’d love to visit is Russia!
My composition teacher, Andreas Moustoukis, studied in St. Petersburg and brought the spirit of Russia to all of our classes! I didn’t come to lessons with a musical education and my sudden start meant I found a lot of things difficult compared to the other students.
Therefore, I naturally felt exhausted all throughout the course; I was on the verge of giving up almost every day! But when I listened to my teacher's voice: the way he spoke about music and poetry, his student days, the beauty of Russia, ballerinas, singers, and the life of real artists, he inspired me to stick at it and try to become more and more like him!
I would leap at the chance to visit his university, see his favourite haunts in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and go to the theatres! I hope I will one day!
If you’re considering going on holiday in Cyprus, I’m sure you’ll have a great time here! The one thing I ask of you is: don’t just sit about in the hotel! Travel and learn! We have so many beautiful beaches where you can swim and your children can enjoy themselves playing in the sand!
What’s more, you can visit our beautiful, tranquil villages, and taste Cypriot food! If you like an active holiday, you can get on a bike and ride up into the mountains to hear the wind whistling between the tall pines. The birds sing and water flows downhill from the mountains and you can take a deep breath and treat your lungs to oxygen directly from the forest! I don’t have a favourite place in Cyprus in particular; I love the whole island, especially when I get out of the city!
If you’re staying in a city, go to a jazz night. There are jazz concerts in almost every city and there are several large festivals so allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying a glass of wine while our superb musicians take you on a trip to the golden age!