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Viktor Melnyk, a young talent who has an ambition to become a great opera singer
Mariya VLAD talks to Viktor Melnyk, a 17-year-old tenor, who knows what he wants to achieve in life. Should not one feel happy when one has an aim to achieve?
You do have a nice voice. I think everyone who has ever heard you sing was fascinated. Who encouraged you to sing in your younger years?
My mother. I was born in the village of Velyky Kuchuriv in the Land of Prykarpattya. It’s a very picturesque place. It seems I’ve been singing since I was born, and I was encouraged to sing by my family. I loved to sing in the choir of the local church — my mom sang in that choir too. When time came for me to start school, I went to a musical school where my major instrument was the piano. But a year later I dropped out — I did not feel I was doing what was right for me. My mother wanted me to become a priest and was planning for me to go to a religious school. In the meanwhile, I attended a regular school, and at one point I discovered I could not live without singing and was overwhelmed by a desire to become an opera singer.
And what did you do about it?
I intensified my vocal-music studies. I felt like singing every moment of my life, but now I know that I can’t do it — it can damage your voice if you sing too much. However, when I lived with my family, I used to sing all kinds of religious songs all day long.
Wasn’t it a bit hard on your parents?
At first, they just loved it, my mom in particular. She was educated to be a librarian but she also studied at an art school — I think it was her calling to be a painter. She paints icons — the local priests blessed her to do that. And she also sings in the church choir. Her name is Svetlana and she’s 39 years old. I was named after my father — Viktor. So, for quite some time they enjoyed my singing at home, but little by little my religious songs began to irk them somewhat. They asked me to cut down on my singing, but really, I just could not, singing for me was like breathing, and so they sent me to a vocal-music school in the city of Chernivtsi. I studied there for two years.
And now? Are you a student of some school now?
Yes, I am a student of a preparatory solo-singing course at the National Music Academy (conservatory) in Kyiv.
Who is your teacher there?
Oh, really? He’s one of the best opera singers of Ukraine!
I was told that once, when he heard me singing in a TV show, called Your Chance, he rushed to the TV studio that was broadcasting it, right in his loungewear he happened to be in when he was watching that broadcast at home. But I don’t know whether it’s true. I never asked.
How did you get into that show in the first place?
You see, I came to Kyiv to take part in a show which is called Karaoke in the Street. It’s a sort of a reality show — a crowd gathers and those who sing best are invited to sing at that Chance show. I was among the best and thanks God I got invited to take part in that show.
What did you sing?
I sang the aria of Calaf from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot (G. Puccini, 1858–1924, Italian operatic composer whose works include La Boheme and Madame Butterfly; his last opera, based on the fable of Turandot by the 18th-century Italian dramatist Carlo Gozzi, is the only Italian opera in the Impressionistic style; Puccini did not complete Turandot, unable to write a final grand duet on the triumphant love between Turandot and Calaf; suffering from cancer of the throat, he was ordered to Brussels for surgery, and a few days afterward he died with the incomplete score of Turandot in his hands — tr.). I had learnt that aria in the vocal studio in Chernivtsi.
Is there an opera that you would like to sing in the future?
Yes, it’s Othello, the part of Othello himself. But I’m not sure I can do it, not in any foreseeable future anyway, since to sing Othello you have to be a dramatic tenor, and at the moment I’m a lyrical tenor. But my teachers think I can be trained to become a spinto tenor — that is to have a lyric operatic voice with some attributes of the dramatic voice. But Othello, if I ever sing this part, is a distant future for me. Maybe, when I’m 55 or even older, I’ll do it.
Isn’t that a bit too late?
No, I do not think so. You see, Othello is such a part that puts great demands on your voice, and there were some singers who strained their voice so much that they actually lost it after a score of performances. Besides, Ukrainian opera houses do not stage Othello because it’s too complicated, and there are no singers who would be able to sing in that opera.
But was there any Ukrainian singer who could sing the part of Othello?
Yes, I think there was. It was Tretyak, if I am not mistaken. I think Othello is a great play and a great opera because it shows people what terrible consequences meanness, malicious slander, jealousy and envy can lead to.
I find that your statement about it reveals your maturity. Incidentally, in your career of a singer you may encounter both jealousy and envy.
Oh yes, I know, I have already encountered them. Studying at the preparatory courses, I have already seen envy, backstairs intrigues and attempts to “trip” me up. And sometimes I even felt I should be careful in being honest with people… They say that if, after a concert, the colleagues of the opera singer who performed at that concert come to his or her dressing room to congratulate the singer with “a great success,” it means the singer did not sing too well… Things like that make me feel bad, but luckily I do have a good friend — Ihor, a basso from the city of Dnipropetrovsk — with whom I can share everything what’s in my heart or on my mind.
What about your teachers?
Oh, I have very good teachers, some are better than others, and one of them is known in the opera world in many parts of the globe. It is Volodymyr Hryshko — to be studying with him is a great honour. When I make progress, he praises me, but when I don’t do so well in my studies, he takes me to task for not trying too hard. I’ve also got a teacher, Zoya Khrystych, who is a sort of my tutor at the Music Academy. She is even-tempered and considerate, and gives her balanced and fair assessment of my progress in studies.
Did you perform anywhere else outside the Music Academy?
I did — in France and Monaco.
Do you feel nostalgic for your village and care-free days?
No, not really, but probably someday I will. I have so much to do that there’s no time for being nostalgic, and my studies and training keep nostalgic thoughts at bay. Of course, in the village I could sing as much as I pleased and everywhere I pleased — but I can’t do it here in Kyiv. I rent an apartment in which I can’t really sing the way I want to. The moment I start singing, my neighbours begin banging on the walls for me to stop… Oh yes, I’m missing my mom and dad, my home and its warmth, the scenery, but my desire to learn to sing to be an opera singer, to study at the Music Academy beats everything else. I can’t live without my singing. My driving ambition is to be an opera singer, and I am determined to achieve it.
Photos are from
the archive of the Melnyk family
Viktor Melnyk’s mother Svitlana, who must have
Viktor Melnyk in Yalta, wearing a costume
At the gala concert of the Chance TV Show.
Disciples of the great singer Volodymyr
Volodymyr Hryshko announces Viktor