FROM THE MOUNTAINS TO THE MET DECCA CLASSICS SIGNS AIGUL
THE OPERA STAR WITH THE FAIRY-TALE JOURNEY TO STARDOM
c. Paola Kudacki
"… when you have to prove that you own your place, that gives you extra strength."
LISTEN TO "HABANERA" HERE
26 JANUARY 2024 (TORONTO, ON) — Decca Classics is thrilled to announce the exclusive signing of the mezzo soprano, Aigul Akhmetshina. Her journey from an isolated village in rural Bashkortostan in the Ural Mountains to the world's most prestigious stages, and a recording contract, is nothing short of a modern day fairy-tale.
Despite facing rejection at early auditions, where she was told she lacked the right voice and appearance, at the age of 27 Aigul has already etched her name in history as the youngest artist ever to take on the title role of Bizet’s Carmen at the Royal Opera House in London. Instantly lauded by critics, the singer has been described as having “a natural “watch-me” stage charisma that had the audience on the edge of their seats ... her voice has a seamless, luscious quality from top to bottom, and her coloratura is flawless.” (Times)
Aigul’s early ground-breaking performances not only defied the odds, but she also caught the eye of Decca Classics Label Director, Dominic Fyfe: “I first heard Aigul in a London church in the depths of winter. We had invited her to record the final scene from Carmen and it’s no exaggeration to say her voice could make snow melt. The electricity crackled. This is an exciting moment for Decca Classics – our first mezzo-soprano signing in over thirty years – and we couldn’t be happier to welcome Aigul to the label”.
She began singing folk songs as a child in her native Bashkortostan, in between milking the cows and chopping wood with an axe, which was all part of village life. Aigul recalls, “Everyone in my family had beautiful classical voices. If they trained, they would be opera singers too. My grandmother sang, my uncles sang, my grandfather played the accordion.” Reflecting on her beginnings, the star shares, "My family is very simple, and my mother was raising three kids by herself. I had to start working very early and moved to the city when I was 14 to start building my own life."
Aigul had become known as the voice of the mountains and, after much perseverance, when she eventually got invited for an audition at the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House (for artists of exceptional talent), the entire village community rallied behind the young singer to help get her there. At the age of 18 she was the youngest artist ever to have enrolled in the world-renowned programme.
Since then, Aigul’s star has continued to rise as she has taken on various roles, in ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’, West Side Story and ‘The 7 Deaths of Maria Callas’, an opera project conceived by Marina Abramović alongside Willem Dafoe. Her performance in ‘Werther’ was also highly praised, “There are two star performances” The Guardian stated, “One is supplied by the orchestra, the other by Aigul Akhmetshina, singing in a rich and mettlesome mezzo-soprano that cuts through whatever the orchestra throws at it.” (Guardian). In November, Aigul was named ‘Best Female Singer’ at the 2023 International Opera Awards for her mesmerising performances and has recently appeared in publications such as Forbes and Vogue who recount how the mezzo “wowed audiences across the globe with her powerful voice and undeniable stage presence.” (Vogue).
On New Year's Eve 2023, the Metropolitan Opera premiered a brand-new production of Carmen, directed by Carrie Cracknell, known for her work on Netflix's ‘Persuasion’. This production was tailor-made for Aigul, featuring a modern-day protagonist wearing jeans and turquoise cowboy boots where “Her molten yet agile tone can be confiding one moment and extroverted the next, and she moves with magnetic naturalness onstage.” (New York Times). A screening of the filmed live performance will be broadcast on 27th January, at 5:55 PM GMT as part of the Met’s Live in HD series of cinema transmissions just after the release of the mezzo soprano’s first single, "Habanera" out today via Decca Classics/Universal Music Canada.
Her debut album Aigul to be released on July 26, features a portrait of her famed Carmen and other operatic arias, including a specially arranged folk song from her Ural Mountains home. Her upcoming engagements include Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Salzburger Festspiele and she will also return to the Royal Opera House, and Glyndebourne Festival, in her beloved lead role, Carmen.
Talking about the character of Carmen, which Aigul has now made her own, she explains, “It’s about a woman from a difficult past, a difficult childhood who also dreams about a happy future…I’m a fighter. I had to be, and when you have to prove that you own your place, that gives you extra strength.”
Decca Co-President, Tom Lewis, remarks “Aigul’s story is an extraordinary reminder of the transformative power of music. She set out from a tiny village with nothing but her talent and a formidable work ethic. And, in a very short time, that talent has taken her to the very, very top of her profession. She has a voice that will captivate the world!”