Alexandra Chernyshova is a most unusual and extremely talented opera singer of Russian/Ukranian origin, who settled in Iceland in 2003. She has won high international acclaim, and will be giving a concert in St. Petersburg on the 18th of October with the support of the Icelandic embassy in Russia, and the Icelandic-Russian Friendship Society ‘ODRI’ and the museum of Halldor Laxness Gljufrasteinn in Iceland (editor).
Interview by Maria Ushakova
Please tell us about your event in St. Petersburg. How did it come about? Who helped you to organise it?
The event is really special, and named ‘Music Bridge of friendship Iceland-Russia.’ I started working on the ‘Russian Souvenir’ music programme three years ago, with the aim of building a musical and cultural bridge between Russia and Iceland. During these three years many concerts have been held in both countries, and musicians from both countries have been busy introducing their music to audiences in both countries. The concert on the 18th of October will the first time that ‘Russian Souvenir’ will be presented in Russia, in St. Petersburg with the cooperation of the St. Petersburg Music Classical Salon, under the direction of artistic director Stanislav Ljamin and The Central Library of Petrograd District. The Icelandic-Russian Friendship Society began a long time ago, one of its founders was a Nobel Laureate – writer Halldor Laxness. Many famous Russian musicians and artists have visited Iceland since 1950 at his invitation, among them were Abraham Khachaturian, Tatyana Nikolayeva, Pavel Lisitsian, Mstislav Rostropovich and Pavel Serebryakov.
How do you see your personal impact on Icelandic culture?
I have been living in Iceland for 15 years. I came here when I was very young, following my heart and love to the man who loves me and gave me three Vikings. As for cultural impact, I do what I do best. I sing opera, I produce operas, I even write operas. In 2014 I was honoured to be announced one of the Top 10 Young Outstanding Icelanders for my achievements in Icelandic Culture; the International ‘JCI’ award.
Tell us about your professional career? How did you become so popular in Iceland, and why?
I made my name in Iceland when I had this crazy idea to stage ‘La Traviata’ by G. Verdi with a local orchestra, opera singers and a new-founded opera choir. I was the first person to dare to do such a thing in the North of Iceland, in Skagafjorður. And could you believe it, it was great success! The newspaper article said about our production: ‘Miracles are still happen.’ So I am a legend now in the North! After that I staged 7 full length operas, published three solo CDs, one music sheet book with 14 operatic numbers for the voice and piano from the opera ‘The Poet and the Bishops Daughter’. I have been singing and taking part in opera music festivals in Denmark, Italy, Japan, China, New York and other places
You are half Russian/half Ukrainian, married to an Icelandic man, quite unique! How do you manifest your nationality, especially when you connect with your Ukrainian side in today’s situation?
I never forget where I came from and who I am. Today I do not make any difference in my heart and mind between Russia, Iceland and Ukraine. I feel one third Icelandic, one third Russian and one third Ukrainian. The language of music unites people of culture all over the world, so I am very pleased to present to you a new project of the Russian-Icelandic creative union ‘Russian Souvenir’ and hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.
We are really intrigued and want to learn more about what your future plans are?
My future plans are… they are so many… should I tell you, or not, maybe not… then you will be more intrigued. In Iceland, I am preparing a special show for kindergarten children ‘Opera for the Little Ones’ with music from my newly written opera-ballet for children ‘The Northern Lights Fairy-tale’ and then there is a New Year concert with my violinist friend from Japan and a children’s choir. I hope that cooperation with the great St. Petersburg musician will continue and so that our Music Bridge of Russia-Icelandic Friendship will too.