Soprano Nino Machaidze is no stranger to LA Opera. With six productions already under her belt, she considers the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as her “second home.” This Saturday, Machaidze returns to LA Opera to sing Leïla in Bizet’s seldom-performed The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles) under the baton of Maestro Plácido Domingo, alongside tenor Javier Camarena and baritone Alfredo Daza.
Machaidze has sung all over the world, yet she’s maintained a special relationship with LA Opera over the years. She debuted with the company as Adina in Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (L’elisir d’amore) in 2009, and has gone on to sing roles such as Fiorilla in The Turk in Italy (Il Turco in Italia), Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Violetta in La Traviata, and most recently Mimì in La bohème. Her run in Pearl Fishers marks her seventh performance with the company — in her own words, she says she keeps coming back because she has a “passion at this house.”
“It is made by special people, and I’m working with very special and amazing artists. After many years in this industry, about 12 years, I would say LA Opera has a special place in my heart,” Machaidze stated. “I have sung at many opera houses, but they didn’t feel like my home, and I have to say that it like this for LA Opera. Every time I’m in LA, it is my favorite.”
Though Machaidze has sung a myriad of roles with the company, this will be her first Leïla in Los Angeles (she’s sung the role only three times — twice in Italy and once in concert in Paris). The opera itself is almost exclusively known for its duet between Zurga and Nadir in Act I (“Au fond du temple saint”), yet it’s the role of Leïla that has the most challenging music. As Machaidze says, it’s almost like singing two different roles, comparing its music challenges to roles like Violetta or Juliette.
“Vocally, it is a challenge,” Machaidze said. “You have to have the high notes, and you have to be light from the beginning. There are lot of coloratura, but then the role becomes more dramatic. But it is written in the best way. If it was the opposite — lyric-dramatico and then to light coloratura — it would be more difficult that way. But you have to have the right voice for these types of roles.”
However, Machaidze likes when the action gets saucy — her favorite moment in Pearl Fishers is Leïla’s confrontation duet with Zurga in Act III. She says the role isn’t static or boring, and that Leïla goes through many personal transformations throughout the show, adding: “I feel like it is the most interesting role in this opera. Zurga and Nadir … they do not really change or having the differences and changes that Leïla goes through.”
Though the role is an excruciating exercise in vocal control — not to mention the dramatic challenges that also present itself — Machaidze is grateful to have become close with members of the cast. Many are friends she’s known for years, and others she’s working with for the first time, such as Javier Camarena. Machaidze noted that her relationship with the cast has made the daunting role all the better.
[Camarena] is such a wonderful singer and artist, and also an amazing person. He is one of the most important singers of today, and also has one of the most beautiful voices. It is so amazing that the whole cast is made up of friends, both old and new.”
Pearl Fishers opens on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.