40 Years & 3000 Shows: Temur Gugushvili’s Star to be Unveiled this Weekend

Teimuraz Gugushvili will soon be 70 years old. On February 4, his star will be unveiled after a memorable concert at the Tbilisi State Opera Theater. During his 40 years on stage, he has played in around 3000 performances in Georgia and worldwide. Gugushvili is acknowledged as a virtuoso singer who is equally brilliant at lyrical as well as at dramatic roles – from ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia’ to ‘Pagliacci’. The Georgian tenor’s favorite composer is Puccini. Once, in America, he sang ‘Tosca’ 12 times in a fortnight. Besides his talent, he is an exceptionally humble person. Gugushvili was already a well-known singer when he went to his maestro Nodar Andghuladze to ask him whether he was entitled to sing in ‘Pagliacci’. The answer was of course, affirmative. GEORGIA TODAY had the honor to meet him prior to the unveiling of a star in his honor in Tbilisi.

How do you feel about your upcoming star?

I’m very happy, of course, as it means that my labor has been appreciated. The preparatory process and these days ahead of the unveiling overall are very exciting.

You studied at the Faculty of Chemistry. How did you end up in Opera?

First of all, I would like to tell you how I entered the Polytechnic Institute. On finishing high school, I wanted to pursue my studies in the direction of investigation. However, it was extremely difficult to pass exams at the juridical faculty, as they demanded a two-year probation beforehand for university entrants. So, I tried to enter the polytechnic institute (nowadays, Technical University). I entered the faculty where there was the least demand on side of school-leavers. As a student, I saw that there were evening hours at the Faculty of Food Technology. If I wanted to continue my studies there, it was necessary to work with a specialty, so, I decided to start working with a group of confectionaries. On finishing the Faculty of Food Technology, I started working at the bread factory. Parallel to that, I was studying piano at the School of Music. Later, I entered Tbilisi State Conservatoire which I graduated under Maestro Nodar Andghuladze. After the Conservatoire, I continued studying at La Scala Academy (Milan, Italy). In 1978, I started working at the Tbilisi State Opera Theater as a soloist.

You’ve been standing on the native opera stage for the last 40 years and have taken part in around 3000 performances here and worldwide. You are the winner of a lot of honorable awards. Which one was the most precious for you?

I think that the People’s Artist of Georgia was the most precious one for me. It not only means that an artist is on the stage- there are a lot of singers who finish their career without getting this award. It means that the Georgian people appreciate you – the name says a lot – people’s artist! Therefore, it is distinguished from all the others! Of course, I am grateful for the rest of them too! It’s like comparing my roles to each other. I cannot name one or two characters, as I’m fond of whichever hero I’m playing in the moment. This is my job, but more precisely, this is my life on stage. However, I can say that Abesalom is closer to me, as he is from the Georgian opera, than Radames. Nevertheless, recently, I more easily act as Canio in ‘Pagliacci’ by Leoncavallo. This may have something to do with my age.   

You have sung on a lot of stages worldwide. Which public was the most memorable for you?

The audience in the Post- Soviet space is much more educated musically than in other countries I have been to. In England, for instance, people focus more on action and acting than on singing. Once, a manager came to me and invited me out. He told me: ‘Why didn’t you kiss Tosca on the lips?’ In Germany, the public is much more reserved.

Who was the greatest opera singer you have met in person?

Luciano Pavarotti. He organized a concert of tenors at Milan Conservatoire in 1982. I was one of the tenors from the group of interns from La Scala. Aracal was also a great singer and a great person. Generally speaking, I would point out Caruso, who was like Pele and Garrincha in football.

In spite of numerous offers, you have not left Georgia. What does homeland and music mean to you?

I think that motherland and music means one and the same thing to me. The former created an area for my musical activities. Our polyphony is unique. There is no another folklore in the world that has so many voices. With our songs, we are close to Bel Canto, and therefore, it is easier for us to sing opera than for other nations, as singing is deeply rooted in us. More importantly, if a man sings from the bottom of his heart, he will never commit something bad. I cannot live without my country and my city Tbilisi. I feel good for 4-5 days abroad, and then, my nostalgia begins.


By Maka Lomadze

03 February 2018 16:32