Sounds of music

Sounds of music

Tatiana Lisnic: "I know who I am and if Joseph is popular in Malta it doesn`t make me anything less". Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Tatiana Lisnic: "I know who I am and if Joseph is popular in Malta it doesn`t make me anything less". Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Leading the way to her in-laws' house, Moldavian soprano Tatiana Lisnic hums a melodic tune that stirs the temptation in Ariadne Massa to ask for a personal recital. Being married to Malta's biggest operatic export, Joseph Calleja, means she breaths, lives and thinks music.

Barely 10, Ms Lisnic used to sit in the kitchen with her ears glued to the radio, enthralled by the melodious voice of soprano Maria Bieshu floating through the streets of the small village in Moldova.

"She was singing Madame Butterfly, but at the time I knew nothing about opera or classical music... absolutely nothing. I felt my heart vibrating with the music and something growing in me... a desire to do the same, but I couldn't, of course. The first seed had been planted," she says.

The word "cannot" does not feature in her daily vocabulary, so enthralled by the voice of the Moldavian soprano she set her sights on bursting through the boundaries of her village in search of tutors who could teach her to sing the beautiful notes.

Moldavian villages, where singing and dancing is part of the fabric of society, must have a recipe for brewing famous sopranos because, at 32, Ms Lisnic is a world-class singer.

From La Scala to the Berlin Staatsoper, Ms Lisnic has sung throughout most of Europe, enthralling audiences with her warm timbre in a number of memorable roles.

Her next act is on a Maltese stage, when she teams up with her husband, under the baton of Brian Schembri, with the Sofia National Opera Orchestra, in a concert at Cathedral Square, Mdina, today week.

International critics are touting Ms Lisnic and Mr Calleja as "the up-and-coming dream couple on the operatic scene", so the evening promises to be magical and memorable.

"It's a very romantic programme and suitable for two young singers... We chose the programme and I love everything about it," she says, confessing that romance and emotion is something she tunes into whenever she hears a song, no matter the genre.

"When not rehearsing, I enjoy listening to jazz or music by Edith Piaff, Marlene Dietrich, Zucchero... I'm very romantic in my head and in my heart. I don't feel anything towards hard rock and rap. I don't ignore it, but I won't hear it twice or three times."

Going back to Saturday's programme, she confides that she's not an optimist by nature so she remains anxious till the very last minute, wanting to deliver a perfect piece: "I work very hard for what I'm doing and, sometimes, because I want to give my best, I get a bit preoccupied".

So which song is she looking forward to performing?

"It's a surprise, but I can tell you that Joseph and I will be singing Carmen. And we are singing... we'll see, hmmm cannot say anymore," she says with a mischievous grin, adding that the venue and the programme was so nice she hoped it would be a "very, very special evening".

Though she reserves an element of surprise for her audience, the concert's organisers, Renaissance Productions Ltd, have released a few morsels of information.

The programme will consist of such arias as Verdi's Forza Del Destino,Vespri Siciliani, Va Pensiero from the opera Nabucco, and Georges Bizet's Carmen, among others.

The event has been widely publicised and referred to as "Joseph Calleja's concert". Does she feel overshadowed by her husband in Malta?

"I know who I am and if Joseph is popular in Malta it doesn't make me anything less. Having said that, sometimes it's good to be in the shadow, but I assure you it's not the case," she says.

"Joseph is home here and I'm happy that people are proud of him. It's only natural and I don't expect it any other way. I do get a bit embarrassed when people I don't know come up to me asking for autographs," she says, planting herself in front of the fan to cool down.

The two are very passionate about their music and they have lengthy animated debates, usually in Italian, on the music, repertoire and one another's delivery.

Setting up house with her husband and two children - Clara, three, and nine-month-old Xandru - in Malta took some getting used to.

"Joseph will never leave Malta. Coming from Moldova it's so different, but I'm now getting used to the people, and the mentality, but the clima... the clima (climate). It's too hot," she says, lifting up her long mane of brown hair, and switching to Italian, a language she feels more comfortable communicating in.

"I have no energy in this heat. You have to get used to it and work with it otherwise you end up doing nothing. I can only seem to garner some strength in the evening."

Ms Lisnic spends quite some time at her in-laws' cooler house in Attard, where she can rehearse on the piano, while her children are under care.

After having her children, Ms Lisnic has had to cut back on her work schedule and in between her contracts she relishes the chance to be home to spend some time playing with them.

"For a soprano it's not easy to be back on the circuit after two babies. I accept it and take it easy that's all. I have two careers and I like them both," she says, matter-of-factly.

Next year, Ms Lisnic is lined up to perform in a number of concerts from Traviata in Zurich, to Nozze di Figaro in Valencia and she is happy it's not packed with events.

Still a young woman herself, Ms Lisnic is keen to see young people injected with a passion for classical music.

"We should educate and instil a taste for opera in young people. It gives them another life packed with emotion. Today, it's all a bit too materialistic; life is too fast and revolves around the internet, leaving us with no time to let the emotion of life settle over us," she says.

Reminiscing on her own adolescence, Ms Lisnic remembers how she went to music school at 14 without any musical background to follow in the footsteps of Maria Bieshu.

"I was the only one in my year who had no musical preparation. It was very tough. When everyone knew what everything was, I was like 'eh... can you spell that'," she says laughing heartily.

"I was always studying. I had a good coach. She terrorised me and didn't leave space for mistakes. She really pushed me and made me realise that I could only achieve my dream through hard work and sacrifice. The first year was a castigo (punishment). Once that was over, the rest was bliss."

At 19, she moved on to study at the Music Academy in Cluj, Romania, and with Alida Ferrarini in Italy, going on to receive the Herbert von Karajan Scholarship.

She believes that with perseverance many young people will get the chance to pursue a career beyond their shores.

Who knows, maybe even little Clara may be infected with the passion for classical music... Unlike her mother she doesn't need to tune in to the radio, she gets a daily dose of top-notch music first-hand.

There are still a few tickets left for Saturday's concert. These can be bought from Exotique, Agenda, Bookends, NewsKoisk and

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