Boris Martinovich Interview: Opera and Art will survive Covid-19!


Janyce Anderson


While still a full scholarship student in New York's Julliard School of Music, the young  american bass-baritone BORIS MARTINOVICH made his debut at Avery Fischer Hall in New York's Lincoln Center in Refice's "Cecilia", with Renata Scotto, prompting Bill Zakariasen to write in the New York Daily News, "BORIS MARTINOVICH is a 21 year old basso of prodigious potential".

BORIS MARTINOVICH burst upon the international scene in 1977. when as a Metropolitan Opera Regional Finalist, he was engaged by Gian Carlo Menotti for the Spoleto USA production of Tschaikovsky's "Queen of Spades" opposite Magda Olivero, and the new production of Menotti's "The Consul" which was televised.

Shortly there after, he made his Carnegie Hall debut and soon appeared in the leading opera houses in the USA such as the San Francisco, the Cincinatti Opera, the New York City Opera, and the Baltimore Opera, to name but a few of the musical cities that have acclaimed his performances, and  in the most important Opera House in the world. 

Today, Boris Martinovich is the Artistic director of Opera Morlacchi in Perugia (Italy) and La PrimaVera Opera Company in Los Angeles,California. By the Cambridge Who is Who directory Boris Martinovich is one of the most beautiful opera voices of 20th and 21th century.

1.Registration for the International Voice Competition Boris Martinovich  is currently open and it closes on February the 15th 2021. Can you tell us a bit more about the project and how did you decide to organize the competition in the time of the covid?

BM: My wife Diane Martinovich who is also an opera singer-soprano and manager organized the competition and it was her idea to named it after me.The idea was to have the first round in several world cities like Los Angeles, New York, Milano, Paris,London,Budampest, Tokio ,Moscow and Sydney. The singers who pass the first round would come to Los Angeles The Walt Disney Hall where we would have the Semifinale and Final Round. Diane and her Team prepared the whole project when Covid-19 came. We had two options: to cancel the Competition or to find another solution.Diane is not the person who gives up easely ,so her and her team simply put the competition ONLINE. Covid -19 brought a lot of problems not just to the health of the people,but to their jobs and the economy in general. Opera singers and artists suffer a lot,because they had to stop performing. We wanted to give them a reason to practice , to perform and to compete even if that means to do it online. Diane also wanted to include the audience development element in the whole process,so we included Voting system for the audience. That means that the audience will have the chance to vote for contestants as well. And this is the first of a kind competition and event,and I am very proud of it.

For the first and the second round contestants are sending their videos and their profile is created on the web-page of the Competition and Promoted all over the world. The Final Round is going to be held online too,but the finalist -contestants will perform alive online to the Jury Members and the Audience.

We have great Jury members made of world-famous opera stars,directors and conductors and great prizes in money, auditions and performances for the contestants. The most successful singers will sing with me on my world tour for my 50 years of professional work anniversary. The deadline for the application is the middle of February. I must say I am very proud of the Competition and of all the great projects that my wife Diane Martinovich do. And the fact that many other companies and schools started to follow our example by organizing competitions online is an extra accomplishment for us.

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2.This year you are celebrating 50 years of your professional artistic work and singing. How will you celebrate this great anniversary?


BM; First, my wife Diane Martinovich is writing my Biography. The  book is called

''Boris Martinovich Biography by my own words'' and it  is a base for a documentary film about my life and career .I am also having a tour of concerts and operas in Europe,USA and around the world. My goal is to perform in the Opera Theaters where I already performed before and in some new once where I have not been singing yet.

3.As early as 1977, at the age of only 21, you performed at the most important american opera houses, such as San Francisco Opera House, Metropolitan,the Cincinnati Opera , Baltimore,Washington opera house etc.after that at Carnegie Hall, becoming a big star. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience?

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BM:My manager called me late in the evening asking me do I know the roll of Fernando in Il Trovatore from G. Verdi-and I said ''yes'' although it was not the case. But tomorrow morning I had to fly from NYC to Connecticut to my first rehearsal. I spent the whole night studying the part and in a few days that I had for rehearsal I did very well performing it.I had success.

While I was still a student at the Julliard school of music, I was performing in many theaters around the USA. One day ,my friends told me that today is Luciano Pavarotti's audition for singing with him in Philadelphia. So, I came to the Audition and there were hundreds of people there and they told me ''you can 


sing for Luciano,but you have to wait until the end'',which I did. Finally, after many hours when it was my turn I got on the stage very proudly and very sure of myself I started to sing the opening line of the aria of Ivan Susanin by M.Glinka from the opera Life for the Tzar. As I sang the first opening phrase of the aria which is only one note,Luciano stopped me and he said ''you win''! So,I was shocked but then very pleased and I know you can tell someone's quality only by hearing his or her voice. A bizar thing happened at the same time I got a offer to sing in Mexico Verdi Requiem for TV and I decided to go to Mexico.My friends were telling me I shouldn't give up the opportunity to sing with Pavarotti,but I said there will be chances again and in a few years later I got the offer to sing at the opening night of San Francisco Opera with Luciano Pavarotti.

4.In 1981 you made your debut in Europe: in Parma you sang in “Semiramide”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Lucia di Lammermoor”, then you performed in Pesaro, Trieste, Rome, Naples, Milan and Paris. What are your memories of those times?

BM: I did the opening night of Teatro Verdi di Trieste in Italy in a very difficult role of Assur in Semiramide. Pier Luigi Pizzi production.It was a huge success for me. Specially the famous ''Mad scene'' with aria and cabaletta. Pizzi was very impressed by my acting and staging. And we worked many times together,specialy in Rossini Festival in Pesaro where I sang the title roll of Moses. Then I went to sing Semiramide at the opening night of the Opera House in Rome. The roll of Semiramide was sang by June Anderson whom I already worked a lot in NYC Opera. Scenery was made by very famous artist Pomodoro,but the Stage director canceled it and they found someone alse who was doing the staging,and June Anderson asked me to help her with the staging ,which I did and she was very grateful. Since then we become very good friends.

Then I got the offer to sing in Parma Semiramide again. Everyone is afraid to sing in Parma ,as it is known as the theater with the most ''difficult to please'' audience,and they say ''if you make it there,you can make it anywhere''.I had a huge success and the next five years I was singing Romeo and Juliette and Lucia di Lamermoor with Alfredo Kraus there with whom I also became very good friend. As well as with Katia Ricciarelli too.I did many opening nights in the opera houses all over the Italy ,like Carmen in Teatro di San Carlo in Napoli ,which was broadcasted alive on RAI TV. They were all a huge success.


6.What was the experience of singing at the famous Vienna State Opera when you performed under the direction of Maestro Claudio Abbado?

BM:It was wonderful experience. Maestro Abbado is such a gentleman and it was such a pleasure to work with him. With Agnes Baltza as Carmen, I already did many Carmen's in Zuerich Opera House,but for the first time I sang with Jose Carreras,and the production was made by Franco Zeffirelli.We had 45 minutes of applauze. Jose asked me to come to have dinner with him and to exit through a ''secret door'' to avoid all the crowed. We went to have a nice dinner and we became very good friends.


7. In addition to Jose Carreras, your good friends are the famous Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. What can you tell us about them and the other famous artists you have worked with?


BM:With Placido Domingo I did many wonderful performances starting in San Francisco Opera where after my aria he would always say ''bravo Boris'' to me and that impressed me very much.Later on we did Tosca in Manila Philipines and the recording of Il Guarrany in Bonn for Sony Classical. When he became the artistic director of Washington DC Opera,he invited me to sing for the opening night .After that he came to sing with me in Croatia . We had 50 000 people in the audience there.It was wonderful.

I also did many performances with Katia Ricciarelli, Montserrat Caballe, Leontyne Price,Elena Obrazcova, Mirella Freni,Daniela Dessi, Marliyn Horn ,Alfredo Kraus,Leo Nucci,Francisco Araiza etc.

BORIS MARTINOVICH in C.Gomez: Il Guarrany,Washington DC

8.For the best performance of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" you received the famous prize "Prix Gabriel Dussurgt-Orphee". What does this award mean to you, that is, the performances of this opera for which you were praised by world critics and which you performed all over the world, among others in Seville, Venice, South and North America?

BM: Since it is one of my favorite operas,I had the pleasure to work with Alan Lombard.It was a great pleasure to sing with him.

9. Your wife Diane Martinovich is also an opera artist, vocal pedagogue, author of several books and a successful business woman. You are collaborating on some projects together, and Diana is also the General Director of the competition that bears your name. Given that you are both strong personalities, what are the challenges you both face in your marriage and business collaboration? And how do you deal with those challenges?


BM: Diane is very unique person,artist and singer with many talents,which is not that often among artists and singers.And I admire her very much.WE get along very well and we work together and sing together with no jealousy or problems ,and it is a good collaboration in every way. We are best friends, parents to our children ,husband and wife and at the end business partners.I am very happy to have all that  in my life. 


Professionaly ,we are planning to continue our concerts that we started before the Covid-19 in Serbia and Croatia. It was important for us to try to build the bridge through music between our two countries which were affected by war. The tour was called '' International Bridges of Music''. We wanted to create a Brand for a good cause. The main mission was to use the art and the music to build bridges between people all around the world.

After Southeastern Countries,International Bridges of Music tour is going to be organized in the rest of the Europe and the world.

Opera and Art will survive Covid-19! We will survive it.



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