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Interview with Boris Trajanov (Part 2)

August 21, 2004

The following is the second part of Balkanalysis.com Director Christopher Deliso’s exclusive interview with Macedonia’s world-renowned opera singer, Boris Trajanov, on the current state of Macedonia and some possible ways of improving the situation in the years ahead. Part 1 appeared on August 19th.

CD: What about with the new minority language rights, and new Albanian university in Tetovo. Do you think these things will lead to federalization, with or without the decentralization?

BT: That’s interesting. Several years ago, when [the furor over an Albanian university at] Mala Recica happened, I surprised some people when I said, “why not? Why not let them study in their own language?”

After all, Nikola Tesla, one of the most brilliant people in history, came from a small village in rural Yugoslavia. Right now, perhaps somewhere in Macedonia, in some small mountain village with an Albanian population, is sitting some genius of a child. He’s growing up with Albanian language only until the age of 7 anyway, and so it’s much easier for him to learn in that language. Why not give him the chance to study in his language?

So that could be fine. But on the other hand, the Albanians are generally not paying their taxes. Understandably, it becomes very difficult for the Macedonian population to see why they should support such a university, one which will not benefit themselves in any way, when they see that they alone must fund it!

So if we will share in this country, then let everyone be a loyal citizen. I was 8 years living in Germany. I paid more taxes than most Germans, but I had to because I was living there. In the end I became a German citizen. After 8 years they said, “Okay, you always pay regularly your taxes, you didn’t get into any problems with the law, here’s your citizenship.” And I was very grateful for that.

It comes down to this: if DUI wants to show their loyalty to Macedonia – not only with demands “we want this, we want that!” all the time, but to give too- they should convince their voters to pay their taxes. And not only to get their way, like in the last meeting in Radusa, by reserving the threat of war. We are not afraid because of that intimidation, and we could defend ourselves very successfully, but I think that war, as in the rest of Europe, should be left in the past. A life together, with a fair basis for all, this is our future.

CD: That is a very interesting point. But what about, even in the case that the Albanians chip in, what about the danger of the curriculum being used to push a strongly nationalist view, one susceptible to party propaganda? And besides, there is the question of intimidation- I know one professor at the modern, EU-funded SEE University in Tetovo, and he said it can be difficult or even dangerous to make even constructive criticisms of a student’s work, because “you never know who is behind him, or who his father might be.” And even there, as I understand it, there has been evidence of curriculum being used as a very narrow-minded propaganda tool.

BT: Again, the law should be the same for everyone, and it should apply in the same way. The people should be able to go where they want, in Macedonian or Albanian or whatever else type of school. And the law must be clear about what can be done. I feel very deeply that education is still the only medicine against nationalism. And everything else is a fleeting ailment.

CD: What about the question of standards. Regardless of what opinions they teach in a humanities-based course, there are other courses – medicine, engineering, etc. – where it’s quite important to learn correctly. Who will guarantee standards?

BT: No matter what, the first years will be very difficult for the Albanian university.And the state must be able to control the quality of the universities, their classes and exams and generally make standards. And if they can do this, I’m sure that after five or six years they can reach the same standard as SEE or Kiril and Metodi University in Skopje.

And expanding and improving higher education can only help our country. In the future we don’t want to have these problems with cities and populations based on ethnic desires. In the end, he who wins must be the person with the better arguments. And be respected for that.

CD: But certainly, time is of the essence, so what can the current educated class do to push things right now?

BT: The intellectuals must start by not taking on any political or ethnic interest, but rather by defending the truth. If I was the leader of the opposition, I would have helped Buchkovski get out safely from Struga. And if I was the premier, I would have forced the interior minister to resign, because it was just awful how they beat the people of Struga. You must always have to be for fairness and for truth. And for helping each other. As I said, if we’re in this together, everyone must help everyone.

Even with the recent protest, it could have been done better. It was promised specifically not to be just a meeting of parties, but it seemed something like that in the end. On the other hand, it was very disappointing and stupid of LDP to say that only 5,000-7,000 people showed up, when it was so obvious and so easy to see that that wasn’t the case. What I wanted to them to say was, “well, there were a lot of people there.” Be fair! In the name of the truth. Then people will respect you.

CD: Great. Let’s talk about culture for a minute, since that is the area in which you have made the greatest gift to your country. Can you trace any notable culture history in the case of Macedonia? And do you see any chance for Macedonian cultural and artistic life to help the country move forward in the future?

BT: Yes. Besides of course the many archeological sites from the Neolithic period, and ancient Macedonia, there are the Roman towns like Stobi, Heraklea and our beautiful Ohrid, not to mention Kiril and Metodi, who gave the alphabet to the Slavs.

Even opera- and it’s very interesting how opera started here. After World War II, there was one Croatian conductor who was quite famous and had directed many performances, Lovro Matacic. And he was one of the best friends of Herbert Karajan. Both had received nobility titles from Hitler himself.

After the war, they were put in jail as Ustashe colonels, with a big chance of getting the death penalty. But one intellectual from Croatia said to Tito, “please, save his life, he’s a great artist, not really interested in politics.” Because Tito was very clever he said, “yes, Matacic can be freed, but on one condition: he must work in Skopje and form an opera house there.”

And so they started from zero and found Italian musicians for the orchestra, and made a chorus from the people here with good voices. They didn’t know how to read music even, but they had beautiful voices, they studied with professors and after 2 years started performing. In this way they started with opera, with people who hadn’t been educated at all in opera before. But they were so interested. Until the 1963 earthquake, the theater was always filled; no tickets could be found, people would come in and stand just to hear. By the 1970’s the opera was in a big crisis, however, the public became less and less.

CD: Why?

BT: Well, many reasons, but generally, the quality went down. There was less attention paid to opera, and it definitely wasn’t a priority during the first years of our independence. From1991-1997, you could barely even find CD’s of classical music in Skopje.

But now, since about 1997, it haspicked up. I see they’re busy again in the Opera House, shows are packed and interest is growing again. It’s incredible. The people have come to understand that this is something very special.

Plus, in the Balkans we have a good legacy of singers. Maybe it’s genetic. Also, from the tradition of folklore.  When you hear Macedonians sing, you can tell they’re very operatic, because for centuries we’ve been singing like Italians, with very full voices. Now what we need are teachers. The young people are going out of the country to study and I hope in 3-6 years we will have more singers who are singing in good opera houses.

CD:Do you think that improving the cultural life can make a difference for the spirit or even state of the country?

BT: Absolutely. People are very tired of politics, of not having enough money, of all of these problems that the government is causing. They are becoming a little desperate. And when you’re desperate you have to have a place to go, to retreat from these problems and refresh yourself.

CD: An escape, essentially.

BT: Yes, a positive escape, something that culture – music, literature, the arts – can provide.

CD: I think of the example of Tose Proeski, when I saw him in concert the amount of love the people had for him was incredible. Especially these kids and teenagers, they looked like they were in some other universe.

BT: Tose is great. You can’t imagine, yesterday we were singing together at the traditional pre-Ilinden departure of the horsemen for Krusevo. These ecstatic teenage girls started to run after him, his bodyguards had to run too to keep them off of him. This kind of love, it’s beautiful. He has such charisma. The politicians must learn from these kinds of people. To be a leader, you can either be a great intellectual, or else be close to the people, to win their love.

CD: So in Macedonia today, you don’t see any great leaders?

BT: I don’t. Great leaders must be patriotic, but this is not to tell their followers to hate others. They must love the country, to sacrifice everything for the country, to give all their energy to make it better… And love is very important among all the emotions. Even here in politics.

There simply must be some new vision for this country. You know, Boris Trajkovski once told me that 100,000 young people have left Macedonia in the last 10 years. For a country the size of Russia, that would be no problem. But for Macedonia it’s a huge loss. Trajkovski said this. I remember he was so unhappy.

Boris Trajanov- Biography

The Macedonian baritone Boris Trajanov studied singing with his father Goga Trajanov, Biserka Cvejic and Pier Miranda Ferraro. He is a winner of several international singing awards.

From his debut onstage with the Macedonian National Opera in 1986, Boris has sung 35 principal roles in more than 60 opera companies around the world, in cities like Vienna, Moscow, Rome, Bologna, Parma, Palermo, Trieste, Florence, Bergamo, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dьsseldorf, Cologne, Stuttgart, Bonn, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Luxembourg, Basle, Oslo, Sгo Paolo, Cape Town and the Pacific Opera (U.S.A.).

From 1986 until September 1991, Boris sung mostly in opera houses in the former Yugoslavia, where he became one of the best baritones. His international career started in Germany, where he gave more than 300 performances. From 1995 on, Boris sang in many European opera houses – especially in Italy, which is for any opera singer the most important goal of his career.

Boris Trajanov has sung in more than 600 performances with Wolfgang Sawallisch, Daniel Oren, Tiziano Severini, Maurizio Arena, Marcello Vioti, Michel Plasson, Eugene Kohn, Daniella Dessi, Helen Donath, Katia Ricciarelli, Raina Kabaivanska, Bruna Baglioni, Peter Seifert, Luis Lima, Lando Bartolini, Alberto Cupido, Nicola Martinucci, and more.

In 1995, with Katleen Cassello and Rundfunkorchester des Sьdwest, Boris recorded a CD of Operatic arias and duets for Mons Records. His performances were broadcast on Cultura+ (Brazil), BBC3, RAI, Sьdwest Rudfunk (Germany), Croatian TV Broadcast, Macedonian TV, etc.

Boris Trajanov’s repertoire consists of 35 principal baritone roles in Otello, Rigoletto, Macbeth, Nabucco, Aida, Attila, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Un Ballo in Maschera, Don Carlo, La Forza del destino, I Vespri siciliani, Lucia di Lammermoor, Maria Stuarda, Carmen, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Andrea Chenier, Fedora, Cavalleria Rusticana, Le Roi Artus, Pique Dame/ Prince Yeletzky, Cosi fan tutte/Guglielmo, Die Rheingold/ Donner, etc.

Some of the next productions Boris will appear in until the year 2006 include:

Don Pizarro, Fidelio/ Teatro dell’Opera Rom/ Italy

Scarpia, Tosca/ Opera Graz/ Austria

Don Pizarro, Fidelio/ Opera Graz/ Austria

Don Pizarro, Fidelio/ Opera Tel Aviv/ Israel

Scarpia, Tosca / Monte Carlo

Rigoletto/ Summer Opera Festival Nice/ France

During the most recent season, Boris Trajanov sang in:

Ezio, Attila/ Ludwigsburger Festspiele/ Germany September 2003

Gйrard, Andrea Chйnier/ Teatro Verdi Sassari, Sardinia / Italy, November and December 2003

Gйrard, Andrea Chйnier / Teatro Comunale Bologna/ Italy with Daniella Dessi, Del Monaco and Palombo February 2004

The same production in Teatro Comunale Ferrara/ Italy in March 2004

Jago, Otello/ Opera Graz (Austria) March, April 2004
Scarpia, Tosca/ Opera Frankfurt/ Germany, June, July 2004

2002/2003 Season:

de Siriex, Fedora/ Teatro Donizetti Bergamo/ Italy with Nicola Martinucci in first part of September 2002

Scarpia, Tosca/ Teatro dell’Opera Rom/ Italy; Tournee in Moscow in second part of September 2002/ conductor Morandi

Nabucco/ Theatre St. Gallen/ Switzerland in October 2002

Scarpia, Tosca/ Tournee in 7 Opera Houses in Italy( Lucca, Bergamo, Pisa, Mantova, Ravenna, Novara, Livorno)

from October until December 2002/ conductor Tiziano Severini

Nabucco/ Macedonian National Theatre Skopje, February 2003

Escamillo, Carmen/ Teatro Comunale Salerno/ Italy, conductor Yoram David March 2003

Count Luna, Il Trovatore/ Opera Pacific/ U.S.A. April 2003

Scarpia, Tosca/ Gibraltar, June 2003

Escamillo, Carmen/ / Teatro dell’Opera Rom(Terme di Caracalla)/ Italy conductor Michel Plasson July 2003

Escamillo / Opernair Gars/ Austria July and August 2003

2001/2002 Season:

Rigoletto/ Rotterdam/ Holland, Open Air; September 2001

Scarpia, Tosca/ Stadttheater Klagenfurt/ Austria; November, December 2001 and January 2002

Scarpia, Tosca/ Teatro Regio Parma/ Italy with Raina Kabaiwanska/ her Farewell to Tosca/; February 2002

Jago, Otello/ State Opera Hamburg/ Germany with Lando Bartolini; February 2002

Gйrard, Andrea Chйnier/ Teatro Verdi Trieste/ Italy; April and May 2002

2000/2001 Season:

Scarpia, Tosca/ Macedonian National Theatre Skopje, October 2000

Jago, Otello/ Opera Halle/ Germany November 2000

Jago, Otello/ State Theatre Schwerin/ Germany from November and December 2000

Ezio, Attila (Debut)/ Stadttheater Bremerhaven/ Germany from December 2000 until January 2001

Escamillo, Carmen/ Volksoper Vienna (Austria) in January 2001

Scarpia, Tosca/ Teatro Massimo Palermo/ with Maurizio Arena in February 2001

Monforte, I Vespri Siciliani (Debut)/State Theatre Darmstadt/ Germany in March and April 2001

Lindorf, Copйlius, Dapertutto, Miracle in Les Contes D`Hoffmann/ Teatro Verdi Trieste/ with Daniel Oren in May 2001

Saul, Davide Re/ Teatro Massimo Palermo/ with Fabrizio Carminati and Kristian Johannsonn in June 2001

Nabucco/ State Theatre Darmstadt/ Germany, Open Air Festival in June and July 2001

1999/2000 Season:

Nicola, Nozze Istriane/ Teatro Verdi Trieste (Italy) in December 1999/conductor Tiziano Severini

Scarpia,Tosca (Debut)/ Festspielhaus Bregenz (Austria) January and February 2000

Jago, Otello/ State Theatre Schwerin/ Germany with Helen Donath from May until July 2000

Escamillo, Carmen/ Volksoper Vienna (Austria) in June 2000

Scarpia, Tosca/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, June 2000

Amonasro, Aida (Debut) / Summer Opera Festival Heidenheim/ Germany from July until August 2000

1998/ 1999 Season:

Rigoletto/ Nico Opera House, Cape Town/ South Africa October 98

Escamillo, Carmen/ Teatro Municipal Sгo Paolo/ Brazil, November 98

Nabucco/ Landestheater Kiel/ Germany from December 98 until June 99/ with conductor Ventura

Jago, Otello/ State Opera Bremen/ Germany, January 99

Jago, Otello/ State Opera Saarbrьcken/ Germany, December 98 and February 99

Jago, Otello/ State Opera Darmstadt/ Germany, February and May 99

Macbeth (Debut) /Opera Zuid Maastricht/ Holland(Maastricht, Venlo, Amersfoort, Rotterdam, Sittard, Den Bosch, Breda, Tilburg, Heerlen, Eindhoven) from May 99 until June 99

Nabucco/ Summer Opera Festival Heidenheim/ Germany in June and July 99

1997/1998 Season:

Rigoletto/ Scottish Opera (U.K.) in Glasgow, Bradford and in Festival Theatre Edinburgh- October and November 97/conductor Richard Armstrong

Enrico/ Lucia di Lammermoor/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, November, December 97

Renato, Un Ballo in Maschera/ Opera Nьrnberg/ Germany, December 97

Renato, Un Ballo in Maschera/ Norwegian Opera Oslo with Denis O’Neill in January and February 98

Rigoletto/ Deutsche Oper am Rhein Dьsseldorf/ Germany, March 98

Yeletsky, Pique Dame/ Scottish Opera (U.K.) Glasgow in Mai 98/ conductor Richard Armstrong

Escamillo, Carmen/ Croatian National Opera with Luis Lima, May 98

Enico Lucia di Lammermoor/ Summer Opera Festival Koblenz/ Germany in June and July 98/ Esposito, Cashiari

Jago, Otello ( Debut)/ Summer Opera Festival Heidenheim/ Germany in June and July 98

Nabucco/ Open Air Augsburg/ Germany July 98

1996/ 1997 Season:

Nabucco (Debut)/ Stadttheater Bremerhaven/ Germany, from September 96 until April 97

Rigoletto/ Deutsche Oper am Rhein Dьsseldorf/ Germany, October 96

Donner/ Das Rheigold/ Opera Essen/ Germany, November 96

Rodrigo di Posa, Don Carlo/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, from November 96 until February 97

Enrico/ Lucia di Lammermoor/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, from November 96 until February 97

Merlin, Le Roi Artus/ Cologne Opera House/ Germany from March until June 97

Sharples, Madama Butterfly/ Cologne Opera House/ Germany from May until June 97

Antonio, Linda di Chamounix/ Cologne Opera House/ Germany April 97

Concerts with Scottish Opera (U.K.) in Glasgow and in Festival Theatre Edinburgh June 97

1995/1996 Season:

Rodrigo di Posa, Don Carlo/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, from October 95 until July 96

Don Carlo di Vargas, La Forza del destino/ Forum Opera, Groningen/ Holland, December 95

Georges Gйrmont, La Traviata / State Theatre Wiessbaden/ Germany, from December 95 until March 96

Sharples, Madama Butterfly/ State Theatre Wiessbaden / Germany, March 95

Yeletsky, Pique Dame/ Bonn Opera House/ Germany, from February until April 96

Escamillo, Carmen/ Saarbrьcken Opera / Germany, April and May 96

Rigoletto/Theatre Basle/ Switzerland in June 96

Lord Cecil, Maria Suarda/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany with Marcello Vioti, June 96

1994/1995 Season:

Rigoletto (Debut) / Stadttheater Bremerhaven/ Germany, from October 94 until January 95

Don Carlo di Vargas, La Forza del destino/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, from October until December 94

Lord Cecil, Maria Suarda/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, from December 94 until April 95

Tournee in Opera Luxembourg in February 95 with Katia Ricciarelli

Georges Gйrmont, La Traviata/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, from December 94 until July 95

Sharples, Madama Butterfly/ State Theatre Karlsruhe/ Germany, March and April 95

Otokar, Freischutz/ Teatro Comunale Florence (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino) June 95/

Conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch

Escamillo, Carmen/ Eutin Summer Opera Festival/ Germany, July 95

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