- “ONE DAY”: KSENIYA ANTONOVA (opera singer, New York) -

When we talk about successful people, we talk about those, who have achieved certain goals in financial and public aspect. But in a global sense, a successful person is someone with a strength, and while overcoming obstacles, he/she keeps on standing for this goals, still remaining genuine, fair and open-minded.
We met with Kseniya Antonova, a young opera singer, in a one of the great cafes of New-York, where she told with maximum frankness about her creative path, her lifestyle features on American earth and about rules helping to succeed.

- Tell us, please, where are you from? How did the story of your relationships with music start?
- I am from Volgograd. My music story started when I was 5, at this age my grandma took me to music school. In Volgograd we had a music ensemble. With this ensemble we participated in numerous competitions and festivals, we travelled all over Russia, and even Finland. I remember the moment when I came at first time to the first grade: I felt myself more grown-up than my classmates because I had been to many places, I earned money by myself, I even managed to be in summer camp at the age of 6! Generally I was quite independent. So, in this sense, I didn’t have a real childhood.
- Is there someone (parents or relatives) who is related to music?
- Nobody is related. Although mom sings well, she has beautiful voice naturally, but she sings among friends, in kitchen. Maybe, she could have become a good singer, if she wanted to. So, I think, my voice is just like my mom’s. Also, I am told that my grandpa used to sing well, but I don’t know. 
- So, in the beginning you practiced music in Volgograd, and then...?
- Yes, up to 12 years I practiced music and then I had small break till I was 15. At that time I thought that I would do something more “serious”, I wrote research articles, took part in competitions, but eventually I wanted to go back into singing.
Then I went to Academic Music College of the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. I studied there during 3 years then I decided that it was not enough for me – and I moved to America.
-So, how old you were when you moved to America?
- I celebrated my 20- year- birthday in America. Now I am 25, so I’ve been living here for 5 years. 
- But you moved to a foreign country alone. Weren’t you afraid of getting lost here, of being unneeded here?
- I think, that if I have decided to do it now, probably, I would be afraid. I just was younger and I saw life in a more rose-colored glasses and it helped me. So, I was very fearless. Thank God, I met good people most of the times. Thank God, everything went well.
- Tell us, please, about your first introduction with this city, with this mind. How did you fit to this space?
- New York is not America. There are a lot of nations coming here; that is why it is easy to fit. I had some problems in terms of language barrier. But it’s normal. Moreover, I studied here and all subjects were in English. There was no choice, I had to learn it as soon as possible. 
- How did you manage this moving? Did you do it through your college or somehow separately?
-  I found in the Internet.
In fact, it all started with summer school in Italy where all teachers were Americans and I understood that their teaching method suited me more than method of Russian teachers. And I started bundling. I think, I didn’t go wrong.
At first, I was observing other cities also. For example, I was enrolled apart from Brooklyne conservatory also in Boston one, but in the end I chose the one that, firstly, suited me in terms of money, and, secondly, in terms of teachers. It is almost impossible to get grants in a private college. For example, in the Manhattan institute it is impossible, if you are a singer, as there are a lot of singers. Normally, grants can be given to people of rare professions – for instance, trumpet-players. Many Americans study in credit. I have a lot of friends that finish education with debts in amount of 200-300 thousand dollars.
- How do they get out from these debts?
- Well, I don’t know. It is very hard, especially at the career beginning. If you are lucky, then you will be able to earn afterwards, but in the beginning this is chicken feed. So, it is a quite difficult situation.
- What is your social circle? Do you have close friends whom you can share some secrets with?
- I communicate with everyone and prefer communicating more even with non-musicians.
- Why?
- Because they are closer to life, they look at this world more simply. Sometimes it’s difficult when there are only creative people around. However, I think that it’s necessary to communicate with everyone. Especially, if you are a musician and you are going to perform in front of people and show something to the world, you should not be in vacuum. That is why the experience I get here will help me. It already helps.

Ksenya showed us in her place – flat of a painter in a Bohemian quarter in New York. Immersion into this air happened to be similar to a journey into old film. Old, according to the hostess, having lived many a century, floor boards; ethnic masks and figurines; weird colorful pictures painted by the hostess; entrance with wooden stairs and old wooden furniture. 

- Is it comfortable for you in the “world” you are living in? How much are you used to living here and how much you consider this place as your home? How strongly you want to move to other city/country?
- It’s comfortable for me to live in New York, as here there are many things that are possible to find 24 hours a day – speaking about material side. But, in general, I am planning to live in Europe.
- Where exactly in Europe?
- Where I am offered a job (is laughing). I love Germany and Italy. They are absolutely different in mentalities and state structures, but both of them appeal to me. I like Italy because of its openness, optimism, even considering that they are lazy. But in Germany everything is organized, everything is working: be sure that a shop will be working exactly in that time that is indicated.
- Do you know, why I am asking about it? Today I met with one girl. She is living here quite a long time. She is already married. And I asked her: “How is New York for you? Do you like living here?” And she replied: “Yes, this city is great, but I don’t want to bring up my children here. I wish to move to Europe”.
- Yes. I can explain why I wouldn’t like to bring up my children here. I don’t like American education system, as it seems to me, that they (pupils) don’t receive enough information. I am speaking about common American; perhaps, in private school situation is different. They almost don’t know world history. As far as I am concerned, before graduation,  last 4 years they study only the history of the USA. So, that is why I don’t want my child to be grown up with limited world view. The knowledge standard that I received in Russia might be considered quite high in comparison with world level, because I communicate with different people on different topics in different situations and I don’t feel lack of knowledge.

 (Here we had a break for a dinner, very delicious, and then we went back to the talk. Ksenya brought up a topic of difficulties in employment of musicians and here I switched on recorder again)

- Well, you were telling that it’s easier to find a job as an opera singer in Europe…
- Yes, especially in the beginning.
- And what is the problem in New York related to?
- Firstly, during crisis many small and medium companies were closed, and only few theaters remained in big America. Secondly, Europeans with big credentials are moving here. To sing in “Metropolitan” you need to have huge experience pickback, time tested materials and performed roles on European scenes.
-Don’t know if my sense is correct; after talking to some Russians living here… it seems that New York is a kind of a square, mark for self-affirmation…
- “Metropolitan opera” is the one opera theater in New York. All singers dream about singing there because, firstly, there is broadcasting all over the world: it is big PR, it’s completely different level and you become recognizable. Secondly, apart from the fact that this is a legendary theater where all famous opera singers sang, also here is the largest salary.

In the neighbor entrance of the house where Ksenya lives, the space of the Slovenian church is situated. She has personal keys and because of that she can come here any time after closing. Here in a complete loneliness Ksenya rehearses her voice parts. She says that there are good acoustics here and this place tunes you for a necessary calmness. 

- Let’s go back to education. Tell, please, how is the educative process arranged in Brooklyne conservatory?

 - Am doing bachelor’s degree. Bachelors have to have educational subjects and musical – double stress. Thank God, I have already graduated. Nevertheless, I am thankful – I got to know about politics, economics and linguistics.

- How long does education last? 
- 4 years. Also master degree that is +2 years.

- Was it interesting to study? 
- In general, yes. It is always interesting to study. Especially, musical subjects.

 - Is the place you graduated prestigious? I mean, do some future proposals open after graduation?

- Everything depends on you, on the way you sing. Although, connections also matter. But here is a thing: either you pay for connections or you pay for good teachers. Now young singers are required. And the earlier the better. It is not very useful for our vocal apparatus, as time is necessary for its developing. You have to  develop such a basic so that you could be able to stand morning and evening rehearsals equally. And so during weeks, performances... that’s a big stress. So, I think that this trend is harmful for many singers. There were many cases when a singer was used to “bring money”, then he “was worn out” and thrown away. With the advent of the Internet, broadcasting all over the world, all want to see young and beautiful ones: so that they look like Hollywood actors and sing as inveterate singers that is not always possible. That is why it’s important to know who you are really, to see your abilities, to be able to say NO and have patience. It’s a long work. It requires time.

- Do you have certain plans for future? Maybe, you have already drawn up particular strategy for yourself?

- I have. I want to go to Germany to audition. Then we’ll see. Unfortunately, I am Russian citizen and I cannot stay non-stop more than 3 months in Europe.

- Оh…
- Yes. According to Schengen agreement, you can’t spend more than 3 months within 6 months in Europe. That is why I need to prolong these 3 months somehow, so that I could try my talents there.
- I am listening to you and I am feeling that you have a lot of internal stability, urge, power to act. Can you tell me about your philosophy , about survival rules for those who don’t believe in themselves?
- You need to know what you want, then your desire to do it appears. But if you don’t know, you don’t have incentive. I was in different situations. I am not always so confident and active. Of course, it is directly related to singing: for example, sometimes after unsuccessful practicing it starts to seem that the ground crumbles under your feet. Our life is not stable. Frequently there is no justice in our life. That is why you should not wait for something to come. You should act, you should believe in yourself. If luck comes, it’s great; if doesn’t come, you should understand why it didn’t come and, probably, start doing something else.
- You love your activity, I see …
- Yes. I understood that if you don’t love then you should not do it. Otherwise it will be difficult.
- How would you describe your attitude towards music?
- It is the biggest part of myself, it is like an air. I was practicing music all my conscience experience. I even don’t remember myself as a human being before getting into it.  It’s difficult to imagine life without it. Music is everywhere. Right now we are talking and music can play in your mind even now.
I will repeat: you have to love what you do. The same thing in relationships with people: if it’s a pleasure for you to talk to someone, then it’s worthy to work on these relationships, to evolve with this person. But if no, – then why?
I am one hell of a philosopher (is laughing).
- Well, at least, you are the person that gives a good example: everything is possible; you see a goal and go for it. And humor also should be added.
- Yes, people shouldn’t take everything seriously, including themselves.
- Life is a game and we all are actors.
- Yes. Today you win, tomorrow – loose, the day after tomorrow you win again. Life is not stable. Don’t wait that success will come and things will go as smoothly as if buttered. You should constantly work.

(the translation is made on the basis of the interview recorded in Russian language)