Apostol Milenkov: " Church Slavonic music for me is not just singing. This is a state of mind

On November, 21 on the stage of the Dmitry Shostakovich St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonic there was the gala concert of Bulgaria opera stars. The audience had a brilliant opportunity to hear Alexander Nosikov (bass),Plamen Beikov (bass), Apostol Milenkov (bass-baritone), Maria Zhekova (mezzo-soprano) and Vladimir Galuzin (tenor). It was a real celebration of Bulgarian music. Correspondent of "Music of Russia" spoke with a direct participant of the show, a world-famous singer Apostol Milenkov

- How old were you when you started to study music?

- I have always loved to sing, but I started to practice singing as a profession at the age of 18. I experienced great difficulties, even stopped singing for a few years. But finally, I graduated from the State Academy of Music in Sofia and started my career.

- Do you remember your first appearance on the big stage? What emotions overwhelmed you at the moment?

- Of course, I remember. It was in the Big Hall of the Sofia Philharmonic, where I sang Shostakovich Symphony No. 13 in March 2006. This is one of my favorite composers. There was, of course, some anxiety but it disappeared when the music started. Only music enjoyment and a pleasant feeling of the passed concert were the things that remained.

- On what concert stages you perform?

- On different ones. I live in Vienna and perform not only the opera but also chamber and church music. Very often I sing in a small theater, which is called „ Letztes Erfreuliches Operntheater”. There and get the opportunity to enter into close contact with the public. Since 2010 I give concerts in Bulgaria too. I am very proud to have a great success singing Wotan (Valkyrie), Zaccaria (Nabucco) and Attila at the National Opera in Sofia, as well as and Escamillo (Carmen), Ramfis (Aida) and Zachary at the Opera Festival in summer theater in Varna. Often I sing "Mozart's Requiem" and for several years take part at the Mozart festival in Zaltskamergut. Give recitals of chamber music, too, and of Church Slavonic music. I like very much to work with The Symphony Orchestra of Mödling, which each year give opera gala concerts in Vienna.

- Tell us about your impressions of the performance at the gala concert of Bulgaria opera stars in St. Petersburg? Is this your first visit to Russia?

- It was my first concert in Russia, but two times I was in Moscow. I liked St. Petersburg and its people very much. It is very beautiful, clean and quiet here. The people I met were also very calm, friendly, and often smiled. And at the concert the house was full. We were gladly received by the audience. The orchestra played brilliantly, and the conductor ... I think he will soon be the next superstar. It's just an incredible talent!

It was a great experience and if I get the chance, I will gladly come again.

- How do you feel about the church music? Does your repertoire include religious songs?

- After graduating from the Music Academy, I started to sing in the church choir. Church Slavonic music for me is not just singing. This is a state of mind. Besides, it helped me to learn singing. I give concerts very often, sang with Russian Church Choir in Vienna, with Bulgarian Choir and several times sang Church Slavonic music accompanied by organ. This concert was really liked by the Viennese public. Of course, I sing with pleasure and western church music. It is very diverse, but I also like it.  Most of such works as Missa Solemnis (Beethoven), Stabat Mater  (Rossini) and Messa da Requiem (Verdi), which I'm going to sing in January, at the Vienna Musikverein. 


- How do you see the further development of the spiritual culture of Bulgaria?

- This is a very complex issue. Unfortunately, Bulgarian politicians pay little attention to culture. Theaters, opera houses and orchestras are closing. The artists get little money etc.

I very hope much that our situation will change and that events such as the "Days of Bulgarian Culture" will help us in this. Our culture is very rich. Every time when I present Bulgarian music to Austrian public, I see that people are just fascinated by the music and ask where they can hear other works. 

- What can you say about the current state of music in Russia?

- I am absolutely fascinated by what I saw in St. Petersburg - a lot of theaters, concerts, great interest of the public. So it was in Moscow three years ago, when my wife Nadia Krsteva sang Carmen at the Bolshoi. A lot of people are interested in the arts, and it is spiritually enriching and making them kinder. 

-What are your impressions of the work of the staff of the newspaper "Russian Music"?

- Your paper is very interesting and varied, and your team, I think, is a very competent. We see that you are really interested in what's happening in the world of music. It's good for the art. I wish you much success and continued development!

- What would you wish to our readers?

- My wishes to all the readers of the newspaper «Music of Russia "- be healthy, happy, and save the high spirituality.

Dina Mukhamedzyanova