At the age of thirty-one, contralto Bella Adamova, a native of Chechnya, is a rising star attracting attention due to her exceptional feeling for the song repertoire, her beautifully coloured, deep voice and her purely artistic approach to the songs she chooses as well as her passion for improvising. When she was a child, her family left the oppressed Chechnya for Prague, where she attended an international school. The cosmopolitan city of Prague exposed her to many cultures, which inspired her to become a versatile musician feeling comfortable in multiple genres. She got her Bachelor’s degree at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, and completed her Master’s studies in Cologne, Germany. She has learned from many masters, such as Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Hampson, Christoph Prégardien, etc. On Friday, 25 August 2023, Supraphon released Bella Adamova’s album aptly called There Is Home, which she recorded in rare communion with pianist Michael Gees. It contains her special choice of songs by Haas, Mussorgsky, Britten and Mahler. We talked to Bella Adamova shortly before the record was released.
What was the most difficult thing about preparing this album and what did you enjoy most?
I can’t say that I found anything about creating my new album truly difficult. This album is truly a passion project of mine and we recorded songs that I have been singing for quite some time. I’ve had the programme in mind since 2017 when I sang it as my Master’s recital in Cologne, and apart from adding a few pieces we haven’t changed anything. Back then it took me a whole year to get my idea into the form with which I was finally happy. I take a lot of time to create new concert programmes, I don’t like to rush the process. The ideas needs space to grow inside my mind.
Recording with pianist Michael Gees is a great joy, we’ve been working together since 2015 which has meant that we’ve developed our own language and we are communicate well without words. I don’t know anyone who thinks about music and plays the way that he does. Experiencing his playing live is a profound experience. It is also a great relief to have someone as experienced by my side. I felt a certain amount of pressure during the preparation of this album – probably, mostly from my own self. I’ve dreamed about recording this exact repertoire for many years and so I had very high demands from myself, sometimes even impossible expectations. The trust and support from the whole team at Supraphon was great, I felt a deep understanding and appreciation of my artistic intentions. I really hope that listeners take the time to experience to the album from beginning to end. I am very curious to hear what kind of an effect it has on them.
How important is improvisation to you?
It’s a way of composing for extroverts, who are incapable of spending lonely hours writing down notes. (laughter) … Improvising has taught me more about interpretation and music in generally than anything else. It’s a place where I can be playful and creative. It can also be a very vulnerable place - I cannot hide behind other composers and their works.
Are you planning to perform the repertoire from the album in concert?
We will play ‘there is home’ as part of the Music is festival in Prague on October 5th in Divadlo X10 where we will also present the album.
Could you choose a few interesting concerts from your schedule to invite your fans to?
I cordially invite you to the St. Wenceslas Music Festival, where I will finally sing Schubert's Winter Journey for the first time. This will take place on 7 September in cooperation with the Wihan Quartet. De Falla El Amor Brujo with Robert Kružík will be performed in Zlín on 30 November. My first dream Mahler's Symphony No. 2 is scheduled to be performed with the Prague Symphony Orchestra under conductor Tomáš Brauner on 12 and 13 June next year.
Let’s go back to your upcoming album, There Is Home. It is remarkable not only due to the music included on it but also due to its cover.
It is a very personal album, I was involved in every little detail, every word in the booklet, in the choice of the wonderful Martin Stupka, who recorded the music, the photographer, even the colour of the font on the back page. The collaboration with photographer and artist Michaela Karásek Čejková was truly special, and we were dressed by Prague based designer Zoltán Tóth. I really wanted to challenge the expectation of what a cover for a classical music CD can look like, to reach new audiences. I don’t like the separation between genres, I am convinced that our music can touch anyone who is open to it.