Dec 27, 2013

Bella Soprano

The life, journey and voice of Christiana Aloneftis – a passionate and talented opera singer from Australia.

Giving an operatic performance is one of the most demanding and difficult art forms to master. Absolute perfection is expected and constant voice training essential to maintaining standards of excellence. For young Greek Orthodox, Christiana Aloneftis, she has learnt to focus her strengths into giving memorable performances before Australian and overseas audiences.

At just 22 years of age, Christiana has achieved much. Studying at the University of Melbourne she completed her 3 ½ year Bachelor of Music (Performance: Classical Voice) degree and Diploma of Languages (Advanced Italian). She has performed at many prestigious concerts and won several scholarships to Europe for training. With a love for languages – fluent in Greek and Italian, not in singing German, Russian, French and Spanish – she is currently pursuing a Master of Interpreting and Translation studies at Monash University in Italian. As she continues to work on her operatic career, she hopes to support it by being a qualified translator and interpreter, a skill which will not only help her with her Italian operatic interpretation but provide more opportunities when she continues to study overseas. At this stage in her professional career, Christiana classifies herself as a Lyric Soprano. However, as with all professional opera singers, her voice will change, and as a result, change the operatic principles she sings.

Currently Christiana is undergoing private study in opera/classical voice here in Melbourne with her teacher, Margaret Haggart, a dramatic coloratura soprano, who has sung over 90 stage roles ranging from Puccini’s Turandot to Mozart’s Queen of the Night. In Melbourne, Christiana also works with vocal coach, Raymond Lawrence. Christiana’s study with Margaret is solely focussed on vocal technique whilst, with Raymond, repertoire is the main focus including all musical aspects i.e. phrasing, artistry and pathos etc. The employment of a solid technique, timbral change and attention to the interpretation of the subtleties of the score are all fundamental in helping to express the complex psychology of the music and the stage character. Although her workload is intense, Christiana would not trade it for anything, although more sleep is always tempting. Despite the fierce competition and extremely high expectations, she just accepts this as the reality of the art form.

However, Christiana’s early childhood involvement in music make’s one wonder if she was at all interested in opera. As a young child, Christiana was very active, interested more in sports than singing. She found the weekly classes for a Greek-school choir (singing traditional folk songs), which she was forced to attend, tedious and tiring. Instead of singing, she had dreams of representing Australia at the Olympic Games as a swimmer and later developed an interest in marine biology! However, thanks to the guidance of choir conductor, Peter Mousaferiadis, a key figure in shaping her appreciation for music in general, a gift was revealed – a diamond in the rough. With his encouragement, Christiana gained greater confidence and was given the opportunity to sing solos at concerts. It was during these experiences which Christiana came to realise the need to perform. A school-trip at the age of fifteen culminated in the defining moment which would set Christiana on the path she was destined to follow.
I remember being taken to La Scala, Milan (one of Europe’s major operatic theatres) and doing a tour of the theatre with my other colleagues. The tour guide paused in the main theatre where there was a dress rehearsal in progress for Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I was completely enthralled by the work of the performers…The vocal power and emotional intensity those artists expressed completely overcame my consciousness. I knew then at that point that I would have to be on stage in some way or another.

Upon returning back home to Melbourne, she began classical voice lessons and was accepted into the University of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music at the age of 18. To Christiana, this is where the real study would begin and the discovery of her creative talent. Christiana’s greatest inspiration is a perpetual need to express.
Whether it is the 18th century or the new millennium, emotions have not changed and the story of humanity continues on. Contemporary audiences can identify with the emotions and tragedy of the plot. Opera highlights the pathos of the human condition like no other art form I know. There is nothing more powerful or expressive than the voice which can betray every subtlety of feeling; every cry of sorrow, every shriek of joy. The human voice is a unique instrument – it is visceral. It is part of the human being.

Since her humble beginnings in the Greek choir, Christiana has performed at many venues, both in Australia and Europe, and participated in numerous competitions. She recently performed as the youngest singing finalist in the Australian Music Foundation Grant Awards held at Wigmore Hall, London. Early this year Christiana performed her first ever professional recital in her home-country of Cyprus with acclaimed Greek-Cypriot pianist Yiannis Hadjiloizou and went on to work with Greek soprano Jenny Drivala in Athens. During the European Summer, Christiana performed in the Saarburg International Summer School and Festival in Germany on a half-scholarship awarded by Artistic Director, Maestro Semyon Rozin. However, the key performance in her next stage of development was in December 2012 at The Acclaim Italian Opera Fellowship Awards in Melbourne. As the youngest finalist, Christiana performed works by Puccini and Bellini first in The Final at Iwaki Auditorium at ABC Studios and then in The Salon at The Melbourne Recital Centre for The Winners Master class & Concert. However, this is just one of many great performances.

As in any creative principle, an artist needs inspiration. Some of the people Christiana admires the most include her singing teacher, Margaret Haggart.
I admire [her] diligence and infallible technique…and her vivacious yet modest personality. Despite her great acclaim and success, she is all-
nurturing and all-believing, with no pretentiousness, and to me this is the mark of a great artist.

Christiana also seeks inspiration from her favourite artists including the great Greek soprano Maria Callas and Soviet Union soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, from ‘The Golden Age’ of opera in the early 20th century.

As for the spiritual nature of the art, Christiana sees the relationship between opera and Orthodoxy, but more so around the morals the operatic works teach.
I guess opera tells the story of our humanity – mostly tragedy, sinfulness, passions, visceral feeling – what goes wrong when we let our emotions supersede reason and logic. I think Orthodoxy or organised religion helps us to control our passions. This is similar to the teaching in Dante Alighieri’s great work, The Divine Comedy / La Divina Commedia: “Natural love is always without error. But mental love may choose an evil object, or love too much, or love too little” – Dante Alighieri (La Divina Commedia Purg. 17: 94-96). The drama in opera plots allows the audience to indulge in so-called ‘forbidden passions’ without taking home the spectacle!

My experience of Orthodoxy and my singing culminates in leading the Good Friday Vespers. It was an honour to sing in respect of one of the greatest feasts of the church’s calendar and I believe it heightened my personal religious experience and hopefully those of the congregation. My spirituality is important in keeping me motivated and focused on the steering and achievement of an operatic career.

Christiana looks forward to a very busy 2014 as she completes her Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies degree before heading to Italy in late-June 2014. During mid-2013 she won the Italian Government Scholarship which will partly fund 6 months’ worth of study in Italy for the second half of 2014. Most recently she won the 2013 Monash University Acclaim Ambassadorial Scholarship for a month’s study at both Teatro Pergolesi-Spontini in Jesi, Le Marche and La Scala in Milan which will, thankfully, extend her stay in beautiful Italy.

Where Christiana hopes to be in five to ten years is uncertain. The industry is challenging and best viewed as a ‘labour of love’ – where it is as much about talent as it is about being in the right place at the right time. However, it is without a doubt Christiana’s hard work, dedication and talent are signs of a promising future.

Written by Chris Vlahonasios
Photography by jczc photography

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The OFA blog would like to thank Christiana Aloneftis for kindly giving up her time for this interview.
OFA wishes Christiana every success in her musical career.

Contact Christiana for singing events:
Mobile: 0458 559 348


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