Hibla Gerzmava shines in the most difficult operatic roles, and she is crowned with the most honorary awards and titles like People’s Artist of Russia and of the Republic of Abkhazia. Hibla Gerzmava is the only winner of the Grand-Prix at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1994. She is a multiple winner of the Golden Mask National Theatre Award and recipient of the State Prize of the Russian Federation for her contribution to the development of Russian and world art. Hibla Gerzmava’s creative biography is rich in significant, historic events. In 2001, she created the festival «Hibla Gerzmava Invites…» in her homeland Abkhazia. Since 2014, the festival has expanded its borders and has been held in Moscow in the Great Hall of the Conservatory and on the stage of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre, in Vienna in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, at Carnegie Hall in New York, and in St. Moritz, Switzerland. In 2021 she became the President of the Onegin National Opera Award. The year 2022 is a time of transformation in the artist’s life as she enters a new phase of her artistic journey. On June 2, 2022, she announced the launch of the Hibla Gerzmava International Vocalist and Accompanist Competition, to be held at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre.
Hibla was born in Pitsunda, attended music school in Gagra and continued her musical education at Sukhumi music school as a pianist, with no thoughts of pursuing a singing career. Her piano teacher was able to spot her exceptional singing talent and took Hibla to Josephine Bumburidi’s vocal class. In 1989 Hibla entered the Moscow Conservatory, where she had the People’s Artist of the USSR, the famous soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre, Irina Ivanovna Maslennikova and Evgenia Mikhailovna Arefieva as her teachers. Hibla graduated from the Vocal Department of the Moscow State Conservatory in 1994, and completed her post-graduate course at the Moscow Conservatory, class of Professor Maslennikova in 1996. A strong musical education, which combines a brilliant vocal school with an instrumentalist background, helps the singer to subtly understand and feel the musical text. She is always part of an ensemble, be it piano, organ or orchestra. International competitions have played a special role in Hibla Gerzmava’s career. While still a student at the Moscow Conservatory, Hibla won several key vocal competitions: Voci Verdiani / the Verdian Voices Competition (Italy, 1993), the Tenor Viñas Contest / International Vocal Competition named after Francisco Viñas (Barcelona, 1994), the International Rimsky-Korsakov Vocal Competition (St. Petersburg, 1994), and in 1994 Hibla Gerzmava was the first person to be awarded the Grand Prix at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for vocalists.
Hibla Gerzmava has been a soloist at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre since 1995. Her impeccable vocal mastery, acting prowess and ability to instantly respond to the director’s decisions presented the audience with an unforgettable gallery of characters created by Hibla in the Theatre’s productions, be it Adina in «L’Elisir d’Amore», Rosina in Rossini’s legendary «Il Barbiere di Seville» directed by Stanislavski before, and, of course, roles in productions by Musical Theatre chief stage director Alexander Titel. Her Lyudmila in Glinka’s «Ruslan and Lyudmila», Musetta and Mimì in Puccini’s «La Bohème», Princess Swan in Rimsky-Korsakov’s «The Tale of Tsar Saltan», Adele in Strauss’ «Die Fledermaus», Shemakhan Queen in Rimsky-Korsakov’s «The Golden Cockerel» and Violetta in Verdi’s «La Traviata» became spectacular events in the Moscow theatrical life. In 2010, Hibla performed a part of Lucia in the Donizetti’s opera «Lucia di Lammermoor» which is a rare production. Together with conductor Wolf Gorelik and director Adolf Shapiro, she created a remarkably beautiful, exquisite and at the same time tragic image of the title character, winning over critics and audiences alike. For this performance, the singer received the Golden Mask Russian National Theatre Award and Casta Diva Award in the category of the Best Singer. A year later Hibla performed all three parts (an enormous feat of operatic artistry, accessible only to true international opera stars!) – Olympia, Juliet and Antonia – in Offenbach’s «Les contes d’Hoffmann» at her home theatre. In 2016 she was again awarded the national Golden Mask for Best Actress for her part in Luigi Cherubini’s «Medea», which is one of the most challenging parts of the world opera repertoire.
Since the first decade of the new century, the singer has had an active international career. She performs on the world’s major stages: a debut in Covent Garden in London performing the part of Tatyana in the Tchaikovsky’s opera «Eugene Onegin», performing a part of Mimì in Puccini’s «La Bohème», Donna Anna in Mozart’s «Don Giovanni», Grimaldi in Verdi’s «Simone Boccanegra». A true discovery for the American audience was Hibla’s performance of the role of Liu in Puccini’s «Turandot» on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where her performance was called a «sunny debut». She then performed a part of Antonia in «Les Contes d’Hoffmann» and Desdemona in «Otello» on the same stage. Her debut as Vitellias in «La Clemenza di Tito» on the stage of the Paris Opera was marked not only with the lauding reviews but also with a new invitation to perform a part of Elisabeth of Valois in the opera «Don Carlos» by Verdi. At the Palais Garnier Hibla broke new ground as a Mozart singer being named one of the best Vitellias ever to perform this demanding vocal role (in The Mercy of Titus). In July 2011 Hibla performed at the opening of the BBC Proms with the BBC orchestra and choir under the baton of Jiří Belohlávek, singing the soprano part in Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass. One performance followed another – at the Bavarian Opera, the Zurich Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera of Madrid and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, the Liceu in Barcelona, the Arena di Verona, and the legendary La Scala in Milan, where Hibla performed a part of Anne Boleyn in a new stage production of Donizetti. Among the roles performed in 2022 are Norma in a new production at the Royal Opera House in Madrid and Leonora at the Teatro Liceu, also in a new production, where her performance was considered outstanding, and critics noted the singer’s extraordinary musicality and acting gift. And, of course, Hibla Gerzmava performs on the stages of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, where her repertoire includes Elisabeth Valois in «Don Carlos», Tosca in Puccini’s opera and Desdemona in «Otello». Hibla Gerzmava has toured with concert programmes in France, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Spain, USA, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel and throughout Russia. In 2020, she performed the part of Amelia Grimaldi in the Verdi’s opera Simon Boccanegra at the Vienna State Opera. In the same year, she made a world anniversary tour with concerts in London, New York, Paris and Toronto. In March 2021 Hibla Gerzmava made her opera debut with Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma at the Teatro Real in Madrid. In July she made her debut at the famous Arena di Verona at the annual opera festival, performing the soprano part in Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem. She also performed the same part in a series of concerts in Copenhagen under the direction of Fabio Luisi.
But Hibla’s career is not just about performing on the major opera stages, her work with chamber vocal music is no less important for her. It is no coincidence that the geography of her chamber concerts is as vast as the geography of her opera performances: the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Musikverein in Vienna, Arena di Verona. In October 2022 Hibla was invited to perform the soprano part in G. Verdi’s Requiem in Tokyo for the season opening and the inauguration of Fabio Luisi as the chief conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra. Her chamber repertoire is as extensive as it is unique, and the inclusion of various pieces is never incidental, be it a performance of baroque music with organ accompaniment, romances by Glinka, composers of the pre-Glinka period or Russian and western vocal pieces. It is not surprising, then, that in the first competition organised by Hibla, accompanists will be on equal grounds with vocalists. For over 30 years, the duo of Hibla Gerzmava and Ekaterina Ganelina has been an example of an ideal ensemble, of perfect joint musicianship. Hibla Gerzmava is often invited to take part in oratorio concerts. She has sung soprano parts in Mozart’s Requiem, Great Mass in C minor, Coronation Mass, Vesperae solennes de confessore, in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Verdi’s Requiem.
Self-improvement and discovery are always fascinating for Hibla. This is why her onstage partners, collaborations with conductors and directors are so important to her. Collaboration with Vladimir Spivakov has played a huge role in her artistic biography, and she always remembers with gratitude their work on vocal pieces at the Musical Theatre with maestro Wolf Gorelik and Felix Korobov, their collaboration at the Mariinsky Theatre and concert performances with Valery Gergiev. Hibla has performed concert programmes with Alexander Lazarev ; her conductors at European and American theatres include Marco Armiliato, Fabio Luisi, Jiří Belohlávek, Antonio Pappano and Lorin Maazel, and conductor and stage partner – Placido Domingo.
All directors collaborating with the singer are ready to invite her again and again to their productions, as working with Hibla is so exciting for them, not only as a musician, but also as an actress. Alexander Titel, Andrei Konchalovsky, Krzysztof Warlikowski and Andreas Homoki all spoke about it.
While collaborating with the finest theatres of the world and performing on the major concert stages, Hibla remains remarkably loyal to her theatre house, to her stage partners, who understand each other at a glance, to her teachers, although she herself also teaches at the Moscow Conservatory, being an associate professor of the vocal department.
The oeuvre of People’s Artist of Russia Hibla Gerzmava is remarkably diverse. She is not afraid to take a risk and relishes experimentation. In love with jazz, Hibla continues her artistic quest in this style on the same stage with such musicians as Denis Matsuev, Deborah Brown, Igor Butman, Andrei Ivanov, Arkady Shilkloper, Sergei Makeev and Oleg Akkuratov.