Friday, 8 June 2007


cyntillating sounds opus seven

Tenors have always had an air of royalty about them: Count Caruso, Earl Domingo, and of course Pavarotti, Prince of Padua. Just yesterday we had a taste of an heir apparent to this European lineage, a very short one yet enough to know that he will certainly one day soon ascend to the throne.
Once a year since 1940, the Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation honours citizens who give real and renewed meaning to the term noblesse oblige, those who support, preserve, and proliferate the importance of culture and environmental awareness in the Netherlands and their allied brothers in the Dutch West Indies, with n’er a thought to personal benefit or glory. The ceremony is unique, bringing as it often does high art, low culture and “greenies” together in Queen Beatrix’s palace, she having taken over her father’s work with vigour and enthusiasm since his death in 2004. The three winners this year were a translator, a preservationist, and a colourful opera fanatic who supports young talent when not selling his wares in Amsterdam’s open air market.
Enter our new royalty, Dovlet Nurgeldiev, a mere 29 yet already a tenor of warmth, amazing strength and stage presence. There he stood, jet black hair, full proud lips, olive skin, dashing in a black suit complete with grosgrain ribbon tie a la Caruso. Gorgeous even before the first note (don’t let his website fool you, he has since happily dumped the little beard). Dovlet is a natural born tenor who in both presence and sound easily filled the unflattering palatial acoustic with grace and magnificence. Never overdoing anything he has a mature taste at an early age.
And Dovlet comes complete with a romantic personal story which with glances and whispers made the rounds during the cocktail reception following the ceremonies. Born in Turkmenistan (and yes, admittedly I used Google Earth to find it), seems he “fled” his native country on a bicycle. Sure recipe to steal a Dutchman’s heart.
It was quaint of course to get a ballroom full of polls, vips and culture bobos actively participating in a stirring rendition of Libiamo ne’lieti calici from La Traviata, but this pearl of a prince deserves a permanent place on the world’s opera stages. Hope he claims his kingdom soon.