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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Andrey Zhilikhovsky

A baritone travels from a village in Moldava to the Bolshoi and the Met.
By F. Paul Driscoll 

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Photographed by Dario Acosta
Grooming by Affan Graber Malik
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Baritone Andrey Zhilikhovsky, due back at the Met this season
© Dario Acosta

ANDREY ZHILIKHOVSKY arrived at the Metropolitan Opera in October 2019, when his handsome, brawny Schaunard was a key ingredient in one of the company’s best Bohème casts in recent memory. When Zhilikhovsky was asked to name his dream role during the Bohème run, he answered, “Schaunard! Because I have only today—or tomorrow, and then what? I don’t know what will happen in ten, fifteen years. Okay, Schaunard is not a big role, and maybe not the favorite for my voice, but I am here, at the Met, singing with an amazing cast and an amazing conductor in this unbelievable opera house, the very top in the world. And from the first day, Ailyn [Pérez] and Matt [Polenzani] are so friendly and relaxed that this feeling comes onstage with us. I like that, because it makes this job seem nothing like a job. Singing is really hard work—but every job in every profession has difficult moments. But I adore this work. Every role is a dream for me.”

Zhilikhovsky calls his career so far “an amazing adventure.” The sixth of eleven children, he lived in a village of 700 people in Moldava before leaving home at sixteen to study at the Stefan Nyaga Musical College in the capital city of Chis¸ina˘u. In 2006, he moved on to further studies at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where he made his debut as Eugene Onegin. He was a soloist at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg before joining the Young Artist Program at the Bolshoi Theatre, where he was a soloist from 2014 to 2019, and where he is now a guest soloist. Away from Moscow, Zhilikhovsky has sung Mozart’s Almaviva in Rome, Eugene Onegin in Reykjavik and Nice, Robert in Iolanta in Paris, Rossini’s Figaro in Glyndebourne and Washington, D.C., and Don Ferdinand in Betrothal in a Monastery at Berlin State Opera. Zhilikhovsky is currently scheduled to return to the Met as Schaunard in January 2021.

The baritone cites his work with Russian stage director Dmitri Tcherniakov as “my big inspiration. For me, the amazing times with Tcherniakov are the rehearsals. I worked with him in his Onegin in Bolshoi, at my theater. That production has some moments that are so different and so beautiful. Then we did Iolanta at Palais Garnier in Paris and then Betrothal in a Monastery in Berlin, which was difficult for me, because [the character] is nothing like me—but so interesting! Tcherniakov is totally crazy, maybe, but he pushes you and takes you completely outside of yourself. This is incredible.” spacer 

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