Profile: Liliya Sholomey, soprano opera singer, and “Song for Sanctuary” at Chichester Cathedral

Ukrainian Soprano Liliya Sholomey will be performing Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs (one of the most requested pieces on desert island discs) in “Song For Sanctuary” – a Gala Concert in aid of refugees in Chichester Cathedral on Saturday 1 July, along with musicians from the University of Chichester, the Grand Choeur de Maitrise of Chartres Cathedral and Chichester Cathedral Choir.

Read about this work on Classic FM.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at this concert?

I was delighted to be asked to take part in this concert by my friend Crispin Ward from the University of Chichester.

Although the Four Last Songs are certainly challenging, and the theme is about death, there’s also a huge optimism in them. As an Ukrainian by birth, I’m offering this performance in memory of all my countrymen who’ve died in the past 16 months. We have to keep their memory alive. It is also great to be able to support organisations such as Sanctuary in Chichester which does so much for refugee causes.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

My father loved singing and both my parents encouraged me in music from an early age, spending some of their life savings in purchasing a piano for me to play on. My talent was recognised right from the time of the Kindergarten.

Although I was born in Bashtanka in southern Ukraine, and grew up in the beautiful village of Migeya, I did my studies in Moldova and have lived there most of my life.

I received training in opera singing at the G. Muzicescu National Academy of Music in Chisinau in the class of Svetlana Strezeva, who is an Honoured Artist of Moldova, and who studied at La Scala. Svetlana herself was a student of Polina Botezat, who also trained Maria Biesu, Moldova’s most recognized opera singer.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Once the Iron Curtain disappeared, and Moldova became an independent state in 1991, it was suddenly a very difficult time for the country. But since then it has made great progress. 

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

This is an essential part of making music to ever-higher standards, since you share the experience. Be a “good sponge”!

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

My daughter is studying film music in Germany and I share her love for the great composers for the screen – Hans Zimmer and John Williams in particular. As an opera singer I love Puccini and of his operas La bohème is one of my favourites. Another role I love playing is that of Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro. But I love many other roles too!

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

Accompanying the Moldovan president to the EU in Strasbourg and losing my voice entirely!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

It’s always important to pursue a career that you love, no less so with music, as it’s often a difficult journey. You will need to work hard, keep your eyes open and fixed on the horizon. As a singer, it’s useful to take part in competitions to keep you sharp.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

My voice is changing as the years pass and I will be looking for new roles to play, but essentially more of the same.

About Liliya

Liliya Sholomey was born in Bashtanka, Ukraine. She is a People’s Artist of Moldova (2018) and a renowned opera and chamber singer, soprano coloratura lirico, a teacher, and a public figure. She has performed in nearly 20 countries of the world, including Germany, Norway, France, Spain (Sala Mozart), Portugal, United Kingdom (the Royal Albert Hall), China (Shanghai Conservatory), Switzerland, and so on. Since 2020 Liliya has been teaching at Polyakov School of Arts in Moldova. Read more.

Watch her perform Summertime from Porgy & Bess.

Watch her perform the aria Yolan from the opera Milana by the Ukrainian composer G. Mayboroda.

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