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Lamara Chkonia (Georgian: ლამარა ჭყონია, born December 27, 1930) is a prominent Georgian soprano. Belonging to a circle of opera singers who made significant contributions to the vocal culture of Georgia and the former Soviet Union, Lamara was one of the few women to break through the Iron Curtain and present her talent to the world’s cultural community.
Lamara was born in Georgia, then part of the Soviet Union, to a family of theater and musical traditions. Her uncle Akaki Chkonia, a known writer and a director of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre, was executed in 1937 during Greate Purge. At Tbilisi State Conservatoire, Lamara studied with Valerian Cashelli, who for years performed at Milan's La Scala and other Opera Houses in Italy. Under his tutelage, her art from the beginning was infused with the influence of the Italian school of opera. After much success at home in Georgia's Tbilisi Opera , she was accepted a leading soloist of the Kiev National Opera and Ballet Theatre. During the same time she debuted in productions of other famous theaters such as the Kirov Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.
Lamara Chkonia became laureate of many national and international vocal competitions, among which the Glinka Competition in Moscow, Sofia Competition in Bulgaria, the "Prague Spring" in Czechoslovakia and the famous Madama Butterfly Competition in Japan, where she won the Grand Prix, the Award for the Best Madame Butterfly and the Audience Appreciation's Gold Cup. She was the first female singer from Georgia to become a laureate of the international vocal competition and from this time her art belonged not to Georgia and Ukraine only, it has become international. "The most beautiful voice, good looks and brilliant acting put Lamara Chkonia on a par with the world's best Cio-Cio-San," Video on YouTube wrote one of the Japanese newspapers.
Success and international recognition
In 1976, she was awarded People's Artist of USSR, the highest artistic honor of the time. Later she became a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (1979–1984). The singer was constantly invited to official state and private solo concerts, where among her listeners were Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Josip Broz Tito, Indira Gandhi, François Mitterrand, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Gustáv Husák, Yuri Gagarin, Todor Zhivkov, Erich Honecker, Nicolae Ceaușescu, János Kádár, Mikhail Gorbachev, Eduard Shevardnadze, and many others. She was a frequent guest on the state television shows such as Blue Light, Morning Post, Music Mail and others. The name of Lamara Chkonia is included in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. Her abundant repertoire consists of about 40 opera parts, including Violetta Video on YouTube, Madame Butterfly Video on YouTube, Gilda, Marguerite, Rosina Video on YouTube, and many others.
She made many recordings and recorded 15 CDs (over 250 works) for the "Golden Fund of the USSR" with the National Radio of Moscow, Tbilisi and Kiev with the participation of the Soviet Union best symphony orchestras. The singer went to numerous concert tours to Finland, Italy, Canada, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Germany, Japan, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland and many other countries, and everywhere she was praised by critics. The press in Japan wrote: "Who at least once listened to Lamara Chkonia, could not remain indifferent to the voice of such beauty and perfection of her technique." Press in Finland wrote: "Never before has our audience heard a singer of such a high vocal and artistic level."
In 1984, the Higher Education Commission of the USSR awarded her the title of professor of the Higher Academy of Music.
In 1996, Lamara Chkonia moved permanently to Madrid to live with her youngest daughter, the internationally recognized soprano Eteri Lamoris. There she successfully engaged in teaching, leaving occasionally to conduct master classes in France and Portugal. Having 40-year experience in teaching, Lamara Chkonia nurtured many high level singers (including her own daughters: Eteri Lamoris and Natela Nicoli). Eight of them became winners of international competitions and presently singing on the best world stages.
Lamara Ckronia's State Awards include: "Znak Pocheta" (Order of the Badge of Honor), USSR 1974; «Кредо» (Credo) and "Орден Великомученицы Варвары" (order of St. Barbara) Ukraine 2011; "Order of King Tamar” and The Presidential Order of Excellence", Republic of Georgia 2011; Premio "Cigno D'Oro", Italy 2011
"The phenomenon of Lamar Chkonia in Georgian and international art is one of the most brilliant moments and milestones in the history of the singing elite, which can be considered cultural contribution of our nation to the world civilization", wrote a professor, People's Artist of Georgia Nodar Andghuladze on January 14, 2001 in The Day of the Georgian Theatre newspaper.
In September 2011, 80th Anniversary of Lamara Chkonia was celebrated at Batumi Music and Art Center. According to the decision of Georgia’s President, Lamara Chkonia has been awarded with the Order of “King Tamar”.
- The Vano Saradjishvili Tbilisi State Conservatoire 1917-2007 https://books.google.com/books?id=OWOM8ia2-2wC&lpg=PP1&dq=The%20Vano%20Saradjishvili%20Tbilisi%20State%20Conservatoire%201917-2007&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Tbilisi State Conservatoire: Lamara Chkonia http://www.conservatoire.edu.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=702
- World Music Days Artists: Tbilisi Opera http://www.danielpearlmusicdays.org/artist_detail.php?id=916
- Vinil Divas http://www.vinyldivas.com/contentsc.htm
- Lamara Chkonia – Madame Butterfly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tb5AZ2IIxk
- Great Soviet Encyclopedia: Lamara Chkonia (Большая советская энциклопедия: Чкония Ламара Григорьевна) http://slovari.yandex.ru/~книги/БСЭ/Чкония%20Ламара%20Григорьевна/
- CLASES MAGISTRALES DE INTERPRETACIÓN DE CANTO: LAMARA CHKONIA http://www.conservatorioteresaberganza.com.es/CTBadm/files/Tr%C3%ADptico%20curso%20canto.pdf
- Lamara Chkonia awards ceremony, Kiev 2011 http://vip.glavred.info/?/articles/2011/03/03/130514-14
- Lamara Chkonia's Jubilee, Batumi 2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdfIf-f-ZRs&feature=related