Her adventure started ten years ago, in a dark November London day. Tamara was 17 and felt like challenging herself. It was the first time she set foot in the British capital and was accompanied by parents and her teacher. Neither such a great institution like the Royal College of Music, one of the most famous music academies in the world, nor the formidable professors facing her, made her feel ill at ease. She was over the moon:
I did not have any stage fright. I was just thinking how exciting it all was and how much I wanted to perform my best.
Tamara started to sing when she was a very little girl, taken in by the music and by a piano belonging to her parent's friends. But Montenegro, where she was born and lived with her family, does not have a tradition in classical singing, and choosing to become a soprano was really a brave decision.
As I come from a family of mathematicians, I was not surrounded by artists. But my parents hugely supported me to apply for high school for musicians and my teacher, Edita Garcevic, strongly encouraged me to try the audition at the London Royal College of Music.
On that gloomy London day of November 2012, she chose a red dress to perform in front of the professors, red like her excited happiness. She had to face the challenge of performing Mozart's Don Giovanni and to play Zerlina while singing: Batti batti, o bel Masetto. She wore just a little bit of makeup but discreetly as I was not wearing makeup at all. Then she took the plunge. It did not matter even that only 8 places were available and that the other young applicants were about one thousand. Any stage fright at all. Nothing could hold back her enthusiasm and she managed to triumph at the Royal College of Music.
I was really so happy, and I will never forget that excitement, as that day changed my entire life.
Today Tamara Radjenovic is a young soprano who has already sung in 15 concert halls across Europe and performed twice at New York's Carnegie Hall. Also, she has just been chosen by Forbes as one of the ' 30 under 30', their list of the most promising people in Europe in the fields of art and culture.
But singing opera is a very difficult task, a historic profession, far from the current fashion. That's why it is at risk of disappearing, unless new means of communication, together with the committed work and efforts of dedicated people can rouse it from the torpor it is in now. Tamara is tireless. In the future, there are videos and television channel performances in London and in many other European and world cities. She travels a lot, but she chose to live in the British capital. As she says:
London is the center of everything, a place of a lot of opportunities, a melting pot of different cultures and nations.
What does music - and especially opera - mean to you?
I would say that opera for me is one of the sources of life. I start and finish my day with music. It does not necessarily have to be only classical music and usually, through different genres, I am inspired to interpret classical music. Opera for me is the most majestic music, as I think that no technology can replace the sound of 50 and more instruments playing for you live on the stage, together with professionally trained voices.
Have you ever regretted your choice?
Absolutely not! I found opera singing very interesting because it is an art form that brings many art forms together: acting, music, fine arts, and stagecraft...And as time passes, I realize that it gives me also a lot of opportunities to express my emotions and go even further by creating some new and never before seen projects in this classical field.
What is your ultimate goal?
My life goal is to really enjoy everything I am doing. This profession takes you through many struggles. It is hard, very challenging. You have to deal with ups and downs, criticism, and opinions. And constantly you have to believe in yourself and in your strength. However, we are all human and we have moments of vulnerability and weakness. Therefore I really make sure I enjoy every step of this journey and be patient with myself and my work.
You are twenty-seven years old. What stage are you at in your life?
Well, I would say it is the stage where I have to work constantly on myself and put everything in place in order to achieve what I would like to achieve: And I never dreamt small. I always had quite ambitious dreams. I think that there is nothing wrong with this, but bigger dreams mean more stress and more work. In general, I think that people in their 20s should focus on finding their goals and making strategic plans for their lives. Some people are not lucky enough to find these in their 20s, but maybe they will find them in their 30s...But it is just important to use your energy towards finding them.
Is there something that upset you more than anything?
What used to upset me very much was to realise there were dishonest people around me, friends who I trusted and who betrayed me. I recently had a situation like this - a broken friendship after 10 years. However, nowadays I accept this much easier because I learned not to expect too much of friends, or other people. That's how I protect myself from upset and disappointment.
Do you never feel fear?
Everyone has a fear of something. It is just the strength of the mindset and practice that makes us control the fear. The feeling is so satisfying when we overcome the fear we had. Isn't it? Personally, I had fear of London at first. It was such a big city for me since I come from a tiny country. I remember I was scared of too many people around me, but you teach to rise above it. Nowadays for me, it is quite scary to know that, for example, 1000 people are in the audience and you know that you have to give 100% of yourself not to make a mistake and to be close to perfection. On the other hand, there is no one who doesn't make mistakes, perfection doesn't exist. I guess that the solution is to work hard on yourself and just go for whatever seems challenging for you. That is the only way to improve and make progress. Otherwise, we will always stay in the same place.
What role does opera have today?
I think that Opera went through lots of difficulties with Covid: and the industry still struggles because of that. In the UK opera houses have had problems with their budgets and English National Opera at the moment is having ongoing troubles with finances. The Arts Council is even considering moving it from London to Manchester. That is how it is. We live in times when everything is unstable. Therefore, it has a huge impact on arts and culture as well. Nowadays we see more modern productions and directors trying to make innovative moves by making production closer to modern society or productions that are provocative.
I was shocked when, before Covid, I watched Carmen at the Royal Opera House, and the main character, a beautiful gipsy as Bizet imagined her, was on the stage dressed in a gorilla costume. The staging was so minimalistic, we didn't have the feeling of the real Carmen. I almost started to cry. I didn't like it and I have to say that I would not be happy to be in these kinds of productions. I prefer not to be so close to that side of classical music and do something different.
Different in what way?
It is important to give opera a new life. We are talking about an art form that has existed for more then 400 years. The 20th century especially is changing and many new genres were formed. Because the world changes rapidly nowadays, we need to find the right way to approach the audience in this new modern way. Still keeping the beauty and tradition of the profession, but just giving it a new perspective. I am searching for this new way to present my artistry to the audience and I think I have found it by doing music videos made like a little film that mirrors the music. So far I have made three music videos which had huge success on YouTube, with more than 600,000 views. This is quite a lot for a classical musician of my age. Also, my videos are streamed on British Canadian Television C-Music. Currently, I am working on the production of two new music videos which will be presented during the summer and autumn 2023.
Nowadays how important is the right voice to sing classical songs and operas?
The time of just a good voice and 'nothing else matters' has passed. We live in a world where stage presence is super important. It is crucial to show the character of the role you are playing. Otherwise, even if the voice is the most beautiful on earth, you can find the performance boring. You need to express emotion to make people believe in what you sing.
Do you accept compromise?
It depends. I try not to accept it too often. Just when it is really necessary.
Are marriage and children among your wishes?
Honestly speaking, many of my friends from my generation have already got married and have children. At 27, I still consider myself young. There is time for everything. Right now my time is focused on pursuing couple of things I have been working on for many, many years. Please, do not get me wrong. I would love to get married and to have children, but I do not necessarily think that is the only purpose of me being on this planet.
You are young, beautiful and brava. Can beauty be a help? Or it is a stumbling block?
Sometimes it can be a help, but certainly, it can be also a stumbling block. People judge you immediately and you have to be even better than others and work harder because they are less understanding. It is hard but you get used to it. In this profession, there are always obstacles and you are generally exposed to all kinds of criticism, Whether good or bad they can be. If someone is not strong enough to deal with them, shouldn't go into this profession.
Forbes has just nominated you as one of the thirty most promising young people in Europe. It is a really great honor... Does it change anything for you?
I was really thrilled when I received the news. It is a very nice achievement and a fantastic motivation for me to keep working and giving my best to help me to have an influence on classical music. Furthermore, it gives me the possibility to connect with the wonderful, ambitious, determined young people nominated in other fields, such as entertainment, science, finance, and technology. We have a platform on which we are all connected to exchange our ideas and the projects we are working on. I look forward to seeing all the wonderful people I will have a chance to meet and to getting inspiration for my own projects.