Robert Pomakov : Born to Singby Wah Keung Chan
/ June 1, 2000
Great bass voices are rare - and rare indeed are 19-year-olds
who sing with the maturity of tone and the poise of a 30-year-old.
Such is the case with young Canadian basso cantante Robert Pomakov.
For the past year he has been turning heads, and on June 17, the
19-year-old will make his main-stage operatic debut with l'Opéra
de Québec as Sarastro in Mozart's The Magic Flute.
Pomakov's push to the fore came after an audition in March
1999 with Canadian Opera Company artistic director Richard Bradshaw,
who found him "a simply amazing talent, very musical."
Bradshaw invited him for free coachings at the COC, and in October
1999 partnered him with baritone Dmitri Hvorstovsky at a COC concert.
Subsequently, Pomakov was invited to participate with 14 of Canada's
finest singers in the Millennium Gala on New Year's Eve at Toronto's
Roy Thompson Hall - Globe and Mail critic Urjo Kareda said
Pomakov was "outvoicing Ben Heppner." In March, Pomakov
won an Encouragement Grant from the George London Foundation,
and in April, Pomakov won the 24th Annual Oratorio Society Solo
Competition in New York.
Pomakov's musical influences can be traced back to his family.
"My father was a good trumpet player, but living in Bulgaria,
his mother wanted him to become an engineer. I took up piano at
age 3 and we always had classical music around the house."
At age 11 when he joined the St-Michael's Choir School, his talents
as a musician began to be nurtured. "I learned music history,
theory and harmony, and we sang every day," said Pomakov.
"I did not have a good voice before, but at that age, my
voice was beginning to change and one day, it just went down."
And a unique bass voice seems to have suddenly emerged. At age
14, Pomakov began his fruitful relationship with vocal coach Brahm
Goldhamer of the Royal Conservatory of Music. "When we met,
Robert was already very mature physically and vocally," said
Goldhamer. "It was quite a lovely sound; I had never heard
so substantial a voice in so young a male singer." After
a year of discovering new repertoire, Pomakov decided at age 15
to become a singer. In 1997, Pomakov began studying voice with
Mary Morrison at the RCM. Summer sessions at the Chautauqua Summer
School of Music allowed Pomakov to work with bass Mikael Eliasen,
with whom he is currently studying at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute
Pomakov's voice is as robust as his six-foot stocky frame,
barrel chest and large head and neck would suggest ("I look
exactly like my father"). "The center of my voice is
between A below low C and D above middle C, but my voice is still
developing and changing. I admired most the Bulgarian bass Boris
Christoff for his artistry, musicianship and voice," said
Pomakov. His ideal role is Boris Goudunov. "I feel equally
at home in recital, oratorio and opera," he added.
Pomakov seems to have gone beyond his youthful temptations
to sing everything and is now concentrating on healthy repertoire.
When we reached him in May, Pomakov had already moved to the final
round of the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium.
Win or lose, having completed his first year at Curtis, Pomakov
plans to finish his degree and keep professional engagements to
the periphery of his education. Already, he has turned down several
offers for operatic roles for the coming season. "I know
I will have opportunities to sing those roles years from now,"
said Pomakov. "My love and hobby are music."
Robert Pomakov sings in Mozart's The Magic Flute, l'Opéra
de Québec, June 17, 20, 22. (418) 529-0688.