NEW NAMES. Interview with Yulia Lezhneva

OperaNews extends the line which was declared once when the magazine was established: meetings with young vocalists who are at the very beginning of their creative development, but have already reached some core competence. Today our guest is Yulia Lezhneva, a 19-year old singer   graduated from Merzlyakov College of Moscow Conservatoire last year, and now she continues her education in Cardiff. Despite her very young age Yulia is already famous, in this country music lovers have got acquainted with her name. This theatre season her solo concert took place in the the Bolshoy Hall of Moscow Conservatoire, she has already sung with Juan Diego Flores, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Vladimir Minin, Alberto Dzedda, Mark Minkovsky. Primarily for Yulia’s extraordinary wide compass of voice and, also for her voice’s natural, genuine agility which enables her to sing brilliantly the most difficult coloratura arias, E. Obraztzova T. Berganza, R,Scotto consider her to be a real vocal phenomenon.
Olesya Bobrik, PhD Study of Art, and Alexandre Matousevich, Deputy Chief Editor of OperaNews, converse with the young singer.
АМ: To begin with I would like to ask You a few questions just to make acquaintance, although, those who are interested in classical music problems have heard about You for sure. Our magazine has already published a small article, a review of Your first concert in the Bolshoy Hall of Moscow Conservatoire (BZK). Nevertheless my first question is a very traditional one: when did You feel yourself a musician, when did the need of musical study emerge?
Yul: At a very early age. Perhaps, at the age of five, when I felt that I had the voice. I always sang or tried to play the piano…And then my mother took me to the music school.
АМ: Did You study music in Moscow?
Yul: I was born in Sakhalin, in the town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and at first I went to music school there. Later, when I was 7 years old, we moved to Moscow. I am very grateful to my parents for that. It was very difficult to start our life in Moscow. Of course, I would have had nothing, if I had stayed in Sakhalin. There was chaos, there was no optimum for development there… We moved to Moscow, and now we live in the flat which Grandfather left to us.
ОB: Please, say a couple of words about Your family, about Your ancestors: who were they?
Yul: On the whole, we have an amazing genealogical tree, amazing family history. For instance, I can open you a secret that my real surname is Popova, and not Lezhneva. My paternal grandfather, Yuriy Nikolayevich Popov, was the son of the famous Nikolay Semenovich Popov, a neuropathologist who treated Lenin during the last year of his life, when Lenin was transported in a wheelchair. My great grandfather supervised the leader’s speech rehabilitation. In fact, those doctors nursed the patient. Later, my great grandfather researched Lenin’s brain. And then, in 1938, my great grandfather perished. Great grandmother, Idalia Antonovna Stankevich, received false information about him, allegedly from a camp… As a result it turned out that he was not exiled, he was shot at once. Great grandmother did not marry again, she lived with her son, my grandfather. It’s a pity, I have never seen her. Though, as far as I remember, she was still alive when I was born.  She left me antique handkerchiefs and books. These are wonderful small books for travellers’ reading, the books were bought in England and Germany. A tiny photo of the newly born Yuriy Nikolayevich is on the cover. I can feel the love with which the book was put into the cover, and the photo of the baby was stuck on it…
АМ: At which school did You study here, in Moscow?
Yul: At school N 28 named after Grechaninov, in Otradnoye District.
АМ: Were you directed to vocal studies from the beginning?
Yul: No, not from the beginning. During the first year I was very indiscernible, when I was a child, it was very difficult to get used to everything new. And it was difficult to learn playing the piano, too, and I also didn’t like the choir tutor very much. There were many children, and I was notable for nothing. And, later, during the second year, my new choir tutor, Bella D. Ebre noticed me. She directed a choir of religious music. There were mainly rather grown-up girls including those who had already finished the school, and those who studied at high school, 15 girls, perhaps. The tutor even asked my mother: “What do You think, will your girl be able to sing ensemble?” I was very little then. I am happy, that it happened so. I was highly honoured to sing in that choir.
АМ: What did you sing in the choir?
Yul: The repertoire was different. Religious and secular music, Bortnyanskiy, Kozlovskiy, Bach, Vivaldi…
ОB: Did You sing solo in the choir?
Yul: No, only very small solo parts might have turned up. At the 6th form I already found my voice, some changes started, it was difficult to sing in the choir. I felt uneasy, I had to change things. And I understood that my voice was really powerful. I went with my mother and chose an optional discipline – solo singing. I began to study in the class of Tamara V. Cherkasova. Everything was all right, although I was only 11. And at school the admission to the vocal class is only for 15 year old pupils.
ОB: And did Cherkasova agree to teach you at that age?
Yul: My piano tutor told her: «You won’t believe, You must listen to her singing…» She didn’t believe first. But, later, she listened and agreed.
О B: And what parts did she tell you to sing first?
Yul: The parts that are usually given to beginners. Old Russian love songs. But the repertoire was very small, because I was very busy with my piano studies. Till the end of my study I kept the idea to enter the Piano Department of the College. And I did enter. By chance, when I was getting ready to enter the Piano Department, my professor of theoretical subjects, Olga A. Averyanova,  listened to my singing (I sang at Brusov’s Museum) and started to tell me: «Perhaps, You’d better enter the Vocal Department? You have all the makings to become a great singer. You are so young. Let’s have a try». First she spoke with V. V. Goryachkin, Deputy Head of the Vocal Department at Merzlyakov College. «Such a wonderful girl! Frankly speaking, she is very little. I won’t tell you, how old she is, just listen to her!» Eventually the date and time was fixed. She accompanied me, and I sang. Mr Goryachkin liked my singing very much. But then he asked: «Well, tell me please, what’s her age?» We said: 14 years. Actually I was only 13. Of course, he was shocked. But he said that he would speak with the Head of the Vocal Department, P. I. Skousnichenko. Then there was our meeting with Mr Skousnichenko. He asked me the same question at once: «How old is she?» «No, listen to her first». I was scared, but Skousnichenko’s reaction to my singing was positive. Nevertheless he promised no preferences: «Let her pass entrance exams with the others». So we parted. I entered, everything was all right. At the College I studied in the vocal class of Irina М. Zhourina.
ОB: You are often compared with Cecilia Bartoli. Did You listen to Bartoli’s records at that time?
Yul: Of course I did. She had a great influence on me. And, certainly, I am under her influence now. I keep thinking that she happened to be the singer who changed my destiny. That’s why my dream is to meet her, which is going to come true in the nearest future: next August I shall take part in her and her mother’s master class in Gstadt, Switzerland. Bartoli’s mother is a singer, too.
ОB: Do You still admire her singing?
Yul: Certainly. Though, I am becoming more critical…
OB: What do You think are her weaknesses?
Yul: This is a very intimate question. At any case, there is no need to imitate her directly, «to mimic». It’s impossible to reproduce her inexpressible, unique energy, her musicality.
ОB: You also have terrific energy…
Yul: Another kind of energy. I simply have another voice.
OB: But it seems to me that when You feel organically, naturally, this energy manifests more intensively, I can notice “a hit” or “a miss” of mood in Your performance, or, I say, the sensation of the spirit of the music sung by You…
Yul:  If I feel uncomfortable to work with an accompanist or an orchestra, it has an intense impact on me. Just it is not the word for it: another singer, not me… But only those who know me well enough, can feel it. And those who do not know me well, they even are not aware of this. On the whole, everything is so imperfect, that I am never satisfied with my singing. We are so affected by all external factors, both acoustic and other…
АМ: Do You know, that Bartoli makes researches? Don’t You think, that it diverts her from singing? Will You make a research Yourself? Will You delve into archives in search of scores which were forgotten long ago …
Yul: I think, it doesn’t intervene singing. I would like to do it. But to discover unknown music a person must be very talented.
OB: Which of contemporary singers do You like to listen to, whom do You prefer?
Yul: I like them all. I don’t listen to bad singers. I find strengths with all singers I listen to. Because I listen for the sake of learning how to sing, and not to say that somebody is a bad singer and somebody is a good one. 
АМ: Did You go to opera theatres when You were a student? What performances do You remember?
Yul: Yes, I did. But I seldom did and remember very little about it. More often I went to the concerts in the Bolshoy Hall of Moscow Conservatoire. The concert of Ashkenazi in the Bolshoy Hall of Moscow Conservatoire (BZK) made a great impression on me. Ashkenazi played the First Concerto of Beethoven and conducted. It was really great.
АМ: I see that musical impressions were much brighter than theatrical ones. Do You now follow the events in the opera world?
Yul: Now I am interested more than before. Though, I can’t say that I am very active. I learn much from my friends.
АМ: Tell me, please, did Your voice happened to be a surprise for You?
Yul: I didn’t understand what it was. However, it was not so. Perhaps, it was a revelation of something incredible. I realized it was a great gift.
OB: Does this sensation change now?
Yul: Certainly, it changes. I simply forget that very few people have such a voice at the age of 19. Because my life is a life of a grown up person at large already, and my work is now so professional. I try hard to be a professional. And this sensation of amazement fades somehow…
OB: I admire Your professional stability of singing which is not always characteristic of adult singers. Is it conational?
Yul: No, it is not. I have never thought of it. But I think, all the same, it comes from my instrumental background.
АМ: I say, lucky You are to realize Your phenomenon. Because there is a big problem if a person has got a beautiful voice but doesn’t realize that. Until somebody else, an outsider, tells him: «Look! You have all the makings, won’t you learn to sing?». It happens rather often.
OB: But it also happens, that they write: You must learn and learn more and more…
Yul: Yes, it is really so, but what should we do? All my future life I’ll live and learn… For instance, I study with Dennis O’Neil in Cardiff. It’s great, I am absolutely happy to study under his supervision. He still sings, he has got wonderful stamina, he can show very distinctly…
OB: I wonder, how his lessons, in Your opinion, are different from Your studies here?
Yul: I don’t know how to say it tactfully… Frankly speaking, in this country many professors do not teach, they just spend the time of the studies. O’Neil’s lessons are very short, usually a study lasts 40 minutes — 1 hour, not more than this. But during this 40 minutes period of time we study intensively. It was a surprise to me. I can bring anything I want. Since we have no time to consider and choose. We can learn one aria during the whole lesson. But many times I would bring a whole concerto and sang all the parts. And the professor asks to go on and on…
OB: Is he sometimes unsatisfied with Your singing, what does he ask to change?
Yul: I say, nothing which really matters. Some details of the sound correction, some sound studies. I don’t boast, but he always says, that I am an amazing singer, and everything’s all right.
OB: And what about your style?
Yul: He takes it very seriously. Though, perhaps, he can’t give me much knowledge of baroque music, he hasn’t sung many baroque arias. But I like his advice on bel canto very much.
АМ: Do You have to study there for two years?
Yul: The programme continues 1 year. But if You can raise enough funds and want to stay for the second year, You can go on with your study for six months or a year, there are no limitations.
АМ: And what are the advantages of this education, except technical development? Will You get an educational diploma? Will You study further and enter a Conservatoire or can You work on the professional stage at once?
Yul: I can work. This Academy is considered to be a postgraduate educational institution. Having graduated from one or even two higher educational institutions, people go to study there. Thus, it is even very good for me, because I haven’t got a higher education. Nevertheless I am thinking over entering a higher educational institution. But it is rather a difficult question. I don’t want to be absorbed in the study for five years, I don’t want “to be buried in this”.
OB: Is it so important to study in a Conservatoire?
Yul: Yes, it is important for me, I want to have a higher education diploma. Maybe, I’llenter a part-time department somewhere. Here we have Gnesins’ Academy which is the most convenient.
АМ: Then, perhaps, we’ll be able to listen to You in this country more often.
OB: Yulia, You live in England for rather long periods of time, how is the life style there different from life in Russia? Is it difficult for You to live there?
Yul: I can relax in Cardiff, where I live, like at home… This is a small university town. There are many young people, students there. I live on the hill, as though above the town. And when I walk along the path to the Academy, I can see the town lying down over there. I seldom get out of Cardiff, and, living in the town I almost don’t go out anywhere, only to buy some food.  
АМ: Do You mean, that You live in Cardiff like a hermit? Are You wholly focused on the vocal studies?
Yul: In fact, yes.
АМ: What do You do during Your free time, what other hobbies and interests do You have except musical ones?
Yul: Lately I have got two hobbies. I like drawing very much. With a pencil, or with pastel. I like drawing copies very much, very accurately, every line… And I have been fond of embroidery recently. It takes a lot of time, that’s why I don’t manage to make much of it. I buy French patterns, for children (kind of little girls with toys, red bears). In Moscow, at home I had hamsters and guinea pigs. Guinea pigs bred “babies guinea pigs”. They, in turn, made happy families…
АМ: Do You have spare time to read books?
Yul: To read books? Only if it is necessary. It is not my hobby. Frankly speaking, I don’t read much, on the whole. Sometimes I watch cartoons in English, and sing cartoon songs.
АМ: Have You ever travelled in England? What are Your impressions of London?
Yul: I was in London only in transit.
OB: Why?
Yul: If you wish, you, of course, can do anything. But, perhaps, I don’t wish. I am afraid of travelling alone. I have got some strange ideas: an unmarried girl mustn’t travel alone. Moreover, to make long trips in an unknown country.
OB: Yes, You have rather unusual ideas for a modern girl. It seems to me that You like old times, in general.
Yul: Yes, since I was a child. Everything has begun from clothes. My mother often told me: «You were born this century by mistake. You look like a girl of the Renaissance portrays». We both like old long dresses with corsets. I think they suit me.
АМ: Did you have any bright musical impressions in Cardiff?
Yul: In the first term, when I had just come, on the 19th of October there was a concert in the Millenium Centre. Dennis O’Neil selected me and other students, of the second year of studies, to take part in that concert. Mr O’Neil sang, too, and Rebecca Evans as well. I liked her very much. Then I listened to her for the first time. And Dennis O’Neil also sang brilliantly. That was an unforgettable impression.
OB: Do You communicate somehow with Your fellow students in Cardiff?
Yul: Certainly, I do. I can’t say that I am very communicative. Perhaps, I can’t be talkative enough because I am not at ease speaking English.
OB: On the whole, do You have to communicate with numerous people in connection with Your concerts, with whom have You established friendly relationships?
Yul: With Elena Vasilyevna Obraztzova. Because we have known each other for a long time, and because she granted a very hearty welcome to me at once, of course, I couldn’t help loving her…
АМ: Where have you got to know each other?
Yul: We’ve got acquainted at the Contest of Young Vocalists in St-Petersburg in 2006. I was a third year student of the College, and by that time I had made a fast progress during the previous summer, I had got the high notes, everything had become so easy… In general, there was a great breakthrough.
АМ: In what connection did it happen?
Yul: I don’t know. It was a great surprise for me, too. That summer we had a holiday in Turkey and then went to see grandmother, she lives in Tatarstan. There is a small town of Leninogorsk, like Sakhalin, perhaps, even more like a village… And I didn’t sing at all during the summer.
АМ: Does it mean that the studies didn’t result in that summer transformation, and, on the contrary, it happened after a holiday?
Yul: Yes, after absolute silence. I didn’t sing for about two months, didn’t open my mouth, and then…
АМ: Did You keep silence on purpose?
Yul: Absolutely not.
OB: On the whole, do You have regular studies?
Yul: I don’t study singing per se. Maybe it is not good. I never warm up. But this is a good factor, to preserve my voice I don’t need to warm up. I simply start singing and warm up in the process. It’s also very good, because it saves my time and my voice. If you warm up, you have to make efforts. It’s very important to me not to waste my force.
OB: But it seems to me, that, on the contrary, You work a lot.
Yul: No, really not.
OB: How did You manage to sing the Mass in B Minor of J. S. Bach with Mark Minkovsky only twenty days after Your final examinations at the College? How is it possible?
Yul: In fact I know the Mass aurally. Everybody knows it. I had the notes, and I got ready a little bit… I can’t say I got ready seriously. Of course, I learnt the beginning better. Further to the end I didn’t learn very difficult fugues and fugato well enough, when I came. On my arrival I studied with Mr Minkovsky’s assistant. He really was a young man of genius. Later, I have found out that many conductors have such talented assistants who are students still. A young man who sings countertenor and bass, can sing any part, plays different musical instruments… Unfortunately, I don’t remember his name.
OB: How did you study?
Yul: He didn’t teach me anything. We just gathered … All soloists, a lady — organ accompanist…
OB: Did You sing the Mass at sight?
Yul: In fact, yes. It’s normal for me. And it was not difficult. Everybody tried to get used to each other. But everybody except me had already sung the Mass once or more. The difficulties emerged when I understood that I hadn’t learnt the second part well enough. I was very nervous, I had to rehearse with Mr Minkovsky, but I didn’t know Sum Sancto Spiritum, and I had to train the pronunciation of the complicated text … I had to sit for a while. I simply sat and learnt, and that was all.
OB: Did You listen to the records meanwhile?
Yul: I had one record, a record of Philip Herveg which I liked very much, and that was all I had. But it was impossible to learn it aurally, because I often couldn’t understand who sang and which part was sung – I was to sing the second soprano’s part.
OB: Did You accompany to Your singing?
Yul: I played nothing. There was no instrument in the hotel room. I just sat and learnt.
АМ: Do You read notes at sight fluently?
Yul: I don’t know how fluently, but yes, I can. I think that in comparison with other vocalists, it’s not a problem to me. It is easy. 
АМ: Have You heard of the famous incident when Callas had auditions with Serafin? She sang the second act of «Tristan and Isault» at sight. She had never seen the clavier of the opera. And wise Serafin didn’t believe her, he thought that it was a joke – it is unthinkable to sing a Wagner’s opera at sight! This is a very rear quality among vocalists – good solfeggio, solid musical background, in general. You’ve got such an advantage which can provide for Your great future– judging on Your famous predecessor.
OB: On the whole, when You are in such a tight situation, how do You endure the stress, psychic tension?
Yul: When something isn’t learnt, is it?
OB: When You must learn something urgently.
Yul: I don’t feel any stress at all. In fact, I don’t have to do something very urgent to become nervous. Perhaps, however, there was one incident. But it wasn’t very difficult and very serious. Konstantin Orbelyan asked me to learn Santuzza and the choir episode from «Cavalleria rusticana» for the concert in BZK [The Bolshoy Hall of the Conservatoire]. They found notes for me, and I had to learn it in two days. That was a small episode. And there was nothing special to sing, strictly speaking.
OB: I’d like to ask You, what makes You happy in the process of musical creative activities, and, perhaps, аre there some unpleasant, distressing moments?
Yul: I have a lot of happy moments. For example, now I learn «Les Nuits d’ete»[The Summer Nights] of Berlioz, and even a thought of a rehearsal with an accompanist at home or in a class, or reading notes at sight and learning all these… These thoughts make me happy. But at the same time there are some parts which I sing very often, like Rossini’s «Zelmira», for instance…And when they suggest that I should sing it again and again… The latest concert of such kind was in Liverpool. When they asked me to sing this aria for the umpteenth time, I thought: «Well, how many times again? I am sick and tired of it». But Vasiliy Petrenko, the conductor, had planned the programme in such a way. And there was no time to learn something new of Rossini’s compositions… Though the concert was a success as the result.
OB: Let’s talk about Your repertoire. This is primarily Italian bel canto music, French Romanticism music and Rakhmaninov’s compositions.
Yul: Certainly, I’ll enlarge my repertoire. Russian opera music which I used to sing at Merzlyakov College hasn’t yet been covered at all.
АМ: Why? Look, I have seen the episode of Snegourochka’s melting sung by You on Youtube Internet site. And it seemed to me that it was sung very well, emotionally and technically impeccable.
Yul: I like this music very much, I adore this music. Perhaps, if somebody invites me and says: You sing it brightly, I’d agree.
АМ: You could be an ideal Snegourochka: You are so young and miniature. Is it possible to find such a singer in our opera theatres? In The Bolshoy, for example, this party is sung by honoured primadonnas of threefold size. One can listen only with one’s eyes closed.  
OB: What Russian chamber music would You like to sing?
Yul: It would be very interesting for me to sing old Russian love songs dating back around the beginning of the XIX century. And, of course, Rakhmaninov’s and Chaikovskiy’s chamber music. My dream is to sing Chaikovskiy’s and Rakhmaninov’s love songs to the accompaniment of an orchestra, the orchestra variants…
АМ: Don’t You want to sing Glinka’s compositions? They resemble Italian bel canto.
Yul: Yes, I do. I want it very much, but not Lyudmila’s part, which is demanded mostly. At the College, when I chose a Russian aria for my programme, I looked through Antonida’s aria. I like it principally. But yet it is too intense for me. I hope, some day I’ll be grown up enough to sing Chaikovskiy’s opera arias. It would improve my self-esteem. As a matter of fact, if somebody engages me to sing and says that I manage it all right, I’d agree. So far I don’t feel that there is something suitable for me among Chaikovskiy’s opera arias. Maybe, it is because of my age, and owing to dramatic elements which I’d like to avoid for the time being. In Italian music I know exactly what is «mine». Richard Boning told me, and it has become «the state of the art» to me, that in no case I must go beyond Donizetti. I should not think so far about Verdi or Puccini.
АМ: Perhaps, the music of Verdi and Puccini is not near Your heart at all, isn’t it?
Yul: I like all kinds of music. But I have my own preferences. The Mass in B Minor and the Motets of J. S. Bach are my favourite.
OB: And what about Handel?
Yul: I know Handel less. I like some oratorios, especially choruses from oratorios very much.
OB: What is this music about, what is the message of this music?
Yul: It is about God.
OB: But such music can have very intensive, even aggressive character and energy. While singing, Bartoli emphasizes this aspect. Is such music about God, too?
Yul: Perhaps, it is about the elements, about the interaction of feelings. However, at that time people thought about God more, for sure.
OB: And the composers whose music You sing, Vivaldi, Broschi, Porpora, Rossini, how do they differ in Your opinion? Or do they have the same style, the same manner?
Yul: Roughly speaking, the same style. It is difficult to go into details, but, for instance Broschi, and Porpora (the music composed for Farinelli) are different from Vivaldi’s music. It is hard to say how exactly they differ, because nobody knows, how it was performed. But it seems to me that Broschi’s music, perhaps, can be sung with a large voice and we can escape the fear of experimenting with the registers. Singing Vivaldi’s compositions, we must keep within more rigid frames of the style. His music can’t be sung with a large voice.
АМ: Until now You sing only at the concerts. Would You like to perform in a theatre?
Yul: I’d like to sing Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” (“Cindirella”).
АМ: Are there any proposals? If You are afraid of the evil eye, You needn’t answer.
Yul: There is a proposal to sing Cherubino in France… And, also, I shall sing the part of the page from Meyerber’s «The Huguenots» in Brussels with Mr Minkovsky. In 2010 together with  Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini I shall go on a tour with Vivaldi’s opera «Otton at the villa», of, perhaps, six performances including one in London’s Barbican Hall.
АМ: Are You aware of the modern opera theatre practice? Do You know about sometimes extreme staging in Europe, mainly in Germany? Are You ready to accept it, to participate in such ambiguous projects?
Yul: I wouldn’t like to take part in performances distorting classics, stupid and vulgar projects.
АМ: But You are aware of the opera community’s cruelty. A refusal of obligations often results in the loss of other contracts. It is a kind of corporate solidarity.
Yul: I’d like to avoid this. I am not ready to catch as catch can.
АМ: We wish You a stroke of luck and a lucky escape of such a wistful lot of many contemporary artists. What is the compass of Your voice now?
Yul: I have got a wide compass. I am not an expert on the definition of a voice compass. In a very low voice I can sing mi of the small octave. The sol of the small octave is sung stably. And my top notes are natural mi of the third octave, and even fa can be sung by me.
АМ: But there exists an opinion that a wide voice compass is dangerous for a voice, that this is a problem, a problem of different registers’ sounding, uneven at a time… Do You have such a problem?
Yul: No, I don’t. I have an even sounding. Different sounding of registers is not a problem for me so far. Of course, such problems can emerge…
АМ: Does it mean that, however, You don’t feely Yourself a mezzo soprano?
Yul: No, I feel, I am a soprano. I don’t want to say that I am a coloratura soprano, it sounds badly. I have prospects of a coloratura mezzo, though.
OB: I wonder, how do You feel singing with an orchestra? Usually Your performance is well balanced with an orchestra. You sang with an orchestra for the first time when You were about 17. Were You scared then?
Yul: No, I was not. Perhaps, even for the first time I didn’t think of my voice’s sounding. Later, when the talk started, people said that I didn’t have an opera voice, that there would be no parts for me… There were a lot of unpleasant ado, I even don’t want to remember all these…
OB: Can such a talk make You “go off the key”?
Yul: Such a talk can make anybody “go off the key”. Of course, I am upset. But, perhaps, I am so sure of my predestination, that nothing can make me “go off the key”. Everything’s going in such a way that it is unlikely to be disrupted.
OB: What’s Your opinion, who can give You moral support in a tight situation?
Yul: All people standing well with me can help me. But there are people whose authority has more importance to me than other people’s one. For instance, Elena Vasilyevna [Obraztzova]…I mean, I haven’t seen her for a long time already. And I am anxious a little because of my singing. And I want to sing for her as soon as possible, and to hear that everything is all right.
OB: But you are quite different singers…
Yul: I don’t know. In singing she is like godmother to me. She can reassure me. Just like my own mother can soothe me and help to overcome everyday difficulties, Elena Vasilyevna can give me support in singing. She can say that everything’s all right, and I am on the right way. Perhaps, Dennis O’Neil is a man of genius, and I do trust him very much, but he is a man who has heard me only recently.  
OB: And what about the press, what is written about You – as You are becoming famous both in Russia and abroad, do You pay attention to the press?
Yul: I don’t like reading the press.
OB: And don’t You like being in the focus of the press, too? Don’t You like the interest to You not only as a singer, but as a personality as well? Is it easy for You to disclose Yourself, or do You hardly want to do this?
Yul: My soul, in public? It’s easy with You, for example. I am not at ease only because I can’t speak very good language, Russian literary language. But I hope, I’ll be able to learn, step by step, I believe, I still have time for this.
April, 2009, Moscow
Yulia Lezhneva