Maria Kochubey is a budding opera and crossover singer from Russia. Her charming, beautiful mezzo-soprano voice has a range of 2.5 octaves. It is unmistakable among other voices in the world, endowed with a unique tone, sound clarity, flexibility and mobility.
Since birth, Maria has dealt with serious ordeals, which she overcame with dignity. And despite it all, Maria continues to work hard, enhancing her vocal technique, appearing in public, uploading her recordings to the Internet and looking for new ways to popularize operatic vocal art.
Maria graduated in 2014 from the Chuvash State University of Culture and Arts with a major in vocal art. After graduation, she began working at the Chuvash State Philharmonic Hall, where she worked for about a year, and then decided to keep building her career in major cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Maria was born in a little Russian city named Volzhsk (republic Mari El) in the family of a musician and a doctor.
Maria’s mother is a honorable therapist in the town clinic, mother of three wonderful children, kind, sincere and responsive person.
Father is a musician, conductor of children and adult’s choirs, some time later he became regent of church choirs. In early 2000-s he stood in deputies of city assembly in order to develop choir’s art in the city, and he won elections. In several years he was tragically killed for political reasons. In republic Mari El everybody still remember him as a hero.
Maria was born in the transition period of the story of our country. Maria’s parents had to survive the change of the state system, unemployment, total food scarcity and the following period of reforms. Her mother was just finishing her studies in medical institute then, so her father had to work hard, visiting different cities with choirs in order to provide family the most necessary.
First trials started for Maria since the day of her birth. Newborn girl survived clinical death. The power of loud, ringing, penetrating the space baby’s cry affected all personal of the hospital. From mother’s memories: «One doctor said then: “I have never heard such a loud voice in my life!” And so I understood that my daughter is alive”. Only five days later mother saw bright, wide-open light-blue daughter’s eyes, that were firmly watching this world, and it seemed that they were saying: “I overcame many difficulties and I will conquer the world whatever became!”
Since her childhood Maria was calm, independent, freedom-loving and, as all creative persons, a little sensitive, with strong character, stubborn in aim achievement. If she addicted something, it was seriously: she was fully immersed in the process and tried to finish it.
Since her early childhood Maria’s father noticed her outstanding vocal skills and tried to develop them: he took daughter in his church children choirs as a first soprano. But Maria wasn’t very interested in music, in spite of a beautiful by nature voice, that many people noticed. At the same time girl showed talent in drawing, writing and actor’s skill, she took part in many children theatrical productions with pleasure. At that time Maria began to show leadership skills of soloist, her aim was to become a painter or a designer.
Maria studied at school with great interest, showing perseverance and wishing to get good marks. But teachers and classmates didn’t understand Maria’s manifesting creative abilities. Other children often teased her and didn’t accept Maria in their company because of her creative naive character, dissimilarity with others, singularity of behavior – everything that is typical for many talented children. Because of it the girl visited art school with great pleasure.
From the first class of art school Maria took part in different creative competitions and periodically took medal places. The teacher believed in Maria and predicted her great future. Maria’s still-life pictures and landscapes decorated art school’s walls. At the same time Maria took part in all offsite performances of the choir, but, to tell the truth, without great enthusiasm, because deep inside her soul Maria wished to sing, but not in choir – solo. Secretly, when nobody was at home, Maria imagined herself a singer on a big stage and sang with a brush in her hand.
13 years. Father’s death. Turning point.
When Maria was 13, she had to survive the most tragic event in her life – contract killing of her father. The evening before he went out on business and didn’t return home. Nobody could connect with him. Maria’s mother called the police, but inside her soul she hoped that her husband would return. Mother-in-law was trembling because of presentiment of insufferable misery. The night was long. At that moment Maria felt something incredible: she felt a wish to sing. And she sang all night long, imagining herself a singer on a big scene: it seemed that her father’s wish for his daughter to become a singer at that moment settled in her. In the morning they got news about tragic death of father. Mother burst into tears without control, nobody could calm her down. But mother-in-law was in bigger shock, they had do call for emergency care. Till today mother-in-law is in mourning. Only one day later Maria understood what she had to survive. Later Maria was ashamed of her singing during the days of mourning in her family. And only years later she understood that at that moment she was singing for her father.
Since then Maria felt an unshakable wish to become a singer. At that period Maria became to write poems actively, music appeared in her head, and at the age of 13 she wrote her first song.
In eights grade Maria was distributed by her art specialty in president’s boarding school for talented children. But exactly at that time she finally decided not to study arts – Maria was interested in music more. She was listened in the choir class, and its head confirmed that Maria had a good voice and she had to study singing seriously. It was impossible to transfer in musical class, and art studies took much Maria’s time, though she wished to study music independently. Because of it one month later Maria’s mother took her away from this school – Maria asked her about it. She had to return in her old school, when she again faced with cruelty, discourtesy and heartless of her classmates, who weren’t afraid to ridicule even her father’s death.
Continuing to develop musical skills, Maria entered city’s vocal studio, later she entered Sunday school, where she sang the first soprano role in children choir. In choir she got roles of leading soprano, and Maria managed very well. Also Maria performed solo at city concerts, when it was possible.
In ninth grade Maria entered theatre school, where more serious teacher of actor’s art set her conversational voice and stage speech. At the age of 15 her voice began to change its tone: it was getting lower and louder. From very high soprano it became mezzo-soprano, that was noticed by teachers and people who surrounded her during solo performances at concerts, in Sunday school or in theatrical studio.
It were difficult times for Maria’s family after the lost of breadwinner: mother constantly had to go for earnings at night for earn money at least for food. The State helped them, but the help was scanty. Because of it Maria didn’t have financial possibility to move in a big city and to enter most prestigious institutions. After ninth grade Maria chose the nearest city for her home and decided to enter musical college of I.S. Palantay (today it’s the college of culture and arts of Palantay).
The majority of those who wished to enter musical college already had initial musical education. Maria mostly was a self-taught. But in spite of it she succeeded in establishing herself at the listening. Vocal teacher G.A. Shabrukova was interested in Maria and wished to take the girl in her class. So Maria successfully passed two examinations and entered the college.
Maria studied with great interest, quickly understood the stuff, successfully passed all examinations. She took part in all creative musical, literary and dance parties, skits, concerts, competitions. Maria’s performances at these concerts brought her success and formed her first circle of admirers among students, teachers of different city colleges, many of whom later voluntarily came to listen her at the state exam. Admirers met her with applause and shouted “Bravo!” during the exam. After performance unknown people came up to her, expressed rave reviews and advised to continue singing and enter Conservatory. Knowing that Maria was from poor family, her teacher advised her to enter Conservatory in a small city.
In 2009 Maria successfully passed the state exam in musical college. Her classmates from other faculties invited Maria in café to celebrate graduating from college. She was very glad, because till that time nobody invited her in the company. Surely the girl agreed, prepared dress and image and appeared in café. But the celebration failed: classmates scuffled, and as a result somebody let Maria down and brutally beat.
Maria’s teacher asked her not to address in law enforcement bodies, because unnecessary fuss would spoil the reputation of the college. Maria insisted on proceeding, when everybody persuaded her to resolve the problem peacefully. She hadn’t time for court proceedings, because she had to submit documents in high musical school.
High musical school, 2009
One week later, with unhealed scratches and bruises after beatings Maria still decided to go to Moscow, where she was planning to enter Gnesin Academy or MGUKI. But she didn’t have self confidence and inside forces, and the reason was in these bruises, that the girl could even cover by concealer.
During the preliminary listening before exams somebody of the vocal teachers noticed the traces of beatings and asked Maria about the reasons. But the girl didn’t want to remember what she survived that evening. Maria ran away holding back tears and didn’t hear the notice that she was admitted to exams.
At all high musical schools where Maria was listened teachers highly valuated her vocal skills and admitted her to exams. But there were many people who wanted to enter, so nobody in the commission could guarantee that she would enter on-budget. But for Maria it was the only chance to study because her family didn’t have money to pay for studies.
Among other things conditions were forced by negative statements of Maria’s relatives from Moscow about risks of living in a big city: life and housing here are expensive, here are many visitors, it’s easy to get lost in the city, here are many dangers, corruption on the exams, you can’t resolve problem without money etc. – and they advised her to study somewhere not far from home.
Maria was depressed because of what happened after the state exam, so at the family council she couldn’t object her relatives. So she lost her chance to pass the exams and went from Moscow to Cheboksary.
During listening in Chuvash State institute of culture and arts head of the department of vocal arts, honored artist of Chuvash State and Russian Federaton A.V. Sergeeva-Zinkina higly marked Maria’s vocal skills and took the girl in her class. Teacher promised to make Maria a singer and promised that in future she would sing in theatres. At the same time Maria began to learn English and go to the evening courses in Chuvash state pedagogical university of Iakoclev. Since the third year Maria entered volunteer team that gave charity concerts. So with other students Maria visited small towns in Chuvashia with concerts. Everywhere Maria was met with success, because her every creation was heartfelt and performed sincerely. In volunteer team Maria was till the fifth year.
But Maria didn’t misjudge her teacher, who gradually became not a protector but an executioner. Firstly teacher believed in her and set Maria as an example for other students, gave Maria serious program – arias, about that the student could only dream. But gossips, denunciations, lies of competitors of Maria made the teacher change an attitude to her student. Teacher not only criticized “wrong” Maria’s vocal education in musical college, but also dehumanized her. Student was often criticized by her teacher, senselessly and unreasonably, - she even criticized her appearance. Since the second year teacher payed less time for studies and left Maria with concertmaster to study program. Maria had to study independently and hope only for herself. She couldn’t go to other teacher – nobody of them wished to spoil the relations with head of the department. She also didn’t have an opportunity to enter another institute because of hard financial situation of Maria’s family. The girl survived difficult internal psychological crisis, she has lost a wish to study. And only love for singing and perseverance helped Maria to cope with depression, to continue living and to do her job.
One day Maria accidentally noticed an advertisement in her institute about the competition of theatrical shows during the festival of “Days of Germany in Chuvashia”. So Maria decided to take part in it. Together with the teacher of chamber singing she prepared vocal creation and theatrical scenes for it – the fifth part of vocal series by G. Maler “Songs about dead children” (“Kindertotenlieder”) (it was called “In diesem vetter, In diesem braus” – “When thunder menacingly rumbles”).
Maria took part in this completion, got special prize and was invited to open the festival “Days of Germany in Chuvashia”. The same invitation Maria has got after she won at the fifth year the competition of German songs, where she took first place with Schubert’s song “Der wanderer”.
Maria also took part in concerts of German music inside her institute, where other students also took part, where she performed Bach and Mahler. The audience met Maria as enthusiastically as it was at the opening of the festival “Days of Germany in Chuvashia”.
One month later Maria took part in the international vocal competition “On wings of talent”, that passed in Cheboksary, where she took second place, performing creations of Mahler and Mussorgsky.
And another month later Maria took part in interregional competition of Russian romance, where she took first place.
In 2013 the student took part in the university competition “Miss art”, where she perfectly performed cover version of on song by Cranberries band and got the people’s choice award. But the teacher in the specialty was disappointed in her, thinking that her student was trying to get the success going easy way through pop music and epatage. But the audience remembered Maria’s performance for the hole year.
During two months after the conflict with teacher Maria studied independently and was learning the state program with concertmaster. Some vocal tips Maria got from the teacher of chamber singing V.A. Arhipova, other – from the piano teacher. But mostly Maria hoped fir herself and dreamed of getting diploma.
In spite of all that Maria had to pass at the beginning of June in 2014 she excellently passed state exams and got the red diploma, that she earned by her diligence. Also Maria has got another diploma of second high education on the base of first – diploma of graduating evening courses of English language.
Wanderings and salvations
Maria was thinking about what to do further. The girl was fooled with getting work after graduating: she was promised to get work as a member of choir in Mari theatre of opera and ballet of Sapaev since 1 September 2014, but when Maria came to submit documents for enrollment in the state, she was unexpectedly refused. The reason was the absence of vacancies. Maria was in extreme situation, the girl was afraid to stay without work.
Accidentally the girl visited the website of Chuvash state Philharmonic society and saw an advertisement that told about the need of choir singers for court chapel, exactly alto. Maria agreed about listening in Chuvash philharmonic, and the date was fixed. At the listening the chief conductor of symphonic orchestra M.N. Iaklashkin highly marked her vocal skills and took the girl in court chapel as a choir member. In this court chapel there also were soloists, so soon Maria wished to sing solo. Periodically she had such opportunity, for example, to sing arias and songs at some concerts of chapel.
The girl took part in the International competition of vocalists, that was hold in Cheboksary in November 2014, where she got the title of the Laureate of 2 award and also got diploma for “The best performing of German music”. At the competition ex-student performed the creations of Bach, Schubert and the vocal series “Songs about dead children” by G. Mahler. Maria felt herself not very well – she had a little cold, but it didn’t hinder her to take part in the competition and to take on of the places.
Nevertheless Maria continued not only to sing part of 2 alto in choir, but also to perform solo without chapel and partly. The girl also prepared solo program, learned parts from operas in order to be listened in theatres next year. But her ex-teacher refused to help Maria because she was sure that the girl wouldn’t achieve success. Independently Maria learned parts of Olga and nanny from opera “Eugene Onegin”, part of Polina from “The Queen of spades”, part of Marina Mnishek from “Boris Godunov”, she also improved the part of Kerubino from “Marriage of Figaro”, part of Lel from “Snow Maiden”, began to learn part of Karmen from opera “Karmen”. Only few people believed in her at that period. Maria hoped only for herself.
Maria was rather active so she took part in different city literature competitions and surely in concerts. In February 2015 the girl took part in Interregional competition of vocalists in two nominations: “academic vocal”, where she took second place, and “pop vocal”, where she took first place.
During all that time she personally negotiated with concertmasters and clerks about rent of halls, about performances in different places of Chuvashia, where there were instrument and acoustics. She fixed almost all her material that she was preparing during all year on amateur camera, that she has bought some time ago for her scholarship during her studies in the institute.
Having recorded everything she wanted Maria returned in her native city Volzhsk, because she was despaired in achieving her aim. Maria’s mother was always worried about her daughter, supported her in difficult times and surrounded her by warmth and care. Ann, Maria’s junior sister, advised her to go to Petersburg and to try her luck there.
Maria always wanted to visit this mystery city, she liked its beautiful architecture and always considered the city “cultural capital”.
In Petersburg the destiny presented Maria the meeting with a musician, who was interested in her vocal skills and was charmed by unique girl’s voice. He had serious intentions, showed himself a sincere man and suggested to help Maria. Thanks for this man Maria was listened and studied with different teachers in order to develop her vocal technique, also Maria took lessons from Sara Alligretta – solista di La Scala theatre and professor of conservatory in Baris city.
Now Maria continues to work hard, to take part in competitions and different concerts, to make records and publish them in Internet, hoping that all her talent and soul, that she puts in every song, would find the response in people, who also have a kind heart and a light soul.
International competition of musical and choreographic art “Kremlin Stars”
Winner of the first degree in the academic vocal category
Kaleidoscope of Talents regional competition festival
Winner of the second degree in the academic vocal category
Kaleidoscope of Talents regional competition festival
Winner of the first degree in the pop song category
The First International Vocal Competition “Meisterwerk” (november, 2014)
Winner of the second degree
The First International Vocal Competition “Meisterwerk” (november, 2014)
Special prize of the nomination for "The Best Performance of German music"
German song contest of German Days in Chuvashia festival
Winner of the first degree
German Days in Chuvashia festival
"On the Wings of Talent" international junior competition festival, academic vocal selection
Winner of the second degree
The competition of the theater performance "Wir Machen Theater" held as part of the Year of Germany in Russia 2012-2013
special prize for musical and theatrical performance ("When Thunder Roars so Terribly» / «In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus» to the music of Mahler)
German Days in Chuvashia annual cross-cultural festival as part of the Year of Germany in Russia 2012-2013
The regional competition Russian Classical Romance
Winner of the first degree