Markella Hatziano: The Influencer
Markella Hatziano is an evocative name from Athens, Greece most know from the stalls and balconies of populous, statuesque theatres and symphony halls around the world. She is a majestic character—long, ebony curls fall on palatial, olive-skinned shoulders, resembling the fresco of a Greek deity. A sonorous, spirituous voice cascades throughout the theatre, creating a vast, subduing moat of ambience and presence. Crossing this moat of irreproachable stage presence, up close and personal, her voice is just as powerful as in the theatre, in a different way.
Hatziano is an influencer in her art: opera. When she is not singing, she is using her voice to advocate and promote the art of singing. Behind her deep, soulful, kastanóchrous eyes lies a mind that has mastered performances at starry-eyed titles such as the likes of Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, Teatro Colón, Teatro Real, Opera Company of Boston, and the Salzburg Festival. Not to mention, she has also performed with most major symphonies in the world, including prestigious names like the Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, and New York Philharmonic. Hatziano describes herself: “Through my art, I would say I am a spiritual communicator. A human spiritual communicator. The ability and desire to communicate and sing has been given to me since age twelve, and has remained the same.”
Hatziano says it all started at age twelve, following a family gathering at which she first sang at. “My father took me to the Conservatoire the very next day,” she recalls. Hatziano was trained at the Greek National Conservatoire in Athens, where she spent her childhood. Georgia Georgilopoulou (pronounced “George-ee-a”), who Hatziano illustrates as “deeply knowledgable of her art,” was her vocal teacher with whom she began training at the mere age of twelve years young. “She was my spiritual teacher, the one who made me realize early enough that the gift of voice was the grandest tool for communication if used truthfully and to be of service, not of profit.” Hatziano annunciates she only had two great teachers in her life: Georgilopoulou and her repertoire teacher, Tito Gobbi. Following her study with Georgilopoulou, she spent three years studying with Gobbi. Hatziano graduated from both her high school, Likio Barbika, and the Conservatoire at the same time, at age seventeen—an unusual and impressive feat. Hatziano says she does not recall much from her meshed high school and conservatoire years, saying they were “crazy and busy years,” which can definitely be expected from such a full schedule.
Hatziano does recall the important lessons she learned during these early years: both of life and of her professional training, which were tightly intertwined for her at the time. Hatziano drew inspiration for her artistic development from “all sources and all arts daily.” “I was guarded quite a bit by my teacher as to what singers I would listen to for a number of years, as she thought I needed to develop my way of expression through my voice.” Hatziano says after these initial “guarded” years, she “developed an affinity for the older generations of singers.” Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, and Tito Gobbi (her own later teacher) were among some of her inspirations in the art of opera. She was also largely inspired by nature, and art forms outside of opera, which gave her a broad artistic perspective. She loved the arts of ballet dancers, painters, and sculptors to name a few, even at an early, developmental age. Opera is well-known to have a strict training régime; hearing the sheer power of Hatziano’s voice, however, is one outstanding example of how widespread the operatic voice is, particularly of Hatziano’s. One can hear the synergies present in all arts in her voice, and her strict training crystallizes the expression of every note.
Hatziano says: “Somehow I knew inside of me that my journey, although challenging, would be fruitful.” And this innate feeling of Hatziano’s was not misled. She points out her beginning international career with the Opera Company of Boston. “My performances with the Opera Company of Boston filled me with boundless desire to move on.” She speaks of her time in Boston as a “breakthrough” moment. “Basically, that’s when it happened to me . . . It marked the beginning of an international career.” With the Opera Company of Boston, she performed in Cherubini’s Medea, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and Verdi’s Aida and Requiem. Critics took note.
The Boston Globe wrote: “No one has heard a voice of such richness, fullness and beauty of timbre . . . in at least 30 years . . . the qualities of voice and spirit no one can learn the Creator has lavished on her in abundant plenty.” Hatziano’s prestige and reputation of finesse and unbending discipline grew when in the December of 1993 the London Symphony Orchestra needed a last-minute stand-in for the demanding role of Didon in the concert setting of Les Troyens—Hatziano undertook Didon without missing a beat; closing the concerts with publishers like Opera Magazine praising Hatziano, saying “On this evening a star was surely born.” She explains these years: “All was centered in the most important word of communication. When there is communication with the audience, it goes back and forth with the audience and yourself—you know this is the place, that this is the life.” With the start of her successful career, one can definitely feel she was in the right place, and that this truly was her life. She was now an influencer, not one of the many who was influenced—and she gave every audience her life. “I do not remember a single performance that was not the most satisfying, otherwise it would have been a betrayal between the audience and myself,” she states.
Some were quick to type Hatziano, drawing similarities between both her mezzosoprano prowess and Greek origin with the infamous late soprano Maria Callas, who, ironically, was one of young Hatziano’s early influences. Tabloid Daily Mail featured Hatziano during her time as a finalist in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, writing a big and bold headline: “From Greece, a new Callas?” Both are from Greece, trained in Athens, and possess ethereal vocal ability, after all. A conspiracy born? David Gillard, writer of the Daily Mail article, even went so far as to draw similarities between the physicalities of the two, placing an image of Hatziano’s and Callas’s sharp, angled cheekbones side by side on the headline. With a light smile, one can suspect Hatziano knew she had acquired notoriety when she saw she had caught Daily Mail’s headline-worthy attention. “Oh my god! At the time, it was the grandest compliment—mixed with the feeling of ‘How could I ever resemble such a unique artist?’” She speaks of Callas in full circle—as her early influence all the way to now, when some people, like David Gillard of Daily Mail, are saying they resemble one another.
Today, Markella Hatziano’s artistic journey has come far. She wants people to know “the fulfillment in the satisfaction of getting to live life in its present moment.” She has a daughter, Alexandra, who she says is a key inspiration in her life today. “One [performance] that stands out was the one that my baby daughter was present in the audience for the first time, she was attending in a special area. Knowing she was there marked this performance as my most precious one,” she says of a performance of Samson et Dalila in Barcelona, Spain. Today, she still draws her inspiration often from nature, and she also draws inspiration from young people, such as her daughter. “I want to listen to the rhythms of their hearts and energies,” she says of young people.
Hatziano’s evolution and maturation over the course of her career have brought deeper knowledge of both her artistic vision and her life—two birds of the same feather. “Knowing deeper within me that my journey is created of solitude, communication with my audience becomes broader. I want to continue to use my instrument as a means of communication. Love, harmony, balance, and communication are my goals.”