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The People's Artist of Turkmenistan, Professor of the Turkmen National Conservatory Atageldy Garyagdyev is well known to music lovers not only in our country. They call him in all sincerity, without the pathos, the Turkmen golden baritone.
In May, in addition to his many awards, the artist won another significant award - the Intergovernmental Prize "Stars of the CIS", which is awarded for outstanding successes in the humanitarian field on a par with world achievements. Atageldy Garyagdyev became the first representative of Turkmenistan to win this prestigious prize.
This great news caught the singer, as he says, by surprise. "I didn't expect it. I was extremely happy and confused a little. I wondered as to why they chose me over many other good people of art". However, this choice is obvious for those familiar with Atageldy Garyagdyev's creative work and truly pioneering activities. He organically combines his singing talent with teaching, mentoring, popularization and social work.
The master of the Turkmen vocal art believes that a true artist is distinguished by three features - a God-given talent, education as a basis for development of professional skills and intelligence, and culture in its broadest sense. And the singer rightly fits the above characteristics. Gifted with an extraordinary voice, he has come a long way to mastery, witnessing significant events and momentous encounters.
A future opera singer was born in the village of Egri-Guzer of Mary province in 1952 in the family that had little to do with music. Of all his relatives, only his mother's brother played a dutar. Yet, Atageldy still remembers a heartfelt mother's lullaby.
His first vocal teacher was a rural boy named Danatar, a genuine "music fan" who started an amateur ensemble of schoolchildren. He skillfully played a dutar and a mandolin and sang. Danatar managed to instill a love for music and creativity in his pupils who were not much younger than himself.
The young artist also painted quite well. After graduating from the 8th grade of the secondary school, he went to the capital city to enter an art school. However, admission to the department of painting was already closed, and his uncle, who worked at a cultural and educational college in Ashgabat, recommended that Atageldy enter the library department. Atageldy was not happy at the prospect of becoming a librarian, and, having lasted for just a month in the college, he returned to the village where he continued his education at the secondary school.
Two years later, the future golden baritone of the country made another attempt to conquer the capital city, yet this time he chose the Danatar Ovezov Music School. As he started the secondary school very early, at the age of five years, the young man's voice and vocal tone had not matured yet by the time of entering the music school, raising doubts among teachers. Nevertheless, one of them - famous baritone Nury Meredov, graduate of the Moscow State Conservatory - discerned a talent in the young man and admitted him to his class.
It was during his studies at the music school that he happened to meet an outstanding Turkmen composer, Nury Khalmamedov. It was an event that influenced the artistic and human destiny of the future vocalist.
"It was a regular vocal class. Standing at the piano, I sang the song "Ashgabat." A short man popped in. The accompanist called out to him: "Nury, come in, listen to this young man." He sat at the piano and began to play my favorite tunes. It was only after the "accompanist" started making adjustments to my singing that I realized that he was the author of the music - Nury Khalmamedov. He really liked my performance of the song "Ashgabat". I wrote it for you, Nury used to say. Of course, I knew that the song had been sung more than once by Medeniyet Shahberdiyeva and other popular vocalists, but I was extremely pleased with what the master said. It was the beginning of our joint creative work and strong friendship."
Having seen great abilities in a talented young man, Khalmamedov entrusted him with performing a monumental patriotic song - a vocal triptych on Kurbannazar Ezizov's verses on the topic of the 1941-1945 war. Garyagdyev's performance was a success, as he himself was actively involved in the creation of the dramatic musical poem. After the premiere of the vocal triptych that took place at the Ashgabat Opera and Ballet Theater in 1971, Nury Khalmamedov and Kurbannazar Ezizov embraced and congratulated their younger colleague on this success. So, this is a story of how a singer, a composer and a poet created a unique union that could master any genre.
Those were two years of happiness, Atageldy recalls. He also recalled the heartfelt words spoken about him by his elder friend, teacher, mentor Nury Khalmamedov. "A composer will write music, a poet will write lyrics. It may be a good song. However, they will remain just words on a paper until a song is sung. A song will become live and truly good and beloved after it is painted with various colors of the voice and warmth of the soul. Only then, a song will sound real. Only then, it will remain to live and make people happy. Garyagdyev, with his great voice, breathes life into our works, gives them meaning, being their irreplaceable co-author..."
His friends wrote a number of compositions especially for their young co-author. "Nury said they should be enough for five years, but it turned out they were enough for a lifetime," the singer says with sadness. Unfortunately, the creative union was short-lived. In 1975, Ezizov died tragically, and Khalmamedov passed away 8 years later. Atageldy Garyagdyev not only sacredly cherishes the memory of his outstanding friends but also strives to be worthy of their legacy, which, thanks to the singer, extended far beyond the borders of our country.
A huge layer of the vocalist's artistic biography and his professional development is related to the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory, where he studied for seven years beginning 1972. During his years of study at the Conservatory, he started a family. He married Ogulbike, a fellow countrywoman and student of the Russian Institute of Theater Arts (GITIS), who is now an artist of the Main Drama Theater of Turkmenistan.
The conservatory tutors of the future Turkmen opera star included David Alexandrovich Gamrekeli, a wonderful teacher and renowned baritone, and, later, Viktor Viktorovich Goryachkin, a follower of the classical opera school and, at the same time, a man with a subtle sense of humor who was open to new ideas. In the second and third years of his studies, Atageldy Garyagdyev was already engaged in the productions of the opera studio. He also performed in the great hall of the Moscow State Conservatory and other halls of Moscow.
In 1980, after graduating from the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory, the unique baritone returned to Ashgabat and joined the Magtymguly State Opera and Ballet Theater. He performed all the leading parts of the classical repertoire. During his many tours of the country, with great love he sang songs written for him by Nury Kalmamedov on the verses by Magtymguly, Kemine, Mollanepes, Ezizov. A rich theatrical repertoire opened up great opportunities for the realization of his talent. Over a period of two years, he brilliantly performed totally different opera parts and played different characters on the theater stage. Garyagdyev played brave bullfighter Escamillo in Bizet's opera "Carmen"; Robert in "Iolanta"; dramatic Rigoletto in Verdi's opera; rebellious Demon in Rubinstein's opera; Onegin in Tchaikovsky's eponymous opera...
And then, he returns to Moscow again. During his internship at the Bolshoi Theater, he perfected his professionalism and enlarged his repertoire. The artist speaks with great gratitude of his teacher-consultant Pavel Gerasimovich Lisitsian. A famous lyrical baritone with incredibly high internal culture and erudition, he taught Garyagdyev to look deeper into his characters, be it a romance or an aria, and helped to understand that one of the most important qualities of a good singer is the ability to clearly understand what he wants to say and how he can express it.
Nowadays, the People's Artist of Turkmenistan, Professor of the Turkmen National Conservatory (TNC) spends a lot of time with his students. After receiving professorship, Atageldy Garyagdyev decided to reach the higher level of teaching by taking six freshmen at once into his vocal class. The maestro's colleagues at TNC can't stop admiring the professor's hard work. As teachers say, bringing up one vocalist is not an easy task, but when there are several of them, it is a hard work indeed. And students take a deep breath before entering the audience, where they are introduced to high musical culture almost every day under the guidance of the master of vocal art.
At the same time, Atageldy Garyagdyev actively works at the Magtymguly Turkmen National Music and Drama Theater, where he is engaged in Turkmen operas "Shasenem and Garib", "Leili and Mejnun", "Zohre and Tahir", "Yusup-Zuleikha"... The range of the singer's capacities is still incredibly great: operas, songs by Turkmen, Russian and Western European composers. His performance of classical works, romances and popular songs is equally sincere, easy and subtle.
A great personality, a man of extraordinary energy who knows how to win the audience, to charge listeners and unite them emotionally, Garyagdyev sings everywhere, for any audience, both in large concert halls and at exhibitions, meetings and thematic evenings in memory of friends. He can rightly be called an advocate of Turkmen music as a part of world art in Turkmenistan and abroad. He is involved in many new opera productions. He visits the regions of our country with concerts and acts as a juror in art competitions.
The singer has been awarded many state decorations for his achievements. He is happy with his family. He has three children and 8 grandchildren, and there is hope that some of the younger ones, who are already showing an interest in music, will continue his work.
Garyagdyev does not like intervals. He lives without interrupting the dynamics of his multifaceted activities, devoting himself utterly to the stage, his students and his beloved work. When asked about his dream, the golden voice of the country said: "I appreciate the attention and love of my audience, I want my art to be welcomed by my people, I dream of singing for many more years to come."


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005