There's an adage that those who can't do, teach.
But in the world of opera and classical singing, Bloomfield Township's Irina Mishura is the rare case of one who's done both -- gloriously so.
Mishura, who was born in Krasnodar in the old Soviet Union, studied music education and was a voice teacher at the Maldovian Conservatory before she auditioned for the Moldavian State Opera. Debuting in "Don Carlo," she became the company's prima mezzo-soprano, establishing a worldwide reputation in particular for her performances as "Carmen."
"I wanted to teach voice, and I wound up singing," Mishura, who immigrated to the United States in 1992 after Mikhail Gorbachev's Perestroika initiatives. "I was studying as a pianist and someone told me that I had 'the voice.' It was meant to be.
"And I love it. It's that sweet feeling when you are on stage. It's like a drug, you know? It makes me so happy and so alive. In regular life I'm a happy person, but the way I feel on stage performing, you cannot compare that to anything."
Singing also made a marked change in Mishura's personality, she says.
"Before i started 'Carmen' I was very shy, a real wuss in regular life," confesses Mishura, who performs a free concert Thursday, June 2, at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills. "But because Carmen's character is so strong, little by little it taught me how to be strong, tough and speak up. That character did a lot for me" -- even though, Mishura adds, the physical rigors of "Carmen" led to "some damaged bones" along the way.
That mettle served Mishura well when she came to the U.S., however.
Purged with other Jews as the Soviet Union began to collapse, Mishura's arrival in Detroit was sponsored by the local Jewish community. But she wasn't sure if she would be able to maintain her career here; In fact, she was told by Jewish Family Service that "there was absolutely no chance" of security employment singing opera.
A month later, however, Mishura was singing in the mixed choir at Adat Shalom. Some of her Euroepan contacts reached out to invite her to perform in France, Belgium and other companies. The Toledo Opera put her on stage during the fall of 1992, with the Michigan Opera Theatre following shortly thereafter.
"People picked me up and started helping me enormously," recalls Mishura, whose resume includes engagements across Europe, Canada and in Japan, as well as in Israel. Luciano Pavarotti invited her to perform at his 40th Anniversary Gala during 2001 in Modena, Italy, which was broadcast worldwide. And she sang with the Jersalem Symphony to celebrate Israel's 50th anniversary.
"Irina has established herself as one of our generation's preeminent mezzo-sopranos," says Adat Shalom cantor Daniel Gross, who will be performing with Mishura on Thursday. "Her voice is incredibly refined, powerful and beautiful. She is a gripping performer who continues to rivet audiences."
Life has come a bit of a full circle for Mishura these days, too. While still actively performing -- though she's no longer up to the physical beating of "Carmen" -- she also teaches "a few select, very talented people" in the home she shares with her husband, Jack Morris (their 33-year-old daughter lives in Los Angeles). She was recently back at Convent Garden in London and in North Carolina, and while Mishura is dialing things down a bit, she contends that she'll continue singing as long as she's able.
"There may be some people who will say, 'Oh my God, she's still singing? She should retire!' But I can't," Mishura says. "This sweet drug...I cannot resist. I have to be out on stage. When I'm out there singing, I feel like I'm 24."
Irina Mishura with Daniel Gross and pianist Kevin Bylsma
7 p.m. Thursday, June 2.
Adat Shalom Synagogue,
Admission is free.
Call 248-851-5100 or visit adatshalom.org.
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