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A tribute to a magnificent singer who is no longer with us

Tenor Kamen Chanev

It was beginning of October 2009 when I met my voice coach, Ilko Natchev. I remember that during the time I was preparing for my debut at Mozarthaus Vienna one evening after class, I decided to take a walk in the centre of Vienna. I found myself walking in front of the Vienna States Opera, and I was excited to read the great artists of that evening’s performance, “Nabucco”!

As I got closer to the main entrance to read with great interest the names of the whole cast, the internationally acclaimed Bulgarian tenor, Kamen Chanev , was among the artists featuring on the poster. Kamen Chanev was born in the Bulgarian city of Sliven . He first studied at the French language school in his hometown, and after his graduation he started his studies at the Bulgarian National Academy of Music “Pancho Vladigerov” in Sofia. When completing his studies in Sofia, he continued his specialization in 1992 at the Boris Christoff  Academy of Arts in Rome. He had the privilege of working with one of the most significant dramatic soprano of the 20th century, Ghena Dimitrova. Knowing all these, I immediately tried to find a last-minute ticket for the performance!

Oh! I was feeling so lucky that evening! I managed to get a last-minute ticket and there I was, sitting at the Gallerie of Vienna States Opera, about to watch Kamen Chanev performing live the role of Ismael from Verdi’s opera “Nabucco”.

Kamen was extraordinary! What a voice God had gifted this man with! It was like skies were open and his voice was coming directly from heaven! I was crying tears of joy; every sound was touching my soul. I was looking at him while he was singing, and paying attention to the way he was breathing, the way he was producing every single note, and to how much he was enjoying singing high notes! A living example of how a great opera singer sings, just right there – in front of my eyes! Inside my head, I could listen my teacher, Ilko, explaining to me: “This is how you are suppose to breath”, or “ Chryso, your ribs and your back need to expand while you sing…”; and there I was, in the Vienna States Opera being able to watch and understand in which direction I had to take back then, thanks to a living legend.

In November 2019 I found myself traveling to Stara Zagora to have some sessions with the Bulgarian Prima Vesselina Kasarova  and Nikolay Hadjiev; all these during the final rehearsals of the Opera “L’Africaine” of G. Meyerbeer, at the State Opera Stara Zagora. I spent a week there, grateful to be watching the final rehearsals of the Opera whilst working at the same time with special people. I still remember that the premiere was scheduled for the 23rd November which I was invited to attend by my colleagues. It was then, while waiting for the play to start, that I was surprised and happy to see that Kamen Chanev was also attending the play! We met during the intermission, as well as at the reception organised by the State Opera Stara Zagora after the premiere! Such a simple person, down to earth, smiling, surrounded by his most beloved ones. He was looking so happy…

I would never dare to imagine or think that Kamen Chanev would pass away just a year later. 2020 is officially a bad year! It has taken so much from us and has given nothing in return! All our dreams and plans have been cancelled, our lives have been put on hold and somehow, we need to be happy with the fact that we live and we are healthy. However, sometimes this is not enough! The soul needs to dream, fly, and find reasons to stand up and fight! Kamen Chanev managed to inspire all those things ! He was not just a singer; he was one of God’s most beloved birds with a special charisma, a magical voice. He represented all of us, the simple people that do not come from a rich background, do not make it due to personal contacts with significant political factors and people that yet fight with all the strength of their soul; all of use whose only and most precious weapon is our talent and the love we have for music!

My eyes are full of tears while I am writing this post. It is so hard to believe that in one year our lives would change so much and that, despite everything, we need to find the energy to keep fighting for better days. I cry because we, the artists, have lost one of our stronger soldiers, one of our best opera singers. On the 26th November 2020, not only Kamen lost the battle with COVID-19, but also art lost a big battle. The light has become thinner, we have become weaker…

I cannot stop watching repeatedly the scene “Non piangere Liu” (“Don’t cry Liu”) from the Turandot opera (G. Puccini), where Kamen sings for the role of “Calaf”, produced in 2019. It is as if he sings this scene as a farewell to all of us “..This, this oh my poor Liu, to your little heart that does not fall, asks the one who does not smile anymore… who doesn’t smile anymore..,”

  Kamen Chanev did not die, he still lives and he will live forever! He is now a STAR, God’s most powerful and brighter star in heaven! He will stay forever young and powerful in our hearts and souls, showing us the way…

Farewell Kamen Chanev

Chryso Makariou ©

Vienna November 2020

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