You broke into the industry very quickly. Can you describe your early career?

It’s true, I started very young – I’m only 39 years old but I’ve had almost 18 years of this career. I was just 20 when I became a student at the Voronezh State Theatre, and I had only started to learn singing two years before that.

Irina Lungu Irina Lungu. Photo © Amati e Bacciardi

From there things happened very fast. I was singing at a concert my first year there and the artistic director came onstage and announced to the audience, “I give these flowers to the new soloist of our theatre”. I hadn’t even auditioned to be a soloist, and suddenly I was making my professional debut in a new production of Les pêcheurs de perlesthe next year, when I was just 21.

It wasn’t long before you went to study abroad, is that correct?

I was doing lots of competitions at the time so my next big break came when I got third prize at the Belvedere Competition in Wien when I was 23 years old. One of the jury members asked if I wanted to audition for Riccardo...