World-famous Georgian composer Zakaria Paliashvili
If ever you feel in need of motivation, here is a lesson on how to overcome hardship.
Zakaria Paliasvili was the first professional Georgian composer and conductor while also being a teacher and prominent public figure. He laid the foundations for the creation of the Georgian Composing School. Paliashvili wrote the first Georgian opera, and also wrote the beloved operas “Abesalom da Eteri”, “Daisi” (twilight) and “Latavra”. He also composed over 300 Georgian folk songs. Zakaria Paliashvili based his creations on Georgian folk music and his music reflects his fascination with sincerity, silence and innovative composing.
Zakaria believed that the soul and heart of the Georgian folk song is the lead vocals, therefore they should be heard clearly, and the other voices should sing in harmony to make a sound pleasing to both Georgian and international audiences.
Zakaria Paliashvili was born in Kutaisi. He was the third child in a family of eighteen children. His father read scripture in the Catholic Church while his mom had a beautiful voice and sang to her children. Young Zakaria sang songs in the Catholic Church which is where his talents were recognized. News of this wonderful young talent reached Alfonso Khitarishvili, dean of the Georgian Catholic Church. Khitarishvili took Zakaria and his elder brother Ivan to Tbilisi.
Ivan was assigned to the post of organist and Zakaria was made his brother’s assistant, and was also a choirboy. Eventually, Zakaria became the organist and had to support his whole family on his wages.
Paliashvili wanted his ensemble to perform folk songs. Therefore he decided to travel through different regions of Georgia and record folk tunes on his phonograph. His trip started in Svaneti.
Zakaria was disappointed when he found how Russian and Georgian languages were mixed together in many songs and how, instead of Georgian instruments, foreign instruments were used. He saw how this might signal the end of traditional Georgian music and decided to save Georgian folk music. While working on his many folk songs he understood that his heart was yearning for something greater. He decided to write an opera composition based on folk melodies; but first he needed to educate himself on the art of Opera.
His dream came true when he was accepted to the Moscow Conservatory. After his successful graduation, he returned to Tbilisi with his Russian wife, Julia Utkina. It was at this time that he started the most intensive creative period of his life.
Once, a friend of Zakaria, Petre Mirianashvili, asked him to start working on a folk narrative for the Opera “Abesalom and Eteri”. Despite having a busy schedule, Zakaria began to work on the Opera, but it was 15 years until it was completed.
The Opera was a great success. An excited audience applauded rapturously, not allowing the composer to go. Everyone seemed happy, but in Zakaria’s heart there was pain. He was worried about his son.
Irakli was a very talented child. At the age of 4, he could already play classical compositions on the piano. Once, while the family was at their country house, a log fell on Irakli’s hand. From birth, the child had health issues and together with this injury, the situation became much worse and unfortunately doctors couldn’t save him.
Zakaria was inconsolable with grief. He spent many hours crying at the tomb of his son and would return home late with no desire to even look at the piano.
Once, while sleeping, he saw Irakli in his opera and he thought it was a sign that he needed to finish the last scene of the opera and soon the fifth, and final episode was complete. The new Opera premiered in 1919 and it received critical acclaim, global recognition and was adored by the public. After this, Zakaria wrote his second opera “Daisi” in just 3 months and it was also a great success.
It wasn’t long after this that Zakaria became ill. Unfortunately it was incurable and his final words were “Irakli… it’s getting dark…”
Zakaria Paliashvili is buried in the Garden of the Georgian National Opera and Ballet Theater.
Georgians are proud to have a national treasure like Zakaria Paliashvili. The Georgian National Opera and Ballet Theater of Tbilisi were named in his honor. Several music schools in Georgia, streets in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Moscow are also named after him. In 1959, the Paliashvili House Museum was founded. Zakaria was also depicted on the Georgian two lari bill.