By Laman Ismayilova
In Europe, women went on stage with an open face since ancient times. At the time in the Muslim East, people could not even dream about that.
Up to 1920s all the parties on the stage of Azerbaijani opera were performed by men or non-muslim women. Azerbaijani women were not allowed to perform on stage.
But one day a brave woman stepped onto the stage with an open face. She was not afraid of criticism, old traditions and customs. Her name was Shovket Mammadova. She risked her life to become the first Muslim woman to perform on stage.
She was only fifteen years old and it happened, as you might guess, in Baku, Azerbaijan-a country destined to break all stereotypes and become the first in many endeavors.
Her father, a shoemaker, noticed her musical gift when she was only six.
In March 1910, the 13-year-old girl was invited to perform at a reception hosted by Vorontsov-Dashkov, the vice-regent of the Caucasus. Her brilliant performance left no one indifferent.
An amazing life story of great Azerbaijani opera singer began in 1897 in Tbilisi.
Future opera star met Sona Taghiyeva, the wife of a famous oil-baron and philanthropist. The Taghiyev’s were so excited about her talent that decided to help the talented girl. They offered to fund music lessons in Milan with Doti Ambrozio.
At the age of 14, she left for Milan, Italy to pursue a musical degree at the Milan Conservatory with the financial help of an Azerbaijani multimillionaire.
However, Mammadova had to return home in 1912 because her sponsorship was discontinued for undisclosed reasons.
Shovket Mammadova made her first stage appearance at the Taghiyev Theatre in Baku, performing a piece from Uzeyir Hajibeyov's "Husband and Wife."
With her beautiful voice Shovket performed with several vocal numbers.
Starting from 1921, Mammadova toured Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Paris, Milan, Tabriz, and Tbilisi performing arias from La Traviata, Barber of Seville, Rigoletto, Les Huguenots, etc. She accomplished her studies in Milan in 1927–1930 and head back to Azerbaijan to go on with her career at the State Opera and Ballet Theatre in Baku.
In 1939–1945, she was the director of the Azerbaijan State Opera and Ballet Theatre. She was later appointed the Chair of the Vocal Department at the Azerbaijan State Conservatory, where she professionally trained young vocalists until her death in 1981.
Shovket Mammadova died on June 8, 1981 in Baku. The voice of Azerbaijan's opera diva will live forever in the hearts of people.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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