Opera Star Vows to Become Georgia’s Next Prime Minister

  • Burchuladze plots defeat of billionaire Ivanishvili’s party
  • Renowned basso calls for more constructive dialog with Moscow

Georgian opera singer and civil activist Paata Burchuladze says he plans to become the country’s next prime minister as head of a movement that has its sights set on ejecting Georgian Dream, the current ruling party, in October’s national election.

Burchuladze, a bass who’s performed at La Scala in Milan, London’s Covent Garden and the New York Metropolitan Opera, laid out the goals for his new party, the pro-Western “State for People,” in a televised broadcast on Saturday.

The former Soviet state’s current government has failed to meet the expectations of ordinary people, instead leaving them poorer, and has overseen worsening relations with Russia, which has occupied Georgian territories, said Burchuladze, 61.

“I don’t think that the current format of talking to Russia is enough,” the singer said on the television station Rustavi 2. “We need to convince Russia that we are not their enemies, then everything else is possible.”

A recent survey of 3,900 people conducted by Georgia’s National Democratic Institute showed that the Georgian Dream coalition is backed by only 17 percent of likely voters, while 14 percent would vote for the United National Movement, the party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili. Thirty percent said they don’t know which way they’ll vote in the Oct. 8 elections.

Godunov to Win?

Georgian Dream was founded by Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made a fortune assembling a collection of iron ore producers, steel plants and banks in post-Soviet Russia. He has a net worth of $5.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, enough to be the world’s 257th richest person. Ivanishvili served as prime minister in 2012-2013.

In the 2008 “The Grove Book of Opera Singers,” musicologist Elizabeth Forbes lauded Burchuladze’s “magnificent dark-toned voice and imposing stature.” Among his roles were the title role in Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” and Don Basilio in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

As his operatic career wound down and before getting involved in politics, Burchuladze spent more than a decade involved in charity work focused on helping vulnerable children and families in his homeland. In 2010 he was named a Unicef goodwill ambassador for those activities.