Stefanna Kybalova soars – but on stage instead of in the skies

Stefanna Kybalova, Mimi in Opera Carolina’s upcoming production of Puccini’s La Bohème, wanted to fly planes. But her mother convinced her that her real talent was in music. She was a child prodigy on the piano, and her mother nurtured that ability. 

Here’s part 2 of our two-part Q&A with an artist and citizen of the world who manages to soar – even though she’s earthbound. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t an opera singer?

Airplane pilot. I have always been passionate about military aeronautics. At age 14, I was admitted to the academy, but my mother didn’t want to let me go and I continued to study music. 

I have been studying music since I was 3. At 5, I had already done piano concerts, and I won two state scholarships, one in Bulgaria to study in Prague and one in Prague to study at the Milan Conservatory. 

According to my mother, my destiny was marked as a pianist. I couldn’t become a pilot, but I rebelled anyway and disobeyed my mother’s wishes by choosing to be a singer. 

It was very difficult to convince her. The first time she came to see me in the theater, I had already had a singing career for 10 years. She came to see my Tosca at the Smetana Hall in Prague – my father’s city. It was a moment I felt she was proud of me.

A very special thing that I discovered a few years ago is that my [paternal] great grandfather was awarded a medal during the First World War as a pilot. Perhaps my passion for aeronautics has ancient roots.

Tell us about your family. 

I’m married to a tenor, pianist, composer and conductor. Don’t be surprised; he is only one man! 

He is a very eclectic musician. He taught me that true music is beyond the notes, and he made me love this difficult work of the artist. He follows me and always supports me in difficult moments and rejoices with me in my every success. We have been together 16 years and married for 14 of them. We have three wonderful cats we are madly in love with.

Where is home for you?

My home is in Burgherio, a city near Milan. My husband was born here, and I decided that our house would stay here. It is a city that is growing a lot. We are proud to be part of this cultural growth, too. 

We have contributed to many initiatives in the theater and in the church. Thanks to the theater director, the mayor and our parish priest, this city was able to [bring opera back] after 20 years of absence. And we are really proud of this. That’s why I feel my home is here.

How will you unwind while you’re in Charlotte?

The first thing will be to search for traditional food.

I am very curious to discover new tastes and the way in which the people of the various countries relate during lunch and dinner. I hope to find myself in a group of colleagues who will suggest places to discover. 

There will certainly be some nights where good spaghetti will make me feel a little at home. I am of Bulgarian-Czech origin, but I lived in Italy for 30 years, and I am really passionate about spaghetti!

What’s your favorite role you’ve ever played?

Lady Macbeth from Verdi’s Macbeth, Tosca and Mimi from Puccini. They are all in first place.

Dream role?

Turandot from Puccini. Perhaps in 2020 it will come true. 

Favorite self-care ritual when on the road? 

Can shopping be considered a way to take care of yourself? My husband considers it a bit of a flaw. 

What’s your superpower? 

I have learned to face difficulties, and that has given me the desire to accept that I’m not perfect. Perfection is in the quest to give the best of ourselves always. Our limits … make us weak. But in facing them, we understand that life is a journey in which the only true perfection is the search for knowledge. 

Many of my students and the people who love me see me as a person who is always smiling and willing to give comfort. Everything can be resolved. I choose not to let myself be overwhelmed by difficulties … and give life the chance to untangle the most difficult knots.

Don’t miss Stefanna Kybalova in Opera Carolina’s production of La Bohème Jan. 18, 19, 23 or 25. For tickets, call 704.372.1000 or visit