Gaqo Çako on the pedestal of the Albanian lyric art

The profile of an artist looks more complete when the live performances on stage and impressions are added to the CV containing his factual life and artistic activities. Sometimes the actual activity looks a bit slender and scarce. By reading the CV, one with insufficient information about  the time, the artistic life of that period, and unaware of the social and political circumstances which were a key element to defining the artistic and institutional developments of the artist active years, can manage to contemplate the true profile, to feel the artistic qualities, emotional impressions of the public, the performance journey, and the artistic and intellectual personality of the artist. For artists like Gaqo Cako in particular, the above mentioned values would not be enough without the impressions this artistic figure left in a much larger scale. The artistic biography of the Albanian tenor Gaqo Cako, who was born in Korca, 1935, is rich in lyrical art, starting with the first opera lessons he took from maestro Mihal Ciko and Jorgjia Truja in the School of Music. He then went to study at Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow with Master Ana Aleksandrova Sallavjova. The course of perfection at the Roman Academy was also very important, an academy run by Massimo Bongiankino, a well-known art director in Italy. In 1961, he began his artistic life at the Theater of Opera and Ballet in Tirana until 1991, when he would quit his active life to follow on part time basis pedagogical activities at the Academy of Art and concert performances of important music events.

He has played about 20 opera characters including: Pinkerton, Almaviva, Cavaradossi, Rodolfo, Nadiri, the Duke of Mantua, Alfredo, Canio, Turiddu etc. The main character in Albanian works as Dhimitri, Agron, Leka, Doda, Memo, Trimoni etc. The concert repertoire of artist Gaqo Cako is very wide including a whole range of musical genres from ancient arias, romances, individual arias, songs, folk songs, to vocal-orchestral repertoire and the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven in the first historical performance in Albania (1970).

Gaqo Cako has also directed some of opera masterpieces such as Pagliacci, La Boheme, Albanian operas “Nena e Trimave” composed by Avni Mula and “Malet per Liri” by Dhora Lekë (1971).

Gaqo Cako has represented a productive artist and the personification of lyrical hero in the opera repertoire. He has shown commitment in successfully fulfilling the artistic figure though the highly professional assimilation of roles and great vocal and scenic values. In addition to main roles, which have often reached a great achievement and success, Gaqo has also delivered some overwhelming performances of different kinds. He is known for his work as a lyric artist on stage performances and the master of concert genres from romances to festival stages. His catalog rich in recordings is an indication of the accomplishments of the highest level not only at the time, but also for the following years. Many of the performances in the catalog are and remain the best achievements in the Albanian vocal and lyrical art. Apart from the professional point of view, the impressions of the artistic journey of Gaqo Cako date back in time. In the early stages of his music education, Gaqo and other students of my father Mihal Ceko, gathered in our home and felt like they were part of the family. We used to practice on vocals and antique arias in a small room of our house with a garden around it. I remember a glimpse of him when he was wearing an army uniform and after some years when he returned from Moscow, and also when he performed in the concert looking like a well accomplished exquisite artist. The aria “Ciello e mar” (Giaconda) of Ponchielli paved the way to his professional career. Soon after, Gaqo Cako became an idol to the Albanian public. His characteristic sound with a straight line increasingly to C was completely natural, especially in the role of Rodolfo in La Boheme, with that thrilling crescendo mesmerizing the artists and the audience throughout. Alfredo was another brilliant performance, since the appearance on stage in the second and final act, because, apart from the confidence on stage, his lyrical voice was full of dramatic musical tones. Gaqo Cako was convincing not only in his opera characters of world masterpieces, but also in the roles of Albanian works as well. “Memo Kovaci” of the Nikolla Zoraqi masterpiece seems to be one of his best performed roles, which in fact was dedicated to Gaqo Cako. As well as concert romances of Limos Dizdari like “Fjalet e Qiririt” (Words of the Candle), “Shkriu Bora Majave” (Snow Melted from Peaks), are performance examples not only for the time, but also for the future artists. The cultural isolation of the country in the most active years of the artistic heyday, was not in favor of the “People’s Artist”, but although he missed the international activity, and understandably so, he has fully deserved to be honored with the highest award of “People’s Honor” where his name will be engraved forever.

Zhani Ciko

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