Aza are immersed in the New York opera scene,
but she hasn’t forgotten her roots.
the UNCW campus — including a “Love Story in Music” featuring
Nikoleta and Aza — and a concluding concert at Thalian Hall that
will almost certainly feature Wrightsville Beach’s first family of opera
on stage together.
“I cannot imagine the Wilmington Music Festival without a Rallis
duet,” Aza says.
It will be a reminder for Michael that, although his daughter didn’t
follow him into the medical field, she made the right choice.
“She’s doing what she loves, and she’s doing what she wants to do,”
he says. “There are easier paths in life to earn a decent living, but if
it’s not something you’re passionate about, actually it may be harder.”
It will also be a reminder for the Wilmington audience that they
have a world-class talent in the Burgaw physician and Wrightsville
“He could be a major star,” Aza says. “We hear all the tenors in
New York. No one is like that. Sometimes you see the well-trained
singers, they have amazing technique but something is missing.
Most of the time it’s charisma, or something behind the technique.
Maestro Rallis has that combination of perfect technique and person-ality
on the couch pretending to be asleep or resting and not paying atten-tion,
but I was absorbing everything.”
Her interest and Michael’s connections led to studies with
acclaimed soprano Christine Weidinger, who moved to North
Carolina after a career in Europe.
“I had my first aria when I was 16: ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ by
Puccini,” Nikoleta says. “It was, whoa, this feels cool, this feels differ-ent,
and I really liked it. If I hadn’t gone into music I think I would
have done something in the medical field. But Dad was always sensi-tive;
he didn’t try to sway me one way or the other. I wouldn’t say he
encouraged me to go into music. But he didn’t discourage me. He
wanted it to be my decision.”
Nikoleta went from Cape Fear Academy to Hoggard High School
to the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, then to New York City for
post-graduate studies. She was at the Conservatory of Music at
Brooklyn College in the fall of 2014 when she met Aza while prepar-ing
for a recital.
“We met in the rehearsal room,” she says. “He was playing for me.
I was like, ‘He’s paying attention to the music, he’s not paying atten-tion
Actually, he was paying very close attention. He just didn’t show it
“From the first minute I saw her, I thought, this is my future
wife,” he says. “I couldn’t show that I was in love immediately. It
was part of the game. She’s a Wrightsville Beach girl in New York,
which you notice
Her accent, she’s
But she had a
to deliver the
context of the
music. I was very
of course, when
we met she was
singing and I
was playing for
her. This was a
meeting of two
married in April
first child, Despina Alymkan
Sydykov, was born Sept. 16,
Nikoleta and Aza are
immersed in the New York opera
scene, but she hasn’t forgotten her
roots. Last year, the couple inaugu-rated
the Wilmington Music Festival, a
nonprofit arts organization designed to
promote the music they love through per-formance
“I wanted to give back to my hometown,” she
says. “I love it here, and I love the people here. I felt
like I had something to offer.”
The showcase then was a one-night event at Thalian Hall.
This year, the Festival takes place from Nov. 9-16, with perfor-mances
scheduled the first two nights at Beckwith Recital Hall on
Michael has no regrets. It’s nice to hear the accolades, to be called
“the Carolina Caruso,” but he doesn’t ponder what might have been.
He’s very content being a full-time doctor and part-time singer.
“That baseball movie with Kevin Costner, ‘Field of Dreams,’
remember the guy who was a doctor?” he says. “Somebody said to
him, ‘Don’t you think it was terrible that you didn’t get to have that
one day in the majors?’ He said, ‘No, I’d feel terrible if I’d only had
one day as a doctor.’”
Nikoleta Rallis Sydykov performs with her husband, Aza Sydykov, at Merkin Concert Hall
in New York in 2017.