30 Dec 2011

Vivica Genaux — An Interview

I spoke with Vivica Genaux in December 2011, when she stopped in New York at the end of one of her concert tours.

The Alaskan mezzo- soprano now spends most of her time in Europe and only visits Alaska on special occasions. When we spoke, she was visiting a friend with a lovely home in the city where Vivica could sit back with a latte and talk to this reporter.

MN: Where do you live now?

VG: In my suitcases! I just got a wonderful new pair in Oviedo, Spain. My husband is Italian and we have a home outside of Venice, but I’m not there very much, so I’m not sure I can say I live there. I still have a home in Fairbanks, Alaska and one in Pennsylvania, but I’m not in any of those places for long. That’s why my suitcases are more my home than any place else. If I do an opera production, however, I get the chance to stay in one place for a month. Many musicians travel all the time. I know that young players in the Baroque bands with whom I work often get burned out because of all the travel. Although it is sometimes difficult when your voice is your instrument, at least you don’t have to pay extra to bring it with you on an airplane. I frequently travel with orchestras and they often have problems because of lack of understanding on the part of airlines. One time we were sitting at a gate for forty minutes without knowing why we could not board the plane. Finally, a representative of the airline came on the loud speaker and apologized for the delay. She laughed heartily when she said they eventually realized that cellos are people too, because they require seats.

MN: Are you interested in the newest technical innovations for musicians?

VG: Yes, I keep all my scores on my computer so they travel with me. For Baroque music, particularly, you cannot always find what you need online. You may need to work from an edition that is exclusive to the group with which you are singing. Scores of the same piece often differ because the composer changed some notes for performances with a second cast. I like working on the computer and I put in the cadenzas for the Vivaldi arias that we are doing on our upcoming United States tour. I was given the manuscript and I put it into a program called Sibelius. Generally, I’m the person who prints out the part for each musician. I like doing that kind of work because it takes my brain off other things and I don’t have to use my voice to do it. In September I did a recording that was originally scheduled to contain duets. The soprano who was to sing with me became ill at the last moment, however. They asked me if I could do a solo program and luckily, I had all my scores on my laptop. I was able to print out all the parts, so within the space of four hours, I was able to completely change directions on that recording.


MN: How did you meet your husband?

VG: Although he’s not in the business of opera, I met him through EPCASO (The Ezio Pinza Council for American Singers of Opera), a program with which I was working a few years ago in Pittsburgh. My voice teacher, Claudia Pinza, is the director. Massimo had lived in that area for many years and he knew where to get anything that EPCASO needed, whether it was the rental of a piano, lights for a concert, etc. He would facilitate whatever was lacking and he also helped with public outreach for the program itself. I met him in 1992 when I first attended EPCASO. When I finished the program four years later, we began to date. Now he is the Director of Water Management, Flood Control, and Irrigation for an area near Venice. He was here with me recently when I sang with Nicholas McGegan in San Francisco. From there we went to Las Vegas, a city I had never visited. Then we drove around to see Bryce Canyon, the Hoover Dam, and the Glen Canyon Dam. Because Massimo is in water management, the huge dams that supply water to desert cities fascinated him.

MN: How often do you get back to Alaska or Pennsylvania?

VG: I am in Alaska a couple of weeks each year. Massimo and I are going there in March because I want him to experience winter in Alaska and enjoy the Ice Festival in Fairbanks. It’s been years since I was there for that. It’s a long trip from Italy, but we were there last August. I spent a couple of weeks in December with my teacher in Pittsburgh. Then I went back to Europe. Before I return for the tour of the States with Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante, I have concerts in Caen and Vienna as well as a recording with Fabio, which will be done in Vienna. I go to Los Angeles on January 23, after rehearsals in Parma. I’m really excited to be singing in Disney Hall on January 25. I was there for one of the first concerts held in the new building. At that time people said that the wood of the hall would mature and the acoustics would get warmer. I am curious to hear the difference now. At that early concert, I remember that one of the instrumentalists blew his nose and you could hear it all over the hall! It was phenomenal how that sound carried.

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to come to the States with Fabio and Europa Galante. It’s my first time singing Baroque music with a Baroque band here. Their presence on stage and their musicality is phenomenal. Fabio conducts while playing the violin just as Vivaldi did. I love the idea of sharing this wonderful music with American audiences that are mainly familiar with the Baroque sound on recordings. To hear and see it live will be a lot of fun. They have such a good time playing. There is energy, concentration and just plain joy in their performances and it’s an honor to sing with them. I’m really excited about it.