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Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

‘Never was such advertisement for a film!’: Thomas Kemp and the OAE present a film of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Oxford Lieder Festival

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 26th January 1911. Almost fifteen years to the day, on 10th January 1926, the theatre hosted another Rosenkavalier ‘premiere’, with the screening of a silent film version of the opera, directed by Robert Wiene - best known for his expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The two-act scenario had been devised by Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the screening was accompanied by a symphony orchestra which Strauss himself conducted.

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Natalya Romaniw: 'one of the outstanding sopranos of her generation’

There can hardly be a dry eye in the house, at the ‘Theatre in the Woods’ at West Horsley Place - Grange Park Opera’s new home - when, in Act 3 of Janáček's first mature opera, Natalya Romaniw’s Jenůfa realises that the tiny child whose frozen body has been discovered under the ice is her own dead son.

Elizabeth Llewellyn: Investec Opera Holland Park stages Puccini's La Rondine

It’s six or so years ago since soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn appeared as an exciting and highly acclaimed new voice on the UK operatic stage, with critics praising her ‘ravishing account’ (The Stage) of Mozart’s Countess in Investec Opera Holland Park’s 2011 Le nozze di Figaro in which ‘Porgi, amor’ was a ‘highlight of the evening’.

Dougie Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera: in conversation

One year ago, tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation rather than for cooperation, but Douglas (Dougie) Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera, is an energetic one-man counterforce with a dynamic conviction that art and culture are strengthened by participation and collaboration; values which, alongside excellence and a spirit of adventure, have seen Garsington Opera acquire increasing renown and esteem on the international stage during his tenure, since 2012.

A Chat With Italian Conductor Riccardo Frizza

Riccardo Frizza is a young Italian conductor whose performances in Europe and the United States are getting rave reviews. He tells us of his love for the operas of Verdi, Bellini, and particularly Donizetti.

And London Burned: in conversation with Raphaela Papadakis

Raphaela Papadakis seems to like ‘playing with fire’. After her acclaimed performance as the put-upon maid, Anna, in Independent Opera’s production of Šimon Voseček’s Beidermann and the Arsonists at Sadler’s Wells last year, she is currently rehearsing for the premiere this week of And London Burned, a new opera by Matt Rogers which has been commissioned by Temple Music Foundation to commemorate the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London.

Oxford Lieder Festival: in conversation with Julius Drake

In October 2014, the Oxford Lieder Festival - under its imaginative and intrepid founder, Sholto Kynoch - fulfilled an incredibly ambitious goal: to perform Schubert’s entire corpus of songs - more than 600 - and, for three marvellous weeks, to bring Vienna to Oxford. ‘The Schubert Project’ was a magnificent celebration of the life and music of Franz Schubert: at its core lay the first complete performance of Schubert’s songs - including variants and alternative versions - in the UK.

Interview with Star of Florencia en el Amazonas, Elizabeth Caballero

Lyric soprano Elizabeth Caballero’s signature role is Violetta in La traviata, which she portrays with a compelling interpretation, focused sound, and elegant coloratura that floats through the opera house as naturally as waves on the ocean.

A Chat With Baritone Brian Mulligan

Maria Nockin interviews baritone Brian Mulligan.

An interview with Tobias Ringborg

I arrive at the Jerwood Space, where rehearsals are underway for Garsington Opera’s forthcoming production of Idomeneo, to find that the afternoon rehearsal has finished a little early.

A Conversation with Sir Nicholas Jackson

With its merry-go-round exchange of deluded and bewitched lovers, an orphan-turned-princess, a usurped prince, a jewel and a flower with magical properties, a march to the scaffold and a meddling ‘mistress-of-ceremonies’ who encourages the young lovers to disguise and deceive, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring has all the ingredients of an opera buffa.

A Chat With Up-and-Coming Conductor Kathleen Kelly

Kathleen Kelly is an internationally renowned pianist, coach, conductor, and master teacher. She was the first woman and first American named Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera.

Atsuto Sawakami — Sponsor of Italian Opera in Japan

Atsuto Sawakami is a slightly built man in his late sixties with impeccable, gentlemanly manners. He communicates a certain restless energy and his piercingly bright eyes reveal an undimmed appetite for life.

Mark Stone — Oxford Lieder Festival

‘Lieder v. Opera’? At first glance it might seem to be a pointless or nonsensical question.

Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

A Chat with Tenor René Barbera

American tenor René Barbera is fast making a name for himself as one of the top bel canto singers in opera houses around the world.

Stefano Mastrangelo — An Italian in Japan

I’m interviewing Stefano Mastrangelo in the immediate aftermath of his conducting La Traviata for the Chofu City Opera in Tokyo on 22 November 2014; he conveys an air at once of tiredness and exhilaration.



Vivica Genaux [Photo by Christian Steiner]
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.

Vivica Genaux — An Interview

Interviewed by Maria Nockin

Above: Vivica Genaux

Photos by Christian Steiner


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.

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