Marina Rebeka talks about Spirito
There is such a large amount of literature covering the Bel Canto repertoire and its historical background written by historians, specialists, and musicologists, that I thought I would skip the cold facts that can be found elsewhere and rather share with you my personal relationship and experience with this music and style.
Let’s begin by saying that Bel Canto, for me, is a personal experience. I was thirteen years old when I heard opera for the first time. It was Bellini’s “Norma”. This seemingly small event catalyzed the driving force to become an opera singer and to perform this music—music that has a beating heart and a spirit.
Maybe this is the reason why this particular type of music is known as Bel Canto—Beautiful Singing—because of the deep emotions and unique beauty carried by the voice should lead the listener to catharsis and complete empathy with the interpreter.
This new album, Spirito, came to be as the conjunction of three strong passions in my life: love for Bel Canto, my attraction to manuscripts (originally called autographs), and a need for challenges.
In 2012, while recording Rossini’s “Petite messe solenelle” in Rome with Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra and Chorus of Auditorium Santa Cecilia, I had the chance to see first hand how big of a difference there is between a composer’s manuscript and the critical edition (the music that is actually being performed) of the same work.
The reason for this is that after creating his opera, the composer had to adapt his music to the actual singers, first interprets of the role, taking in consideration their vocal abilities and whims, but also to the degree of success of the premiere; the wishes of the impresarios who financed the productions; and other different reasons.
As we all know, the Opera was the place where people came almost every night to see and be seen, to socialize and to further business deals, to gossip and to flirt, and even to eat and have fun. To attract the public attention, the singer had to be not only convincing and skillful, but also musically competent enough to write her or his own variations every night, creating interesting coloraturas and turns of expression, always keeping the correct sense of style that the composer had laid in the work.
Musicologists study this whole process and this is how different critical editions of the same pieces are done. For this album I wanted to take the composer’s initial vision and bring it back to life. Therefore I traveled the world searching for the original manuscripts, and following the tradition of bel canto, I composed my own variations where needed. With the help of Latvian National Opera and Ballet musical librarian Maria Beate Straujupe, we created this new musical edition specially for this album.
The choice of arias for this recording was based on the idea of joining together the most known and emotionally extreme moments. These scenes are prayers, death scenes and mad scenes. Some characters were real historical people, like Mary Stewart and Anne Boleyn, others – invented characters, like Bellini’s Norma, Imogene in “Il Pirata”, or Julia in Spontini’s “La Vestale”. The spirit of those characters and their stories travel through time to us in music and remain alive.
Through my years onstage I have seen this phenomenon many times, most remarkably, I’ve seen people moved to tears after a performance, and then saying that it had been their first time at the opera.
As a singer, I have the honor and responsibility to speak to your hearts and stir your emotions, and I hope I succeed in doing so, with this beautiful music of Bel Canto.