<< -- 5 -- Maria Nockin HONEST WORK
MN: How did you get started doing Baroque Music?
VG: I never knew that Baroque music could be an option for me because I had only heard recordings in which it was sung with little or no vibrato. I did not like that kind of sound, thinking that it offered very few possibilities for expression. As a result, I had done only Rossini for the first three years of my career. At that time I did not feel very comfortable with Donizetti or Bellini and I would only take that kind of role once a year. I did not have a very strong background in opera growing up, so I did not know the repertoire very well and I was always asking people what I should do.
Finally, someone said I should sing the music of Johann Adolf Hasse, the most famous composer of the 1750s. As it turned out, and this may just have been coincidence, a month later I was asked to audition at the Berlin Staatsoper for conductor René Jacobs, who was casting Hasse's Solimano. At that audition I did not have any Baroque arias prepared so I sang my usual bel canto coloratura and he hired me on the spot. It was the first time I was hired like that at an audition.
Now my career is much more enjoyable because people come to see my performances rather than asking me to audition. I was talking to a young singer the other day and she said she was only able to sing at fifty percent of her capacity at auditions. Even though I did well in competitions, I was only able to demonstrate about fifty to seventy percent of my ability in auditions because you only get to sing two arias. In a competition you sing in several rounds and there is some strategy involved.
Vivica Genaux in the title role of 'Ariodante' for San Diego Opera. Photo © M L Hart
Between the time of the audition with René and the Solimano performances I did my first Baroque opera, Ariodante, in Dallas. Only later did I find out that it is one of the most difficult roles you can sing. There I was starting out with it, but it went really well and I had a great time. John Copley was the stage director and I learned a great deal from him in terms of the traditions of staging Baroque opera. It's a whole different way of staging and I find singing that music very different from doing bel canto repertoire.
Copyright © 13 June 2004
Maria Nockin, Arizona, USA