When I reached her last week via Skype for this interview, she was already there for rehearsals, and seemed lively and engaged. Would this be a video interview, she wanted to know? I said it would be text only, and she answered, “I thought if we did video I would need to do my makeup. I don’t look quite diva-ish,” and laughed.
VAN: LISTENING TO YOUR MOZART ALBUM, I WAS WONDERING: ARE YOU INTERESTED IN HISTORICAL PERFORMANCE?
Marina Rebeka: Absolutely. I’m a huge fan of looking at manuscripts. Once in my life I had the experience of doing an opera with the real pitch. It was Micaëla [from “Carmen”] in Baden-Baden, and it was not in A = 440 Hz, it was in A = 436 Hz. And it was really great. You can’t quite hear that it’s a different tonality—somehow, it just sounds different, it’s milder, softer. It’s great when you have a chance to hear how it used to be, approximately. Because we can’t change our vocal technique, we can’t reproduce exactly what it meant to be in that time.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MANUSCRIPTS YOU’VE STUDIED FOR ROLES?
Mostly Rossini, because I’m considered, let’s say, one of the best Rossinian singers in the world. I was in Pesaro, Italy; it was interesting for me to go to the archives and look at the manuscripts of the arias. I also had a collaboration with Venice, with the Archivio Teatro La Fenice, I was searching for manuscripts of “Semiramide.” And I found a whole history of how it was taken away from the opera house because there was a fire, and so it’s in a bank. The director of the opera was very nice, and he sent me the pictures of it—I have it in my phone. I was also in Rome, at the Santa Cecilia, and the director of the library there showed me the manuscript of “Norma.”