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Opera Now: Rossini in the blood

Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka has recently been named artist-in-residence by the Munich Radio Orchestra. They launch their new artistic relationship with the release of an album of Rossini arias that should tempt even the most jaded palate. Francis Muzzu met Rebeka to discuss the new recording and other projects on the near horizon.

Marina Rebeka has been making quite an impression on the opera world with her attractive stage presence and the pearl-like lustre of her voice, glinting with flashes of drama. Ivan Repušić, the Munich Radio Orchestra’s recently appointed chief conductor, remembered the soprano from conducting her Traviata in Berlin in 2015; the following year she stood in for Sonya Yoncheva at the last minute to triumph as Thaïs alongside Plácido Domingo with the orchestra at Salzburg. Captivated by the soprano’s confident artistry, Repušić invited Rebeka to become the Rundfunkorchester’s first artist-in-residence. The Rossini album Amor Fatale was already recorded before the residency, so when Repušić considered conducting Verdi’s Luisa Miller, Rebeka was first choice for the title role. A concert performance follows his autumn at the Prinzregentheater in Munich.

‘I was very honoured to be asked’, says Rebeka.’It came at a good moment for me. Luisa’s a big role, a complex personality, with lots of coloratura and some heavy singing. The first act is so free, but the finale is really long and high, and you can’t be tired.’ Not that stamina is a problem: the soprano points out that she took on five new roles in eight months rat, and Luisa is also new to her, alongside her first Amelia in Simon Boccanegra in Vienna next year. ‘Some roles you can learn really quickly,’ she says. ‘I studied a lot of Verdi in Italy – in the composer’s homeland of Busseto and Parma  – and I absorbed the style and the feeling for it.’ She is nevertheless happy to debut the role of Luisa in concert: ‘Sometimes when you are in a staged production you can’t follow the composer perfectly from moment to moment. To stay authentic to the composer’s will, it’s good to have the score in front of you to begin with. Once it’s in your muscles, you can go onstage.’

Rossini, meanwhile, is deeply engrained into Rebeka’s muscle memory and on the evidence of the new CD, the composer’s style runs in her blood: she studied at the Rossini Academy in Pesaro – Rossini’s birthplace and a shrine to his legacy, with its festival each summer – and her artistic destiny has been linked to his music. ‘Rossini was a completely unexpected choice for me in the beginning, as it’s so difficult. There’s so much text in the recitatives – but never say never!

Read the rest of the interview on Opera Now