“You must allow your individuality to express itself”, said Nelly Miricioiu.
She played for us a video clip where she is Violetta Valery to Renato Bruson’s Giorgio Germont in La Traviata (Ravenna August 1989).
[Miriciou hadn’t exactly been keeping count, so she was surprised when a reporter recently told her she’d sung La Traviata (Violetta) 340 times all over the world!]
Miricioiu remembered that Bruson wanted to be centre-stage throughout!
If memory serves me right, I think she mentioned also that at this production she and Bruson had an altercation. He kept ordering her about in rehearsal, until she snapped at him “I’m not your slave!” and retired to her room. Even more awkwardly, they both shared the same agent, and he had to do the tightrope walk between the two to get them to work together. But they got over this and became friends.
Miricioiu spent some time talking to us on care of the vocal apparatus and being healthy. How do you look after the instrument?
Tenors in her time used to have bags and bags of medicine with them!
Miricioiu remembers Kraus giving her this advice: “Get yourself paid a lot, and take lots of holidays!”
Her husband Barry once said to her in exasperation: “You’re like an orchid!”
She also told us of the time she inadvertently damaged one of her vocal cords from exhaustion.
Her first guru when it comes to care of her voice apparatus is Dr. Eddie Khambatta, laryngologist and voice expert. “Eddie Khambatta understands the singer, her psychology”.
She has rung him up for his advice from around the world, and trusts him implicitly.
“Vocality is something very very relative and fragile. You could be fine when you arrive at the opera house, but be a wreck five minutes before the performance begins.”
Miricioiu played us a clip, a declamato passage from Fraancesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur:
This is a combination of text and music, something that she, the “Singing actress” is particularly renowned for.
She then played for us an extract from Gaetano Donizetti’s Rosmonda d’Inghilterra featuring Renée Fleming and her in the ‘Confrontation Scene’:
“I love her voice, her humility”, she said of Fleming. Although much is made of rivalry between divas, Miricioiu has an excellent relationship with Fleming.
She alluded (I forget the context) to the composer Giovanni Pacini (1796-1867): “His music is like Verdi and Puccini together in bel canto style”. Do click on the link to read more about him.
On music and interpretation: “Always allow the music to triumph”.
“Always remember that it was the genius of the composer that allowed you to express yourself.”
“I’d rather have someone make mistakes, but who makes feels real to me.”
“You are the music”.
There is no place for negativity in a singer’s life.
Maria Callas used to say “My role starts in the dressing-room.” Miricioiu says her role begins even before, when she sets out from home.
Miricioiu says has been described as the “last Dinosaur”, one of the few singers from yesteryear. She is one of only three sopranos over sixty still singing actively.
At the conclusion, Miricioiu fielded questions from the audience.
She gives her students this advice when they go to audition: Breathe, Breathe, Breathe.
“The way you walk on the stage…That’s the music, not you.”
With her years of experience, she can tell by the way a singer walks on stage, how his/her performance is going to be.
Someone in the audience went into the technicalities of singing. “There is no agility in my singing for the sake of it, just to show off. It’s always there in context, to serve the music.”
In learning and teaching trills: start with a mordent and build slowly.
For legato passage: Practice with chromatic increments first just at the beginning and at the end, and then build upon that. ( I hope I understood this correctly).
She made the statement “Imperfection is probably the most beautiful piece of art”, probably a reference to the fact that perfection is an ideal? Or just that there is beauty even in imperfection?
Having said that, she also advises: “Be over-prepared. Practise like there is no tomorrow.”
“A gift comes with responsibility.” She said this more than once during the evening.
A young aspiring singer in the audience asked what advice Miricioiu had for him. She said:
Get a good teacher.
In general, just be happy.”
Miricioiu lauded the efforts of the NCPA, and Khushroo Suntook in particular, for getting classical music to India and hosting evenings such as these where artists can candidly interact with audiences. It bodes well for the arts.
She often speaks to God, the Higher Power, before a performance: “I know You love me and I know that You will not leave me.”