• Elīna Garanča: Always Striving for New Heights

    As her Carnegie Hall and New York recital debut approaches, we spoke with Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča about the love-themed program for the concert, her preparations, and her inspirations. What emerged was a picture of an artist who loves to perform lied and who refuses to become complacent about her artistry and career.

    Carnegie Hall: On April 6, you team up with Kevin Murphy for your recital debut at Carnegie Hall. How are you feeling about making your debut in the big hall?

    Elīna Garanča: I am very excited. After being in New York so many times in opera repertoire, I can finally do something that I dearly love as well—lied. I'm a bit nervous as well, because in a lied recital you are all alone on stage and can't hide behind colleagues or costumes. You are 2x40 minutes non-stop on stage. But I love lied because one finally has all the time on earth to make the words run or walk in the tempo you want.

    CH: The program for your concert at Carnegie Hall centers on a theme of love in all its phases. How did this concept emerge and—since love is a theme in so many songs—how did you subsequently narrow down your choice of repertoire for the recital program?

    EG: I generally like to put themes in my recitals. My "cornerstone" for this recital was Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben, which is probably my favorite lied cycle at the moment. So the rest of the program was chosen around that. The fact that everything is in German was not intentional, just coincidence.

    CH: What are the unique challenges involved with performing recitals as opposed to opera roles?

    EG: I think it's the fact, as I said above, that you are alone on stage with a pianist, and both of you have all the time to create whatever you two want. I am very happy that Kevin has agreed to accompany me because he really feels the voice and breathes with a singer. Specifically in lied recital, that's the A-B-C. When we met for the first time and did some songs together, I told him, "See you in recital! We don't need to rehearse because you feel and hear everything that I do, and I feel that I am carried on your hand through every song."

    CH: How does your preparation differ from recitals to opera?

    EG: For me, it is like preparing a new role. I start with reading the text and imagining how it would go with other songs. I see music in pictures and colors. For me, it's very important to have a "painting" in my head for each song. I also sometimes need to "re-locate" my voice with a finer tuning because often in opera you get used to big orchestral sounds or big stages, like the Met—4,000 people—one needs a very well-projected voice to be able to be heard up to the top balcony. So in lied, in my opinion, everything is much more delicate. Sometimes I need to develop a bit more stamina, because in opera you sing a duet or aria, then you rest, then there is the ensemble, but in lied, there is solo after a solo. And it's nice to finish the recital and still have your voice in fresh condition.

    CH: Which singers/artists inspired you to become a professional singer (and continue to inspire you)?

    EG: I would never be able to name one or two. I am inspired by every singer, every colleague of mine who goes in front of an audience and wants to create music. I look up to all the artists who are not stopped by their successes, but want to look for new ideas and achievements. I always thought and still think that nobody is perfect for every repertoire, so there are some singers that I like more in Strauss, some more in Brahms, and some more in Verdi. I think the key is to find whatever you are looking for yourself. Of course I listen to some recordings, but it's not to copy them—it's for ideas, but I cannot always apply them to my voice because every voice is different and every emotional world is different.

    CH: What piece that you yourself have recorded is your favorite?

    EG: Recordings for me are little memories of something that was real at that moment. Unfortunately or fortunately I am very rarely satisfied with myself. Listening to recordings of mine from the past and being satisfied would mean that I don't hear the possible improvement or development that I would be able to achieve today. I could say, for example, the Met's Carmen DVD was a great experience—and I am quite proud of it—but its not my favorite ... there are too many things that today I would be doing differently. The same applies to any CD or any HD transmission. I truly believe that music is an emotional and musical experience of the moment; a recording will never be able to capture it at its best, because we can't record the aura of the theater, the energy of the public or vibrations in the air.

    Related: April 6, Elīna Garanča | Kevin Murphy