INTERVIEW FOR THE CONCERT AT MUSIKVEREIN / by Dmitri Akerman

"The Magazine of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of Music Lovers) in Vienna, January 2015

Vocal as a goldsmithery

Margarita Gritskova, mezzo-soprano

From St. Petersburg to the Vienna State Opera and from the Opera on to the „ Lied.Bühne” („Song.Stage”, the joint concert series of the Society of Music Lovers and the Vienna State Opera) in the Glass Hall (Gläserner Saal): the young Russian Margarita Gritskova (mezzo-soprano) made her debut at the Musikverein.

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„You, lovely art, in how many grey hours,

When life's mad tumult wraps around me,

Have you kindled my heart to warm love,

Have you transported me into a better world,

Transported into a better world!“

The words, poetized by Franz von Schober and composed by Franz Schubert become immortal. With this declaration of love "An die Musik" ("To Music") Margarita Gritskova opens her evening of lieder in cycle „Lied.Bühne” („Song.Stage”), which gives the young member of the ensemble at the Vienna State Opera the possibility to represent herself as a lied singer at the Musikverein.

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Lieder – round trip

This evening will be a double premiere for a singer, who was born in St.Petersburg in 1987,: it’s her debut at the Musikverein and it’s her first evening of lieder at once: „It’s certainly exciting. I prepared myself since summer. That’s the first evening, on which I stay for two hours for audience and Lieder, not singing opera arias. I think it’s very difficult. An evening of Lieder is a difficult thing. You are closer to the audience; you have to sing more nuanced. With Opera I’ve already gained some experience, with Lieder just a little. But already during my studies I was interested in singing the Lieder!“ She graduated from the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. There was also one class for chamber music, but the central point of her education was the opera singing, the artist tells us.

Thomas Lausmann, the pianist, the Solokorrepetition, musical and scenic manager at the Vienna State Opera has helped her together with the teacher of singing to set the program, which turned out to be tremendous like a small round-trip through the genre of Lied. At the beginning were the German works of Schuber, Brahms and Strauss, then came the Russian works of Tschaikowskij and Rachmaninow, the second part was French with the works of Debussy, Massenet, Ravel and Fauré and finally she finished the evening with the Spanish work of Manuel de Fallas „Siete canciones populares españolas“ („Seven Spanish Folksongs”).

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Artistic repoussé

Gritskova has already understood the hard work – three German composers alone request their own style. She listens to different recordings to get the feeling for these composers, to improve the pronunciation in order to penetrate into the deepness of German Lieder. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf are the examples for her: „There are a lot of different Interpretations from many wonderful singers. But of course we have to find our own road.” In the works of de Falla immediately comes Teresa Berganza to her mind.

Her first experience collected Gritskova in Spain with José Carreras. He took the young Russian in September 2013 for his Matinée at the State Opera to sing one of Zarzuela in duet. To interpret the Lieder is a wonderful adventure; she regrets that the Lied in Russia isn’t of the same significance as in the German speaking area. She would wish that the interest to Lied would become a little stronger, because „at the moment the Lied lost its popularity. Probably, because it’s more challenging both for opera singer and for the audience. It’s a scrupulous work, an artistic repoussé like the work of goldsmith! “

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Attracted from the piano

From the very childhood Margarita Gritskova was busy with the music. She wasn’t from a family of musicians. Her mother plays a little bit guitar, her father, who has no voice, but has a good ear for music as she later understood, learnt the piano by himself. There was a pianino (Russian for „piano”) at home. So it drew little Margarita’s attention and soon she went to the music school. At this school she also sang at the choir – that was some special feeling for her.

Afterwards she was in the Children's choir of the radio and already here she began as the soloist. She traveled with this choir of the radio to Germany, Spain and to Japan. The program of the tour was so tight that the children saw practically nothing from these foreign countries: „In Japan we always had two concerts a day, each two hours. For children it’s too much, but we did it with pleasure. That’s a great experience“,she remembers.

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Discovery

At the age of sixteen, she went to the institution of higher education. At the age of 22 she graduated. She thought to become a postgraduate student in one of the theaters. However it came in another way. She was discovered from her music agent, imparting she has an audition in Weimar. Suddenly she got the contract for two years at the Deutsche Nationaltheater Weimar without speaking a word of German.

Not a simple Start: „The most difficult thing was, that I didn’t have any stage experience. During my studies I only sang Cherubino once on the stage. There are much more singing actors in Germany as in Russia. I felt as if I came from the museum. I’ve seen what the other on the stage did and thought: Mamma Mia! I was scared and wanted to go away, it seemed to be too complicated. My first performance was in Weimar „Le nozze di Figaro” („The Marriage of Figaro”). The stage director replaced me shortly for the Premiere with the cover. I wasn’t angry, I understood, I must get experience. After that everything was better, I’ve learnt a lot in Weimar.“

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Success and dreams

After two years in Germany, the next station was Vienna where, after the audition, she joined the ensemble: „I would never have thought I would sing so fast at such an important opera house“, told the singer. In Vienna she got the heart of the audience with her small role of Rosina in Rossini’s „Il barbiere di Siviglia“ („The Barber of Seville”) and Angelina in „La Cenerentola“.

The climax of her performances was the role of Idamante from the opera seria „Idomeneo“

by Mozart past autumn. The role brought her an enormous private success. Certainly she dreams from Carmen and the other major mezzo-parts. Nevertheless, she wants to start, she doesn’t mind even the fast carriers. In any case, she is curious. She is eager to learn new and to sing, probably something contemporary as jazz which she so loves. „Music is just terrific“, tells the young singer, - whereby we’re by lovely art."

Mag. Stefan Musil ist freier Kulturjournalist in Wien. Oktober 2014