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Fans of the statuesque blonde Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča look forward to her stage performances, especially Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, scheduled for January-February 2020 at the Metropolitan Opera.

Yet even they might admit that Garanča, who turns 43 this year, might be a trifle young to be writing her memoirs. After all, didn’t Plácido Domingo raise some eyebrows when he produced an autobiography, My First Forty Years, back in 1983? Garanča’s book is a revised, updated version of a book that first appeared six years ago, produced during her second maternity leave from a then-budding career. It allows Garanča’s essentially likeable personality to permeate from behind that cool Baltic façade.

She lucidly admits that despite the popular acclaim she has received as Rosina in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, she wishes that it were not her Metropolitan Opera debut role, because ‘Rossini operas reveal my limitations’. Rosina requires ‘incredible vocal flexibility’, and is written for high mezzo or soprano. This ‘does not belong to my core repertoire, because [Rossini] loves coloratura, and I’m not predestined for that.’ Garanča adds that the character of Rosina is ‘only moderately interesting’, due to little ‘personality development’ through the opera.

Multilingual, she proudly speaks Russian with Anna Netrebko, German with Jonas Kaufmann, Spanish with Marcelo Álvarez, and Italian with Roberto Alagna.’ Of course, Alagna is French, but Garanča admits to ‘real deficits’ in that language’. For a mezzo who sings such Gallic operas as Werther, Carmen, Les Troyens, La Navarraise, The Tales of Hoffmann, and indeed La damnation de Faust, this may be an issue.

Fame has brought the downside of online notoriety. ‘The internet does not forget,’ Garanča explains. ‘I wish I could, for example, destroy multiple YouTube links,’ presenting her on days when she was under par vocally, emotionally, or musically. She would also prefer to delete online interviews in which the ‘journalist hurt me with his questions or irritated me in order to create something “special”.’

She finds solace in home and family: ‘Countless singers have united child-raising and careers: Anna Netrebko has a son and sings. Diana Damrau has two children, Anne Sofie von Otter is also a mother, as is Renée Fleming. So why should it go wrong with me? And even if it went wrong, the risk would be worth it.’

Benjamin Ivry Read the full review on Agora Classica

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