Concerts underway, Prague Spring welcomes international guests

Prague Spring venue - Municipal House, Smetana Hall

The Prague Spring classical music festival is well into its first week, and has welcomed its first foreign guests. The American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore talked with journalists before her concert on Wednesday. Alena Skodova was among them and brings back this report:

Prague Spring venue - Municipal House,  Smetana Hall
Jennifer Larmore's operatic debut in Mozart's opera "La clemenza di Tito" in 1986 marked the start of a brilliant international career, performing on the world's major concert, opera and recital stages. Miss Larmore was in Prague for three days, diligently rehearsing for Wednesday's performance with the Prague National Theatre orchestra and the Italian conductor Marco Guidarini.

But there are many outstanding mezzo-soprano voices in the world, certainly providing some tough competition.

"Many times I'm doing an interview, the interviewer asks 'There are many wonderful mezzo sopranos singing, where have they all come from?' and 'What do you feel about the competition?' And I must reply that there have always been a lot of good mezzo sopranos but the roles themselves have not been all that great, normally the mezzo soprano had been stuck in the roles of the mother, the witch or the courtesan.

"As the time went on and people like Marilyn Horne forged the path for us, they made it possible for us to do the leading roles and of course, that has brought mezzo soprano to the forefront. When someone turns on the radio, for example, and they hear my voice, they can readily recognise, 'Yes, this is Jennifer Larmore,' because we are very unique in our own ways. I would also say I'm never ever in a competition with anyone, but me."

At her Prague concert, Miss Larmore sang arias from operas by Handel, Mozart and Rossini.

"I'm rather selfish when I'm putting together programmes because I'm thinking that if it's repertoire that I enjoy then maybe the audience will too, but it wasn't just me who was putting together the programme, of course the Maestro and I had many phone calls back and forth discussing what we should do and it was actually his idea to put Handel in the programme because he said it's a very knowledgeable city, very knowledgeable audience and said 'don't be afraid to put things which you do best.'"

And does Ms Larmore plan to include music by Czech composers in her repertoire?

"I would like to speak a bit of your language before I try to attempt to sing anything in it. So give me a little while and hopefully I'll do that."