It’s so simple: you dial a phone number. A dark, warm, sweet voice answers the call with: “Hello, with Marilyn”. And gone are the nerves. We talk much longer than the half hour time limit I’ve got. And there is plenty of laughter.
On 16 January 2003 she turned seventy and at the same time she celebrated her official debut fifty years ago. To mark the occasion, she released a CD, which she compiled herself. ” Have you heard it yet?” she asks. ” I’ m quite proud of it. It contains both studio and live recordings. All chosen by myself”.
“Seventy, my God, where did the time go? I made my debut in opera when I was twenty years old, but I sang my entire life. I actually made my debut when I was two years old, so I’ve been singing for almost 70 years. My father was a semi-professional singer, a tenor with a beautiful voice. He was my first teacher, my mentor. I started singing lessons when I was 5 years old, something I won’t recommend to anyone. Too early.”
When she was twenty her father died. And she left for Europe. Was there any connection?
“Pure coincidence. My European plans were already fixed for some time. He developed an acute form of leukaemia, and at that time you died of it quickly. He was diagnosed on Sunday and was already dead on Wednesday. But I was on my way to Europe. With a Dutch ship by the way, which was called ‘Maasdam’.”
Marylin Horne started out as a soprano and then became one of the greatest mezzo’s in history.
“Young girls don’t have low notes, and I was a young girl. As I got older, I was asked more and more if I was sure that I was a soprano, well, I was sure of that. In the Gelsenkirchen opera I sang heavy soprano roles, like Minnie in La Fanciulla del West. And Marie in Wozzeck, a role that brought me fame and happiness. I sang it in Covent Garden, and later in Los Angeles. Luckily there are pirate recordings so I can listen to them now. I am very grateful to the ‘pirates’ because I never recorded my own performances. And it’s live. When you’ re an opera singer, you sing opera live, on stage.”
Marilyn Horne sings Marie in Wozzeck in a pirate recording from 1966:
Her repertoire is huge: from Gesualdo to contemporary music, opera, songs and musicals.