Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

I always loved to sing; in fact, I can’t imagine a life without being allowed to sing.

Singing makes me feel free, and what is a life without freedom? I suppose there are many ways of expressing oneself, but for me, the most natural is to sing. I like the fact that my body is my instrument, and that I can use it to communicate with an audience. It’s such a direct transfer of emotion from my heart to other hearts. I never thought there would be another path for me. That’s my path.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My music teacher in high school, Tim Bruneau, had a big impact on the way I listen to and think about music. He taught the chamber choir at the girls’ school I attended in Los Angeles, and we rehearsed every day. He always shared the latest recordings with us. We listened to incredible singers (mostly women) every day: Jessye Norman, Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, Cecilia Bartoli, Barbara Bonney… He taught us to listen for colour and tone, for style, to study how the singers used their breath – those were very formative years. I know my love for lieder and art song began then. In terms of career, the best advice I ever received was from my friend Frederic Alden, who is a businessman. He told me to “look at what everyone else is doing and do something different.”

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Producing my brand-new album ‘The Wild Song’ on my own has been particularly challenging. Several people told me to give the recording to a label and let them produce it, but I had invested so much of myself in its creation that I thought it would be better to produce the album myself. I wanted to make a very beautiful object, and I knew that record labels didn’t do that anymore. I’m thrilled the album has been so well received.

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Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of ‘The Wild Song’. I set out to make a recording that was very different from anything I had ever heard. I wanted to mix classical art song with spoken poetry and electronic music. Although I feared that an album like ‘The Wild Song’, which is rather non-traditional, would be rejected by the classical community, I have been delighted by the classical community’s embrace of it. To me, that means our community is evolving, which I think is very necessary in our intensely connected and computerised world. The biggest musical challenge in the project was ensuring the transitions between the different genres felt organic, and I think Mychael Danna’s electronic interludes work very effectively as bridges between Britten’s songs and W B Yeats’ poems.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I have been a champion of women composers for a very long time, far before it was fashionable. Historically, there are so many who have not been given the attention they rightly deserve. I particularly love to sing Mel Bonis’ mélodies and Barbara Strozzi’s vocal music. However, Clara Schumann composed my favourite lieder, and I would say my favourite song of all is Liebst du um Schönheit. I love Rückert’s poem about loving for love’s sake. When it comes down to it, the only thing that truly matters, is love.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I love words. My repertoire choices are always made based on the poetry. If I can’t relate to the words or the poem, I can’t sing the song. Music always has to come from the heart, so I have to be able to relate to the poetry.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

My dream is to perform ‘The Wild Song’ at the Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Somehow it would be going full circle— taking a dream I created in Europe back home with me.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My favourite living singers are Barbara Bonney and Thomas Hampson. I absolutely adore Barbara Bonney’s voice, both for its purity and force, and I find it very sad that she is not performing anymore. What fascinates me with Thomas Hampson is that he is able to create a very strong connection with the audience from the moment he sings the first note of a recital. I’ve never seen anyone else do that. It usually takes other singers an entire song or two. He is truly a master recitalist. As for singers ‘of old,’ I am a huge fan of Rita Streich. I don’t think there has ever been a more fabulous Zerbinetta. As for pianists of the “new generation,” I love listening to Víkingur Ólafsson. I’m also a big fan of Igor Levit.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I once gave a recital in the Royal Chapel in the Château de Versailles. It was such a glorious place to sing. Not only were acoustics incredible but the chapel itself is so incredibly beautiful. I very much like to sing in places with centuries of history; I like the idea of being part of that history.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Success is being able to do the next project that is blossoming in my imagination.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I think the main thing is to never give up. That’s obviously challenging on a hard day, or during a hard year, but it’s really important. My yogi friends often use a hashtag that says #practiceandalliscoming. We musicians should use the same hashtag. Practice. Don’t give up. Trust your instinct.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think we all carry perfect happiness inside ourselves all of the time. The challenge is being able to tap into it. Unfortunately, I believe most people never learn to tap into their true selves and never experience this. My yoga practice has taught me that peace and happiness are always available to us. I have a deep sense of contentment.

The Wild Song is available now

Review of The Wild Song


American by birth and Parisian by inclination, Marci Meth has been celebrated for her performances “imbued with charm and elegance” (Classica magazine). Nominated for the most promising recording by a young classical singer at the Orphées d’Or in Paris in 2009, her performances have been lauded by audiences at the Château de Versailles, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, St. James Piccadilly, as well as at venues in Paris, Stockholm, Brussels, Tokyo and Osaka. 

The creation of The Wild Song has occupied Marci for the past three years and has included the creation of a new record label, Modern Poetics. The Wild Song brings together Marci’s interests in poetry, music and film and is her vision of what the 19th century song recital looks and sounds like in the 21st century. 

Marci Meth earned her Postgraduate Diploma at the Royal College of Music in London and was awarded the Century Fund Prize for Early Music. She has studied singing with Ryland Davies, Jennifer Smith, Christine Barbaux and Marie-Claude Solanet. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Stanford University. 

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Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

I honestly don’t recall having a specific moment where I decided to make music my career! Both of my parents are professional instrumentalists at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, so I quite literally grew up in the Civic Opera House, learning music as my true mother tongue. I was even a little gingerbread munchkin in Lyric’s production of Hansel und Gretel when I was six! Genuinely terrified of the witch, I learned that we are able to experience the stories we tell on stage just as viscerally as our ‘real’ lives. I simply haven’t known any other way of living, so while I entertained the idea of other professions, I got hooked on always having an outlet to express myself and I can’t seem imagine doing anything else. Music is as much a lifestyle as it is a profession.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Most definitely my parents; there’s nothing like hearing Strauss played on the horn everyday growing up to influence a soprano! My folks started me on piano at the age of four and violin at seven before I got anywhere near singing lessons, but it became clear that voice was my calling when I began to sight-sing all my concertos, my violin conveniently resting on the lid of our piano. I must have been born with a singer’s brain because I could always learn music faster with my voice than with an instrument in hand! I was also really shaped by my time in the Chicago Children’s Choir, a boundary-busting organization dedicated to bringing kids of diverse socio-economic backgrounds together by exploring music of all genres and styles from across the globe. My time in CCC taught me that my work as an artist always has the potential to make a cultural or societal impact.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Something I have to consciously work at is staying grounded. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life, often getting swept away by my extremely active imagination which is often on the train to la-la-land. When I discovered yoga, I realized that I could help myself stay in the present if I choose to do so. Dedicating myself to a consistent mindfulness practice has completely changed my life, and I love it so much that I actually completed a yoga teacher training program last spring! It can be difficult to set time aside for self-care, but the impact of even ten minutes of stillness has such a large ripple effect throughout my mind-set, relationships, singing, and general well-being that I try my best to include some quality yoga-and-meditation-time each day.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Oof, I think I have two! Last summer, I was a Vocal Fellow at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, where I spent an idyllic four-weeks completely saturated in some of my favorite art song repertoire. In one of the final performances, I got to sink my teeth into some lesser-known, extremely romantic Joseph Marx lieder in a livestreamed recital (which is now on YouTube!), the perfect end to a perfect month. The other event which stands out for me is when I was 20 and performed the North American premiere of Jesse Jones’ One Bright Morning on tour with Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble to my hometown, Chicago. Seeing all my loved ones’ faces in the audience for my first big premiere made the occasion only that much more special. We recorded the piece and it’s going to be released on the Oberlin Music label sometime soon!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Joseph Schwantner’s Two Poems of Agueda Pizarro is a favorite of mine. I have a video of the work posted online and somehow Schwantner himself found it, tracked my website down, and sent me a lovely note about my performance! I most definitely screamed when I saw that a Pulitzer-Prize winning composer had popped up in my inbox.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Who my audience is plays a key role in what I choose to perform. I always try to find a balance between both obscure and familiar repertoire, but the calibration of the two depends on the occasion. Sometimes I aim to create an environment where listeners can turn inward and explore themselves more intimately and other times I hope to encourage empathy and an expansion of the definition of ‘self.’ My goal, always, is to use the energy of music to connect and heal. I strive to work from these intentions outwards, using music as the medium for sharing radical honesty and generosity.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I’m really looking forward to my Wigmore Hall debut with The Prince Consort this March, to say the least! So many of the most influential artists in music have performed in that intimate space; it’s where history itself is made. I also love singing in Preston Bradley Hall in Chicago’s Cultural Center, one of the lesser known gems in my hometown, because of its enormous Tiffany glass dome and view of Millennium Park. It feels like home!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Hannigan, Kurt Elling, Renée Fleming, Jonas Kaufman, Robert Glasper, Karina Gauvin, Frank Sinatra, Yo-Yo Ma, Beyoncé

What is your most memorable concert experience?

While I was a student at Oberlin, I played the role of Thérèse in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias, this crazy surrealist one-act where the main character denounces her femininity and goes off to regain authority of her life. In the first scene, as she rejects the restrictions of being a woman, she grows a beard and moustache….and her breasts fly away because they’re secretly balloons! I had a blast shocking the audience each night, so much so that I even choreographed a one-handed cartwheel into my staging just for the heck of it. I felt so free in our little surrealist world, buoyant enough let go of myself and explore the absurd.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Success for me comes down to honesty. Even though I am a recovering perfection addict, I still believe my best performances have been the ones where my feet were firmly planted on the ground, my head was held high, and my heart beat proudly on my sleeve, regardless of miscellaneous mistakes and mishaps. Vulnerability is often both a performer’s kryptonite and Achilles’ heal, so I call it a success when I’ve allowed myself to be entirely generous with my spirit and had a little fun while I was at it.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

We are first and foremost human beings; our art can only be born out of our humanity.

On a more tangible level, I want to emphasize that our minds and bodies are as much our instruments as the cello, trombone, or vocal cords which vibrate to create sonic waves. The more lined up the mind-body-spirit connection is, the easier making music gets.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Doing it all and probably trying to find enough hours in the day to make it happen! I would love to have a balance between opera, concert, and recital work with a healthy mixture of classical and contemporary repertoire. Maybe not in 10 years’ time but in 20, I would like to have a hand in creative strategic planning to help steer how we move classical music forward. I have always envisioned myself with a family, so that’s a must for me, too.

What’s your current state of mind?

Sleepy but satisfied 🙂

 


Chicago-born soprano Olivia Boen completed her undergraduate studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in May of 2017 and will be starting her MM at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London this autumn. Olivia has been seen on the Oberlin Opera Theater stage as the title roles in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias and Händel’s Alcina, as well as the leading ladies in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Händel’s Serse with the Oberlin in Italy program in Tuscany. In January 2016, she had the distinct honor of performing the North American premiere of Jesse Jones’ One Bright Morning with the Contemporary Music Ensemble on Oberlin’s 150th Anniversary Tour to her home city. The piece will be released on the Oberlin Music record label in late 2018. Olivia has participated in masterclasses with such renowned artists as Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, and Marilyn Horne. Recent accolades include 2018 First Place Winner at the Musicians Club of Women of Chicago, 2017 First Place Winner at the Tuesday Musical Competition, and finalist in Oberlin’s Senior Concerto Competition.

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