Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?
The real vocation to become a singer happened when I joined the church choir in our little town in the South of Germany. The music I encountered was so beautiful and pure that I felt drawn to it and to singing in general.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Definitely my singing teacher, Sylvia Geszty, who managed to open my coloratura soprano register in just two weeks. Also, the many great personalities I encountered while I studied to be a high school piano teacher. Learning conducting and music history opened a great space for music in general.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The greatest challenge for me is to maintain my quality and yet continue to grow my abilities in a natural way.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I am very happy to have my signature role Lulu recorded in two wonderful DVDs from Bavarian State Opera and the MET.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
Lulu definitely was one….and Mozart will always be my favourite master of music.
But most important is the variety, this fantastic rich treasure of music we have access to. To be able to explore everything from baroque to contemporary is the greatest challenge and the greatest joy!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I choose by interest and fascination. The character of the role to perform has to tempt me, the drama, the context and of course the music and the crew you are going to perform it with.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
If we talk about opera stages there is Munich and Vienna in Europe. The MET and the Lyric Opera in Chicago, the festival in Aix….The Concertgebouw when it comes to concerts and of course Wigmore Hall for lieder!
Who are your favourite musicians?
Those ones who stay curious and never tire of reinventing themselves and their music anew.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Success for me is something that comes naturally when you are a true artist….based on a solid technique and musicality of course.
When the audience feels and understands the deep-reaching work behind the music that they hear, that is the most rewarding gift you can get as an artist.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
To be open and able to combine great abilities and musicality with the craziness and profound insight an artist should have to survive in this world of challenges and still succeed in staying a joyful human being.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Still singing but being able to chose what, where, with whom and how much I do and at the same time build up another life outside of music to sell my own Greek olive oil.
Marlis Petersen’s new CD ‘Anderswelt’ is released at the end of October, and she is Artist-in-Residence at Wigmore Hall for the 2018/19 season. More information here
What the artistic world and audiences find so enchanting about Marlis Petersen is an ability to combine a voice of rare crystal clarity and brightness with an alert presence that enables her to completely identify with all her roles on the stage.
Born in Germany, Petersen had already trained in the piano and traverse flute before she decided to dedicate herself to the instrument which today inspires her audience. At the conservatoire, in Stuttgart, she studied to become a high school music teacher whilst being instructed in classical singing by Sylvia Geszty. Yet her ever-restless spirit urged her towards another passion. She trained in jazz-dance and tap-dancing at the New York City Dance School in Stuttgart, shortly after earning engagements in show business. Despite this she stayed connected to the classical repertoire as she continued further studies in Opera and Contemporary Music and three years after being a prize winner in the operatic category at the VDMK competition in Berlin in 1990, she also won an award in the category of Musical-Chanson-Song.
(Artist photo by Monika Rittershaus)