When did you start singing?
I always sang. My mother told me that I sang even before I talked. I also cannot remember a time when I didn't sing.
Why did you start singing?
It has been the most natural thing in the world for me to sing. I always enjoyed it. I liked the sound of my own voice and I liked the way it made me feel.
Which singer inspired you the most when you were young?
There were quite a few such as Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, Teresa Berganza, Dame Eva Turner, but the one who made the most impression upon me was Regina Resnik. I spent a summer studying under her and saw what a consummate performer can really do, how they think, how they prepare and how they handle life around all of this. She was a wonderful woman as well and encouraged me to go forward. Dame Joan Sutherland was my mentor as well and she always gave me the best advice! One thing she told me was to “stay as light as long as possible”. It's some of the best advice I ever got! Only now am I even thinking of doing these heavier roles and that's only “if the shoe fits!”
Which singer do you most admire?
How can I answer this? There are so many!! Let me just say that I adore anyone who gives their all and tries to communicate with the audience. I cannot abide a singer who doesn't involve the audience. I don't care if the singer has a perfect voice… in fact, that bores me to tears! I would rather hear an imperfect singer who gives everything they've got to me, the listener, than a Bobby Baritone or a Susie Soprano who is note perfect but who doesn't say anything or make me feel a big emotion as I'm listening.
What's your favourite role?
In the early part of my career, it was Cesare because it was the most challenging and rewarding, but now it could be Kostelnicka in Jenufa or Medea! My favourite role is a role that brings everything I have out of me in the best way.
What role have you never played that you would like to?
The Marschallin. I would give my eyeteeth to do this role. First of all the music is glorious and the character is so very lovely.
What is your favourite opera to watch?
This is where you get me! You have to drag me kicking and screaming to the opera! I am always onstage so I suppose it's only natural I don't want to go to one. I'm a rock and roll girl. If it were a Led Zeppelin concert, I would have gone. I love anything with electric guitar and have been— for many years —a huge Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix fan. If I go to the opera, I go to support my friends and colleagues. But, if I were to go for my own pleasure, it would have be Don Giovanni or Der Rosenkavalier.
Who is your favourite composer?
I've been discovering so many new composers in the last years but I always come back to Verdi. His music moves me, makes me excited and never bores me.
Who is your favourite writer?
I am a voracious reader and feel that I need books to live well. She only wrote one book but it affected me profoundly. Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and it is the book I come back to time and time again. My father was a writer too and his book The Distant Shore touched me in a way that even made me forget that it was my father who had written it. It had his personality all over it.
Who is your favourite theatre or film director?
Every movie I've ever seen by Frank Capra made me feel good. Steven Spielberg has imaginatively entertained me no end.
Who is your favourite actor?
This changes from time to time but there is an Australian actor named Ben Mendelssohn who I think is absolutely the best! He unintentionally steals every single scene he is in and completely inhabits his characters. I have always admired Meryl Streep in everything she's done.
Who is your favourite dancer?
I have always loved Fred Astaire and the incomparable Nicholas Brothers.
What is your favourite book?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Masterful! I am from the Southern United States and she captures every moment brilliantly!
What is your favourite film?
My all-time favourite is Gone With the Wind. Yes, I know it's a cliché but I was a little girl when I saw it at the great Fox Theater in Atlanta and it made me want to be a strong woman like Scarlett. It influenced me to be who I am today.
Which is your favourite city?
Savannah, Georgia, USA. It has all the Southern charm one could ever wish for. The Spanish moss hangs from the trees, the streets are cobblestone, the food is quintessential Southern cooking, the history of the town is interesting and prevalent in almost every street you walk down. The architecture has a sort of Spanish flavour that is gorgeous and intoxicating.
What do you like most about yourself?
I like that I am a strong woman. I like that I have good people and things going on in my life and when the tough times come, I am able to see clearly. I like that I am well loved and well received by people.
What do you dislike about yourself?
Sometimes I worry too much. I have impossibly high standards and if I don't meet them, I am good at beating myself up about it. That doesn't do anyone any good. It's a waste of good energy that can be used for a better purpose.
What was your proudest moment?
When I sang my début at the Metropolitan Opera. When I was a young teenager, my friends had said that they would come when I sang at the Met and many years later, when I actually did sing there, they all came. They were there along with my entire family. I was sick with a temperature of 103 degrees but I didn't care. Nothing was going to keep me from that moment!
When and where were you happiest?
I was happiest with my family. I was 16 before I understood that I wasn't supposed to tell my mother and father everything. But, they were my best friends in the whole world! How could I not tell them every little thing that happened to me? Our family has been very close, sharing so much laughter and good times. I have had some moments of pure joy and being with them has afforded me the most happy times.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband Davide is the love of my life. He is the one who taught me how to live in reality. He is the most honest man I know and I admire him above all others. I have a close second in my little puppy dog Buffy. I love her beyond all belief!!!
What is your greatest fear?
I am not afraid of anything that I know of except that someone I love might suffer. That scares me.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My feet! I have such problems with my feet. They hurt all the time! But I suppose I shouldn't complain too much as they have supported me throughout 30 years of a career!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have given many years of my life, my blood and tears and much more to my career. It has been my baby with whom I have stayed up at night, worried over, devoted my strength and caring to and have given every ounce of myself to. It is very much my greatest achievement.
What is your most treasured possession?
My puppy dog.
What is your greatest extravagance?
One time I paid $96.00 for a whiskey. I thought that was pretty extravagant!
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Humility. I would rather have honesty.
On what occasion do you lie?
I lie if I think it will help someone. I am a terrible liar though. You can always see when I'm not telling the truth so I don't do it very often.
If you hadn't been a singer, what would you have liked to be?
I would have liked to be the matriarch of a huge family, like Miss Ellie on Dallas!!
What is your most marked characteristic?
People tell me it is my smile.
What quality do you most value in a friend?
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
Which historical figure do you most admire?
There are so many historical figures to admire, but a few spring to mind such as Frederick Douglass for his bravery, intelligence and convictions; Leonardo da Vinci for his inventiveness and foresight; William Shakespeare for his glorious use of the English language and Helen Keller for her sheer will to learn despite the odds and for her keen and touching observations on life and human nature.
Which living person do you most admire?
My mother. She has taught me what a strong woman can be. She has shown me unselfishness in the most wonderful way. She has effected people's lives, not to mention mine in profound ways. She is to be admired greatly for her strength, fortitude, practicality, loving ways and a million other things.
What do you most dislike?
Cruelty to anyone in any way. Cruelty to animals. People who are disrespectful and mean to others. Fanaticism and discrimination.
What talent would you most like to have?
I would like to be able to sew. I can sew but not like I want to. I've always been able to clean, make a beautiful home, a nice meal but I'd like to be able to sew a spectacular concert gown all by myself… and I cannot do that.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
These days, it is any simple moment that is restful, with family or good friends in an atmosphere of closeness. Sometimes it is the sweet little face of my puppy looking up at me or my husband smiling at me.
How would you like to die?
I joke about not dying in a boring way but in a very dramatic way like I have lived my life! I have almost died in a plane and I could have died when I was attacked by a crazy man once so having gone through those experiences, I can truthfully say that if I die in a comfortable bed with family around me then that will be enough for my exit from this life.
What is your motto?
Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
Jennifer Larmore – a biography
Jennifer Larmore is an American mezzo-soprano with a wide ranging repertoire, having begun with the coloratura roles of the Baroque and bel canto then adding music from the Romantic and Contemporary periods.
She began her career at Opera de Nice in 1986 with Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito and went on to sing at virtually every major opera house in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera, Berlin Deutsche Oper, and London Covent Garden.
Miss Larmore has recorded widely for the Teldec, RCA, Harmonia Mundi, Deutsche Grammophon, Arabesque, Opera Rara, Bayer, Naive, Chandos, VAI and Cedille labels in over one hundred CDs to date.
With her frequent collaborator Antoine Palloc, she has made many International recital tours, including appearances in Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Vietnam, Vienna, London, San Juan, Prague, Melbourne, Brussels, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, Sao Paolo, Athens and Copenhagen, as well as all the major American venues.
Symphonic repertoire plays a large role in this mezzo's career with the works of Mahler, Schoenberg, Mozart, de Falla, Debussy, Berlioz and Barber featuring prominently. Miss Larmore has enjoyed great collaborations with world orchestras under the direction of Muti, Lopez-Cobos, Bernstein, Runnicles, Sinopoli, Masur, von Dochnanyi, Jacobs, Mackarras, Spinosi, Abbado, Barenboim, Bonynge, Maazel , Osawa and Hengelbrock.
Her repertoire has expanded recently to include new roles such as the Countess Geschwitz in Berg's Lulu which she débuted to great success at Covent Garden in the Christof Loy production with Tony Pappano, then again in Madrid and Paris Opera Bastille; Kostelnička Buryjovka in Janacek's Jenufa with Donald Runnicles at Berlin Deutsche Oper; Lady Macbeth in Verdi's opera Macbeth, a role she débuted in a striking new production of Christoph Loy at the Grand Théâtre de Genève and subsequently in Bologna for the opening of the season in a new Robert Wilson production; Eboli in the French version of Don Carlos at the Caramoor Music Festival in New York with Will Crutchfield and Jocasta in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex at the Bard Festival.
She will perform Mère Marie in Dialogue des carmélites at the Caramoor Festival, New York, the tragic role of Ottavia in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien and looks forward to reprising her star turn as Kostelnicka in Jenufa in Tokyo.
Miss Larmore, in collaboration with the double bass player Davide Vittone has created an ensemble called Jennifer Larmore and OpusFive. The three programs they offer are entertaining and varied with songs and arias from cabaret, operetta, movies and Broadway which feature string quintet and voice. They have given concerts in Seville, Pamploma, Valencia, Las Palmas, Venice, Amiens, Aix en Provence, Dublin and Paris.
In 2002, “Madame” Larmore was awarded the Chevalier des arts et des lettres from the French government in recognition of her contributions to the world of music.
In addition to her many activities, travels, performances and causes, author Jennifer Larmore is working on books that will bring a wider public to the love of opera!
Follow Jennifer Larmore via her site with her latest opera and concert engagements and information about her forthcoming book Una Voce.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.