Next Marko Mimica discussed which music “reached” him most and how he regards expressing himself in various languages.
MM: I come from South Croatia where the Italian influence is very strong, many people speak Italian and the way of living is pretty much the same. When I speak in my dialect, people would tell me it sounds like a mixture of Russian and Italian (Croatian is a Slavic language, but there are many Italianate words and open vowels in my dialect, even the melody of the language is very similar to Italian).
Therefore I feel most comfortable singing in Italian, I can speak it and on the whole I’ll need to translate only some old words that are no more in use today. Nevertheless, with every new role I’ll try to have as much coaching as possible with an Italian coach so that as many details as possible can be integrated.
During my studies I sang quite a lot of German lieder, and for 5 years already I’m living and working in Germany, and although not as comfortable as in Italian, I think I have no major problems singing in German and it comes quite easy to me. Of course, some adjustments have to be made, but that’s fine. As long as I prepare whatever I have to sing long enough, and with a good German coach, I’ll be good.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to do as many lied recitals as I’d like but I hope in the future I’ll be able to arrange it more often. It’s hard for a young singer, especially a bass, and even more, for someone coming from the East Europe (many people have prejudices thinking that we “Balkans” can only sing loud and unimaginative and therefore should stick only to “primitive” Italian opera).
To do a lied recital is an ultimate musical experience a singer can have himself and give to the audience. Opera is exciting, of course, and there’s a theatrical aspect to it, but very often I don’t get enough time and space to express myself musically as I’d like to. Most of the time, we can be happy if we sang everything in tune and on the beat, so little rehearsals we have.
And then there are ignorant people who build sets which not only are not helping but are also making the sound even worse, which is so frustrating. In a recital I get to be much more intimate with the pianist and the audience and myself at the end, there are much more things I can do, and it gives me much more pleasure than opera. On those rare occasions I would finally feel like a complete musician and it’s a great feeling.
I sang a little bit in Russian and it’s a great language to sing in, looove it. Russian song literature is also very beautiful, and if I had an active concert career, I’d definitely include it. For now I don’t sing Russian opera because, as I wrote earlier, there aren’t many roles I could do right now. But you just give me some 10 years …
English I found more difficult then I thought. Lot of diphthongs I guess is what gives me trouble..
By far the worst language for me to sing in is – French, hate it! It doesn’t mean I won’t sing in French, only that it will probably take me more time to learn something in French than any other language. Nasals I find worst enemies and on the whole I don’t find French very good for singing (not many great French singers, are there?)
Croatia is a very small country (only ca 4 mil inhabitants) and Croatian is spoken only in Croatia. Therefore for us is kind of normal to learn foreign languages, especially because Croatia is a touristic destination with visitors from all over the world. I grew up watching tv shows and movies (and a lot of it!) in original language with Croatian subtitles and that’s how I practically learned English and Spanish.
Also being in music since I was six, constantly developing my “ear,” made the things even easier so today I wouldn’t be afraid to sing in any language. If I don’t speak a language, at least I will know every word, both individually and in the context from the piece I’m doing and I’ll try to work on it as much as possible with a native speaker.
Speaking the language first then singing in it would be ideal, but I find it’s possible to sing well and being convincing also in a language one doesn’t speak. Words are helping a lot in expressing the emotions, but to express the emotions one needs no words..
It never happened to me that I’ve lost control or was fighting not to because of the power of the music. It’s interesting, but I find two completely different experiences, doing the music yourself and listening to others doing the music. I need and like both. I’ll get moved, I’ll laugh or cry when others are doing the music and I consciously accept that it doesn’t have to be only “my” way so that I can enjoy it.
I can enjoy a lot even if someone is interpreting in a completely different way then I’d do it. Hm, I’ll have to think more carefully about this and perhaps come back to this question but I think it’s possible to be a good singer or a good musician on the whole without enjoying listening to the (classical) music itself, or you can be a truly great listener without being able (or wanting to) do the music yourself.
I think I am primarily the music lover, and only then a performer and I could happily go to theaters and concert halls to listen to the music even if I quit singing tomorrow (unlike many who end up hating it, and for a reason). I can get more excited about someone’s else performance thn mine.
NR: Being a “traveling” artist, how being one has changed you?
MM: “Traveling artist’, hmm..you know, I’m one of those guys who are never happy with the current situation. So, when I’m on road, I wish I was home, waking up at the same time, doing the same things over and over, hanging out with same people etc.. But after a while doing so, I get bored and wanna run away. Getting older I learned (and am still learning) step by step not to live in the past nor the future, but now. It’s not always a simple thing to do, but I believe is the right thing to do. There’s always something nice to enjoy in right now, so I should better try to find what that thing is rather than being miserable or whatever..
And one more thing, I’m kind of new to all this traveling business. Well, actually I’ve been traveling my whole life, but it’d be like normal people travel: save money and go somewhere nice with friends for a week or so then go back home. Being in music there are always concert tours, auditions or masterclasses to travel to, but no longer then a couple of weeks.
The past five years I was mostly in Berlin, traveling occasionally. This season I was on road some 6 months, but next season I’ll be on road the whole year. For now, I find it quite exciting. I got rid of most of my things, gave up my books and scores, all my possessing has to fit in two suitcases and that’s how I’m gonna live at least for a year. I gave up my apartment for literally I won’t have any time off between productions. Maybe you ask me again in a year what is the hardest aspect of being a “traveling artist”
One gets used to anything, I think. Or at least most people do. To be able to travel the whole time alone (those who are lucky to travel with their partners in families are blessed) I think one needs to be a bit crazy and “free” of sentimentality or attachment of any kind, otherwise it’s really hard, and I’d say not worth it.
To be an artist or to become an artist, that is the question.. Or it’s probably the combination of both? I don’t know if I’m an “artist’, nor do I think it’s very important. Is it a destiny or a mere coincidence that I’m in arts today?
I can’t tell; there are many things that happened to me that could make me think there’s a greater power that leads me through my path of becoming an artist, but on the other hand it might had as well all happened by pure chance and maybe I could have ended up doing something completely different being a better person, contributing to the world more than I do.
What I do know is that I like singing, music and opera. I genuinely like every aspect of it, and is it that I “learned” how to like it because I ended up doing it or it all came to me because of who I am in the first place – I don’t know. I’m a very simple and practical person (I got that from my mother). Sometimes I catch myself thinking about the universe, the greater purpose of our lives etc., but most of the time I don’t get lost in all of that, for I don’t think we can ever have an answer.
What I can do (and what I am doing) is doing what I like, how I like it and when I like it and constantly try to improve and get better at what I do. Sometimes compromises are to be made, but on the whole I do get things done my way. I’m grateful for my upbringing because I have a great deal of sense for justice and being kind to others although I had to learn how to be more suspicious about certain “truths” in life, including my own perception on myself.
NR: How do you feel now as an artist compared to the beginning of your music studies?
Compared to how I was when I first graduated from my music studies, I’d say now I simply have more knowledge and experience that allow me to do things in a better and more efficient way. I grew up as a person and as an “artist,” but I only became more of what I already was (in quantity not the quality). I stayed pretty much the same, but I also remember how I was when I was seven and I was as I know myself now already then (maybe that’s not a good thing).
I think whatever I did I would always try to get as good in it as possible. I would always try to become as much as I possibly could as a person, too, at least I think (at this point I couldn’t be sure about these things).
I guess I’m a bit of an “old soul’, and as I told you before, I’m never totally happy, there’s always something bothering and worrying me; I read somewhere that people find peace and true happiness later in life and that made sense to me for I’ve already noticed that older I get more balance I find and this is comforting in a way.
If there’s something I wish I knew when I first started out… I can’t think of anything… I think everything went how it should have gone and there are things I couldn’t have known back then and maybe I would say to younger me: “don’t worry that much, everything will be fine” but I had to come to these conclusions step by step making my mistakes and learning from them. It seems like there’s “something” that’s protecting me through my life (is it instincts, intelligence, education, upbringing, good will, God or whatever – I don’t know) for even the mistakes I did turned out to be good for me eventually.
Listening to music and making music myself brings me closer to my inner “me” and when I’m “there” – everything is easy because we all have all the answers within us so I guess being an “artist” helps me to be a better person. And being a better person helps me being a better artist. Or better say, becoming an artist. Over and over, for that journey never ends…
In March of 2018, Mimica made his U.S. debut, as Mozart’s Figaro, for Palm Beach Opera. The reviews were glowing:
Classical Source: “Marko Mimica, singing with clarity and power, is a masterful Figaro… ”
Palm Peach Daily News: “As the title role, bass-baritone Marko Mimica displayed a sonorous tone and superb acting skills. His opening cavatina Se vuol ballare signor contino was not only musically satisfying, but also dramatically convincing.”
South Florida Classical Review: “The servants and lovers Figaro and Susanna are the pivotal players and Marko Mimica and Janai Brugger are dream casting. These two gifted young singers combine exceptional vocal accomplishment with the kind of comedic timing that keeps the action moving at a high clip, drawing laughter without mugging or exaggeration. Mimica is a virile Figaro with the smarts to outwit his aristocratic masters.
Unlike many lighter-voiced singers who play the role, he is an authentic bass who is able to encompass the lowest notes with accuracy and ease. In Figaro’s two Act I arias (“Se vuol ballare” and “Non piu andrai”) his supple verbal inflection brought out Figaro’s cunning. Mimica was a pure entertainer in Figaro’s mock-angry “A prite un po” quegli occhi,” prancing the stage with the ease of a born comedian.
May we hope that America will further beckon Mimica’s talents?