SOS Persona Marianna Ginger talks about her early days in the Ballet and her FOG debut
Ms. Ginger, we welcome and congratulate you! Super-exciting, as always, to have you here. How have you been?
Yes, thank you, I am very good. Good reviews, good weather, very good.
Are you enjoying your time in the Palais Garnier or –
I said, it is very good –
Or are you just counting down to your Madame b-fly finale on the 11th of November?
Of course not. Of course I very much enjoy my time, it is great honour to perform the Madame in the la Garnier, I am very honoré and I am starting to think that I will be sad to leave there.
Are you having second thoughts?
No. not at all. I am happy with my decision and at the same time, I will be sad to leave. It is very normal. You are trying to give titles to everything I say but titles are simple and Marianna Ginger is not simple.
You’re superb, so not simple.
Please, please –
I was in fact planning to ask you about your early years and how you’ve become such a superb opera singer.
Oh it is of course things that are very not simple. As a child I was – how do you say – destined to be a ballet dancer –
That was the direction everyone believed was right for me. I dance and sing since very young age, it was visible to everyone around me that I was born for the stage –
Well, quite literally.
Yes, my parents were for many years behind the curtains, my mother, Elvira Geingreich, is costume designer in the Semperoper in Dresden for almost 20 years now, and before that she was in the Gran Teatre Liceu and of course in the Vienna Opera House, the Wiener Staatsoper. My father was Albercht Geingreich, he was producer of the greatest ballets and operas in the 80’s and the 90’s in Europe, and later he moved to New York.
It’s almost as if you had no choice other than the stage.
Maybe, but it is not bad because I loved the stage toujours. I do not know how it became like this but in my childhood it was very clear to me that I would be a ballerina. Everything was about the ballet since I can remember, although I was very close to the opera world too. I was very good. I could very well become a prima ballerina, and I was very close friends with Everina Sandra, who later became a prima ballerina, she was 16 when the Bolshoi invited her.
You were competing for the same role –
No, no, it was not a competition, because at the age of 14 I left the ballet –
I recall you saying not long ago she was your only true friend, even though it’s been years since her tragic death –
I do not wish to discuss this. She had a beautiful voice too. We were in the ballet together since very young age, since age 5, I think, but what happened to me is that at age 14 I became very tall almost at once. I am very tall.
You’re about 6’1″ aren’t you?
I am 1.84. Being 1.85 or taller is just not womanly I believe, so I am happy I stopped at 1.84. When I was 14 I was already about 1.75, and that was just too tall for the ballet. It was very difficult to pair me with male dancers because no one was taller than me. And if you want a rôle principal in the ballet you have to be paired with a male dancer at some point.
So what if you’d be taller than the male dancer?
That is – haha! – That is not possible.
It is not correct. It does not look good.
Right. Surely it was a very difficult for you.
I should say that it is also not always easy to pair me with taller male opera singers, but it is much easier than with male dancers.
Right. And surely it was very difficult for you to give up the dream of becoming a ballerina for reasons that were clearly out of your control.
What was out of my control? I was very happy to join the royal opera house at age 16 –
I mean becoming so tall wasn’t something you chose to do, and you had to leave the ballet because of it. You must have felt, at the age of 14, that it’s just not fair.
No, you need to understand this – I will tell you this: a life of a ballerina is very hard.
It is just very hard and there was some relief for me when I left.
I recall interviews with Everina Sandra, after she’s left the Bolshoi in a huge scandal, when she spoke of what she called ‘constant starvation’ in the ballet academy. She said it was bordering child abuse. When you were asked about it in 2002 or 2003, you supported her accusations.
So when you say you were relieved to leave –
Yes, there was freedom for me when I left. But the life of an opera singer is not free at all. I always have to watch my voice; I always have to watch myself. The way I think of myself and my body is still – how do you say – it is very much, ah – I have to take care of myself for the sake of my art. I do not eat chocolate for example. It is bad for my singing. But still I have to say this, that this is the life I chose for myself. I want to say that when you choose the life of the stage you choose all that comes with it –
Can we really talk about choice when we talk about careers that began at such a young age? You said you were destined to become a stage performer.
I understand what you are saying. I agree to a certain point. But when you become 18 years old you are adult and you make your own choices. Some choose to leave the life of the stage and they choose everything that comes with this choice. Others choose to stay in this life and they too choose everything that comes with this choice.
I don’t completely agree with you. Once we turn 18 we don’t suddenly become different people, unaffected by our upbringing. All your life, you are lead to your choices as an adult.
I do not agree, no. I feel that I made a choice and that I still make it every day and I am in peace with it toujours.
I’m tempted to ask what you would choose to be if you hadn’t chosen the life of the stage.
I think I would be in the world of the arts still. Perhaps theatre.
I meant if you didn’t choose the life of the stage –
There are different stages. I think we talked about the most demanding stage, the most, how do you say – intense – stage. The most Exigeant. That is the ballet. Opera comes after the ballet, it is a bit less 24 hours a day commitment. It is 20 hours a day commitment. Comparing to this, the theatre is easy.
But you don’t see any other life for yourself other than the life on the stage?
No. I am a performer. The stage for me is a place of peace. Never mind the endless stress and sometimes even panique before I go on stage. When I am on the stage I am in peace. Stage is sanctuary.
Is it? From what?
From nothing. All people seek sanctuary. All people want a place where they belong. Where you belong is your sanctuary. For me, stage is sanctuary.
When you were in the Fringe Opera Group [FOG] in Budapest, and performed your infamous rendition of Pagliacci, you were actually booed at some point. Was it still sanctuary then? What was it like for you?
You need to understand what this performance was. It was my debut in the FOG, in 2010. By that time I was already famous in the opera world, and for the fringe crowd I was considered very, very conservative. They were not sure how to accept me. I knew this. And I chose to go on stage for the first time dressed very much – how do you say – I was dressed very much grand classic opera. Big dress, corset, big hair piece, the whole costume. In the FOG you cannot dress like this for the stage. One of my best performances there was a piece from Carmen that I sang in old training trousers. So when I went on stage for the first time in that big dress, I knew the crowd would hate it. I was expecting this.
Did you expect them to boo at you?
No, I have to say no, but it really gave me so much – how do you say, fervor – I made me want to shock them even more!
This was your famous striptease aria –
Please, it was not like you say a striptease; I removed most of my clothing while I sang Nedda’s song of her desire to be free. It was symbolic. I wanted to free myself from these costumes and just sing. That was why I joined the FOG in the first place. That was the meaning of my performance. So it started with booing but it ended with applauds, because the crowd understood it.
It is indeed symbolic, perhaps in more than one way. As you said, your mother is a costume designer and in this performance you practically tore your costume off.
Yes, I do not understand what you want with this.
I mean it was some sort of a rebellion perhaps. A late rebellion. You couldn’t do that as a teenager.
I understand, yes, by 2009 I believe I reached a stage where I can allow myself to experiment on stage and still be accepted.
Although the Vienna Opera House had some trouble taking you back a year after that Pagliacci debut.
Yes, as you said, they had trouble, I did not have any trouble.
Well put. And your parents? How did they react to your joining the FOG in 2009?
Right. You’ve changed your surname from Geingreich to Ginger at the age of 18.
That was for obvious reasons. My name was beginning to become well known. I thought Ginger was just easier to remember. My parents approved of this.
I sincerely thank you for this very important alterview, I feel our readers have a much deeper understanding now as to who Marianna Ginger is.
Oh thank you, I thank you.
Any chance you’ll give us a hint as to your next project, once you bid the Garnier farewell?
I do not know myself yet, honestly, there are many options.
Will you be returning to the FOG perhaps?
I do not know yet, honestly.
Right. And by the way, I hear Dorian Phoenix is quite tall.
He’s 6’3” I think, he’s taller than you –
I do not understand, how is this relevant? Finally you make a reasonable interview –
But you cannot end it properly –
I’m just saying –
This is impossible –
Just saying he’s tall, that’s all.
Fine. My manager is calling me, you see –
So I bid you farewell.
I thank you and congratulate you and worship you, Ms. Ginger.
Yes, thank you, I thank you. Goodnight.