Q&A: Rebecca von Lipinski

Posted on January 26, 2011

Soprano Rebecca von Lipinski joins Manchester Camerata this Saturday along with mezzo soprano Anna Grevelius, tenor Peter Wedd, baritone Roderick Williams and the CBSO Chorus for our momentous B9 concert! 

Here she answers some searching questions about her life and career to date.

Q. How old were you when you started singing? When did you actually know you wanted to be a professional singer?

Rebecca von Lipinski         A. I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. I grew up surrounded by music as my mother was an amateur singer and loved music of all kinds. I sang in the school choir and had my first solo in my local church aged 7, Then at 11 I joined a local girl’s choir called ‘Cantamus’ which was advertising in our local paper for girls between 11 and 18 to audition for the choir and for (more importantly) singing lessons (which Mum thought I would enjoy). I did this as out of school activity as my local comprehensive didn’t cater for any musical studies at the time. After a few years I moved through the hierarchy of the choir and eventually ended up having lessons with the director and conductor of the choir, Miss Pamela Cook MBE aged 16. She then suggested that I could go to university to study singing when I was 18. I really didn’t know that you could do this and so Miss Cook pointed me in the right direction. Even then I didn’t know that I wanted to become a professional singer. I then went to the Royal Northern college of Music in Manchester and it was only in the last year of undergraduate when they gave me the understudy of First lady in Magic Flute where I thought that maybe I can do this. Maybe I could be a singer. It’s been hard and it’s not easy but I can’t imagine doing anything else. I feel very lucky to have been allowed to sing for a living. My Mum and dad would be very proud of me!!!

Q. You have some French, Polish and German ancestry, so singing in numerous languages must come easily to you. With this in mind, what would you say are the easiest and most challenging languages to sing in?

A. Even though I do come from a varied background, I was fully raised in the UK and only really speak English (with a smattering of German) but was surrounded by different languages (Polish and French especially) from a very early age. However, sadly, I do not speak any of these fluently but was immersed (especially by my Father’s parents) in their day to day lives. It is strange then to have a natural affiliation with the German language and it’s music. Through classical singing, the 4 main languages you deal with are English, German, French and Italian and you find that you have a natural way with one or another. Thankfully I have done a lot of English and German rep but do hope to expand more into French and Italian. But I have done everything from Finnish to Japanese and Catalan to Russian. It can be very challenging at times!

Q. Apart from Beethoven, who would you say is your favourite composer and why?

A. There is so much to choose from!! I do love Mozart, Richard Strauss and Puccini. I think that you connect with some composers better than others but these 3 really tug on my heart strings. But I don’t generally tend to listen to classical music all the time as sometimes I need to really relax and switch off. I love everything from Nat King Cole (my father’s favourite) to Frank Sinatra (one of the best singer’s of the 20th century) and U2, David Bowie, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Oasis. I think that you need to have many musical influences in your life. There is so much out there so why ignore it??

Q. Who is the most inspirational musician you’ve worked with so far and how have they influenced you?

A. I have worked with many inspirational people in my short career but several people stand out. Pamela Cook was simply the main reason for my being in this career. She believed in me and encouraged me and still does to this day. She is so wonderful and has had huge and positive influence on so many young girls’ lives in the area of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire where I grew up. I owe her so much and will never forget her kindness, encouragement and continued love. She is one amazing woman!! I have also worked with Richard Jones, who was the director on ‘The Bitter tears of Petra von Kant’ at ENO, 2005, who’s ideas and vision was just exceptional. He created something brilliant and interesting out of something so difficult and complicated. He made it look easy and effortless and helped the very small cast to come to grips with something so difficult and taxing. I try to go and see everything that he creates, if I can. Also, in one of the last years I was at the Royal Northern, I won the Michael and Joyce Kennedy Award for the singing of Richard Strauss. The adjudicator was the fabulous singer and performer Dame Felicty Lott. It was just an unbelievable privilege to just meet her, never mind work with her! She has and has had the most wonderful career and is a fantastic singer. I have seen her perform many, many times in operas and concerts. She is a constant inspiration to me and hope to have the opportunity to work with her one day.

Q. Apart from music, what are some of your other interests?

A. One of my main passions is Film. I’m a huge fan of everything and anything to do with film and am a bit of a film geek. I have more dvd’s and blu-ray’s than I can count and read as many autobiographies on actors and actresses I can get my hands on. It’s fascinating on discovering how they work and how they overcome difficulties in their profession. I think if I wasn’t a singer then I would have loved to have had the opportunity to become an actress. I’m currently reading Dame Judi Dench’s and Stephen Fry’s autobiographies and thoroughly enjoying them too. I also love to spending time with my family and walking my 2 Shetland sheep dogs.
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