The next time you browse a collection of vocal recordings, consider the fact that many of the albums exist because of record companies. And consider that many singers never get the opportunity to make an album, again because of the record companies’ interests.
Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka is doing her part to reverse those scenarios by creating her own, independent label, Prima Classic—no corporate ownership, no board to answer to, no maze of departments to slow things down, just complete freedom to make its own decisions. It may seem like another label vying for attention on the shelves, but . . .
“It’s not just another label, but a label that gives lyric singers the freedom to record the repertoire they want and feel is right for their voices at any particular time,” she told OperaWire.
In fact, she coined the name “Prima Classic” to make the statement that, for this label, singers will always come first. Most of the times they don’t. Many singers are pushed to record what is most convenient (read: “marketable”) for the recording company, but unfortunately, this often does not consider whether an artist might be ready to engage with certain repertory. This, in turn, can be detrimental to the artist’s vocal and artistic development.
“Voices change, and nobody knows that better than the singers themselves, so our approach is to work with what we, the singers, feel suit our voices, and not the other way around.”
Rebeka is also aware that recordings are historically important. “Almost every singer dreams of recording her or his own art, and to leave a trace in history of who they were, because the voice is a very fragile instrument, and it changes through time.”
And she has her eye on rare repertoire deserving of an audience. “Through releasing a modern recording that sounds good and is musically accurate, we think we will make these pieces more accessible to the public.”
On her first album, “Spirito,” Rebeka sings bel canto arias based on original scores— “Norma,” “Il Pirata,” “Maria Stuarda,” “Anna Bolena,” and “La Vestale” are represented.
Overall, as head of Artist and Repertoire, Rebeka will choose the projects and casts, and set the label’s artistic direction. Her staff encompasses legal, commercial, and distribution personnel, plus an engineering team that handles technical and production. They operate her studio in the Latvian countryside, while recordings are made in European concert halls and opera houses.
Along with helping singers gain freedom in recordings and create their legacies, Rebeka sees another benefit. “With every recording that I get involved in, be that one of my own projects or another singer’s, there is so much one learns about your own voice and how to improve your art. Recording albums is the best tool for a singer to learn about herself and to get better.”