When I tell San Diego opera buffs that Marina Costa Jackson will make her local debut in San Diego Opera’s upcoming Puccini double bill, several have replied, “Wait, wasn’t she our knockout Carmen in the company’s 2019 production of Carmen?”Their confusion is understandable, since Marina’s sister Ginger Costa Jackson did sing the title role in San Diego Opera’s March, 2019, production of Bizet’s celebrated opera. And if you are inclined to do a Google search on Marina, do type carefully, because all three Costa Jackson sisters—Ginger, Marina, and Miriam—are successful opera singers!
Marina, the middle sister, did not follow her sisters’ example and start studying voice at an early age.
“First of all, I saw first hand all the blood, sweat, and tears that serious vocal study required, and secondly, unlike my sisters, I am not a stage animal. I am shy in public, and when they perform I get nervous for them,” she explained.
But at age 21, Marina changed her mind and began to study voice, first privately, then at Utah State University, and finally at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. After several highly successful vocal competition wins—including first place at both the 2014 Giulio Gari Foundation International Competition and at the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions—Marina launched her opera career.
Unlike most American opera singers, Marina Costa Jackson had the distinct advantage of growing up speaking Italian, the language of the most frequently performed operas. “Because my mother is Italian, I grew up in Palermo, where she is from. My dad was an Air Force officer, but earlier in his career he made an L.D.S. mission to Italy, and he married the woman who taught him fluent Italian to prepare for the mission. So my parents were strict about speaking only Italian at home!”
Marina admitted that speaking Italian and spending much of her youth living proved beneficial when she decided opera would be her career.
“Living there opened up the world for me, and the culture of Italy set me up for a career devoted to singing and the arts quite nicely.”
Marian Costa Jackson will sing a role in each of San Diego Opera’s Puccini once-act operas that open this Saturday, February 11, at Civic Theatre. In the tragedy Suor Angelica she will sing the title role, and in the comedy Gianni Schicchi she will sing Lauretta.
“The role of Suor Angelica has risen to the top of my list of Puccini favorite roles,” Marina explained, “because the way she portrays her grief is so compelling.”
Puccini’s opera recounts the demise of a young woman from a wealthy noble family who is banished to the convent when she bears a child out of wedlock. When an elderly relative visits Suor Angelica at her convent and tells her that her young child has died, the nun becomes despondent and suicidal, but she is saved by a miraculous vision of the Virgin Mary who reunites her with her child.
“Suor Angelica is saved in the end because she was pure and deserving,” Marina explained. “Since I became a mother 2 and 1/2 years ago, my understanding of this role changed. Because I now have a young child, I understand better the depth of my character’s sense of loss, and Puccini captures this aspect of her in such a strong way.”
In 2019 Marina made her Los Angeles Opera singing the role of Mimi in Puccini’s La bohème and is slated to sing several more Mimi’s.
“I have learned that Puccini never fails his women—his music portrays their complete emotional state perfectly distilled in concise arias that waste neither time nor notes.”
Marina’s role of Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi could not be more different from her character in Suor Angelica.
“Lauretta simply is a young kid who wants to get her way—like most youth—and she feels entitled to it.” Appropriately, Lauretta’s big aria is the familiar, wheedling “O mio bambino caro.”
“I enjoy doing Lauretta because I don’t often get to play the ingénue!”
Marina praised the pairing of these two Puccini one-act operas. “ Suor Angelica will break everyone’s heart, but then the comedy Gianni Schicchi will be the salve to that wound, and the audience will walk out happy!”
San Diego Opera’s Puccini double bill opens on February 11, 2023, at San Diego Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego. The production is repeated February 14, 17, and 19, 2023 in the same venue.