Christina Linhardt is a singer who grew up in Switzerland amid playwrights, politicians and European royalty. Her style was influenced by the red light district in Zurich and in her music, she puts her own twist on classic arias.
What was it about Zurich’s red light district that influenced and inspired you?
We would go to the red light district when I was a kid, and we would stay out quite late, walking about. It was a combination of things. First, there was a children’s circus in the red light district that really inspired me. Now looking back, it’s just such an odd juxtaposition, a children’s circus in the middle of the red light district. It was cobblestoned and there was ancient medieval architecture and there were street musicians everywhere. That was my favorite thing, to give money to all the street musicians. I would always ask my mom, “Mom, can I give money to this guy? This guy is good.” We’d always get an ice cream, pistachio ice cream. Interspersed were the women and the brothels. I remember thinking the prostitutes were so beautiful. They’d wear black fishnets. All that influenced artistically what I do now. I do a lot of classical stuff, but it’s got this circus/red light spin. I remember there was a man, Curt Siodmak, he did the original Wolf Man movie. He was in his nineties when we knew him. When I was a little kid, he asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I said to him, “A prostitute.” When I was thirteen, I wore fishnets and leather miniskirts: a very Rocky Horror look.
I remember reading one time that Dolly Parton was similarly inspired.
I heard her say on a radio interview that she saw a woman in town dressed up and she thought she looked amazing, and that’s what she wanted to emulate. Later on, she told the woman that and the woman laughed and said, “I was dressed up to go and play a prostitute in a play.” Bob Malone said that Halloween is an excuse for women to dress slutty. Which says there’s something in women to want to dress like that. Our society tells us, “No, that’s slutty.” If all women were dressing that way, it wouldn’t be an issue.
You were around European politicians and royalty when you were growing up. How did that come about?
My dad worked as a cultural liaison. He’s actually been knighted a couple of times in Germany and Switzerland. In fact, he is Germany’s highest-decorated citizen. He had an institute here through USC that brought in a lot of writers, playwrights and politicians from Europe. I was around some of Europe’s greatest minds, amazing playwrights. The president of Switzerland was a very good friend of ours. We would go over there and live with him and his family. Later on, I was engaged to a prince, the Crown Prince of Saxony. We spent a lot of time with the royal family. It was pretty much through his literary/cultural deal. It was very European. We’d hang out with politicians and they wouldn’t bat an eye that they would take a little girl out to the red light district. Europeans are so sophisticated. Nothing can shock them.
When someone asks you what your music sounds like, how do you answer?
That’s a good question. At first, I didn’t really have an answer. I would say that I take classical tunes, arias, stuff that I had studied in music history or at university, and give it a little bit of a Cirque du Soleil flare. If I have to name artists, I would say it’s a feeling of Cirque du Soleil mixed with a little Kate Bush, a little Sarah Brightman and a little Andrea Bocelli.
That’s a pretty succinct explanation of it.
It took me a while to come up with that.
Is there a story behind the title Voodoo Princess?
Kind of. Voodoo Princess is my second album. I channeled the whole thing when was in Jamaica. Originally I decided to make the one Christmas track “Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella” Jamaican style. I thought, “I have to go to Jamaica then” so I can say when I was in Jamaica I was inspired to write this song. When I was in Jamaica, I was inspired to write the whole album. It got a little bit Little Mermaidish because when I was a teen, I listened to the soundtrack a lot. There are a lot of flute solos and a lot of oboe solos. The flute player is the principal flute player of the LA Chamber Orchestra. The oboe player, who did all the solos on The Little Mermaid, I ended up meeting him randomly at a party. I was reading his poems. I hired him for my album too. So there’s that Little Mermaid twist to it. I wanted that tropical thing. I’ve had that voodoo connection for a while. I lived in the Virgin Islands with a friend of mine, with her grandmother who we called Queen Reba. I spent some time in Senegal. Voodoo really is just a term, like a little bit of magic, a little bit of wishing. Then I was thinking Voodoo Priestess sounded too lofty. I wanted voodoo something. My girlfriend who did the CD covers, the artwork, I think she came up with princess. I thought that’s good because it’s a little less lofty.
Priestess might have scared people off if they thought it was a religious album.
It’s a little too heavy.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
Is it, what would I be doing if I weren’t doing what I’m doing at all?
What would you be doing with all the time that you spend making music now?
Hmmm. Good question. I love the theater therapy that I do. I’m going to try to do something that has nothing to do with the arts or performing. Good question. Let me think about that one. I think about that a lot. What would I do? Would I get married and have kids? I’d probably be a diplomat. I’d be studying languages and going to diplomacy school.
That is the first time I’ve ever gotten that answer.
[laughs] Or maybe a writer. No, I’d be a diplomat.
You mentioned something else that you do.
Theater therapy, but that’s still within what I do now.
What is it?
I’m part of a program that’s out of UCLA neuro-psychiatric hospital where we work with mentally ill and we do theater workshops. It has a therapeutic outcome. Right now I work with mentally ill substance-abusing veterans. I was just there this morning at the VA Hopsital. We do theater improv. It has a lot of amazing human effects. It’s great work. I’ve been doing it for about six years. Under the guise of a character people can express things they wouldn’t otherwise. It’s not drama therapy where you go back into your own experiences and situations. It’s where you create completely new characters.
For more information, visit http://www.myspace.com/christinalinhardt.