Things you talk to Marni Nixon about when neither of you wants to talk about how she ghosted the signing for Audrey Hepburn in " My Fair Lady,"Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and Deborah Kerr in "The King and I":
How a distinguished opera and concert singer copes with pop tunes. "A good song can move you just as much as Schubert or Mozart. It's about dimension -- you don't approach it musically as much as personally. I mean, you get Leontyne Price or someone else with a great big powerful overwhelming operatic voice, and she would just blow away some little light thing. On the other hand, when I hear Mahalia Jackson singing 'Deep River,' wow. I long to do something like that to get through to people that way." Nixon opens tomorrow at the Kennedy Center in "An Evening With Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe." The show destroyed 'em at the St. Regis Sheraton in New York.
* Music she likes best. "Oh, chamber music. Some Scho nberg songs. Schubert. Mozart soubrettes are my forte. I'm concerned that halls are getting so big these days, you're always preoccupied with getting your voice out there and can't get your feelings over. I'd like to go back to the living room, where you can see the people you're singing to and they can talk to you after."
* Boy sopranos. "I was always compared to boy sopranos, and then it was angels and then virgins. It was years before someone finally allowed me to sound like a woman. In fact, I was a boy soprano for a while: I used to beef up boys' choirs in Catholic churches because they would quaver, you know, and lose the pitch, and I have perfect pitch. But I loved those untrained little voices reaching up to the heavens, so innocent, with that classical purity."
* What Stravinsky said. "Stravinsky once said I had a voice like an oboe or violin or sometimes a flute. A very pretty voice, bird-like, high F was easy for me, but I have always worked to extend it, to get more feeling into it. I have this record of my voice at 10 -- I had entered the Pomona State Fair in California with my violin but forgot the violin so I sang the Blue Danube instead and won the $100 -- and it's this sweet little piping sound, this little cricket."
* What happened with the violin. "I started on the violin at 4 and played professionally at 14 with orchestras, but I didn't practice, and the voice was a more direct way to express joy, and ecstasy, and the opposite, of course."
* The Respighi disaster. "I was so confident then, had fantastic technique, never goofed up, was always nice. It wasn't enough. Then I started having children there are three and my voice got heavier and richer, and I lost a couple of high notes in a concert, I went up to a high D in a Respighi song . . . and it wasn't there. The whole room was filled with exclamation points."
* Hausmusik. "My mother was the daughter of a German baroness, and I grew up in Los Angeles with three sisters. We sang together a lot. My father was a Scot." She appeared at the Pasadena Playhouse at 14, was a charter member of the Roger Wagner Chorale, designed and directed the California Art Institute's voice department.
* Orchestras and operas she has sung with: Denver, Toronto, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Buffalo, Syracuse, Dallas, San Diego, Atlanta, Guadalajara, Haifa, Israel. And conductors: Bernstein, Allers, Previn, Katims, Foss, Van Beinum, Stravinsky, Stokowski, Green, Mehta and so on.
* These days: Just moved from Seattle to New York. Teaches master classes. Has a one-woman show, children's TV show, three Emmys, a Grammy, an opera written for her and a pile of recordings from the complete works of Webern to a gold record of "Mary Poppins."
* Piaf. "I can do Edith Piaf. I hear that quality of something fragile that has been broken, the pathos in it. I love that. It's not how much you've trained, it's not about singing, but about inner experience. How much you've lived. That's what I'm always trying for. That's how I got into the, uh, right, the voice dubbing . . . "