If you've been following Susan's German Audition Tour blog, you know that she is well into her journey! This week, Susan tries all the bratwursts in lieu of Thanksgiving, visits Christ Kindl Markets on Black Friday, and muses on how this audition tour has allowed her to work even harder on her music career. It's amazing the progress you make when the only thing you have to focus on is music. All that practicing will come in handy at Susan's upcoming auditions!
"I went on a lot of long walks this week. Long walks can be lovely. Especially if you don’t have an exact destination in mind. The best long walks are the ones where you manage to get a little bit lost. It may sound dangerous to get lost in a foreign country, but I’ve not felt it so. Not yet, at least.
It was on one of my walks that I stumbled across a plaque, actually not more than a few houses down from my apartment. One of my favorite things about the Germans is that they put a plaque on any old thing. It said:
“Der Österreiche Dichter Franz Kafka geboren on 3. Juli 1883 in Prag verstorben am 3. Juni 1924 in Wein/Klosterneuberg Wohnte in diesem Hause vom 15. November 1923 bis zum 1. Februar 1924. – Die Republik Österreich.”
My German is getting faster, so I was able to translate this practically without looking up any words. “The Austrian Poet, Franz Kafka born on July 3, 1883 in Prague, died on June 3, 1924 in Vienna/Abbey Neuberg lived in this house from November 15, 1923 until February 1, 1924. – The Republic of Austria”
When I was in graduate school, we read Metamorphosis in the original German, which I can tell you, was kind of a slog. Now I’m not sure what to make of the information that Franz Kafka briefly lived on the same block as my apartment, except to think about how very small and very weird the world is.
I had an audition this week for a competition. If I make it to the finals, they’ll fly me to Spain (la di da), but the really exciting part for me was that the first round took place in the Staatsoper Unter den Linden. They are celebrating their 275th anniversary on December 7th of this year, meaning that opera house has been there longer than the United States has been a country. It was one of the first orders of King Friedrichs II, to build an opera. They also just renovated the entire facility and it looks gorgeous. I know it’s dorky of me, but just singing in one of their rehearsal rooms was a thrill for me. It makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. Also, the pianist managed to call me impressive a couple of times, so that was nice too. Thank you, Mr. Pianist!
It was Thanksgiving this week, but they don’t have Thanksgiving in Germany. A lot of my expat friends have come and gone already, so it was mostly just like a regular Thursday. I FaceTimed with my family. “Susan, how many bratwursts have you had today???” Where I grew up, there are a lot of people with German heritage, but a bratwurst is one thing. In Germany, a bratwurst is a catch-all term for a food that has thousands of different varieties and regional differences. I keep on trying to find the wurst that tastes like the bratwurst at home, without much success, though I haven’t run into one that wasn’t tasty yet. So, I’m happy to keep trying. One bratwurst tasted like a fancy hot dog, one bratwurst tasted like rye bread, one bratwurst tasted like bacon...
Though there is no Thanksgiving, there is Black Friday, so that’s pretty weird. It feels like one way American culture and globalization makes some things completely unavoidable, which would be a pretty big bummer, except that they’ve started putting up the ChristKindlMarkts. Now, they have a ChristKindlMarkt in Chicago, so I’m not totally unfamiliar with the practice, but I can already tell that what they have in America is going to be 10% of what they get up to here. The history of ChristKindlMarkts goes back to the Middle Ages. In Berlin alone, there are actually 70 markets. 70. Just in Berlin. All the stalls are made of wood and hung all over with lights and ornaments. They sell gluhwein and funnel cakes and nutcrackers and lebkuchen. Oh, I also had my first lebkuchen this week. Delicious. It’s like if a ginger snap and a cake had a baby.
Part of what is wonderful about being here is that I am working really hard. At home, I’m working a full time job and a part time job. So there’s just not a lot of spare time or energy. I practice most days, but practicing after an 8 hour work day and practicing here where that 8 hour work day isn’t a factor is a totally different proposition. Here, I have all morning to study my German and send emails. I have all afternoon to listen to my latest coaching and practice, and all evening to reward myself by watching Back to the Future 2 dubbed over in German on the TV.
Of course I don't do this every day, since some days I’ve got auditions and some days I’ve got a coaching and some days I have to be on the bus trying to get to another audition or coaching. But there’s a lot more space to do my work. It’s interesting, because I really did think I was working hard at home, but now I can see that my singing was really getting whatever was left at the end of a day I spent doing other things so that I could afford lessons and application fees and my student loan bill. I’m so grateful for this time.
Particularly because a lot of these buildings are old, which means a lot of them are not sound proofed. When I go to an audition, I wind up hearing a lot of other people’s auditions. I can hear that the girl three people ahead of me took the higher ornaments in her Doll Aria. I can hear that the tenor who went before me managed to chat with them in perfect German for ten minutes. It’s no mystery to me now what I need to work on. Languages are not the type of thing you can cram. Learning that kind of thing takes sustained effort over the course of years, and a lot of these people are way farther along that path than I am.
In other, more career-oriented news, Christine is here this week and was kind enough to call some theaters and the ZAV for me (Thank you, Christine!). So, let’s all keep our fingers crossed that I can sing for some theaters! I’m disappointed in the ZAV. Everyone I spoke to before coming here said to go sing for them. They’re the government agency. They have to hear you audition. If someone gets sick, the theater will call the ZAV for a replacement. I’d emailed them twice and gotten no response at all. They said on the phone with Christine that they’d lost my email and now their December auditions are full. I used to work as a secretary, so I totally understand that sometimes things just get lost in the shuffle. I really do. The thing is, I emailed them on September 27th before I left and then emailed them again on October 25th. Is it possible that they lost both emails? Sure. Is it crappy and disappointing? Also, yes. Particularly because I sing Queen, and people keep telling me that is in pretty high demand here. I’d love a chance to jump in somewhere, but I’m not sure how I’ll get to do that without the ZAV.
Two more auditions coming up this week. One for an agent in Berlin and one for an agent in Karlsruhe. Keep your fingers crossed for me."
Isn't it amazing what happens when the only work you need to do is music? For those musicians also holding down full and part-time jobs, how do you balance your work with your music practice? Have you had to make adjustments? What does your daily routine look like? Keep following the GVAI Blog for more updates on Susan's audition story and hopefully to see some happy results from her auditions this week!
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Hello, I am Christine, the director of GVAI, a passionate singer, German diction, voice and performance coach. I love music, singing and dancing. Life is an exciting journey and I invite you to walk with me....
GVAI's Summer Opera Program 2018 will be the Magic Flute again. Details will be announced in the near future. Enjoy pictures of the last program here.