My first (and second!) beer in Germany!
We are already at week two of Susan’s audition tour and she has finally had a chance to do some sightseeing! Walking around Berlin, she seems to run into one historical site after another. Along with experiencing the German culture, sightseeing is certainly like stepping into the pages of a history book. And Berlin is definitely not short on history! Read on to hear about her discoveries, plus a new opera audition opportunity.
This week, with my schedule a little bit lighter, I decided to go do some sightseeing. I went to go see the Brandenburg Gate. That was all I was trying to accomplish that day. The best part about sightseeing alone is that you can stay with anything so long as it holds your attention, and it doesn’t matters if you get side-tracked by something else. I turned the wrong way coming out of the train and found the Komische Oper Berlin and the Staatsoper Unter den Linden just a few blocks away – these places that had really only been an abstraction to me are suddenly right in front of me, within just a few blocks of each other. It was raining pretty badly, but I didn’t mind at all. I kept grinning at strangers like a crazy person. There’s something very freeing about being in a place where nobody knows you.
Eventually I figured it out, turned around, and found the Brandenburg Gate. In hindsight, it’s actually pretty hard to miss. The Brandenburg gate was built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel – the original nucleus of Prussia, before the capital became Berlin. It was built on the orders of Frederick William II after the restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution. The restoration of order turned out to be temporary, but the gate still stands. For context, this gate was finished being built the same year that Mozart died – 1791. Following WW2, this gate separated West Berlin from East Berlin. It was here that Ronald Reagan commanded, “Mr. Gorbachev – tear down this wall!” The Brandenburg Gate officially reopened in 1989 – 100,000 came to celebrate, reinventing the gate as a symbol of German unity and peace.
I passed through the gate thinking of maybe taking a picture from the other side of it. There’s a long avenue there and I saw a gold statue at the other end of it. I was in no rush, so I decided to walk towards the statue. A nice stroll, picturesquely unter den linden, as it were, despite the rain. (For those who missed that. Unter den Linden is the street name. It also means ‘under the linden trees.’) On my way, I couldn’t help glancing left at this amazing park. It seemed to call to me. It was like every fairytale was taking place in that park just around the corner from me. I abandoned the statue idea and turned left into the woods. As it turns out, that’s the Tiergarten.
The Tiergarten is among the largest urban gardens in Germany – clocking in at an amazing 520 acres. The Tiergarten’s origins date back to 1527, when it served as hunting grounds. For a time, The Elector of Brandenburg had wild animals placed within the Tiergarten and fenced it all off to prevent the animals from escaping. I could have spent all day in there. Every time you turn a corner, there’s another statue or pond or glade. The Tiergarten feels alive, like a place designed to have an adventure in. The greens seem greener; the water, wetter.
I found a statue dedicated to Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart – those titans of German classical music – built some time from 1892-1904. I spent a while reading the plaque nearby and it turns out that statue had seen some action during WW2 and been damaged considerably. They dismantled the entire thing and restored it, working from historical photographs. They decided to not repair some damages – such as the bullet scars from WW2. I was very moved by this. It seems like such a German sentiment – to do our best to repair, but then stop short of pretending this statue hasn’t seen terrible violence in its time. Still being here is victory enough, there’s no call for a pretense of perfection. All in all I had a really wonderful day – walking and reading and seeing and thinking.
A few days later, I got invited to dinner by some colleagues near the Deutsche Oper Berlin. I’ve never been all that into beer – if I’m being totally honest, I’ve never really cared for it. I know it’s a thing here, though, so I told my friend I would have whatever he was having and just let him order for me. Guys, everything they say is true. It was delicious. I feel like I’ve been converted. Then, he ordered a different one for me and that one was also delicious in an entirely different way. There are a lot of expats here. I feel like I completely understand how people can just fall in love with this city – its culture, its history, its people. My friends are already trying to convince me to just get a job teaching English so I can stay longer. It is to Berlin’s great credit that after only two weeks, that doesn’t seem like a horrible idea.
In other news, I got invited to two more auditions for agents – one in Munich and one in Baden-Baden. That is good. The catch is that both of those agents want me to pay a fee of 80 euros before I come sing for them. I’m not sure what to do about it, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to write about it. Sometimes writing about a thing helps me to know what I think about it. Obviously, I did not budget for that. I did come here to sing, though, and I don’t want to pass up an opportunity to audition. I want to work. On the other hand, as an adult, I realize that the answer to the question, “Is this stranger trying to take advantage of me and my dream?” is pretty much always: maybe. So I know I do have to be careful. I spent a really long time in my life getting really good at singing, and now I find that the skillset I really need is that of a business woman – or maybe a fortune teller. Is this a good investment or a scam? Do I take this risk, even though I didn’t plan for it? I’m following up with the agents I auditioned for at the NYIOPs, but nobody has offered to take me on as of yet. Is this the only way forward?
I haven’t mentioned it to anyone yet, which isn’t helpful. My dad rather pointedly asked me how much money I have left this week. I told him, and without prompting he said, “Okay, well, when you get to the time when you have half of that, you let me know.” He doesn’t like the idea of me being as far away as I can be with less than $2000 to my name. He worries for me; he’s a really good dad. That being said, I planned for this trip. I made a budget and I did not anticipate having to ask for help from him or from anybody. I guess I knew there would be unknowns, but I'm feeling very undecided as to whether to take those two auditions or not. Would it be better to say, “Thank you, but no thank you,” and start reaching out to smaller houses directly? I know I can do the job and I’m ready to do it. If I do go ahead and pay the 160 euro, am I going to kick myself for it later? Would that money be better spent on coaches? I’m really not sure, but I’m praying for guidance. I’ll accept advice in the comments as well, if you feel like weighing in.
What do you think, should Susan pay the 160 euro for the two auditions? How can she tell if this is a scam or an opportunity? Have you been to Berlin and have any more sightseeing suggestions for Susan? Please comment with your suggestions and share this blog with your friends! Don’t be shy! Also, be sure to sign up for our GVAI Newsletter to get Susan’s Audition Tour updates and every blog sent directly to your email inbox.
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