GVAI just finished our 2nd annual summer opera program in Seattle, WA! Congratulations to all the singers, teachers, volunteers and supporters (especially Uli Lengenberg with Uli's famous sausage at Pike Market in Seattle)! It was a success with growth and learning all around. Our summer opera program is a two week program geared towards young artists who plan to pursue advanced schooling or opera careers in Germany, or artists who want to improve their singing in German. This year, our participants put on two performances of Mozart’s Magic Flute with German dialogues, as well as two recitals of German repertoire… all in just two weeks! Yes, it is indeed a very intense program.
Aside from making lifelong friends and exploring the great, unique city of Seattle, what can you expect to take away from this experience? Well, I can’t really put that into a short, concise answer, so here’s a blog about all the wonderful lessons to be learned from 2 weeks at GVAI!
As a singer, diction can be one of the hardest skills. It’s hard enough to sing in your own language in a way that can make the words easily understood. It’s even harder to sing in a foreign language, be understood, AND sound like a native speaker. At GVAI, one of the main focuses of the program is to learn how to sing German like a native German speaker.
You learn to distinguish and reproduce the sounds from actual mother-tongue singers and speakers.
To do this, we go back to the basics. We talk about open and closed vowels and how to tell when which vowel is which in a word. We talk about emphasis on syllables and consonants unique to the German language. Then, we put these things into practice by analyzing our own texts from our recital pieces and our opera production.
Additionally, we take our music to the next level by working on our artistic ability. A song will not capture anyone’s heart if you don’t put your heart into it! We work towards performing music so that the message is understood by the audience - even if it’s not in their native tongue! This is accomplished through masterclasses where we have chances to perform our recital pieces for our peers. Feedback is always given through constructive criticism and positive reinforcement.
In our GVAI summer program, we have the opportunity to have group interviews with professionals working in Germany from all sides of the opera world - from singers to directors to teachers to agents. In this way, young artists can learn a step-by-step process to achieve their goals of singing in Germany. We even include all the hairy stuff, like how to obtain a visa and schedule an audition tour. Singers can bring their list of questions and have them all answered by real-life opera professionals. Trust me, they give much more complete answers than all your googling. This year, we had a chance to interview Prof. Jeannette Favaro-Reuter - voice faculty at Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Ellen Rissinger - a vocal coach and founder of The Diction Police, Jonathan Michie - American baritone at Opera Leipzig, and Therese Renick - director of the Opera and Concert Agency Therese Renick in Düsseldorf.
As a participant in the GVAI summer program last year, I can safely say it is one of the best decisions I ever made for continuing my opera education. The program opened my eyes to all the nuances of German culture, as well as how to even start pursuing a career in Germany. There are so many steps to singing abroad that it almost seemed impossible to me before I joined GVAI. Most practical of all, my German has improved by a million percent! It used to be my weakest language in diction, but now I feel so much more confident singing German (and my vocal coach is certainly happier about that too!) Plus superficially, I have enjoyed the friendships that have continued since my time in the program.
Summer program 2017 Impressions
Click on the photo to enlarge it.
Are you interested in participating in next year’s summer opera program? We might work on Fledermaus, Merry Widow, Hansel and Gretel... it is not decided yet. Let us know what you are interested in learning in the comments. Sign up for our newsletter and keep a look out for audition information on our website next spring.
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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....