EQ Artists – Autumn 2018 recap
It has been an autumn full of debuts, milestones and awards for EQ Artists!
Our Autumn recap includes short summaries from EQ artists about their concert and opera work, as well as some insights from The Rake’s Progress Gothenburg cast as they prepare for the performances next month.
True to EQ, these quarterly recaps are not only a list of engagements and highlights, but personal notes from the artists on how they are are tackling challenges and integrating EQ values within their professional lives.
In the preparations of The Rake's Progress it has been very exciting to prepare more than one role (I'm singing Father Trulove, Mother Goose and Keeper of the Madhouse) - especially Mother Goose since I'm singing falsetto. To do this with a reasonable result I have had to think of singing technique and expression in a totally different way, which has been very rewarding for my "normal/chest" voice. To get inspiration for the performances in Gothenburg I have made as much research as possible, watching videos of performances, reading articles and looking up the paintings that was the inspiration for the composer and author of the opera. I have also followed the Friendly Eyes program with mental training and find it very helpful in staying focused on my task.
I have started the International Opera Studio at Staatsoper Berlin, great fun! Right now we are working a lot on the contemporary piece Kopernikus by the Canadian composer Claude Vivier. Premiere will be in January 2019 so I will be practicing this piece a lot in the breaks during the EQ project.
Also: soprano Sofie Asplund won the first prize in the competition "Schymberg Award" (after Swedish soprano Hjördis Schymberg) and I won the second prize, so two EQ singers at the top of the competition!
I’m currently singing the role of Prince Taro in Paul Abraham’s Blume von Hawaii with Theater for Niedersachen, and preparing for my first Christmas Oratorio (Bach) in Berlin right after Rake’s in Gothenburg.
John Taylor Ward
I have retreated to the mountains of North Carolina to make my final preparations for Rake's. I'm in a secluded town called Boone, but still having Skype meetings with teachers and coaches from all over the world: Sweden, Vancouver, NYC.
I sang the world premiere of an opera by Thodoris Abazis as Goddess Aprodite in opera Hera on the ancient island of Delos in Greece on 7th of October (on my birthday!). Right after that, I jumped into the Greek premiere of Udo Zimmermann's Weisse Rose as Sophie Scholl for the National Opera of Greece - Alternative Stage.
During this time, I have been exercising Friendly Eyes all the time and found it quite challenging. There were many times I was self critical and also very critical with others. But soon I decided to treat all the things I disliked, as situations where I need to invest with more interest and care. It works every single time...
As for my preparation for the Rake's, just yesterday I received a belated birthday present from the same friend who encouraged me to do the EQ audition: she sent me a full score of The Rake's Progress and I am currently studying the orchestra score and I am amazed by the beauty of it. I always like to spend some time studying the full score because it makes me feel more safe and calm and it stirs my imagination as to what colors would I like to blend into the orchestra, depending on the instrumentation of each scene... Well I just find it extremely fun doing it!
I have been preparing to sing Baba the Turk in Gothenburg as part of our Rake's Progress project. I learnt the music as well as I could at home (lonely work being a singer sometimes - in a room with only a piano as company a lot!) and have been working on the role technically with my teacher. I've had some coachings at my alma mater, the National Opera Studio, and one with Andrew Watts. I was struggling a bit with the character of Baba; most people play her as this sort of pantomime dame type comedy character, but I thought that the music and the text reflected more to her than that (without drawing attention from the main story too much - she's not on stage that much!) I wanted to have a coaching with Andrew as out of all of the videos I have watched of Baba whilst searching for what my version of her would be like, he seemed to be the most in tune with Baba's more compassionate, vulnerable side, which I really liked. It was great to work with him and I'm really looking forward to going to Paris and Gothenburg to work further on this with Barbara and the rest of the EQ gang!
Since our Amsterdam summit a lot has happened, including three opera productions, Ariadne auf Naxos at Opera Holland Park and Paul Bunyan and Salome at ENO. Elgan Llyr Thomas and Will Morgan were also in Paul Bunyan and we grabbed a nice photo together. I had to prepare a new opera for a sing-through at the ROH with two weeks notice. I'm not in the performances, but it was great exercise and I got to work with fellow EQ, Elizabeth Karani! I also managed to get an agent in this time, which has been a huge help for getting new auditions.
Having worked on Friendly Eyes, I have found myself going into rehearsals and performances with amazing clarity and courage. I found so much enjoyment in those three productions. This is when our work becomes addictive! In addition to friendly eyes meditation, I have also adjusted my regular warm up to include a yoga sun salutation, which has woken up my breathing apparatus massively. (Thank you, Phyllis!)
We've had a great time connecting with meditation buddies too and it has been helpful to share thoughts and ideas on meditation, performing, music and life. One of my EQ buddies actually inspired me to make a music video, which I've been filming in the past week... Stay tuned!
I've been challenging myself with lots of new repertoire and I have been singing arias that I previously wouldn't have dared to touch. When you stop judging yourself it's amazing what possibility you find in your own mind and body. I'm sure we all have limits, but we don't have to predetermine them through our own thinking.
This month I'm performing Verdi's Requiem with the Sussex Symphony and as soon as I get back from the Paris summit I'm singing Messiah with the London Handel Festival. In the new year I'll be playing Kromov in The Merry Widow at ENO. (I'm also planning my wedding on January 3rd!)
On October 27th was the final of the Hjördis Schymberg Award (Hjördis was a famous Swedish coloratura soprano) where both me and Erik Rosenius participated. I won first prize and Erik second prize - so EQ on top 😄
I have been busy with lots of concerts: Birgit Nilsson 100 years celebration concert, Les Illuminations, Die Schöpfung, and this month Mozart Requiem and Mass in c-minor. And of course studying Rake’s and Les dialogues des Carmelites, which I start in rehearse in Stockholm immediately after our EQ meeting in Paris.
On December 7th, I will receive a culture scholarship from the Swedish foundation “Stena Stiftelsen” in Gothenburg. I will sing Ann Trulove’s aria at the ceremony at the concert house in Gothenburg! EQ was mentioned a lot when this was announced. I was also at Barbara’s lecture and master class in Stockholm when she received the Rolf Schock prize. It was amazing!
I currently reside in Estonia, which means I've been able to discover and perform a lot of Estonian music in recent years. Although this is not the music widely performed abroad, I feel that some of it could be. It has been a refreshing journey from song cycles to vocal masterpieces and maybe one day I can bring some of it further from home. The tradition continues in February when I'll be performing an erotic oratorio called Amores by Eino Tamberg written in 1981. Recent concerts include a lot of vocal masterpieces like Respighi's Lauda per la nativita del Signore, Mendelssohn's Lobgesang and Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. Masterpieces to look forward to are Vivaldi's solo cantata Cessate, omai cessate with Peter Spissky and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with Risto Joost and Liepaja Symphony Orchestra and of course Mozart's Requiem with Barbara Hannigan in Germany and Denmark!
During the ARD competition in Munich in September I decided to give myself a "Friendly Eyes challenge" - to focus on bringing joy to an audience instead of judging myself and others, to focus on the hard work and enjoyment, and NOT on story thinking stuff like if things were unfair or if somebody was better than me. And I got to a third placement! Right now I am preparing for a heavy November, but first coming up my debut as Rosée-du-Soir in the operetta König Karotte (KING carrot) in the Hannover state opera.
Since the summer, I've sung Maddalena in Rigoletto with Northern Ireland Opera, Marguerite in Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust at the St. Endellion Festival, a Cesti opera with Christophe Rousset, and am currently rehearsing the recently re-discovered Offenbach opera Barkouf at Opera National du Rhin, which opens December 7th. I have also had several chamber music concerts, including my first Winterreise, a World War I themed recital programme, and a mythological drama by the brilliant composer Ryan Wigglesworth at the Oxford Lieder Festival.
It's the first season where all my engagements seem to be back-to-back and/or overlapping, and I definitely felt trepidation as it all loomed into view because the repertoire incorporates extremes of character and vocal range. But the discipline of learning the music has been the same no matter the piece, and in opening my head space to accommodate all the different styles and narratives, I've somehow found transitioning from project to project really smooth and not jarring at all. At least, that has been my experience so far! And having an open flow of ideas and conversation on our EQ Whatsapp chat group has been a big source of support and inspiration.
Productions I'm working on in Wiesbaden, where I'm fest in the theater ensemble: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tannhäuser, Der Fliegende Holländer, Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Idomeneo, La Clemnza di Tito, My Fair Lady, Candide, Bluebeard's Castle. And I'm very excited to make my debut conducting Hänsel und Gretel. I'm also excited to accompany two upcoming Liederabends: an all-Schubert evening (a kind of "Schubertiad") and an all-Brahms program devoted to the songs Brahms composed for and performed with a historically important but little remembered 19th Century singer named Hermine Spies. I'm also currently completing my arrangement for chamber orchestra of Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande.