EQ Artists – Spring 2019 recap
Our Spring recap includes short summaries from EQ Artists about their concert and opera work, as well as personal notes from the artists on how they are are tackling challenges and integrating EQ values within their professional lives.
Trevor Bowes, 3rd from the left and EQ's Elizabeth Karani is 2nd from the right
My debut at the Royal Opera House… turning my worst nightmare into a dream come true!
On Friday afternoon I got a cryptic text message from a producer at the ROH Linbury Theatre asking if I was in town. A singer in their production of Monstrous Child, a new work by Gavin Higgins and Francesca Simon, was ill and there was no cover.
That evening while I was on stage in the opening night of The Merry Widow at ENO a score arrived for me at stage door and I got a message at 11pm that I would be on the next night! Perhaps with staging! In a difficult new piece that I didn’t really know apart from a sight sing eight months ago! (I have a recurring nightmare where I walk onto a stage not knowing the opera… It doesn’t end well!) I dashed home and sat at the piano studying the music until 2:30 am. Who could sleep under the circumstances??
The next day I had 2.5 hours music time with the conductor and repetiteur during which I memorised my music, about 45 minutes to do my staging, a half hour to sort out wardrobe and hair, a dinner/meditation break, a run of each scene with the other singers, 20 minutes placing call with the orchestra and it was suddenly the half-hour call!
Walking into the wings I could see my recurring dream and I could feel terror taking over. THEN, I remembered Friendly Eyes, the performance psychology work we do with Jackie Reardon. I looked into myself and the situation with friendliness and compassion. Suddenly the fear melted away and, smiling at everyone around me, I became utterly overjoyed! I walked onto the stage and enjoyed every second of that performance! With intense focus I was able to take charge and make it my own, something really special. What a way to make a debut - a dream come true!
This was one of the most stressful and amazing days of my life and I could not have done it without everything I’ve learned through EQ about focus, discipline and finding enjoyment in the most pressured situations. Thank you, Barbara and Jackie!
I'm really looking forward to my first EQ summit in a few days in Paris as we prep for the La Monnaie/Klara, Ojai Festival and Aldeburgh performances of The Rake's Progress. I'm also excited that between these EQ engagements, I will sing my first Olga in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at Opera de Toulon; a recital of Strauss, Zemlinsky, Pfitzner, Korngold and Schreker with Julius Drake in Madrid; and workshop the new Jennifer Higdon opera at Opera Philadelphia, which we'll be doing in a couple of seasons.
I also wanted to share a beautiful and unexpected experience of transformation: at the end of 2018 I was engaged by Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg for seven weeks. At the start of our show on December 11th, the terrorist attack at the Christmas market occurred, and the opera house was placed on lockdown until 1am, so we had to perform the opera in spite of the general sense of anxiety on and off stage. At our subsequent performance two days later, we again felt the heartache emanating from the audience at the top of the show and several members of our stage crew knew one of the victims and were consequently in mourning. But on both nights, as a team on stage, we all instinctively zoned into our individual and communal sense of social responsibility as artists -- in the deepest possible way -- and delivered performances of maximum honesty and joy (thankfully we were doing an Offenbach comedy!). At the curtain calls, there was a palpable warmth and appreciation that flooded both ways between audience and performers for sharing in this healing experience together. For me, it was powerful reminder of why I love to sing and the beautiful responsibility we have as artists.
I'm transformed - and am still transforming - after our Equilibrium Artists summit in Paris. After our work with Barbara, Jackie Reardon and Phyllis Ferwerda, I went back to Germany where I jumped into conducting Humperdinck's Hänsel and Gretel with no rehearsal. Despite the pressure, I felt expressively free in a way I haven't felt in ages, and I have the Equilibrium experience to thank for that. These days I'm head over heels in love with Bartok as I work on a production of Bluebeard's Castle. Next up are productions of Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito, so that by the end of this season I'll have done the seven big Mozart operas. After the Rake again with Barbara in Munich, I'll spend the summer in the States where I've been named Resident Conductor of Cincinnati Opera.
My life has changed quite a bit as I had my second child in December. That means a lot more planning, but instead of "taking it easy", I'm working more as I'm not willing to give up the interesting performances offered to me. Luckily, my little baby boy loves (my) singing, so I spend many hours practising while he's in a carry cot on my belly. We're both getting ready for the Mozart Requiem performances in March and April. I don't have much to sing there, but it is such an important and meaningful work that I try to dig deeper into it. And I generally try to understand what a requiem as such means to me personally.
My March is quite full as we'll fly to Munich for the Requiem, after which I'll have one day to rest and I'll be going to Liepaja (Latvia) to sing Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with Risto Joost conducting. After that I have one day to rest again and rehearsals for a concert with Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and Peter Spissky will begin. The program there is totally different: Vivaldi and Händel solo cantatas and arias. It is an interesting month, because I'll be jumping from classical era to romantic and then to baroque. April will have new challenges and good old Requiem with Equilibrium - but this time with different soprano, tenor and bass.
In February I sang Remendado in Carmen at the Staatsoper Hamburg, with fellow EQ singer Marta Swiderska as Mercedes. We will be back in April for more shows including one show with Jonas Kaufmann as Don José.
In March I will be singing more shows of Die Blume von Hawaii as Prince Taro with Theater für Niedersachen.
At the end of March I will be off to Madrid to perform Dido and Aeneas with the Sasha Waltz company at Teatro Real. I will be singing the part of First witch/Sailor. EQ colleagues Aphrodite Patoulidou and Yannis François are also in the cast.
photo: Instagram @nehm.e
After The Rake's Progress in Gothenburg, I jumped into rehearsals in Berlin for my first baroque role as Belinda in Sasha Waltz's Dido & Aeneas for Teatro Real. I also had the great chance to sing some of Berlioz's Nuits d'été for the films of Eric de Kuyper in Amsterdam.
Recently I was invited to become columnist in a Greek music magazine, writing articles about singing and how can we progress with kindness. I also had my song "Arrival" for voice and piano published.
I've started memorising Vivier's Lonely Child for the upcoming performance with Ludwig in Ojai and also, started getting back in shape for the second EQ Rake's Progress. Revisiting the nest of EQ in Paris was an amazing experience. I had the chance to notice how far I had come since the first time in November 2018. This time we worked with Barbara on refining details and finding more colours for the role of Anne Trulove. I also had the chance to dive deeper into Jackie's #friendlyeyes exercises and techniques. Last but not least, meeting with this "wild card" cast of singers was extremely inspiring and I can't wait to bring on stage what we are preparing!
Since December I have been busy with rehearsals and performances of Les Dialogues des Carmelités at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. I sang the lovely part Constance and was in the cast with the fantastic Anne Sofie Von Otter and Camilla Tilling! It has been an inspiring period and I experienced how much you can learn by just watching and talking to your fabulous colleagues.
Now I’m rehearsing Don Giovanni in which I sing Zerlina, also at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. In April I will sing Bach's St John Passion.
photo: Instagram @sofieasplund
The Rake was great! An intense and inspiring rehearsing process led to the three brilliant performances in December. The production team in Gothenburg was so helpful with everything, the orchestra was the best and we (the EQ-singers) really got together as a team, thanks to our wonderful and inspiring Equilibriumers (Barbara, Linus and Jackie). Being on stage all the time is a challenge for us singers because we can’t prepare in our own way until the very last minute before we go on stage but it also gives you the benefit of knowing the whole show in detail and that this show is totally owned by all of us performers together. A very pleasant feeling and always inspiring to see your colleges doing such a great job, rehearsal after rehearsal, show after show.
So what has happened since then? I rehearsed and did a number of performances of the opera Kopernikus by Claude Vivier (the modernist Canadian composer who Barbara also has a close musical relationship with) at Staatsoper Unter den Linden here in Berlin where I’m a part of the International Opera Studio. I also jumped in and sang the role of Zweiter Geharnischter Mann in the premiere performances of the new staging of Mozarts Die Zauberflöte here at Staatsoper. Apart from that it has been a lot of coachings and personal practicing and now I am so excited to travel to Munich next week and sing the Mozart Requiem with Barbara and a brilliant EQ cast. After that it’s back at the Staatsoper for performances of Die Zauberflöte again (this time in an older staging), Puccini's Tosca and Verdi's Rigoletto.
I also can’t wait to go on the EQ Rake-Tour in May!
photo credit: Marco Feklistoff
from The Rake's Progress premiere with the Gothenburg Symphony, pictured with Aphrodite Patoulidou
The beginning of 2019 has been a great opportunity for me to work with the mother pillar of friendly eyes: acceptance! The flu and colds sometimes intervene and tell you that you are not invincible, which is always frustrating at that time, but friendly eyes has taught me to "gilla läget" as you say in Swedish (it means "like your situation"). And not only accepting things that do not go your way, but being grateful for it. Because how much would we enjoy the great things in life, if there was nothing that ever went badly?
I am now preparing for the Mozart Requiem with EQ in Copenhagen in April, reading about the music and the content, refreshing the technical aspects vocally and listening to different recordings of the piece. I can't wait to start in Copenhagen, to meet the orchestra for the first time, and Barbara and my fellow singers again! Right before our project I have another exciting debut: my very first Carmina Burana and the very first time with the Gothenburg Symphony. Yaay! Oh and if course I am working on in Hannover for our next premiere: Iphis, an opera about gender metamorphosis by Elena Kats Chernin; and as Amor in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. I hope right now that the acceptance part is mainly over, so that I can move right back on to enthusiasm and enjoyment.
photo: Instagram @ylvasofiastenberg