Make it in the Mecca

Why the Berlin Opera Academy (BOA) draws every summer singers from around the world. Interview with BOA founder, General Director and Bass Mark Sampson.

AIF: What can singers expect when they undertake the effort to travel to Berlin and attend the Berlin Opera Academy?

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The Canadian Bass and BOA founder Mark Sampson has been singing in musical and opera theaters in Canada and Europe. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics.

Mark Sampson: Berlin Opera Academy singers can expect to spend one intense month in Berlin working within the framework of how a typical German opera house would operate. In addition to a normal rehearsal work load, singers will be keeping up with singing lessons, coaching their role and arias with Répétiteurs, singing for masterclasses, auditioning for agents, performing in concerts, taking German language class, attending career workshops and exploring the city. They can also expect to make a new family at BOA, comprised of international peers that will soon likely be their colleagues.

AIF: How is BOA special among the many academies for singers taking place every summer around the world?

Mark Sampson: BOA is unique in its emphasis on relevant professional training. Berlin is the most operatically important city in the world and thus, filled with professionals of the highest standard. These are your instructors at BOA. You are learning directly from those who are succeeding in today’s workplace. Each of them has a parallel background in educating young singers at some of the world’s highest level universities and organisations. Our instructors have a passion for providing singers with the tools they need to succeed in the current world of opera employment. We act as a stepping stone for young singers to get further along in their personal career journey.

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Find more information about the Berlin Opera Academy at http://www.berlinoperaacademy.com

AIF: What opera productions are you planning for this year’s summer festival?

Mark Sampson: The BOA 2018 summer opera festival will include Die Fledermaus, Hänsel und Gretel, Die Zauberflöte and L’incoronazione di Poppea. Additionally there will be an Opera Gala concert series and a Lieder Abend series.

AIF: As Canadian singer you could have chosen sunnier, warmer places for the Opera Academy. Why Berlin?

Mark Sampson: What better place to develop your opera experience than in the city with the most opera performed annually in the world? This city affords singers the opportunity to work within a culture that embraces opera. The number of interesting musicians, educators, performance venues and opera-lovers is countless. This is why BOA was founded in Berlin.

AIF: How did your career path lead you to Berlin?

Mark Sampson: Berlin is sort of the Mecca for all things opera. If you want to be involved in the opera world, it felt like a no brainer to get your feet wet here. The plethora of singing teachers, coaches, conductors, theaters, opportunities and especially the singer community is what drew most of us here.

Watch a video about BOA’s work with statements by singers and instructors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wild Words between Vorhang and Hinterbühne

Theater vocabulary part I: The compound nouns

My recent workshop “German for Opera Singers” in Berlin brought together sopranos and baritones to discuss theater vocabulary. Stage language in German opera houses is, of course, German, and therefore compound nouns are your companions – no escape.

The workshop’s participants tried to connect the following compounds to create words that describe things or activities on stage. Try it, too, but do not scroll down … yet.

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Here are the answers – with another exercize: Choose the verbs below that fit the nouns.

das Lampenfieber _______________   das Bühnenbild ________________

die Hosenrolle _______________   die Generalprobe ________________
die Zweitbesetzung _______________   das Stimmband ________________
der Scheinwerfer _______________

aufführen, haben, singen, aufbauen, blenden, warten, entzünden

Find the answers in part two of the series about theater vocabuary.

 

 

 

 

Lampenfieber? At Least Learn What it Means

Workshop “German for Opera Singers” explores Vocabulary of Theater and Stage Direction.

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Winter in Schöneberg

If you cannot prevent Lampenfieber, learn what it means: It’s the fever the spotlights give you when you enter the stage: Stage fright! Lampenfieber is one of the many words, terms, expressions, and superstitions in a German opera house, you will learn in my first workshop “German for Opera Singers” in 2018.

When?

Wednesday, January 24
7 pm – 9 pm

Where?

After having conducted workshops in Vienna and London: Back in Berlin.
Prachtwerk Cafe (Conference Room), in Neukölln,
Ganghoferstr. 2

Fee: EUR 12

From Bühnenbild to Lampenfieber, from Stimmband to Soufleuse, there are many words besides the musical vocabulary you need to know to survive your first hundred hours in a German opera house – and those from the director’s commanding mouth: Learn to understand (and follow!) stage directions and what the director wants from you in rehearsals and eventually in a performance. We will practice the vocabulary of movement and position.

The workshop will be open for everyone who sings, conducts, or directs.

If you are interested to join, drop me a line at bernducha@gmail.com.

The workshop series “German for Opera Singers” draws singers from all around the world who want to live and sing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These are some of the themes of previous workshops:

– Ich komme. Haben Sie Zeit? How to write an audition request to agencies in German
– Seien wir wieder gut – The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos
– O namenlose Freude – The Linguistics of Fidelio
– Du heller, wilder Fluss – Understanding the Poetry in Schubert’s songs
– Die Frist ist um – Common Traits in Wagner’s Libretti


Read articles about previous workshops, for example …

The London Workshop: Click.

The Vienna Workshop: Click.

The Ariane auf Naxos Workshop: Click.

Video: Watch and listen what singers have to say about the Ariadne workshop.

Have a Thick Skin and Track Your Finances

Interview part 2: Stephen Svanholm’s online service gives singers advice and tools for self-management.

There is no artistic boundary Stephen John Svanholm has not crossed. He began his musical career as a guitarist in a heavy metal band just to step one day onto an opera stage to sing Figaro. Recently, the Stockholm-based Lyric Baritone founded The Opera Stage, a website designed to “enable singers without agents to learn how to manage their own career paths”, as stated in its press release. In part two of the series about his work, he talks about today’s challenges for singers and the tools to meet them.

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AIF: What is the main challenge for singers in promoting themselves?

Stephen Svanholm: In the past, a lot more singers took the tightly prescribed traditional path from college to agent to opera house. Today, far more singers manage their own careers. The opera business is far more open and in a field with many unrepresented artists, one must both formulate an individual career strategy and be willing to put in the time to actualise that strategy. In an oversaturated market, the challenge lies in knowing which avenues to invest in, develop and employ.

AIF: What quality does an opera singer need in an environment as international as the opera world?

Stephen Svanholm: Flexibility is hugely important – both artistic and practical. Most artists, especially in the beginning of their careers, will have to juggle an array of musical and non-musical jobs. Once hired, they will also have to exhibit artistic flexibility, and will often be asked to sing roles outside their Fach now, especially in early Fest contracts. Also, developing a thick skin while remaining open as an artist is essential. Rejections are inevitable for all artists. I think it’s essential to be able to absorb any constructive feedback and criticism from these experiences, and move on with positivity.

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AIF: What kind of help does a singer get when he or she signs up at The Opera Stage?

Stephen Svanholm: If an artist registers on The Opera Stage, they become a Basic Member free of charge. A Basic Member can create an Artist Profile, adding audio, video, photos, reviews, and stage experience. All Artist Profiles appear in our public Opera Industry Directory. Basic Members can use an array of other career tools: Our YAP Calendar is the only calendar available online which lists Young Artists Programs by their deadline, along with links to the program’s home page. In addition, artists get access to our Opportunities Board. We believe strongly that singers should not have to pay for information about any openings or work which are non-paying or pay-to-sing, as well as for info about competitions, courses and masterclasses.

AIF: How does a singer benefit by upgrading to the premium service?

Stephen Svanholm: With our very reasonably priced monthly subscription the artist becomes a Premium Member and can get access to our Paid Jobs Board, which features a large selection of paid work worldwide, daily. We also send a daily Jobs Bulletin with new jobs which each artist can filter according to their needs. Premium Members can also take part in Agency Panel Auditions which we are holding in London and Berlin in February (more cities to come) for a subsidised price. There they will be able to sing for a panel of at least five agents.

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AIF: So, does a singer still need an agent?

Stephen Svanholm: We have members with agents as well as without. I think a lot of singers can fill their diaries nowadays without an agent. There are a lot of openings out there, and it just requires some initiative on the part of the artist and willingness to really take the chances presented to them. 

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Of course, having an agent still has great benefits.The singer can have someone else handle the admin side of their career and also the highest level mainstage soloist jobs will continue (at least for a while yet) to go through agencies rather than subscription services. However, to find the right representation for them, artists need to be in the shop window and sing as many roles with the smaller and medium-sized companies as possible.

Find more information at theoperastage.com

 

 

 

 

A Baritone’s Love for Sauerkraut and Chiaroscuro

In his career, Lyric Baritone Stephen John Svanholm has criss-crossed the continent and music genres alike. In part one of his portrait, a questionnaire explains the artist; in part two, the artist will explain his latest undertaking, the website The Opera Stage.

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Your name:
Stephen Svanholm

From where?
Born in Durham, England, brought up in County Durham (England), Stockholm (Sweden) and Newport, Pembrokeshire (Wales)

Where based?
Stockholm

Your Fach?
Lyric Baritone

When have you been in Berlin?
I lived in Berlin from March 2014 to September 2017. (minus a few work periods in the UK)

Two things you like about Berlin:
The creativity, which is to be seen everywhere from street art, crafts, use of space, and music. And also the liberal attitudes to just about any lifestyle imaginable.

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Two things you don’t like about Berlin:
Dog poop on the pavements. Other stuff on the pavements.

Your favourite role:
Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Your hero in opera:
Franco Corello for the visceral impact of his singing

Your hero in real life:
Elon Musk

Your favorite quality in a singer:
Chiaroscuro

Best opera production you saw in Germany:
Die Zauberflöte at Komische Oper Berlin

Craziest opera production you saw in Germany:
Rheingold at Staatsoper Berlin

Your biggest career change:
From heavy metal guitarist to opera singer

Your newest project:
The Opera Stage’s expansion with a new website.

Your favourite German word:
Sauerkraut (which is also my favourite German thing)

Read next week: AIF’s interview with Stephen Svanholm about his website The Opera Stage that helps singers to manage their career.

 

 

 

German for Singers in Cardiff: The Programme

In the upcoming workshop “German for Opera Singers” in Cardiff, singers will brush up their grammar, linger over theatre vocabulary, follow stage directions, and dive deep into the linguistics of chosen arias and Lieder. In between, a Berlin-based singer colleague will give advice about auditioning in Germany via Skype. Here is more information:


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Who runs the workshop?

Bernd Hendricks, Berlin-based German language consultant, tutor and author of the book “Ach ich fühl’s – German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing”. Mr Hendricks has held workshops in Berlin, Vienna and London, and will be coming to the Welsh capital for the first time.


What?

Day 1:
– Liebst, liebt, liebe, geliebt, liebten – Who loves or is it already over?
Refresh verb basics, conjugate and build the tenses.


– Seien wir wieder gut – The linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos
Understand the relationships between the characters through the language, and learn fixed phrases that help to memorize parts of the text.


– Zwischen Bühnenbild und Lampenfieber – Theatre vocabulary.


Day 2:
– To the end of the line – understanding Wagner’s linguistics
Understand Wagner’s texts and his order of words, and unlock the emotions underneath its linguistics.


– Little words – great emotions
Explore the words that express feelings or attitudes with examples from the
Rosenkavalier and Entführung aus dem Serail.

– On stage – follow the direction
Understand stage directions and practice the vocabulary of movement and position.


Not scheduled yet (either on Friday or on Saturday):
– What you need to know about Vorsingen (audition) in Germany
Skype conversation with a Berlin-based singer colleague.


Bernd Hendricks

Language consultant Bernd Hendricks holds workshops in Berlin, Vienna and London.

What else?

Each day for 2 hours before or after the group session, Mr Hendricks will be available for individual sessions about the singers’ written audition requests and questions about the linguistics of arias or Lieder they are currently working on.

When?

Friday, December 8, 4 pm – 8 pm
Saturday, December 9, 12 pm – 4 pm.

Where?

Roath Room at the YMCA Plas Community Center, 2 Shakespeare Street, Cardiff.

What language level?


Some understanding of the language is desired (beginners, advanced beginners)

Who participates?

Singers and everybody else who is involved in opera productions.


How many?


Number of participants: 10 – 12


How much?


Price: £ 120 per person.
Pay 10 % less if you bring one participant.
Pay 20 % less if you bring two participants or more.
Pay £ 70 if you can attend for only one day.


Where to register?


In Facebook:
www.facebook.com/events/1607312742640975/
Or send an e-mail to Bernd Hendricks:
bernducha@gmail.com

The workshop is featured at MGR Music, a network for voice teachers at mgrmusic.com and at the online audition service Audition Oracle at auditionoracle.com.

Read articles about previous workshops, for example … 
The London Workshop: Click.

The Vienna Workshop: Click.

The Ariane auf Naxos Workshop: Click.

Video: Watch and listen what singers have to say about the Ariadne workshop.

 

 

Soon in Cardiff: German for Opera Singers

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Opera singers in Berlin, Vienna and most recently in London have embraced it, and soon it will be brought to the singers’ community in Cardiff, Wales:

German for Opera Singers.

The Berlin-based German language consultant, writer, and tutor Bernd Hendricks will conduct his renowned workshop for the first time in the Welsh capital. On Friday, December 8th and on Saturday, December 9th, for four hours each day, singers will be able

– to brush up their German,
– to examine the linguistics of German libretti and Lieder,
– to understand and express theatre vocabulary and stage directions, and
– to learn about the German audition system from a Berlin-based singer via skype.

In addition, each day for two hours before or after the group session, Mr Hendricks will be available for individual sessions about the singers’ written audition requests and questions about the linguistics of arias or Lieder they are currently working on.

Location: YMCA Plas Community Center, Roath Room, 2 Shakespeare Street, Cardiff.

The workshop will be open for everyone who sings, conducts, or directs.

Are you interested in participating in the Cardiff Workshop? Do you want to know more about the course programme? Please drop me a line at bernducha@gmail.com

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Shakespeare statue in Berlin, across the Deutsche Oper.

The workshop series German for Opera Singers draws singers from all around the world who want to live and sing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These are some of the themes of previous workshops:

– Ich komme. Haben Sie Zeit? How to write an audition request to agencies in German
- Seien wir wieder gut – The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos
- O namenlose Freude – The Linguistics of Fidelio
- Du heller, wilder Fluss – Understanding the Poetry in Schubert’s songs
- Die Frist ist um – Common Traits in Wagner’s Libretti


Read articles about previous workshops, for example … 
The London Workshop: Click.

The Vienna Workshop: Click.

The Ariane auf Naxos Workshop: Click.

Video: Watch and listen what singers have to say about the Ariadne workshop.