Everyone Needs an Old Man in Rügen

Soprano Danielle Musick’s journeys into the German language

Last week this blog has started to publish a series of profiles of young American, Canadian, and British singers who went to Germany to sing and live. Their answers to a small set of questions show what it takes to move to a foreign place, mainly to Berlin, and pursue the career of their dreams.

Foto: Rick Stockwell

Your name:
Danielle Musick

From where?
The US. I grew up in Kansas and also lived in New York for a while.

Your Fach?

Since when in Berlin?
For two years (since 2014)

Your favorite role:
It’s hard to pick one! Susanna in Figaro is probably my favorite.

Best opera production you saw in Germany:
Die Zauberflöte at the Komische Oper Berlin and a dress rehearsal of Macbeth at the Staastoper Berlin.

Craziest opera production you saw in Germany:
hmmm, I don’t think I’ve seen anything that was really crazy. At least not in person!

Your hero in opera:
There are so many singers I admire. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Rene Pape, Renee Fleming, Bryn Terfel, Christa Ludwig, Anna Prohaska, Thomas Quasthoff. There are many others.

Your hero in real life:
My mom.

Two things you like about Berlin:
The transportation system is great and the city is very open-minded and tolerant. It’s also very dog friendly.

Two things you don’t like about Berlin:
Stores not being open on Sundays and all of the smokers.

Foto: Rick Stockwell

A story in which you were glad that you spoke German:
I’m still working on German and I think I will be working for a while. But earlier this year, I was in Rügen, walking along the beach. It was around Easter and cold. An older man asked me a question about my dog. He realized almost immediately that I wasn’t German and then asked where I was from. We had a nice and long conversation about his life (he was celebrating his wedding anniversary) and mine and just had a really nice talk together. I didn’t understand everything he said, but he was patient and repeated things for me. I felt really capable and knew that learning German wasn’t as impossible as it had felt up to that point.

A story in which you made an embarrassing mistake in German (if you want to tell):
I was at an audition recently and the agent was speaking only German to me. I had a general understanding of what he was saying, but the specifics were beyond me. I was so frustrated with myself, but it’s motivated me to work harder. (I do want to point out that I had studied German before coming here and had completed level B1. But studying in a classroom and using German in real life are not the same thing).

Your most recent performance:
A recital earlier this year. I did a program of mostly Schubert songs and I also sang some American songs.

Your next project:
Sometime this fall I’ll be doing another recital. My accompanist and I are still working on the repertoire, but it will probably be an all-German program.

Your favorite quality in a singer:
Uniqueness and fearlessness. It’s easy to have a beautiful voice. But I like singers with interesting voices. I also really like working with singers who learn their music inside and out.

Your favorite quality in a dog that travels with a singer:
A willingness to travel in a bag. I say that jokingly and seriously at the same time. I’m very lucky because my dog is a patient traveler, good-natured, doesn’t mind my practicing, and is at home as long as we’re together.

Your favorite German word:
Dichterfürst, because I think prince of poets is a lovely phrase and beautiful way to say poet laureate.

Find more information about Danielle Musick at

Listen to audio of Danielle Musick’s singing at Soundcloud:




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Bernd Hendricks. Born in Duisburg, Germany. Based in Berlin. Writer, German Language Educator. I was six years old when I went to the opera for the first time. My Grandma took me to Hänsel und Gretel at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg. The first time I met an opera singer personally was during my time as foreign correspondent in New York when at a Christmas party a baritone pelted me with questions about the language of Zauberflöte. He was preparing for his role as Papageno. After my return to Berlin in September 2010, I have been giving German lessons to singers on their audition tours. My workshops in Berlin, Vienna, and London are based on my widely read book Ach, ich fühl’s—German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing. My latest book, Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas, takes you on a journey through the language of the most popular and often performed operas in the German-speaking countries. I am also the author of several non-fiction books and two novels.

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