Gretel from Virginia in Humperdinck’s Berlin*

For Lyric Soprano Lisa Newill-Smith it is hard to practice German in a city where English is the lingua franca.

This blog continues its series of profiles of young international singers who came 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.


Your name:
Lisa Newill-Smith

From where?
Virginia, USA

Your Fach?
Lyric Soprano

Since when in Berlin?
October 2014

Your favorite role:

What do you think of Regietheater?
Very interesting.

Best opera production you saw in Germany:
Barber of Seville at Deutsche Oper

Craziest opera production you saw in Germany:
Salome at Deutsche Oper

Your hero in opera:
Donna Elvira

Your hero in real life:
JK Rowling

Two things you like about Berlin:
I love how many different kinds of people you meet and how many inexpensive classical music performances you can find.

Two things you don’t like about Berlin:
It’s so hard to find an apartment and it can be hard to practice German since everyone wants to speak English.

Your most recent performance:
Gretel in Antwerp.

Your next project:
The opera company I have cofounded is in the process of planning our next performances and operas.

Your favorite quality in a singer:
Big dramatic voices

Your favorite German word:

You can find more information about Lisa Newill-Smith at

Watch Lisa Newill-Smith singing “Wo bin ich”, Gretel’s aria from Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel. The opera was produced by Alltagsoper Berlin, earlier this year.

* Engelbert Humperdinck, the composer of Hänsel und Gretel, lived between 1908 and 1912 in Berlin-Grunewald. He died, 67 years old, in Neustrelitz near Berlin. His grave is on the Südwestkirchhof in Stahnsdorf, next to Filmpark Babelsberg near Potsdam.

Published by


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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