Starting fresh

Hi there!

I’m back! And hopefully this time for a longer period of time😉

I had a very long silence period because I wasn’t sure which way I wanted to take this blog and what to write about since I felt I didn’t have enough experience to keep on writing the way I did. But recently major changes occurred and with them a possibility to use this blog again.

So, as you know, I am studying to be an opera singer and am almost at the end of my studies at the Academy of Music in Zagreb. Since I feel I have a lot more work to do on my technique and need to gain more experience on stage I have applied for a masters program at the University of Bern. This program is called “Swiss Opera Studio” and is dislocated from the University – it takes place in a small town called Biel, 40 km from Bern. Anyway, long story short-I went to audition in April and got in. All of it was really exciting and I was over the moon. But in April, September seemed so far away and it looked as if I have a whole eternity before I actually have to leave everything and everyone and move alone to a place I have seen twice in my life and where I know very few people, most of which are my future teachers, whom I can’t really call over for a PJ party (right??) I know this sounds like a really bad thing and as if I am really sad and depressed and “drama drama drama”. Of course it’s not like that and I am really looking forward to it and to all the new things I will experience and learn and people I will meet and hopefully befriend. And I have always wanted to have the “student life away of home” experience. But somehow you always think it’s in the future. It will happen, but not now. There’s time. And then suddenly there’s no time.  And you have 15 days left. To pack, say goodbye, finish all the document work there’s left. It’s really exciting. And really scary. Especially if you are like me. I was lucky to be able to study in the place where I was born so I never really left my comfort zone. Ok, I don’t live with my parents anymore but again my apartment is so close I can go to their fridge instead of visiting the supermarket. I have done some steps. But like really tiny. Almost as if only my pinky is peeking out of a warm, cosy bubble bath . I have always been able to just jump in a car or take a tram and in 30 minutes I would be with my aunt/grandma/best friend/boyfriend…And now everything will be a 15 hours bus ride away. I have no idea how do you even prepare for such a thing. I know I am not the first not the least to do this. And far younger people have done it very successfully without dramas. But you know, to every person their problem is the biggest and the hardest one.

And so I thought maybe I could come back to this blog. Write about my experiences and ways to live and study opera abroad, about leaving the comfort zone and exploring new things and exploring yourself. I don’t want to say: ‘find yourself’. I don’t think I’m lost. I know who I am, but it is definitely time to broaden my views, gain new experience and build myself up. Upgrade. Change.

Right now this is more for me then for you. They say it’s good to share and have a way of expressing all of your emotions, fears etc.  And maybe a way to keep in touch with many of my friends without having to repeat something dozens of time (lazy Buga in action😉 ). So that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe it will be helpful for some of you, hopefully interesting…I don’t think there will be a fixed schedule, so when something interesting happens I could share, I’ll post it.

Have a nice day, I’m of to apartment hunting, which I’m planning to write about soon so if you’re planning on moving to Switzerland-in the next 2, 3 weeks I’ll be writing mostly about the process and preparation, so maybe it will be interesting for you to come back soon :) 

A pathetic thank you from a cruel opera singer wanna-be

Hello!

 

Been away for a while, and am very sorry about that. Many things are happening and it’s sometimes hard to find the time to sit with your friends, and even harder to find the time to write a post.

Which brings me to a certain topic I have an urge to write about. The life of an opera singer.

 I have been searching, watching interviews with famous singers, reading about it. But I think nothing can prepare you for it. And although I am so far away from living the career, when you start studying singing some things become clear to you. And can be very hard to understand for someone who is not in this world of opera.

Many artists say that they live for the music. It’s inside them; it is such an essential part of their lives. Being an artist is not a job. Joyce Didonato says it’s a vocation. Perfect. I think (it’s not that I’m that clever, I’ve read it somewhere and agree) that being an artist is a way of living. Your art is not something that you can leave behind after work. It follows you, like a shadow. And although I am far away from being an artist, even learning how to be one is challenging when it comes to living. You become obsessed. And the problem is you don’t want to stop. The challenge begins when you are outside of the studio, or your lessons.

 For me opera is just something different. And once you dig into it and work on yourself, study and practice, it becomes the center of your life. It becomes the ultimate goal to just be good enough to get the chance to perform it. To have the honor of performing and sharing all those melodies, phrases, emotions and ultimately a part of your soul with others.

 The people who I admire more than the artists are those who stand beside those artists. I dream about living all around the world, performing in great operas etc. And when I think about it I realize how opera makes me selfish. Because it’s all about her and me. And you have to ask from other people to go with you. To take it or leave it.  You ask from your family, friends, partner to accept that you will not be there. That they will have only your voice over the telephone, your picture on the webcam, and not so much of you beside them. And you leave them no choice, because there is art above everything else. It occupies you, is more important then anything. And that sounds awful, and selfish, and cruel to everybody else. But you can’t help yourself.

I admire those people who decide to go with it. To accept it and follow the person who is obsessed.

 I believe that many great artists couldn’t be as great if they didn’t have somebody who accepted the challenge. Who was there, even when they physically weren’t. And as a person who wants to have a career, it seems frightening and even cruel to ask that from the people I’m surrounded with.  And sometimes, I wish I didn’t want it. I wish so much that I’m not in love with opera as much as I am. But art always asks for sacrifices. That’s what they say.

 So, I just wanted to write this post to say thank you to every single person out there who accepted the challenge and who are and will be in the background of all the great artist we have and we will have. To all the parents, families, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, children who are in the silence, in the shadow and sacrificing their ”normal” family life because of the art and those who are giving it its form.

I’m sure that anyone who is or wants to be an artist will tell you the same – I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Art is like a drug. And I don’t want to give it up even if I could. And try not to blame us. It’s not our fault. Art just seduced us.

 

 

 

Musical education – it’s all or nothing!

Recently, after I tell people that I study singing, they look at me with a puzzled look in their eyes and then comes the question “how do you study that?, I didn’t know it was possible to study singing!”

Musical education is a tricky thing. Well. At least in Croatia. Many people think that performing music is nothing more than learning the tune and then reproducing it. The bigger problem is that many students think that way and don’t understand why they have to learn things like music theory or solfege (ear training). I cannot talk about situation in other countries but I’d like to share a few things about musical education in Croatia.

In my opinion, our educational program is good. We have a variety of subjects and I don’t think any of them is not neccessary. The main problem is that nobody tells you how and when you will use the skills you learn. You know you need all those pieces of information, but no one tells you how to use them! Students are confused and some loose interest in many subjects just because they have no idea how and when and why they need them. Besides that, we do have many subjects but not a lot of opportunity to see how things work in real life. We have one big project a year (we do an opera such as L’elisir d’amore, Carmen etc) and a number of concerts, but there is always a but. Only a few people get the chance to be a soloist, others are in a choir and you participate in a small number of rehearsals and don’t get the chance to see many parts of doing a production. Besides that, we are all treated in a way that we are “soloists” and when graduates come into the real world they expect they will be treated as stars. As if we study in a little pink bubble and when you get out, you have no idea what to do.

One of the things I feel is missing is teaching students discipline, control, ways to become a professional and accept hard work. Of course, it’s not only up to the professors, but students as well. As if we’re expecting everything to be done for us and we just stand there. Studying music takes a lot of discipline and sacrifices.

I think that a big “problem” with music education (well, at least I can say that for singing) is that you don’t have a book or a teacher who can just tell you all the information you need and then you learn it and that’s it. Every musician, singer, is an individual and something that works for your classmates might not work for you, so basically,you’re on your own. You have a teacher, a vocal coach that will give you instructions, show you the way, but you’re the one that has to find out how will you come to the other side, what “mean of transportation” works best for you. It takes a lot of discipline, exploring and time. We all want to have results now but studying music takes a lot of patience, and that is something that is not really acceptable in the world that lives by the principle “time is money”.

For some studying music is a joke, a hobby. Not a reall profession. And young people live in that belief and even though they study music, some of them just don’t take it seriously. I think it’s time to change the way people look at arts in general and to change the attitude so then everything can change.

In Croatia, musical education is not taken that seriously on all levels. Children are not encouraged to think of being a musician as a profession and then there is a pressure on those who are studying it that that is not somethng you can make a living of. They become convinced in that so they try less, do worse and perhaps even study something besides music so they can’t be completely devoted. Than the quality of the performances falls and people think of art even less. It’s a circle and we have to find a way to break it.

Hopefully, the time will come when everyone will be able to study what they want in a completely comitted way and have the opportunity to study it on the highest level possible.

To the better future!

P.S.

I’d like to know how does musical education work in other countries, so if you want, feel free to write something about it in the comments section🙂

”Music is what emotions sound like”

So, for the past few weeks I have been mostly listening to two operas – Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart and La Traviata by Verdi.
Those two composers are completely different but for some reason they are my two favorites and I just can’t get enough of them. There is something about their music that just makes me put it on repeat and I can’t stop. Like a drug. We don’t choose our tastes, but I know there is one thing I can explain about them and why I adore them. The way they portray emotions.
I’ve already talked about Mozart, so I won’t go on about him, so today it’s Verdi time!
One of the first operas I’ve really fallen in love with was La Traviata. I saw the famous production from Salzburg with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon and I just couldn’t stop watching and listening. With Verdi there’s no stopping. (If he does stop then it gives you chills). He goes on and on and it’s like a rain of emotions just pouring down on you and eventually it turns into tears on your cheek. (Well at least that’s how it goes for me). The way Verdi presents us with the characters and who they really are is one of the perfect showcases of what music can do.
I would like to talk of the first real duet that Alfredo and Violetta have in the Act 1. It has been in my head for days, and I find it really interesting. If you just listen to the music without knowing the lyrics it seems to me as if towards the end they are singing the same words, since they are singing (mostly) in triads and their music is not really different. But when you look at the words you can feel a bit puzzled. He is singing about how much he loves her and he could be with her forever, and she is refusing him!

Original Italian
Alfredo:
Un dì, felice, eterea,
Mi balenaste innante,
E da quel dì tremante
Vissi d’ignoto amor.
Di quell’amor, quell’amor ch’è palpito
Dell’universo, Dell’universo intero,
Misterioso, Misterioso altero,
Croce, croce e delizia, .
Croce e delizia, delizia al cor.
Violetta:
Ah, se ciò è ver, fuggitemi,
Solo amistade io v’offro:
Amar non so, nè soffro
Un così eroico amor.
Io sono franca, ingenua;
Altra cercar dovete;
Non arduo troverete
Dimenticarmi allor.

English
Alfredo:
One day, you, happy, ethereal,
appeared in front of me,
and ever since, trembling,
I lived from unknown love.
That love that’s the
pulse of the universe, the whole universe,
Mysterious, mysterious and proud,
torture, torture and delight
torture and delight, delight to the heart.
Violetta:
If that is true, forget me.
Friendship is all I can offer.
I don’t know how to love.
I couldn’t feel so great an emotion..
I’m being honest with you, sincere.
You should find somebody else.
Then you wouldn’t find it hard
to forget me.

With words she is saying one thing, but musically…? You can explain it in many ways. That she actually feels the same as he does, so the music is representing her emotions, and words are just a lie. Or perhaps it means something else. I’m sure everyone can find their own interpretation. And you can discuss it forever, since Verdi is not here to tell us what he thought. But I find such joy in things like this. If you really start thinking that way, opera can become so interesting, not just for performers, but for the audience as well because you can follow two different levels – words and music. Mostly they will go together. But there are moments where you can guess that the character is lying if his words are saying one thing but the music (the character’s line or the one of the orchestra) is ‘’saying’’ something that just doesn’t feel like a good fit with words.

On the other hand, music can sometimes give even more meaning to the words. For instance, one of the arias I find really fascinating is Caro nome from Rigoletto by Verdi. In this aria Gilda sings about her first love, and what I love about this aria is the beginning. The words do say dear/sweet name but the effect is so much stronger with the music that Verdi wrote. Every pause that is written you can interpret as a sigh of love and excitement, every musical jump that goes with the words just carries you and you believe that this girl is in love head over heels, and you can hear the happiness, the joy of the first love, both in words and the music and they go together, completing each other and making a perfect aria.

Italian Text
Caro nome che il mio cor
festi primo palpitar,
le delizie dell’amor
mi dêi sempre rammentar!
Col pensiero il mio desir
a te ognora volerà,
e pur l’ ultimo sospir,
caro nome, tuo sarà.

English Translation
Sweet name, you who made my heart
throb for the first time,
you must always remind me
the pleasures of love!
My desire will fly to you
on the wings of thought
and my last breath
will be yours, my beloved.
Translation by Guia K. Monti

What I love about opera is the partnership between the words and the music. You have the words of the character, then his/her music and then the music from the orchestra that also has its meaning. Whether it’s representing the atmosphere, the soul of the character, announces what’s going to happen next or responds to the character. There are so many stories happening at once and you can analyse them hours after the performance, discuss what you thought something represented etc. And that’s one of the reasons I believe you can watch one opera many times from different perspectives and never find it boring. It’s never shallow, even when the story is silly and ‘’too simple’’. The partnership of the words and the music combined with acting and the whole stage makes it more complicating then a soap opera! ( and more interesting😉 )

The importance of being a partner

Before I begin, I want to apologize for not writing for a while. I have been a part of two big projects at the Academy, and had no time. One of them was Le nozze di Figaro where I sang the role of Susanna. While working on that project I found an inspiration for a new post! So let’s begin!

partners

Working on a show is not a lonely job. You are surrounded by people, you work with many different kinds of people on and off stage and being a loner is not an option. The tricky thing about it is that usually those people are not your friends, and some of them you have never met before. You know nothing about them, and yet you have to develop a good relationship in a short amount of time, whether you like it or not. You have to build up your trust and collaborate so the show could work. You have to become partners. But, that is not the only partnership you have to build in a short time. There is one other that you have even less time to build and is perhaps more important: the one with the audience.

Usually when we are in the audience we think of ourselves as passive viewers and not really as participants in the show (unless, of course, it’s an interactive kind of show). But once I got the chance to be on stage and look at the audience I realized how important people in audience really are. Our production was staged in a small theatre and now and then I could take a peek at the audience. The energy you get from all those people is truly important. The moment you see somebody looking at you with interest, looking forward to what you’re going to tell them, it suddenly gives you an energy boost, a bigger will to give everything you have! But when you see somebody that looks as if he/she would love to be anywhere else but watching you, it feels as if they suck all the energy you have. I thought those people would make me want to reassure them, but they make it so hard. The same way you react to the action your partner gives you on stage, you react to the actions of the people that are watching.  The way they sit, watch, react (or not react) influences the performers. I never thought I could influence the people on stage when I’m watching them. And I think many of us don’t.

The problem is you don’t have the rehearsal period to get to know your audience, to build up your trust and have some kind of a ”let’s meet each other” period.  And if we, who are in the audience, come with an attitude ”I don’t want to be here, this is going to be awful” we are not really giving our relationship and the performance a great place to start. Being open to the performance from the audience point of view, and looking forward to meeting your audience and wishing to give them everything you can, (no matter who’s sitting there) from the performers point of view, helps the success of the show.  As I said before, coming to the show with prejudice is the worst thing you could do. And being afraid of your audience or knowing there is somebody you don’t want there and then letting it stop you, could be just as bad.

 In my opinion, both performers and audience should look forward to meeting each other and giving something (positive) to each other. Being a partner is probably the most important lesson theatre teaches us.  

Just to make something clear. I’m not saying you should pretend you like something you don’t. I’m talking about the start of the show, about the first attitude, first meeting of the audience and the performer. Wanting someone to do badly is not a really good start of anything, or being sure you don’t want to watch these people on stage. It’s really not helpful and surely won’t make the performance better with all the negative energy in the air. People do project their energy on others and we should be aware of it. Expect the best, not the worst, so performers can focus on the performance without having to struggle with your negative energy as well!

So, be a partner!

sretni

Taking a different road this time

Many different debates are taking place in the world of classical music how to attract new audiences, how to ‘’cast a spell’’ on people and show them the beauty of classical music. Most of the debates on the vocal part of the repertoire were focusing on opera. Is opera elitist, is it too expensive, attractive etc. And then it came to my mind. When we think of classical vocal music we mostly think of opera and  we neglected an important part of the repertoire that perhaps some people would prefer to opera and would be easily ‘’seduced’’ by it – Lied.

Usually when we say Lied we think of songs composed by composers during the 19th century and most known are those by German composers (Schubert, Schumann, Brahms). Composer wrote either one song or (more common) a cycle. Words for these compositions were usually taken from poems.

I think that the magic of the Lied comes from the fact that it is all about the music. In opera besides music you have many different art forms and acting helps to deliver a story (I am definitely not saying that music is less important in opera!). Lied leaves you absolutely ‘’naked’’. While you are performing at concert acting (perhaps better it would be better to say – physical movement) is not really an option. Everything you would do more physically on stage in concert you have to do with your voice. In my opinion, with Lied you should be able to close your eyes and understand/tell the story only through music.  And this is a challenge. For both performers and listeners.  But luckily composers knew how to accomplish that.

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms

When you look for example at compositions by Schubert you can see how he painted the whole picture for you. One of his most known cycles is Die schöne Müllerin. A story of a young miller who decides to travel following a brook and on his journey falls in love with a young maiden – daughter of a miller. The story ends tragically. One of the main motives of this cycle is the brook. And it is not hard to understand the story and to imagine the journey and that brook since under the main melody that is sung there is a melody that represents the murmuring of the brook (of course it’s not always the same, it changes just as the story does. But it’s always there, louder or softer). You can’t ignore it and interpret it in any other way because it is too obvious what that melody represents. Schubert shows you the picture, paints it for you with harmonies and you understand it and see it and can’t escape it. In Lied everything is very clear. Everything is right there for you to hear it and see it.

Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert

What I find amazing about Lied is the way it leads you through the story, gives you pictures and atmosphere and yet leaves enough room for your imagination to colour it any way you want. I don’t want to make comparisons between Lied and opera, but here is how I see it. Lied is like a book – it has a story, everything is described but it lets every person to imagine the characters and places the way they want, although the story is always the same. Opera is more like a movie. There is less of yours and more imagination of the singers and the director. But both have their magic and offer so much.

So perhaps, you are less like me, who prefers more movement, staging and everything, and you prefer just a piano and a voice that will take you to a beautiful and exciting journey and tell you a wonderful story. Or you are completely new to the world of classical music and are not ready yet for a full-length opera but would rather start with a shorter, different form. In any case Lied has so much to offer and gives so much space for exploration, imagination and enjoyment. So just lay back and enjoy!

Here is the full Die schöne Müllerin performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Andras Schiff is playing the piano :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5AhdlekIMM

And here is one of the most known and one of my favorites performed by Bryn Terfel :  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2N6o8HTMV8  
 
Since there is no translation on this video here it is :

To music

 

Oh sacred art, how oft in hours blighted,

While into life’s untamed cycle hurled,

Hast thou my heart to warm love reignited

To transport me into a better world!

 

So often has a sigh from thy harp drifted,

A chord from thee, holy and full of bliss,

A glimpse of better times from heaven lifted.

Thou sacred art, my thanks to thee for this.

 

The Big Question

Last week the Royal Opera House in London popped ”The Big question”. Are opera and ballet elitist? They asked dancers and singers, people who are opera and ballet goers and those who have never been to opera/ballet. The answers were, of course, different. I find that the biggest problem is that those who have never been to opera or a ballet think they are elitist, not the ones who have been at least once. Hearing that, you ask yourself, how will new audiences then come to an opera if they are repelled by it before they have even heard it?

In my opinion, the thought of opera being elitist comes from its beginings, and that statement was true to a certain point. Yes, at first opera was performed at court and only the ”chosen ones” were able to see and hear it. But from the 19th century it started to be something for everyone. You can read in various books that at Verdi’s time, for example, people would stand in line in the morning, they would get into the opera house hours before a performance, and there they would eat, play cards, chat. Opera houses were a meeting point. And opera was loved by everyone and was not thought of as a ”high-class citizens only” thing. How is it possible that even though it’s been two centuries since then people are still holding onto a view about opera that was true almost 5 centuries (if we count from the first opera Daphne in 1598) ago and not to the one ”much closer”.

As arguments people mostly say it’s too expensive and not attractive. Well..
If you do your math and check sites of the major opera houses in the world you will see that the first statement is definitely not true. You can get a ticket from 2 euros/3 pounds and up. Even more expensive tickets are still less expensive than for some other events (for example, musicals, which are so popular nowadays all around the world and not thought elitist at all, are far more expensive ). Let’s say you’re in London and want to go to the theatre. An avarage price for, let’s say, Billy Eliot – The Musical would be 65 pounds while for a performance at the ROH you could pay from 6 pounds up. The situation is simillar in the US. Anywere in Europe you can get seats for an opera at lower prices, especially if you come last minute or are a student. Now how is it possible that people are gladly giving 65 pounds without saying a word for a musical, and never say it’s elitist, but opera is ”too expensive and not affordable for everyone”. Am I crazy or is something wrong here? Opera houses are trying really hard to attract an audience and prices are going down. But prejudice is always stronger than a fact. Unfortunately.

Second thing – opera is not attractive? Just check the photos of, for example, The Ring cycle from the Met: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKsroORVBBQ

The Tempest from the Royal Opera House (later moved to the Met)

The Tempest at the Met -  Isabel Leonard as Miranda and Alek Shrader as Ferdinand

The Tempest at the Met – Isabel Leonard as Miranda and Alek Shrader as Ferdinand

The Tempest at the Met - overture

The Tempest at the Met – overture

The Tempest at the Met - Audrey  Luna as Ariel

The Tempest at the Met – Audrey Luna as Ariel


Zauberflote from Wiener Staatsoper
The Magic Flute - Wiener Staatsoper

The Magic Flute – Wiener Staatsoper

The Magic Flute - Wiener Staatsoper

The Magic Flute – Wiener Staatsoper

The Magic Flute - Wiener Staatsoper

The Magic Flute – Wiener Staatsoper

I could go on like this for a long time. If that’s not attractive, I don’t know what is. And besides visual effects that the audiences are so craving for, opera isn’t about something unknown or abstract. It’s about life, about emotions that are known to everyone, about universal characters or about fairy tale characters that we all know since we were children. It’s connected to everyday life, not something we can’t connect with.

We who love opera should try to remove the prejudice and the negative aura that opera has. And those who think it’s elitist and are running away from it should first go and see it, and not let themselves ”go with the flow”.
Opera has so much to offer. Don’t close yourself to it before you even give it a chance. I strongly believe it deserves one.

“Practicing singing doesn’t mean just singing. It means exploring” Joyce Didonato

Can you imagine waking up, doing all your daily chores, working, studying, meeting with friends and spending all your day without hearing or humming one single note? Without seeing anything that catches your eye and evokes a feeling or a thought?

Nothing playing on the radio, no song that suddenly pops in your head and won’t leave, nothing! It sounds like a horror story to me!

Life without art would be impossible for anyone, not just the artists. We carry music within ourselves, it’s part of us. Out hearts beat in a certain rhythm, rain falls and makes ”music” in a rhythm. We can see art in every thing we look at, and hear it everywhere around us…

At the Academy of Music I met many people who study something else besides singing. Usually it’s economics or law. Some of them are studying those things because they want to, but some of them because they have to. Because their parents want them to have a back up plan. Usually they are not convinced that their children will be able to live off art or think that art is not a real profession. Now, I understand the first reason, but the second one is sad and worrying.

People think that being an artist is a joke. Society puts it that way. Just because it seems at first that it gives us only entertainment and nothing more. And you don’t have to work a lot for it. They think that singers (and actors) just come on to the stage, sing (or say) their lines and that’s it. No big deal. Nothing before or after it. Anyone can do it! (Especially the acting part).

I don’t blame them. Yes, theatre and opera started off as a certain way of entertainment, and it is still today. But is it the only thing that it gives us? Is it so simple? Why would Aristoteles write about the catharsis of human soul after seeing a tragedy if it gives us nothing much? Why do people talk about theatre and art saying it’s a mirror of society if it’s just fun and does nothing? Why can’t we imagine our lives without music, paintings, books?

”Practicing singing doesn’t mean just singing.It means exploring.” said Joyce Didonato in one of her vlogs that I watched. (for those who don’t know – Joyce Didonato is one of the greatest mezzo-sopranos in the world). Singers explore not just the history, language and music to be able to interpret a certain piece. They explore themselves and they explore a field that can never be explored enough – emotions, soul, imagination. Not just their own, but those of each person in the audience as well. Why is it great if you’re exploring a human body but useless if you’re touching and exploring a human soul? Isn’t every profession the exploration of a certain field?

Often we forget the psychology, our inner life, and focus on our physical life. But don’t you feel different when you listen to that one certain songs that is so close to you, or brings memories or touches you? Can you ignore that feeling when you hear a song and just start dancing to it, or tapping your foot to the floor because you can’t resist it? Isn’t it awesome when you’re in a certain mood and you listen to a song that supports it?

I’m not just talking about classical music, it refers to any kind of music (now somebody will surely tell me that we can’t say every kind of music is art – but don’t they all derive from it, and have a simillar effect?). Music, or any art form, is usually in the background, and many times we even look down on it. But artists are those who pull art from the background into the first plan. Some people listen to music while they are on the bus, but some people are addicted to it and hear it and feel it all the time. Some people like to see a nice picture and some just want to see the world, not through their physical eyes, but through their ”inner eyes”. Some people talk about their emotions and events, and usually keep their imaginative world to themselves and some people have the urge to put it on paper.

So, no, art is not just entertainment. Art explores something different, tries to reach something higher and tries to find answers to some different – and perhaps not everyday – questions. I am sure there is not one person in the world who can say that some kind of art doesn’t touch them, doesn’t change them.

I used to feel a bit ”stupid” because my friends study law, psychology or medicine and they study a lot! I felt as if I didn’t do much. But when I realised that I’m an explorer, I started to analyse my scores differently and think about them in a different way. I started studying! It’s true that I’m not studying from books that have 1000 pages, but I’m discovering, learning about notes, rhythms, phrases. I’m doing my research on composers, history, poets…

I wish people would stop looking down on art. Yes, doctors take care of our physical health. But art takes care of our inner health, of the way we look at the world around us, the way we look at each other and how we treat each other. We should look carefully at that mirror of our reality and not be afraid of it. Stop putting curtains and cloths over it. And appreciate more what we see and hear. Try to live one day without art – I’m not sure it’s possible.

P.S.

Here’s a link to one of the vlogs by Joyce Didonato where she talks with maestro Alessandro Corbelli on many different things: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-s2swjuIAQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Check them all out, especially if you are a singer, she is really amazing and gives some great advice and explanation! (I’m not sure if this is the one where she talks about practicing and exploring beacuse there are so many of them, so I apologize in advance if it’s not.)

Opera Abecedarian

There’s a profound line between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. There’s an even greater gap between doing something for the first time and actually “getting” what you are doing. It was a hell of a process simply going from the idea of attending the opera to physically putting my butt in the chair for our inaugural season subscription at the Met. Everything I went through to get to that point; the flurry of excitement, the phone calls, the planning, the fretting could not prepare me for the watershed, “Ah ha!” realization about the world that was waiting for me in Don Giovanni.

Imagine, if you will, Mozart’s overture beginning with the amazing chord that strikes fear into any listening heart. Now imagine this Opera Abecedarian – green as a length of sod freshly rolled out at the Bryant Park lawn with little signs stating “please stay off…

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Modernized opera? Impossible!

Whenever a new production of a certain opera classic is announced at an opera house, life-long opera lovers usually say: ”let’s hope it’s done the way it should be” thinking of all those productions in historical costumes and sets. Non-opera goers always think of opera that way, too. If a production is done differently, in modern set, or with a different vision and interpretation that is a scandal!

 I admit that I’m usually sceptical towards those productions and am almost afraid of them. But I’m starting to realise that my attitude is completely wrong.

 In the past month I saw 3 different performances of opera classics but done in a non-classical way. Rigoletto transmitted live in HD from the Metropolitan opera, La Traviata from Salzburg (2005) and Eugene Onegin transmitted live from Royal Opera House in London. All those performances were questioned both by the critics and the audience. I read both words of praise and complete disappointment for all of those productions. If you ask me – I loved them all.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Rigoletto is a story that works in any period so putting it in Las Vegas in the 60’s doesn’t change a thing. Changing the surroundings didn’t change anything in the story. It is believable, the atmosphere of decadence, love, secrets, having fun and everything important for Rigoletto is there. The set and the costumes don’t change the story or the atmosphere at all.

Rigoletto - Metropolitan opera 2013. Piotr Beczala as The Duke.

Rigoletto – Metropolitan opera 2013. Piotr Beczala as The Duke.

Rigoletto - Metropolitan opera 2013.

Rigoletto – Metropolitan opera 2013.

The production of La Traviata from Salzburg isn’t put in a certain time or a place. You can see it’s modern, but the place and time are not the things the production focuses on. It is the characters, the basic storyline that is highlighted. The stage is almost completely bare and lets the characters tell you everything.

La Traviata -  Salzburg 2005. Anna Netrebko as Violetta.

La Traviata – Salzburg 2005. Anna Netrebko as Violetta.

La Traviata - Salzburg 2005. Anna Netrebko as Violetta and Rolando Villazon as Alfredo.

La Traviata – Salzburg 2005. Anna Netrebko as Violetta and Rolando Villazon as Alfredo.

I found Eugene Onegin from the ROH very engaging and interesting. The fact that you look at the characters looking at their past, and their thoughts being portrayed by the dancers, gives you another level of understanding the characters and connecting with them. It is very engaging because you try to understand what dancers really represent, and then there is a possibility that each person in the audience has reached a different conclusion. And then you feel and see emotions not just through music but through movement as well.

Eugene Onegin - Royal Opera House 2013. Simon Keenlyside as Eugene and Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatyana.

Eugene Onegin – Royal Opera House 2013. Simon Keenlyside as Eugene and Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatyana.

Eugene Onegin - Royal Opera House 2013. Dancers VlgdIs Hentze Olsen and Thom Rackett as young Tatyana and Onegin.

Eugene Onegin – Royal Opera House 2013. Dancers VlgdIs Hentze Olsen and Thom Rackett as young Tatyana and Onegin.

Eugene Onegin - Royal Opera House 2013. Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatyana and VIgdIs Hentze Olsen as  her younger version.

Eugene Onegin – Royal Opera House 2013. Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatyana and VIgdIs Hentze Olsen as her younger version.

After I watched all three performances I started to ask myself why I had been so sceptical?

Probably because I’m tought what opera USED to be and I have certain expectations. And most of us do. But I came to the conclusion that it is completely wrong.

When all those classics were written, the audience had no idea what to expect. So why should we? Why can’t we let ourselves be surprised? Why do we want to stick to the old, and why are we so sure that it’s right? Composers had a vision for their operas, and we should appreciate it. But does that mean we have to stick to 16th century Mantua and not move? Or does it mean we have to keep the story real, believable, interesting and, of course, be true to the score? To keep the audience engaged and to awake something in them?

I think that the composers (especially the 19th century composers) tried to portray emotions. Isn’t that what opera is all about? The most famous arias, duets, ensembles are not telling a story. They are expressing the emotions of the characters. Arias are a burst of emotions, not slow (or fast) storytelling. Those melodies represent something that cannot be said, and the only way to express it is to sing it out. I feel as if music is above speech. When you’re lost for words, there’s music to express everything we feel – sometimes words are just not enough, they don’t have the same power as music.

In my opinion the sets and the costumes are not what should occupy our attention. Opera is not about the physical world, no art form is. It’s about the inner life. So if a director portrays the inner life of his characters not just through music but through the physical part of the stage, why is it bad? Why do we automatically hate it?

I am not saying it is always good, or always well executed. All I want to say is I wish we could all let go of certain notions. Let go of everything we were taught was ”right”, and let ourselves be won again by every production, without any prejudice and expectation. I wish we could be more like the audience in Verdi’s time. They had no idea what was coming, they didn’t think about the sets as “proper”. They just watched and listened and did – or did not- get caught up in the piece. We don’t always have to be satisfied with everything. But we shouldn’t judge one production comparing it to another.

Next time I go to a performance I’ll try to go as a “tabula rasa” and let opera draw on it. And see what is left when I get out. The drawing could be awful or wonderful. It might even be average. But at least I’ll try not to be frustrated because it’s not the same “as that wonderful production from….”.

Opera is about emotions, so why don’t we just let it be what it is? If it is believable, if we are engaged and understand the story, if emotions are awoken in us, does it really matter if it is in the 16th century or the 20th?

I don’t think so.

 P.S.

For more photos and videos of mentioned productions check the links below :

Eugene Onegin: http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/eugene-onegin-by-kasper-holten

Rigolettohttp://www.metoperafamily.org/opera/rigoletto-verdi-tickets.aspx

La Traviatahttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYm-Sd9roIQ

                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFJJ1zFBWgY