The second week of Salzburg has definitely been a “dig your heels in and sing” week. All of us are required to perform one German Lied for our midterm concert in the third week, so that has been weighing on all of the musicians here. Pianists are scrambling and trading pieces; professors keep double checking their students rep; students… well they just keep singing whatever they’re supposed to be singing. And then they sing a little more just to be safe. And then they decide last minute to switch pieces; therefore, more chaos ensues. Daily Master Classes are a big part of the program here, and they are a great way for singers to try out new repertoire as well as polish older pieces. Additionally, a number of us singers are involved in Opera scenes, so that’s been another thing to finagle with everyone’s schedules. Now go ahead and add on individual practice time as well. And the opening of the Salzburger Musikfestspiele. Oh, and maybe German homework, if anyone gets inspired.

So all that being said, I could go into gross detail about vocal technique, the art of perfect practice, and the subtleties and profanities that go along with French diction (thank you, Ellen Rissinger of “The Diction Police” for kicking my sorry sweet little Deutsch behind in our coachings for La Fille du Regiment). Instead, I thought I’d do soundbites with commentary of everything I’m doing. That way, those who have no idea what the heck is going on can listen to pretty music, those who have a vague notion of what’s going on can learn, and those who know me and my voice (hi, Dr. Wanda, if you’re creeping. Figured you needed a shout-out as my teacher this upcoming Fall) can tsk tsk and chuckle and go, “THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TELLING THAT CHILD TO DO FOR MONTHS.”

NOTE: Everything with these recordings is best heard with headphones–sorry, folks, my recorder is pretty nifty and high tech, but volume is not its specialty.

So let’s start with voice lessons. As y’all know, I get to have my lessons in this space here. I have two lessons, twice weekly, on Monday and Wednesday mornings. We spend maybe 20-30 minute on warm-up and technique, depending, then devote the other half hour to running entire pieces with the accompanist as we sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s a clip from one of my lessons here with Prof. Wise who is at Indiana University.

Lesson with Pat Wise

Next, we have coachings. Each singer gets one coaching per week with one of the amazing coaches we have here. This week, I got to work with the brilliant Dr. Moteki from University of Colorado in Boulder. We took apart my piece for the midterm concert, Suleika I by Schubert, and put it back together for our hour coaching, and it was so impeccably thorough. Truly, one of the best and most efficient coachings I’ve ever had–just listen for yourself!

Moteki coaching

Daily master class is a lot of fun because a) you get to sing in front of everyone b) you get feedback from another person other than your teacher c) you get to hear other people and learn a lot just by listening. I was fortunate to sing in one of the first master classes on German diction with Dr. Hardenbergh, who is also our fearless leader of this summer program. She is sweet, smart, and spicy. Her greatest asset (as you’ll soon here) is her ability to communicate effectively yet positively about music and pedagogy.


And so now we get to opera scenes. If there is one thing that I really got out of the music program at Centre, it’s collaboration with others, and how everyone needs to put their best foot forward and step up to the plate in order to feel the music–and ultimately, have the audience feel the music, too. For Die Fledermaus, I get to work with two other delightfully comic people. From the get go we started getting down with our sassy, silly selves, and our coach, the rather magnificent yet still silly Frenchman Francois Germain, even joined in the laughs. Granted, this was the first time all four of us had seen the music, but here’s a taste of what we’re working on.

coaching fledermaus with Francois

What else has been going on apart from music music music? Well, how about more music and festivities from the Salzburger Musikfestspiele? We have had some serious cold and wet weather here–so much so that I was forced to go shopping at H&M and buy new sweaters and tees (oh, how distressing that outing was, I’m sure all you ladies can imagine). Despite the wind and the rain, we got our divas on! Saturday night, my hot date (a Ms. Hughes) and I decided to attend the Fackeltanzen (torch dance) as well as try traditional Salzburger Knockerl–otherwise known as the “boob dessert.” We staked out our spots and listened to the military band perform before the Fackeltanzen. The music, the military horses, all the brass instrumentation–it was fantastic. The great thing about the set-up for this event is that there was a giant projection screen so that everyone could see what was happening from on the ground and from above (arial shots). The torch dance was also quite cool, and they had some incredible still shots depicting the patterns that the dancers’ torches created throughout the dancing.


The delish Salzburger Knockerl

We had a full-day excursion on Sunday to Salzkammergut (aka the lake district), despite the fact it rained non-stop. However, my Northface earned its keep. Kept me warm, dry, and well. Never have I been so in love with an article of clothing (apart from my new Pikeur breeches). We did a sort of circular route, starting in Salzburg and then going to Mondsee, Wolfgangsee (3.5k up in the mountains), and then finally reaching Hallstadt. There were some issues with appropriate attire, footwear, and weather-preparedness. I found myself in the latter category and ended up buying the most expensive umbrella in my life. Word to the wise–just always carry an umbrella in Salzburg. Nevertheless, rain could not dampen my spirits. There is a significant chance my enthusiasm for everything was borderline obnoxious; however, perhaps such exuberance was needed to balance any complaints about the weather, the walk, etc–and there was quite a bit of that.

The climax of my boundless energy came when I had 18 minutes to get up and down the side of the mountain (hill? I don’t know. It was steep and went up up and up) in order to stand on a rickity bridge over a waterfall. The path was quite similar to the Palisades’ “Stairway to Hell Heaven,” except much rainier, slicker, and involving a much quicker speed. Oh and then getting back down again, let’s not forget that. It was, in my opinion, worth it. The view over the city and the land was breathtaking. Additionally, the adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment–even though this was only a small endeavor–was much needed.

Being with this many singers over an extended period of time has proven trying for me. Most who read this blog know me as an outgoing, buoyant, potentially too loquacious yet mostly harmless person. This is not the case when placed in a room with twenty other young women who have similar personality structures. My theory is that in the opera world, to be a star, one must have that “it” factor; that large and sparkling personality that sets them apart yet draws everyone to her. With any conservatory or summer program, there is an overwhelming amount of the “it” factor. So much so that it can raise the temperature and start fires. The challenge then becomes not how to prevent the fire but rather stay cool through it all and come out on top, preferably unscathed. These life lessons in Salzburg are proving just as educational as the German and singing lessons.