The Final Note (was a high C)
Posted on 16 August, 2011
The last week in Salzburg felt no different than any other week for me. A number of people were feeling the homesickness. Others were dreading/anticipating the start of school so soon. And others still were staying on in Europe. I was in the latter category–and still trying to figure out plans.
Originally I was going to Berlin and then to Wolfsburg to see
HOWEVS, I was having to wait ’til the last moment to buy my Fussballspiele ticket anyways due to incurring medical expenses on a “weepy eye” for more than 48 hours… so there were no tickets left for either Wolfsburg or Bayern Muenchen. Ganz ganz traurig. So then I thought, well, maybe I’ll just go to Berlin. Then my flight changed around…. THUS. Finally, I decided to stay in Salzburg an extra day and night and then head back to Muenchen.
In Salzburg, all of us had final preparations for unser letzte Deutsche Pruefung and our split-over-two-days final concert. Final concert part I on Tuesday consisted of all those singing solos. Final concert part II on Wednesday consisted of all those singing opera scenes. Tuesday’s concert was truly wonderful; to hear the progress everyone had made from day one in the program was exciting and heart-warming. According to Konrad, someone had been commenting on the competition and rivalry in being in a voice program (beit summer or conservatory). Personally, I didn’t find this at all. This may be because I was living so far away from the college with my host family, but normally, as those of y’all who know me know, I am fairly competitive. I work hard, I win. I work hard, I don’t win, someone gets booted from behind. Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of this boot. Not only did I never have a reason to boot anyone but I also truly never felt any kind of rivalry–quite the opposite. Certainly, there were people who did not get along with each other. But for the most part, everyone cared about the progress and success of everyone else, musically and otherwise. Was there drama? Yeah sure–there were a bunch of divas. Was there gossip? Of course–that’s a normal fixture in any voice program. But there was a healthy sense of community with the program that I found pleasantly surprising. Seeing how well all the teachers and coaches got along, too, made me love the program more than ever.
My last lesson with Prof. Wise would have been really sad, if not for the fact I feel sure I am going to see her again soon. In fact, I’ll make sure I see her again soon. The progress I made with her I felt was significant. My onsets are better, the muscles are gradually becoming more responsive to supporting the breath so the voice could be on the breath, and she has given me such invaluable exercises and tools to work with so I can continue to hone my skills. I feel much more confident that I am doing what I need to be doing, beit in a practice room or on stage. Additionally, her poise, sincerity, and thoroughness are reflected in her teaching as well as in her character. She knew when to push me but also when to stop before I was wound too tight. Receiving praise from her was always well-deserved. I hope beyond hope that the next time she hears me sing, I will have progressed even further with my technique and can show off effortlessly all we worked on this summer. She did say she didn’t see how I could not exceed, not with how hard I work. That I will take to heart–and then go and sing some more.
Wednesday, day after final concert part I and a slight hoo-rah that night, we woke up bright and early to take our German final. This was not bad at all in comparison to the exams I’ve had to take at Centre. No random essays on welfare, the environment, or some abstract topic of your choice auf Deutsch. Nor did the speakers on the listening section speak at brink-neck speed, nor did I encounter a grammar section that I had to stare at for twenty minutes because I was thinking in French in preparation for a quiz after German. Instead, the exam was straight forward and concluded with a brief description of your favorite memory in Salzburg–obviously, Fussball-Donnerstags and winning two liters of beer off Austrian men over how many states in the United States. This, needless to say, amused my teacher.
In reward for our diligent efforts, we got to meet the famous, incredible, quite delightful in person–Renee Fleming. It was a rather awe-inspiring half hour for us as we listened to her speak about her career, what she did to prepare for a concert, what it was like balancing a family and a career, what she would have told her 20 year old self (study your languages!). This meeting was on the tails of Monday’s meet and greet with Alek Shrader, who played Ferando in this year’s production of Cosi Fan Tutte at the Festspiele. Additionally, some of you may know Alek Shrader from the Met Talent Search where he a) decided to learn “Mes Amis” from La Fille du Regiment on the spot but then also b) sang nine/neun/neuf high C’s. Fairly impressive. He is also incredibly good looking (yes, go back and click the picture) as well as being very down to earth–even going so far as to thank Doninzetti for “doing him a solid” by writing that piece of music.
Back to Renee, she was gracious enough to let us have a group picture with her. She was one of the first opera singers I was exposed to, and I vividly remember hearing her American Arias CD for the first time. As a kid, I hated listening to any singer that I thought I sounded better than (actually I still think that). Renee Fleming’s American Arias album shut me up and made me listen. Her interpretation of “Monica’s Waltz” is still by far one of the best recordings ever.
Moving onto Wednesday night, part II of the concert was held at the Augustiner Keller. This was possibly the greatest idea ever, because first you have opera, then you have Apful Struedel, and then you have beer. Lots and lots of the best beer in Salzburg. In my personal opinion, the opera scenes overall were a success, and we had a good crowd. Somewhat frustratingly for me, Die Feldermaus went worse for me than normal while La Fille du Regiment peaked. I just never got by breath under me for the first round of singing. It was a bummer, because the other day we had had a brilliant rehearsal, but you know I remember having one teacher say to me you should always practice to the point where you leave your best in the practice room. I guess I did just that.
A public thank you to Francois for covering my sorry soprano behind on the top of page two, first system, where I’m not entirely sure what I did to screw that rhythm, once again in an entirely new place where I hadn’t had a problem yet. Probably forgot a dotted quarter (again). At least I looked nice in a gown.
For the second round as Marie, I got to wear cowboy boots. Nothing ever goes wrong in cowboy boots, and I had a dress that twirled.
Both of those photos are credited to Lisa Hoeller, my German teacher here in Salzburg. Lisa is awesome! I’m so glad to have made a new friend in Austria.
Singing in front of an audience always motivates a performer. Singing in front of family and friends simply inspires. Looking out from the stage, I could see my host family (even Lisa and Laura came) and Anna with her family. Lisa blowing me kisses when all was said and done was a touching moment. Yeah, I had by far the most awesome host family. Lisa, Laura, Anna, her brother, and I ran around after the concert. Stairs were particularly entertaining for the kids that night (beats me, I just watch).
We drained one keg of Augustiner beer, so we then moved onto a second keg. This we did not finish, despite best efforts. Drinking songs were sung, jazz piano played, and good Fussball conversation had. I enjoyed being able to chat with the German teachers one last time. The rest of the night–to summarize–was like a Saturday night at Centre College, but with further walking back to the dorm and better beer.
Thursday shall be known as, “recovery and pack day,” in addition to, “letzte Fussball-Donnerstag.” The last pickup game was a good one–four on three with terrific weather, albeit the lake was frigid. Never have I been so happy to be a girl when jumping into cold water. My sympathies to you guys, guys. Lots of friends, Two restaurants, multiple beers, and two ham and cheese toast sandwiches with mayo and ketchup (even though I hate mayo) at 2AM later, Martin and I made it home on bikes in time to have meaningful life conversation until 4AM. This meant that, getting up at 8AM Friday morning, I had eight hours of sleep in forty-eight hours time–along with six liters of beer.
An open letter to Centre College: Thank you for teaching me to work hard, party hard, and still make it to class the next day, somehow passing exams with seemingly little sleep, a headache that might as well be a person hitting me with an anvil, and an odor distinctly requiring a shower. You have obviously prepared me well for the real world. Prost.
I volunteered to babysit Lisa and Laura that morning so that Martin and Martina could go to a Mozart Matinee concert, and we had loads of fun, particularly with making paper boats out of all of my extra copies of French art song and arias (Ha. haha. I get such a kick out of this. Hahahahahaha) and sailing them in the pool.
On Saturday, I paired up with a US native who had been living in Spain for a few years. She was a delightfully surprising perfect travel buddy. We visited both the BMV Museum and BMV Welt. Alright, ladies, even if you aren’t crazy like me and don’t like cars, it’s a lot of fun. At BMW Welt, for starters, you can sit in practically any car or motorcycle you want and just imagine yourself living the luxury life. Even moreso, you can then test drive the car of your dreams. Also, there is a lot of nifty displays that explain the scientific wonders of “German Engineering.” The museum took me by surprise even more because not only was there fabulous history to be learned but also a fantastic display of “Art Cars”–cars that were designed by artists. We spent the afternoon at Olympiapark, watching a Redbull event on the lake while eating a picnic and then going on the Ferris Wheel to get a better look at the old stadium. Because this is a holiday weekend throughout Germany and Austria, it was a packed crowd from families to hippies to tourists like ourselves. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect (Just check out the photos).
Sunday was a very late start for me, as I slept 13 hours, ate food, slept more, typed more, and finally was inspired to go see the Bayern-Muenchen Stadium with the Swedish girl staying in our hostel room. We were four minutes too late to get in, and I discovered that I can’t really argue in German very well–yet. We did, however, get some nice pics of the outside of the stadium which is extraordinary, in my opinion. We took the U6 towards Odenplatz where there’s a) Starbucks and b) beautiful gardens and enjoyed dinner our dinner of sushi and noodles before heading back to the Hostel.
And so now, dear reader, I find myself at the end of my trip and you find yourself at the end of this blog. Sad for both, oder? Thanks to my editor for keeping my blog entries in line. Vielen Dank to my friends for first actually reading this blog (some after I growled at them) and then saying they liked it (possibly because I did growl at them). I hope this blog will remain a good resource as travel aid, summer voice program review, and cultural enlightenment.
I think there are only two loose ends to tie up.
The first–dating back to a question in my first Salzburg entry–is yes and yes.
The second–I finally did hit my one true and good high C. I had been warming up and practicing my technique most thoroughly–trying to feel the necessary space, breath support, lightness, etc. I was getting close, and I had been doing wall squats to try and release more tension in my upper body. Finally I went to stand and as I hit “mi” to “do,” Konrad walked in the room scaring the living daylights out of me as well as a vibrating, resonating, crystal-clear high C that had no tension or control to it whatsoever. I was so excited of course I had to tell Prof. Wise. She and I both agree, if I can’t have Konrad, then I need to find another man to scare me on a daily basis so I can continue to refine my technique and build an outstanding upper register.
So I would like to announce that, yes, I will be taking applications on men willing to scare me/take me by surprise (as much as I can’t stand surprises) on a regular basis during vocal warm-ups. It should be noted this is a position of notable risk, as the occasional cowboy boot may be booted, Mozart score hurled, or punch thrown directly at the one surprising. Payment will be in baked goods or smoothies. Useful spoken foreign language preferred, just in case diction coaching is ever needed.