Feedback

As a singer we need feedback, but it is difficult to get an objective feedback and to put it in the right context for ourselves.

👌Tip number one is:
Try to get constructive criticism from people who understand the issues and the profession.
For example, your voice teacher has to correct your vocal technique and your pianist has to correct musical nuances. (Please note that a Theater Director or a conductor might not offer you substantial feedback after an audition. His time is limited and his job is just to find a singer for this specific role.)

There are always colleagues who have the tendency to give feedback so…
👌Tip number two is:
Take an inner step back and ask yourself: “What is the underlying motivation why this colleague is commenting on my performance?” A healthy on the spot reaction is to say thank you and a short sentence like “I will think about it“. Please try not to explain yourself. A colleague is a colleague!

It takes time, thought and concentration to give a thoughtful and neutral Feedback. When I was in the first year of my opera career I was young and insecure, and I received contradicting feedback. It took me a while until I understood that they are just opinions, often from people who are in the same boat or have no career, or what I call “pretending to be more then they are.” I remember my first production as a very young Tosca and my Scarpia was the famous Franz Grundheber. I was on one hand so overwhelmed singing an opening night of Tosca with this great singer, and on the other hand I understood very quickly that he was a nobleman only concentrating on his art and singing. Instead of giving his opinion he was in peace and concentration with himself, and I felt then that I have the time, the space and the atmosphere to grow into my interpretation of Tosca. It was a very special opening night for me and one of these rare performances where you feel the God of the Singing Heaven has just put a magic glow on you 🌟
My advice is : Do not give unsolicited criticism and do not listen to unsolicited criticism. You never know in which state of development the singer is or what tasks he or she is facing in the career.

Hopefully you have trustworthy sources in your life, like a mentor, your voice teacher, your number one coach, people who have helped to guide you through the varied up and downs of your singing education and career. You have a bond of trust and honesty created between you and these handful of people, and this is unpayable in the life of a Singer. Until today I am thankful and blessed that I have my mentors David L. Jones, Friedrich Gürtler and Thomas Barthel in my life, with whom I have trustworthy and honest relationships with for decades, and where I get substantial advice. As well, of course, all the wonderful female singers which have influenced my way, like KS Birgit Nilsson, KS Berit Lindholm and Janet Williams. These are only a few to mention here.

In this special Weekly Nugget I also want to give a THANK YOU towards all the brilliant young singers, and also the singers who are already in careers in my studio, for their dedication towards the art. As well as for their substantial honesty in the working process with me and the people around them in this profession. I am grateful for your heartfelt testimonials that are featured on my website now.

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

 

Photo: Vera Wenkert as Tosca and Franz Grundheber as Scarpia

How to Work with Stage Directors

A young singer feels like a champion when she or he has got the first desired engagement at the Opera House. Bravo 👏

On top of all musical work, the collaboration with the stage director begins. Under the guidance of the stage director you go through the whole process of how to build and portray your opera character on stage.

Out of my long career experience I love to give you some advice so that you step out of the former role of a student into the shoes of a professional singer…

… It is very wise that you have a vocal and dramatic approach to your role before entering the theater rehearsal process. I always found it fascinating to dive into the life of my opera characters. I remember, when I sang my first Fidelio Leonore I was so prepared vocally and musically that I could sing this very demanding part with pure controlled lines like strings in the orchestra. This is how you have to sing it because it is a very technically demanding role vocally. (Leonora’s character is extreme as she would do nearly everything to find and rescue her husband.)

It is a demanding task in a singers life to build up the psychological, vocal and body stamina to serve the music and portray the character. Most of the time stage directors are open towards thoughtful ideas a singer brings to a rehearsal process. There might be times when it opens a discussion and you have to compromise with the stage directors idea. Sometimes stage directors have their own concept in mind how it has to be and they want to have the staging exactly as they think. Out of my experience even if you have then to do like they insist you do, you also have the freedom to fill your character with your emotions and thoughts.

👍Again my advice is be prepared and be faithful with the character you sing and perform.

There might be also situations where you feel inside yourself a chrystal clear NO to an order or idea of a stage direct, for example a nude scene. There are opera characters where this request can be asked of you. A wise approach is to ask for a couple of hours to think about it. If you feel deep in your heart you do not want to do this, I want to encourage you to be honest with yourself and empower yourself to say NO in a kind and strong way full of self-esteem and acknowledgement for your inner boundaries. The cost might be that you then loose this engagement. However, my opinion is that in the long run you can only make a satisfying career if you live in your wisdom for yourself, your brilliance and your boundaries. If you have no problem to be nude on stage then just do it, but even then I want to encourage you to keep your dignity and privacy before and after your nude scene, then you will impress the conductor and the stage director.

🌟AFFIRMATION: I am mindful in preparing my roles and faithful towards my characters🌟

If you are looking for support in becoming ready for stage you are welcome to visit my website: www.stimmkunst.ch

Vera Wenkert

Diction in Opera

For many singers it is a challenge to learn and sing contemporary music or even music of composers, who nowadays are not “contemporary” anymore i.e A. Berg and A. Schoenberg. Instead of being overwhelmed by the first look of the score, take it as an interesting walk into a foreign landscape and be curious.
Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” for example has clear patterns to follow, which you have to do to make it work for you. In “Wozzeck” the Singer has to find an honest way of expressing all of the music, plus diction in this very demanding opera. Every diction and declamation has to be articulated on the airflow and routed in a good support system. There is no character in the opera who does not get out of ones depth. The instructions of Berg are crystal clear and the singer has to follow them.

My advice is: read the whole opera. Then in an opera like “Wozzeck” first speak the text until the text and the proper articulation is your first nature. Second, learn the music and sing the text in a bel canto way, phrasing and articulating the words. This is an important step so that the voice finds, what I call the “HEALTHY SINGING PATH”.
Afterwards work phrase by phrase the words and music together which will bring you to the next step of expressing the emotion in the music.

I want to emphasize here that out of my experience, the healthiest way for every study period is to first work the basics of your role and then later carefully look at what are the emotions of the character so you can dive deeper and deeper into them.

💡ATTENTION: Do not take emotional risks in these kind of operas. If you are not yet able to handle them with your vocal technique and musicality, find a way which fits you now in this moment of your development or career.

AFFIRMATION: I take the time and spirit to explore difficult music.

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

Last Saturday I worked with my Singers

Last Saturday I worked with my Singers in an Acting Class on different Opera Monologues. It is a real task for Singers of all stages to keep the artistic energy flowing in a big Monologue. During our intensive work on the Marschallin Monolog from Der Rosenkavalier and the Prayer of Marie from Wozzeck. I pointed out more than once that you are the powerful creator of the Scene.
GIVE YOURSELF THE PERMISSION TO BE THE CHARACTER!!!! Then we can work, develop and polish it.

It is my passion to guide you through the process with all my stage experience and knowledge of vocal technique and music. I am super proud of all the Singers who have the courage to develop their talents with intensive work and dedication to rising with their wings. Bravo!! You are taking the responsibility for sculpturing your talent.

To be an Artist means also to work on our talent, our strong and weak points every single day.

🌟More in my Weekly Nugget next week:
“Step into your unique talent.”

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

My singing and my teaching work is my place of worship!

I feel deeply grateful that I can show through my work as an opera singer and through my individual teaching that every rehearsal and every performance, even every lesson is sharing: giving and taking! The meaningful aspect in singing for me is to connect and move the audience. How can we engage the audience on a deep level? Most important is a solid vocal technique and a refined musicality. And of course to work and sculpture your character you portray before giving it birth on an opera stage. This needs a lot of professional discipline and dedication, but it is a great joy to sculpture an operacharacter.
Yes, I know, how difficult it is in our times of social media and the feeling, one has to be available for the outer world any time, to find the silence and the “room” during each day to dive into the – let it call – solitude hours to be just with oneself and the character or the aria or the art song…
But I promise, if you make the decision to do so on a regular basis, you are nurturing your inner artist! Then you can describe the feelings in the opera characters you interpret.
Yesterday, when I was rehearsing the Immolationscene from Brünnhilde Götterdämmerung I was feeling this deep THANK YOU to my artistic way in my life.
Thank You to all my teachers and to my Mentor. I strongly believe that every young singer and singers in a career need an expert vocal teacher musician and a coach and need one or two persons to trust on the career path.
Warmest
Vera

Stagecraft Masterclass

Good morning singers!

I am giving a Stagecraft Masterclass this weekend, and I would love to give some input into how to make a role yours. Of course, you have to know the music and you have to be able to sing it beautifully with your unique voice,
but this is not enough for giving the role birth on stage in rehearsals, and later in performances. So let us dive deeper in the process…

…You have to know all details about your character as if it was a real person. Find out the age of the character, the surrounding and social status it lives in, the relationships to the other characters in the opera, the state of mind, which scenery, when you sing the aria or duet etc.
You become an interesting working partner for the stage director when you have done this thoughtful work before you meet him/her. They will give to you their ideas and then you can work with these on a serious empowered basis. (These are only the basic things to take into consideration . There are many other things to conquer)
I remember when I was preparing my debut Lady Macbeth (Verdi), I was so thrilled by the idea to not just portray her as cold and power greedy, that I translated every word and searched for the deeper meaning therefore finding a more versatile character who I could give life to on stage.

Wishing you joy with your unique approach!
With appreciation,
Vera