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

Performing the right roles at the right time

What does this mean for us singers?

Firstly it means that you have to connect with your inner truth. Do you have solid and secure vocal technique, musicality, plus the inner soul strength to sing this offered role? You must not just be brilliant in the famous aria, but in the entire role.

You will also encounter certain expectations from the Director, from the Conductor, from the Agent etc. and it might be possible that there is a difference between their expectations and your inner truth about the role. This is a situation which you will find on a regular basis in the Opera business. Here is an invaluable guideline for you to know, understand and follow – especially if you choose to build up a long-term singing career:

1) Consult your vocal teacher and an opera coach you trust. Discuss and sing the part through with them. 
2) Listen carefully to this tiny loving inner artist voice of yours. Is it shouting out with joy and enthusiasm or is it gently warning you? 
3) Become clear with what you need to be able to do to sing this role – is it a possibility to sing this role or to confess it is too early in your career? Schedule an appointment with your Director and discuss briefly and thoughtfully your point of view. 
4) Remember as a singer you are a one person company and it is your obligation to take care of you and your instrument. You only have one voice in life!
5) Yes it takes self-esteem and courage to handle these situations by taking the responsibility for ourselves, but you do not want to be everybody’s “darling” – you want to be a singer who knows their craft, their possibility, and is known as a great, reliable and professional artist.

(Of course there are shorter, cosier ways on this path, but in the long run they will not pay off.)

With quality in singing, reliability in the rehearsal and performance process, professional behavior and with healthy self-assessment, you will build up a professional reputation.

Fingers crossed for your next engagements!

Warmly, 
Vera Wenkert

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

How to work with a conductor

For young singers it might be challenging to work through the first orchestra rehearsal process with the assistant conductor and the principle conductor of the opera.

💡Here is the good news: There are so many supportive hints by the composer in the opera score,

When you follow the advice given by the composer, and your vocal technique is healthy and brilliant, you feel the ground beat in your body, then magic can happen between the orchestra and you! The conductor will guide you with love for the music and passion for the art.

Make sure you are able to sing at the orchestra rehearsal with full voice. Sometimes if the schedule is tight, you can discuss with the conductor to mark one rehearsal, especially when you have to sing a heavy big part or leading role. Later on in your career when you are a more experienced artist you might be able to weave your own interpretation ideas with the composers ideas, too.

Always remember that to be an opera singer does not mean to shine through your ego, it means to serve the music with your unique beautiful soul and artistry. I remember in most of my big dramatic roles I was feeling so comfy in this sound bubble created by these wonderful instruments around me, that I was totally absorbed in this music and character I was singing. Then Opera is in this moment is a better world because of this incredible music.

🌟My advice is: Fall in love with the music (not only with your melody) then most conductors will be by your side🌟

You will find more details about the good spirit we have to nurture and shout out in the opera and music business in my e book: “Methode Stimmkunst.” You can order it through my website: www.stimmkunst.ch

To your greatness
Vera Wenkert

Working with Jaw Tension

I remember I worked with a professional Mezzosopran on the “Hexe” in Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” who was having her opening night in less then 5 days. Whilst working on the whole role with her, I realised that her jaw was becoming tighter and tighter as a result of all the quick diction and musical leaps in the part. I know stage directors and conductors often ask for a lot of diction and expression, but you have to know how to do it without straining the vocal chords and without building up too much tension in the whole vocal production and support system.

What to do?

For example, I worked with her the “Hexenbann” without words and let her do the whole magic spell on “ja ja ja”. This exercise frees the jaw. We also did light and easy staccato exercises (tonica, third, quinte, third, tonica) and then legato the same.

We singers always have to remember that the jaw should be just relaxed in an open position, slightly back and in most cases not forward. (Maybe there are anatomical exceptions.) Then the breathing gets deeper into the body naturally and the support system starts to work. When a tight jaw is doing the job it is very difficult to connect the voice to the healthy body support.

With the Mezzosopran the next step was to solve the diction. It is vital that the vowel and the consonants have to be on the airflow. We worked it very slowly with patience and joy and finally the “Hexe” was really magic

💡TIP: From my own experience it is helpful to gently move the jaw up and down to the right and left. If the jaw is too tight, you might have difficulties to do these gentle movements. If so, you can gently and tenderly massage the muscles around your jaw, the muscles under your chin with your thumb and your index finger. ATTENTION: never massage the area directly around the larynx.

AFFIRMATION: I find a solution for all the technical issues I am solving.

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

Performance Opportunities

It is very important for young singers to find opportunities to perform in front of an audience.
Young singers need the experience of stage circumstances and of ensemble singing and be a singer and actor same time.
There is a proverb: No master falls from the sky
This is so true.
We all need practice, practice to learn and to become matured artists and singers.
My advice: Find performance opportunities in churches, old people’s home, hotels, etc.
In my Institute I give the singers the opportunity twice a year to be part of a staged operaconcert with a conductor and pianist from the Operahouse Zürich.
This is always a wonderful event, where singers in different stages of their development can sing in public and improve.
So I want to encourage you all find your performance opportunities. Go for it.🎶🎶🎶
Happy sunny weekend to you
Vera