Secret how to rise and shine👑

Dear beautiful young singers,

CONGRATULATIONS

Your semester at your music academy or theatre season is coming to an end. You made it! You should be proud of all your achievements. Bravo 👏 At this point you may be thinking about what is the absolute best thing you can do for your next step towards a singing career, to be ready to audition in autumn and shine in your future engagements at the Opera House? After your big year I recommend resting for a week or ten days to prepare your arias, your mindset and nerves etc. Once these pillars are in place you will be fresh and full of excitement for your next step!

I also want to encourage each of you to find an instructor with whom you feel easy in communication with and accepted by him/her. Someone who can healthily guide you.
I remember when I was a vocal student that it took me a while to sort through all the various options out there to find the right instructors and courses that would provide me with support for me and my special needs.

Inhale, exhale….🧘🏻‍♀️

Ask yourself very honestly:
Do I need a couple of individual lessons?
Do I want to take part in a summer workshop or masterclass?
Do I feel good in a public masterclass or in a closed one?

Please take time to reflect on these topics to help guide you with your next steps.
YOU are the captain of your singing path.
🌟🌟🌟
I love seeing my students grow in the singing lessons & masterclasses that I give. I give masterclasses & workshops not open to the public because I am a strong believer that it is easier to solve certain topics in a protected environment. If you are curious to see how I work, take a look at my website to see what is going on in my studio:

www.stimmkunst.ch

🌟🌟🌟

QUESTION TIME
I have been writing my weekly nuggets now for two years. I started doing these because I wanted to give you all a gift, show my passion for singing and helping young singers. I hope you enjoy my nuggets and take whatever it is that you need from them. So today is our anniversary together! 🥳

For our special “weekly nugget” anniversary, I would like to do a question time for you all today. So if you have any questions regarding singing or performance issues you might be having, feel free to comment on here or send me pm today. I would love to hear from you!

Best wishes from my heart,
Vera

*Photo with Charlotte Whittle and Aaron Sands rehearsing Die Walküre. Here we are talking about how colleagues can support each other’s singing whilst on stage together.

Opening night for my new website

Dear beautiful singers,

I know exactly how alone you sometimes feel when you have a special voice and the desire to have that voice trained into an opera or concert voice, and how desperate you are to find teachers or a place where you can be seen and heard. A place where you can technically develop your voice and also work on repertoire and roles with professionals who have brought them to the opera stage themselves. In recent months I have been brainstorming with my team of pianists from the Zurich Opera House.

The master classes and workshops at the International Institute Stimmkunst have been tailored even more specifically to your needs and stage of development, so that everyone, from beginners to professional singers, can develop their own potential with our know-how and help.

I am pleased to announce that you can now access this information on my NEW website: www.stimmkunst.ch. Here you can also subscribe to my FREE Weekly Nuggets, where you can get an insight into the world of opera from my 30 years of stage experience and teaching. You also find it on the stimmkunst-page on Facebook.

Cordially, in bocca al lupo!

Vera Wenkert

 

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

Sing with Heart and Soul

Before you start to sing an aria or an art song ask yourself: what do I want to say? What is the character feeling? Singing and music without emotions is like an empty basket.

I have been a member on the board of an examination panel for young professional singers for 10 years. Out of all my experience I love to give you the advice to find the essence and the soul in each phrase you are singing. Every note you sing is important. Ask yourself what is the meaning of this phrase, what are you saying etc. The audience wants to be touched through your singing. This means to bring music to life.

Wishing you the best on your journey!
Vera

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 take care of your voice in a coaching session

It might be a demanding task for young singers to get through a coaching session with a pianist whilst keeping the voice unstrained.
Number One definitely is to keep in mind that it is your responsibility to take care of your voice.

I know from my own experience as a freshman in the opera and theater business how intimidating it can be when one is confronted with professional opera pianists. As a matter of fact, coaches are so delighted to help us singers on our way to conquer the role or just to learn an aria! Most pianists in Opera Houses know a lot about the music and what would be the most wonderful sound of this particular word or phrase etc. They are full of ideas and advice regarding the musical phrasing, tempo etc, and it is more or less easy for the singer to take the advice and perform with it.

Often coaches want to help to correct an unpolished sound or other sound issues. Most of the time this is problematic because they are not voice teachers. They have good ears and intentions, but when they give sound or vocal corrections (I want to emphasize here) it is essential that you as a singer translate it in the vocal technique you have and then try to correct it in the session. If you feel that you unfortunately cannot solve it in this coaching session, be so kind to yourself and stand up for yourself. Also in this way you can respect the time of the pianist and tell him or her that you want to take the time to solve it by yourself or with your voice teacher. Especially young dramatic voices have to take good care of themselves. (Of course there are also coaches who have the knowledge of the voice to work on it a little, but they are not easy to find.)

Again there is nobody else responsible for your voice then the singer himself.

Sometimes it is not easy to stand up for oneself, to take this huge responsibility and to maybe confess things like:
“This does not feel right for me or makes my voice tired.”
“This coaching is too much for me on top of my rehearsal schedules and performance schedules which are very tight at the moment.”

💡If you do not feel well, mark in a coaching session, speak the lines in rhythm etc 💡

AFFIRMATION: I take responsibility for my voice in every coaching session, in every rehearsal and in every performance.

Good luck! Rise and Shine!

Vera Wenkert

Cool down after a Performance

Out of my long stage experience I want to encourage you young singers to install the habit of cooling down the voice after a performance. Like in the sports world, singers also use muscles to sing. In my opinion it is not only important to exercise the voice everyday but also to cool it down after a long performance or recital.

You can use the “u“ vowel to do so only in the middle register of your voice. For example you start with quinte third tonica or you go down a five tone scale. When you sing it softly abd with your support, the vocal chords return to freedom. It just takes 5-10 minutes to do so, but the benefit is a healthy relaxation of the voice. Remember treat your voice like your best friend and acknowledge and take care of its needs.

There is another benefit of this procedure: You will build up a sensitive relationship with your voice, knowing if you have sung in the right way through your performance.
The voice will show you afterwards, if it is too tired, you definitely pushed too much, gave too much volume etc. There can be several reasons for this, but now you know you have to find out. Knowing how to keep your voice healthy and fresh is crucially important for a singers life and career.

With appreciation
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

Working with the airflow

I remember when I worked with a dramatic soprano on Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung. (In my opinion to sing this Brünnhilde is the most challenging of the three Brünnhildes.)
We worked the whole part and I cannot emphasise enough that to get through this big emotional and technically demanding role, the singer has to know crystal clear what to do technically. I tried to convince her that she just has to think of the pitch and to trust that the airflow does the work with the open throat, that the fexible support system is working and supporting the vocal production. 👍 She is a very fine singer, but when nerves or a little stage fright comes in, anxiety habits sneak in and she locks the ribcage and stops the breathflow. So, in our lessons we worked a lot with exercises to free the diaphragm and to unlock the jaw. As a result she finally she got rid of the increasing subglottal pressure and her big beautiful sound came effortlessly out of her mouth. It was pure joy to hear her Brünnhilde ❤️
A word of advice from my experience on stage: Never give 100% of your voice. Sing with 80% only. Then you will sail safer through your entire career.

AFFIRMATION: Healthy singing is singing on the airflow and not trying to make a big sound with muscle strength.

All the best,
Vera Wenkert

Summervacation Practice Routine

Congratulations, as I said in my last weekly nugget celebrate the huge accomplishment. You have sung a whole semester or an entire season at an operahouse. Now first of all give yourself and your beautiful voice a rewarded rest and holiday. In my experience as an operasinger I always took eight to ten days of easy time for me and my voice. This means about 5 days no singing at all and then I started slowly to prepare for the next season. A great way to stay groundet in your holidays is at least do your 30 min vocal wellness vocalisation. Singers who in preparation process for autumn competitions I suggest use your summertime wisely. Hopefully your voice teacher is staying with you on track. Challenge yourself but also have fun.
With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

Acknowledgments

We artists are all on a never ending journey to become the true version of ourselves and to develop and come into alignment with the unique inner artist in us.
If you nurture the relationship with yourself, means with your soul, body and artistry and spirit you will build a stable footing into your life as a human being and as an artist.
I am a strong believer that we -especially in the art – learn from so many wonderful sources and human beings. There are the giant composers, the poets, our teachers and mentors, our share of luck and our obstacles to overcome.
Young singers , there will appear a flower bouquet of different experiences on your career path, find two people in your life you can really , really trust ,who honestly believe in you as a human being and artist, who are honest with you in a warm and understanding way and who give you the permission to reveal yourself.
If you already have found them feel the happiness of gratitude.
On this occasion I give a deep heartfelt Thank YOU to David Jones and Friedrich. Thank you for your enthusiasm for me, your knowledge, your work .
Wishing you the best
Vera

What matters in learning new repertoire

As a singer we are obliged to have respect for every detail and nuance in the music.We need time and experience and healthy good advisers and teachers to grow as a singer and musician. Nothing in life can develop under pressure and therefore I try to create a friendly and nurturing enviroment for the singers , so that the talent can blossom in inner peace
Vera


Great Auditions

This time of the year is audition time. Yeah, superb! You made it until here. So let’s see, if everything you need is on the peak:

Number one: Your beautiful voice is a free voice with the help of a good vocal technique. The effortless flow of sound, vocal freedom is a satisfying experience for any audition panel.

Number two: Perform with unfettered musicality.

Number three: Is your confidence and self esteem so solid, that you feel secure in yourself in any aspect and that you communicate the joy of being a singer and performer to the panel?

Number four: Your Italian diction sounds Italian and your German diction sounds German… You have translated the text by yourself and not only with a given translater….
Feel inspired by this 1st part of the checking list of ” Sing and Shine”.
You are in a working progress and go for it. Next week here on my Stimmkunst page you will find part two on GREAT AUDITIONS. For masterclasses, voice lessons, career coaching and auditions workshops have a glimpse on my website stimmkunst.ch.

With appreciation
Warmest
Vera