Weekly Nugget: How to study a dramatic part  

Dear beautiful singer,
the most important thing: You need time to delve into the score and let it sink into your system.
The first step young dramatic singers is to work in the complete technical control of your voice and body.
Second step is to explore the music and orchestration and to sing in this way that you are not carried away by this huge incredible orchestral sound. Your voice has always to soar over the orchestra effortlessly. You need a lot of physical stamina and concentration to sing this dramatic repertoire.
Last week a soprano studied with me the role of Lady Macbeth Verdi.  Having sung this role myself in many performances I know how demanding this role is in any aspect. The singer has to sing coloratura, whispering sounds etc.
When Lady Macbeth enters the stage with „Vieni affretta” and the Cabaletta, you as the singer have to establish your character.
Like in all dramatic repertoire, to be able to sing all the notes is just the beginning of the journey into the wonderful working process of making a role yours. Out of my career and experience with this heavy repertoire, I would, at least, suggest to plan at least 6 month for learning a dramatic role.
How to cope with a last minute offer?
I know that singers sometimes get the offer last minute. This is a difficult situation.
My suggestion:
See your voice teacher and a coach you trust and ask if you could manage to learn this part in a couple of weeks.  A better choice for all the  weeks you are not in a contract, instead of getting frustrated sit down and learn Opera roles of your vocal fach.
Enjoy the music 🎶.
Your long term goal with every dramatic part should be that you sing it near-perfectly  and know the music like your heartbeat. Reason: Then you have no fear concerning wether you can come through the performance.
Another long term goal is to develop a strong personality on stage. Then you are expressive and and and….
I always emphasize that it is essential to have enough experience before tackling those big dramatic roles and to have a voice teacher and music coach working with you who you are nurture from.
With appreciation
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

Dear beautiful singers

In my career on stage and in concerts I have sung many Wagnerian roles: Elsa, Elisabeth, Venus, Senta, Sieglinde, Brünnhilde, Isolde. Out of these experiences and from the experience I have with my teaching practice in teaching dramatic voices, my number one advice is:

DO NOT RUSH INTO THIS DEMANDING REPERTOIRE AS A YOUNG SINGER

The chief characteristics of Wagnerian music are beautiful long phrases combined with a brilliant, emotional text and a big orchestration underneath the vocal line. This demanding music requires you to have a solid technique. Not only this, but I have learnt from my time on stage that it is a great help to have some stage experience beforehand. Having this, you can float on the music and orchestra and you are able to taste the German diction in this beautiful music, and you can caress the text and music together. There is also the big misunderstanding that Wagnerian music always has to be sung loud. On the contrary, if you study the orchestra part of a Wagnerian opera you will find so many piano markings and other dynamic wishes of Wagner himself. Do not to forget: Richard Wagner loved Bel Canto!

As a result of the intense emotion in Wagnerian repertoire, a singer sometimes starts to push the voice…then you can really harm yourself! Last week, a Wagnerian singer travelled to me to work on Sieglinde. During the lesson I could hear that the coaches at the opera house have put her too much in the “diction mode” in the front of her mouth in the narrative “Der Männer Sippe…” I completely understand why the coaches wanted this crystal clear diction, but it has to be produced in the RIGHT WAY.

So, my suggestion for you Wagnerian singers is: Study your roles early enough, sing it in your voice with the help of your voice teacher and then go into the theater rehearsal process. From my own experience and love affair with Wagner’s music, I can confess that this is the most efficient and joyable way to improve significantly in this repertoire whilst remaining healthy.
This is also how I work with the Wagnerian singers in my studio. If they are vocally well trained and musically ready, they can concentrate on all the other obligations they have in an opera production.

💕Affirmation for the day: I allow myself to grow into my future-self of a radiant Wagnerian singer.💕

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

Death of beloved Mentor

This week one of my beloved mentors and friends since my early study days has passed away.
Dr. Leo Haffner
There is so much gratitude in my heart towards you, Leo, being in my life. There are not enough words to express my gratitude for your wonderful footprints on my lifepath, for our fundamental talks about music and life, for your guidance during my freelanced work for you at the Austrian Broadcasting and Television Corporation during my singing studys.
I remember all the wonderful literature features with artists and authors I was able to do for the ORF.
You were a shiny light for me when I came to Austria. I embrace you and I wish you angels blessings and rest in peace.
At this very moment I feel so profound in my heart that it is a treasure of destiny and life to find friends and mentors who are so close in our lifes and give us so much loveable support and input and warmth.

Thank you for ever and ever
Vera Wenkert

How much are you enjoying your rehearsal practice?

Yesterday a very gifted Wagnerian Soprano worked with me and we made the summer self study plan together. Guess what: My advice is : You can do this! You are almost there! Have fun on this way. The life of an operasinger is to study hours alone in a practice room, no matter if you have an engagement or not at the moment. Enjoy the music adventure wonderland! So what can you do today?
Wishing you a glorious study day
Vera

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

Immersion into the World of Opera

Weekly Nugget: Immersion into the world of opera
I strongly recommend that singers study at least the piano reduction of the opera they sing, it would be even better to read the full orchsterscore, so that you understand the relation in dynamics and colour and phrasing of your music and aria and the orchestra.
One way to get an easy approach into this studyconcept is: Go to your musiclibrary in your town and find an orchestrascore of an opera, sit at home in a cosy chair and listen to this opera with your orchestrascore in your hand. I call it singer in wonderland of music…
I promise you, you will have a remarkable time in this special “wonderland”.
I have a couple of singers who work their stageroles with me like this and they have an extrodinary great time in the orchestrarehearsals and in their performances.
So I invite you to start this journey today.
With appreciation and have a lot of fun
Vera

Take responsibility

A teacher in a singers life is a guide to learn the craft of singing, of making music, of stage craft etc., but the singer has to do the work. To be an artist means also to take responsibility for your development. This means study, study, just simply do the work and stop finding excuses. If you want to have a career in music, you have to become like a searcher for the phrasing in the music, the building of the character and the owner of a healthy vocal technique. Good and responsible teachers can help you with knowledge and empathie, but in the end, you’re either the kind of person who can take the responsibility and work ambitious towards your dream or you’re not.
Until today after having sung 30 dramatic roles on operastages I am thankful and respectful towards all my teachers on my career path. I mention only a few here: a heartful ThankYou to David Jones and to my Music Mentor since beginning of my studies Friedrich.
So embrace your individual power.
So dive into the music studies and be active
Have a wonderful sunday
Vera