Master classes

Young singers are especially near and dear to my heart, not least so that I can pass on my experiences and what I have learned in my career. When I was young, I was on the receiving end of a great deal of help, and I found that the best advice came from colleagues who had themselves been on stage and who spoke from experience. For example, I remember Leopold Simoneau well, a legendary Canadian tenor, who had also sung Don Ottavio in Salzburg and with whom I worked. My collaboration with pianists was also always extremely valuable: first with Graham Johnson and Irvin Gage, who were like professors to me. Later my regular accompanists Malcolm Martineau and Justus Zeyen became the ears I could rely on.

I particularly enjoy working with young singers who are almost ready to spread their wings and are already on their way to launching their career. In this work, I have met two kinds of singer. Some are like young racehorses who dash off with great vigour and know no fear. I am not there to instil fear in them, but it is important to know that what you are doing so that you do not end up hurting yourself. Then there are also those – and this is the other group – who have a good understanding of their discipline, who are very sensitive and will do anything for music, but somehow are angst-ridden. My task is to bridle the first group somewhat and spur on the others. I myself possess both these traits and therefore understand them well.

In my opinion, an important function of master classes is to give young singers the opportunity of having a discussion with someone who offers Vitamin E for Experience, who is engaged in the same profession and therefore knows all its pitfalls and anxieties, but also its joys; someone who perhaps has a few words of advice on how the leopard can change its spots. Vitamin E for Experience, so that with particularly tricky arias one may wonder why they are written like that. When you see a wave of panic approaching you in such cases, the only option is to jump onto the wave, to travel with it like a surfer and guide the power of the emotion. If all goes well, that can give you quite a thrill. Vitamin E for Experience in practical matters as well: how to deal with questions ranging from a minor cold to foreign taxes, from looking for a flat in a foreign city to tips on how to deal with journalists.

A singer's capital also includes contact with organizers and agencies, and that would bring us to my Stella Maris competition. But more on that in a moment.

Naturally the purpose of a master class is less to work on technique than to refine expression. I can very quickly see where a singer's technique falls short, what (s)he needs to work on, but in such cases I advise the singer to work on specific issues with their teacher. The thing I am most persistent about in my master classes is pronunciation, which must be very clear, regardless of the particular language one is singing.

I often received help in the past, and I want to give back in my work with the next generation of singers.

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