pursuing beauty as a way of life

A collection of my own ideas and new discoveries that give me a deeper insight to what it really means to be a musician.

I mostly use this as my online bulletin board to helpful articles I find on the Internet about conducting, singing, choir, how to develop musicianship, and other resources an aspiring music teacher would find useful on the journey towards a successful career :)



You have to know yourself as a musician. Are you excellent by nature or by constant effort? Most people who make careers out of music fall into the latter category, but some of us are a mix of both. If you’re the latter and you’ve already made the decision that you won’t settle for mediocrity, don’t let the difficulty of continuous effort stop you from pursuing excellence. True intrinsic satisfaction comes from the efforts toward excellence, and the product is a nice little reward. So strive for excellent efforts. Push yourself to work 5% harder every day. You don’t have to hold yourself to rigorous standards everyday if you’re not there yet. Go slowly if you must, but never ever quit. You have to know yourself.

This is probably a message more for myself than for anybody else, but I do hope someone else benefits from it.

40 Under 40: Next Generation of Great Opera Singers 

The Bel Canto Chronicle: Bel Canto Video Discussion 

the manuscripts of the masters: classical music


(Source: holodecked)

Patrick's Opera Blog: Movies Young Opera Singers Should Watch 

Knowing the Score: NOW that’s what I call REAL singing! 


Knowing the Score: A Singer’s Survival Guide* 


10 habits of successful musicians 

1. Know thyself

Being a musician begins with you. Knowing and being able to articulate why you love music, and why you must make a life of it, are the first steps to convincing the world that you are in the business to stay. Understanding how you stack up in the music world, and knowing what you have yet to learn, is equally important. If you are tougher on yourself than others, you’ll be ready for anything.

2. Be an artist

There are many musicians, but few real artists. True artists remake and replenish themselves perpetually, and are the ones followed by a loyal public. Decide what you need in order to honestly call yourself an artist and go get it. Study the people you consider to be great artists and emulate them. You can’t go wrong by spending a day as Mendelssohn, Picasso or Charlie Chaplin. Put yourselves in their heads and you’ll see the world differently.

3. Keep learning

Artists never stop absorbing knowledge and ideas that enrich their minds. Read, listen, watch, ask questions and surround yourself with interesting people. Don’t discount unconventional sources of knowledge. People who are constantly learning are the most interesting, always changing and always growing. Be one of them.

4. Work on your performance

Don’t be afraid to compare your performance to your own ideal. Be relentless in your determination to improve. Tape yourself on your mobile phone. Ask your friends for honest opinions. Listen and watch those musicians you admire most. Ask to play for the best musicians you know. You will only show yourself to be more dedicated than others.

5. Make friends

Careers are not made in isolation. Your friends, colleagues, mentors and industry contact list should be large, ever-growing and well-maintained. It will likely be one of these people who opens opportunities for you, recommends you, or shares a new idea that changes your life. A large musical family is not a bad thing to have.

6. Visualise possible lives

Keep an open mind as to the variety of ways you could be a musician. There are many.

7. Ask not what the industry can do for you…

Everyone who works in the arts industry faces enormous challenges on a day-to-day basis. The best thing a musician can do for them is to offer solutions, not present problems. These people appreciate all your ideas about programming, creative ways to appeal to the public, and help you can offer to run their organisations more powerfully. Ask what you can do for them.

8. Lead by example

The ideas and ideals of an artist are often beyond the comprehension of most around them. As a rule, the most effective way to stand out in the field from the rest is to live the life you believe in. Inspire others through your own work, and opportunities will surely come your way.

9. Give back

It is never too soon to begin sharing your experience, knowledge and inspiration with those poised to become classical music listeners, supporters and practitioners in the near and far futures. As an artist and a musician, you always have something to share. That you are perceived as thoughtful, generous and forward-thinking is completely in your favour.

10. Stay the course

Commitment to your art – respecting your initial reasons for becoming a musician and rejecting all unprincipled derivations from the course of integrity – is essential for ultimately commanding the respect of your colleagues, public, supporters and the entire industry. Today there are numerous temptations in the music world to stray from the highest standards of a pure course of study and practice of great music. Musicians, educators and administrators desperately employ short-lived ideas for getting engagements, creating opportunities for students and selling tickets. At the end of the day, not being among those who doubt the staying power of our art is the only safe way to ensure that you will be trusted and taken seriously.

21 Things That Make Casting Directors Happy in the Audition Room 

1. Accept the invitation with grace and enthusiasm. You were requested to be here as our guest.

2. Come to work and not to please or get our approval.

3. Enter with certainty. Don’t give up your power as soon as the door opens.

4. Play on a level playing field. We’re all figuring it out. Together.

5. Make no excuses whatsoever. Leave your baggage outside. Better yet, at home.

6. Make the room your own. It will make us so much more comfortable.

7. Ask questions only when you truly need answers. “Do you have any questions?” is usually another way of saying: “Are you ready?” You aren’t required to have one.

8. Know your words and understand what you’re talking about. You don’t have to be totally off-book, but if you’ve spent quality time with the material, you’re going to know it.

9. Do your homework on the project. This includes knowing all the players and the show or film’s tone and style. Read all the material you can get your hands on.

10. Make choices and take responsibility for the choices you make.

11. Don’t apologize. Ever. For anything.

12. Know what you want to do and do it. Then leave yourself available to make discoveries. Know that your homework is done. Now let your preparation meet the moments.

13. Don’t mime or busy yourself with props, activity, or blocking. Keep it simple.

14. Don’t expect to be directed, but if you are, take the direction, no matter what it is. Understand how to translate results-oriented direction into action.

15. Don’t blame the reader. Make the reader the star of your audition. According to my teaching partner Steve Braun, you should engage fully no matter who’s reading those lines. Likely your reader will engage – at least somewhat – if you show up.

16. Make specific, personal, bold choices. We want your unique voice to bring the script to life.

17. Stillness is powerful. Understand how to move and work in front of the camera – eliminate running in and out and getting up and down.

18. Require no stroking, coddling, or love. We’re there to work. Don’t take it personally when we’re not touchy-feely. Know that we love actors and that’s truly why we’re here.

19. Understand that you’re there to collaborate. You’re being evaluated in terms of how you serve the role and the material. It’s not a verdict on your personhood. Judgment is something you can control.

20. What you bring in reflects how you’re received so bring in joy, conviction, and ease, and our hearts will open.

21. Share your artistry above all else.

Remember that we’re all human in those rooms, and you can affect us on an emotional level. It’s what we all really want. That’s your job. You being fully present, truthful, personal, and vulnerable is going to give us the ammunition we need to champion you with all our hearts. We all desperately want you to do great work. We’re rooting for that every time you walk into the room. You show up and do your fullest, deepest work, and we’ll slay dragons for you and follow you anywhere. And man, we’ll be so happy doing it. You have the power to make that happen. For you. For us. For the work. Hallelujah!

What Is Sense Memory and How Should You Use It? 

You should date a theatre girl

Date a theatre girl because she is strong. She is not afraid of taking risks or being rejected. Chances are, she’s stood in line with 15 other girls wearing almost identical dresses, while a casting director has walked up and down, saying “yes”, “no”, “yes”, etc. She’s been told “no” by directors more times than she can count, because she’s too young, or too old. Too pretty or not pretty enough. But “no” to her means “not today”, and she’ll try again tomorrow.

Date a theatre girl because she is patient. She has showed up at an open call before the rest of the city is awake, only to realize that she’s number 275 and probably won’t be seen for another six hours. But she brought crossword puzzles with her and she knows how to pass the time. She’s an expert at filling minutes while she waits.

Date a theatre girl because she lives for moments. An audition is usually never more than 60 seconds — 16 bars of a song or a one-minute monologue. This is a tiny fraction of your day, a minute quickly forgotten, but to her, it is everything. For this minuscule pause, she is playing a role, perhaps a dream role; she’s investing all of those hours spent waiting in the holding room, all of that energy, channeled towards this very instant in time.

Date a theatre girl because she is passionate. You’ll notice her eyes change when she talks about performing; they’ll get a shade darker and you’ll know it’s the only thing she believes she is meant to do. That passion is in everything, you’ll realize — the way she laughs at cat videos, how she takes her best friend’s phone calls at 2am, the way she’ll tell stories about the most mundane details of the day.

Date a theatre girl because she understands people; it’s part of her job. She’ll likely be the person everyone goes to for advice; she’ll take care of you if you let her. She knows that good people can do bad things. She forgives, even if she can’t forget. She’ll say all the right words to make you feel better about your flaws, if you choose to believe her.

Date a theatre girl because she isn’t afraid of being silly. She’ll sing along to the radio while driving and serenade other cars in 5pm traffic. She’ll text you pictures of herself making the ugliest faces imaginable because she knows it will make you laugh.

Date a theatre girl because she constantly searches for the extraordinary. She chooses to feel everything to extremes in order to remember it better. She may call it sense-memory, a term from her high school acting class, but it’s habitual now, it’s in her soul. She may cry easily, but if she lets you see it, it’s because she trusts you. Some might call her overdramatic, but she opens her heart to every emotion simply because she’s no longer afraid of it breaking. She knows that one can live with holes; not every void needs to be filled.

Date a theatre girl because she will settle for nothing less than thrilling. If you allow yourself to hold her hand, she’ll make sure your world is also splattered with neon colors. Before you know it, you may catch yourself falling in love with her, and if you do, tell her so. Chances are, she’s loved you from the start. TC mark

(Source: thoughtcatalog.com)

Diana Damrau Met interview

Violetta is one of the pinnacles of the soprano repertoire. What made you decide this was the time to take it on?
I waited a long time to tackle this role because it’s very special for me. I fell in love with opera watching the Franco Zeffirelli movie of La Traviata with Teresa Stratas and Domingo as Alfredo. I was 12 and I sat glued to the TV screen and I cried, and afterwards I thought, “This is the most beautiful thing humankind can create.” But I wanted to wait because to sing Violetta and express her feelings you really have to understand life. In those days, courtesans were highly educated, elegant, powerful women who lived like men. They had all the freedom they could get in their time. Even political decisions were made in their houses. They were women of pleasure and women of the mind.

That’s certainly true for Violetta. How would you describe her as a character?
She’s done it all, and she knows she’s going to die and that when she’s gone people won’t care. But she has a very honest heart. She’s the only person in the opera who loves without limits. And to give up Alfredo for the sake of his family—greater love is not possible. She’s selfless.

The original story by Alexandre Dumas, The Lady of the Camellias, has inspired many adaptations. Did you study any
of those when you were preparing your debut?
Everything! I love the ballets by John Neumeier and Frederick Ashton, and the film with Greta Garbo. And of course I read the book a long time ago.

What are the specific musical challenges of this role?
People say you need three different voices for Traviata. You need to have the flexibility and brilliance for the first act. Then the centerpiece of the opera is the duet with Germont—that’s a big lyric soprano. And for the last act you want to have a dramatic soprano. Everything has to come together really, the colors, the emotions… In terms of difficulty, it’s a five-star role.

You just finished a very successful run as another Verdi heroine, Gilda in Rigoletto. Do you see any parallels between the two characters?
If Traviata gets five stars, Gilda is a three- and-a-half. She has to sound younger, 
so I try to put as much silvery shine as possible into my coloratura. I think of her as Violetta’s little sister. There’s so much pressure put on her by her father. She’s lost, and there’s always the thought of her mother, the angel. It almost seems as if she’s happy to die at the end. She’s at peace. Violetta has learned to accept death, but she really wants to stay alive and be healed when Alfredo finally returns to her.

Is there such a thing as a “Verdi voice”? What are the qualities you need to sing his music?
I come from the coloratura side, of course, but Verdi always requires a flexible voice, even for the big soprano roles in Trovatore and Ballo in Maschera, or even the heavier ones. You need the breath support for those long, lyrical lines. There’s always a big arc—the line builds, up a note and another note and another note, to a climax and then you need the same kind of control when it floats down again. Even smaller roles like Oscar in Ballo or the Voice from Heaven in Don Carlohave lines like that.

In addition to Violetta, you’ve recently taken on a few more dramatic roles, like Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and the three women in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Why?
You have to listen to yourself and to your body. With age and with hormones, the voice can change. I’m a mother of two now, and my voice has changed. I think it has more lyrical potential and possibilities for dramatic colors. I never touched this repertoire before, but I think now’s the time. My voice is ready. And to make my debut with Domingo by my side—it’s just incredible. —Philipp Brieler

La Traviata runs March 14 through April 6, with Damrau as Violetta and Plácido Domingo singing the baritone role of Germont for the first time. Saimir Pirgu is Alfredo
 and Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.

This interview was first published online in February 2013 and in the Met’s Playbill in March 2013.

Olga Peretyatko

How would you describe Elvira as a character?
Every character that I play as a coloratura soprano is the same. The young maid, naive and innocent. Right now I’m singing Marfa [in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride] at La Scala, and I’m the same young maid and I will, of course, die at the end, and of course I will go mad and have my mad scene. [Laughs] But to sing Elvira I think you should be mentally and vocally grown up, because this role asks every- thing from you. I tried to read a lot about the time of the Puritans and the novel by Walter Scott. The role of women was such a shame, it was a man’s world. For us now, for me as a modern woman, it’s quite difficult to understand. Elvira or Lucia or Gilda—they’re sensible characters. Because if you don’t have any rights but you have emotions and passions inside, everything gets into conflict. Gilda gives her life for her love. And you need to have character to make that decision, to die for somebody. So I try to make these girls stronger. Call me a fight soprano! I’ve been doing karate since I was 13, and it gives me the discipline. Puritani, of course, is unusual because it has a happy ending. Normally in bel canto drama you die. But Elvira will live and everything will be made right in the last three minutes.

How does it feel to be making your Met debut with your husband on the podium?
To sing with him, for me, is like breathing. It’s so normal. And I’m happy to be in the same city with him for two months. We met in Pesaro in 2010, where he was conducting Sigismondoand I was singing the role of Aldimira, an absolutely unknown opera by Rossini. But our love story only started in Florence a few months later. He’s a great conductor, so I was already in love with Michele as a musician. There’s a very good expression in Italian: “Io ti stimo”—I respect you as a professional and as a person. That’s exactly what I still think.

(Source: metoperafamily.org)

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