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Nicole

Philip, thanks so much for asking me to do this. So you'd like to know how an American woman ended up singing a Rheinmaiden in Der Ring des Niebelungen in Berlin ... I'll give you a quick over view.
The American Berlin Opera Foundation has a scholarship audition every year for singers who have completed their formal education and are getting ready for the transitional phase from young artist to beginning in the profession. One or two singers are chosen for a 10 month contract at DOB where they sing roles in various productions.
This season, Flosshilde is one of my biggest and most challenging roles. I was fortunate enough to have sung it in a piano production of Rheingold last season at The Academy of Vocal Arts but singing in a German house is completely different! During the past few weeks I've been working very diligently on diction and cleaning up minor details. I haven't sung much Wagner yet but I'm enjoying working on this role. You often here people say that young singers should stay away from Wagner. In my experience so far, I find it to be very singable & I don't get tired! It's not all about making a loud sound. Being clear with the words is half the battle.
My first working rehearsal with the other Rheinmaidens (minus a sick Woglinde)and the Alberich was less than a week ago and in 90 minutes the entire opening scene was staged. We work fast here unless it's a premiere. The other singers in the cast have sung their roles in Bayreuth, Seattle and The Met to name a few. My colleagues are very supportive so it makes for a fun, stress-free working environment.

We are on stage with orchestra, costumes, sets, ect on Wednesday and Rheingold opens on Friday, so I'm sure I'll have much more to talk about after.
I've only had one rehearsal for Goetterdaemmerung so far and all I can say for now is that the music is much more difficult than the first opera!
Stay tuned for more news!

philip

Nicole, could you elaborate just a little on the audition process for the American Berlin Opera Foundation. Is this an open audition, or more like a competition? Does someone have to 'nominate' you? Do you know how many people were auditioned overall? And what did you sing for them in that audition process? How did you find out you had won?

Nicole

The ABOF auditions are held in early spring in NYC & are closed to the public. I'm not sure how many singers they hear but I think the auditions last only one day. Along with the application, they require two written letters of recommendations and five arias.
Last year, I sang for my now manager, Guy Barzilay, less than two hours before I was scheduled to sing for ABOF. I wasn't feeling particularly great that day & had it not been for a wonderful friend of mine who talked me into going to the Upper East Side to sing for them, I would have missed out on one of the biggest chances of my early career.
Guy strongly suggested I start with Marfa's Aria from Khovanschina (I now start every audition with it) I was then asked to sing Cruda sorte ... from L'italiana in Algeria (which I no longer offer for many reasons) and Erda's aria, Weiche Wotan! from Das Rheingold.
The judges included Kirsten Harmes, the head of Deutsche Oper Berlin, Jean-François Monnard, the opera director, Maestro Yves Abel and many ABOF board members.
As soon as I returned to Philadelphia, I got a phone call offering me the scholarship.
The ABOF, actually I think they are going by the name Opera Foundation now, have been helping young professionals start their careers in Berlin for over 20 years. It's a wonderful way to build experience, repertoire and confidence. Often, singers get to share the stage with "The Pro's" who have been in the business a long time and have sung on the greatest stages of the world.
Deutsche Oper Berlin is one of the biggest houses in Europe with about 2,000 seats.

Nicole

The Ring Cycle opened at DOB last night to a sold audience and was a huge success. It's always very exciting to perform for a full house. The cast was amazing. Terje Stensvold is wonderful as Wotan as is Richard Paul Fink as Alberich. The opening scene of Das Rheingold begins with everyone on stage covered in white sheets. One by one, everyone leaves with the exception of the Rheinmaidens & Wotan.
The set streches as far back to the working stage behind the main stage. It's pretty amazing!
We only had one dress rehearsal with orchestra to get used to working on stage with the the scenery. (The Rheinmaidens are under water) It was complicated at first but became easier as the scene progressed.
During the performance last night, I started to get a little emotional during the first " Hi-ja ja hi-ja's" I couldn't believe that I was singing in The Ring at The Deutsche Oper Berlin. I pulled it together though. It was the most exciting moment on stage for me. Die Goetterdaemmerung opens in 8 days. Stay tuned!

Nicole

The photo of the three Rheinmaidens are Ulrike Helzel on the left, me in the middle & Catriona Smith on the right. Catriona stepped in for Fionnula McCarthy who was sick on opening night. Ms. Smith is fest at the Staatsoper Stuttart.

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