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An Evening with Wagner, Strauss and Schreker – CD available

My CD, Wesendonck-Lieder of Richard Wagner, “An Evening with Wagner, Strauss, Schreiker”($12.97) is on sale at www.cdbaby.com.    Once you enter www.cdbaby.com, click on view music store and enter my name.

Please order, listen and enjoy!

As the Bayreuth Wagner Festival is approaching its end this year, I am reminded of my “Siegfried”-Bruennhilde engagement and working personally with Wolfgang Wagner, director of the Wagner Festival, grandson of Richard Wagner and stage director of the “Ring” in which I performed. It was a unique experience!

240Bruennhilde at Bayreuth Wagner Festival in 1974

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Brenda Roberts singing the Song Cycle Les Nuits d’Ete in Schwetzingen April 2, 2017

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When I began my career in the opera world, I had just graduated from college and was very young. Over the next years, singing Elektra and Salome in my early 20’s, I received press, mostly positive. But there was much criticism that I, in their opinion, was singing on my natural, uneducated voice and the consensus of “professional” opinion was that I was going to ruin my voice within two years. The truth is that I had studied voice since I was 11 years old. I had trained my voice with the best vocal technique for many years. Actually, I maintain that a voice has to be trained so well, that finally it would sound “natural” and easy: no strain, no heaviness in the voice, but a voice that had a large volume (because of the correct breath support) without forcing.

Well, in my opinion, I believe, I have survived a good number of years and have retained the lightness, range and technique in my singing. I have been told just recently with my concerts in Germany on April 1 and 2 of this year that my voice has not aged and still sounds very young, brilliant and responsive in forte passages as well as piano passages.

Most of my repertoire during my career was the “hoch-dramatic” repertoire of German opera: Wagner, Richard Strauss (Elektra, Salome, Dyer’s Wife (Faerberin), Bruennhilde, Isolde, Venus, Ortrud, etc.). Only with the correct technique and discipline can a voice retain the beauty and ease of singing this repertoire without damage to the vocal cords and larynx.

The key to a long career is a combination of important conditions. One must have a born physical build with the ability to be strong of body (not fat in weight), correct build of the vocal cords that allows strength without force. To these conditions, the singer must have an excellent vocal technique and live a healthy life: exercise, healthy diet, adequate sleep and rest between performances, not smoking and not drinking alcohol.

But, let us not forget that I have always been disciplined. I still practice every day – even today – and I not only “sing” every day, but work my vocal “gymnastics”, vocalizing and working all registers and all dynamics with a well-founded vocal technique. I also am a voice teacher and faithfully teach my students this technique. (Please read my earlier entries in my website on vocal technique .)

In the next recordings of Hector Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’Ete which I just sang on April 1 and April 2, 2017, in concerts in Germany, I want to give all singers the courage to keep up their work at any age and give other singers the knowledge that they can be role models to their students and other singers who might be tempted to give up their careers too early.

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My Concert, Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’Ete on April 1, 2017

My concert in Mannheim, April 1, 2017, singing Nr. 4, l’Absence from Les Nuits d’Ete, a song cycle of 6 songs by Hector Berlioz. Conductor is Johannes Corn with the Sinfonieorchester Walddorfschule. Unfortunately, the camera failed and the last measures were not recorded. Hope you like it anyway! I will upload the first 3 songs, which I have complete. These songs are some of the most beautiful in the concert repertoire – and the most difficult to play and sing.

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Fall of the Wall in Germany, November 9, 1989

Tomorrow on November 9, 1989, the Wall dividing East and West Germany fell.  Hardly two weeks before, I sang Venus in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Semper Oper in Dresden – still East Germany.  After the performance, we were asked to remain onstage for a reading of the Principles of Freedom.  As an American, I was asked specially if I would also do so.  I said yes and stood there on the stage with my colleagues while the people voiced their desire for freedom and the opening of the wall.    Some people got up and left to show their protest, but the majority remained for the reading.

It was an historic occasion.

Morgen am 9. November 1989, die Mauer, die Ost Deutschland und West Deutschland getrennt hat, ist gefallen.  Kaum zwei Wochen vorher sang ich die Venus in Richard Wagners Tannhäuser an der Semper Oper in Dresden.  Nach der Aufführung hat man uns auf der Bühne zu bleiben gebeten.  Es wurde einen Ausruf für die Freiheit vorgelesen.  Man hat mich speziell gefragt, ob ich als Amerikaner bleiben würde.  Natürlich sagte ich zu!  Ich stand da während die Menschen ihre Bejahung der Freiheit und ihren Wunsch, daß der Fall der Mauer stattfinden sollte, äußersten. Ein paar Menschen sind aufgestanden und verliessen den Zuschauerraum, um ihren Protest zu zeigen!  Aber die meisten blieben und wurden sehr emotional.

Es war ein historisches Ereignis!

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My life’s work and career and the Northwestern University Archives

I am very honored to have been asked by the Northwestern University Archives, Mr. Kevin Leonard, Archivist, to organize and archive my career and life’s work.  This is thrilling to me as my documents will now never be lost and always available for viewing – forever.

I am now collecting everything I possess:  performance programs, photos, reviews, interviews, DVD’s, cd’s, letters, etc., – absolutely everything.

If anyone can add to these documents, please contact me.  Anything you may have in your possession that can be documented, I’d appreciate.

Thank you!

Ich bin hoch geehrt, dass die Northwestern Universitaet mein Lebenswerk archivieren moechte.  Herr Kevin Leonard, Archivist von Northwestern, hat mich gebeten alle Programmhefte, Interviews, Kritiken, DVD’s CDs, Fotos, Briefen usw. zu sammeln, um sie fuer die in ihre Archive einzuordnen und fuer die Ewigkeit aufzubewahren.  Die Dokumente koennen auch jederzeit eingesehen werden.  Dies ist eine gross Ehre und jetzt kann ich sicher sein, dass meine Karriere und mein Lebenswerk nie verloren gehen.

Sollte jemand irgendetwas in seinem Besitz haben, das er beifuegen koennte, bitte kontaktieren Sie mich!  Vielen Dank!

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Gottlob-Frick-Gesellschaft event October 18, 2014

These are a few pictures of the Gottlob-Frick-Gesellschaft event October 18, 2014.

Here I am with the great Rene Kollo.  I sang the role of Ortrud many times with Mr. Kollo as Lohengrin (Hamburg State Opera, Paris Opera, etc.).  It is great fun to see and talk with the artists with whom I appeared many times on the operatic stage.

And here I am with Siegmund Nimsgern, my very good friend.  We sang also in Lohengrin (Ortrud-Telramund) at the Hamburg State Opera, Paris Opera, LaScala Milan, etc.  Lohengrin was not the only opera that we shared:  also Don Giovanni, Lulu, and many others.   I’ve known Mr. Nimsgern since I began my opera career in Saarbruecken.

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Fidelio and Salome excerpts in YouTube

Finally I have uploaded excerpts from Salome and Fidelio in YouTube.

Salome begins with her entrance:

Then follows the rest of the 9 excerpts until the final scene at the end of the opera. I hope you like it. Salome together with Elektra and the Dyer’s Wife in “Frau ohne Schatten”, all from Richard Strauss, belong to my best and most often performed roles. I sang Salome at the Vienna State Opera, Stockholm Kungliga Operan, the Vlaamse Opera in Gent, Belgium (here in YouTube), Santiago, Chile, Cantania, Sicily, the opera houses in Wiesbaden, Mainz, Dormund, Bremen, etc. I have sung the role over 160 times to date.

I have also uploaded 5 Fidelio excerpts from Bad Hersfeld most recently. The first excerpt begins with the aria and continues until the end. The first YouTube excerpt is:

From there you can work your way through the 5 excerpts. Some of the many theatres where I have sung the role includes Antwerp, Belgium (Vlaamsa Oper), Bad Hersfeld, Frankfurt Opera, Warsaw Opera, Poland, Wuppertal, Aachen, etc. I really love singing Leonore. She is a truly modern heroine, a woman willing to go through extreme situations to achieve her goal. She was determined to find her husband, wrongly arrested as a political prisoner, and save him, bringing Pizarro to justice. It was her strength of mind and heart, and her beliefs (“Gott, steh mir bei”) that brought her success in achieving her goal.

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Inhalation technique

Oxana Senina from California has recently emailed me:  “I just read your article “A Handbook for the Development of an Expressive Voice”, and this is exactly what I am trying to learn.  I do have a few questions that have come up as I practice, and I would love any insight or advice you might be able to give me.”  I think it would be interesting to my readers to answer her questions here in my website.

1. “…My teacher…mentioned that the voice should be placed in the middle of the forehead.  When I place the voice there, I feel a lot of vibration and even sometimes a ringing in my ear when I sing at louder volumes.  I just want to make sure this is the right spot for the placement of the voice  (the middle of the forehead)?”

Oxana, I warn against PLACING the tone ANYWHERE.  You will begin to “manipulate” the voice.  This will bring tension in the voice and take away its freedom.  There are all kinds of repercussions that will hamper the quality and quantity of tone.  The voice needs “many places” of resonance to function freely.  By attempting to limit the voice to one place, the production of tone will beome controlled and not allowed to take on its FULL resonance and beauty of tone.  Even resonance ocurs in the body as well as the head, and it should be allowed to use ALL of the resonance areas. 

If you have learned the feeling of “inhalation” – that the tones are coming to you and not being sung outwardly (exhalation), you will find that the voice will take on resonance in the head and upper palate (raising the soft palate automatically) and also the body.  This is what we want.  Don’t limit the resonance area.  Let the voice be free without tension.  Freedom without manipulation, but with full body support from the epigastrium and back using you “counterpressure”, will give you the optimal tone.

2. “When I sing quietly in my middle register, I feel like I am sending the air to the front of my mouth just behind my front teeth.  From there, I feel the air bounce up and into my head just behind my forehead.  When I sing at louder volumes, though, I feel like the air is taking a different pathway.  Instead of moving forward to my teeth and then bouncing up, I feel like it travels up the back of  my mouth, then up and forward into my forehead.  I’m confused about which is the correct pathway.”

Oxana, it seems to me that you are thinking too much about non-essential things and probably not concentrating on the right things.  There should be NO feeling of air moving anywhere.  Very probably you are exhaling your breath and not inhaling.  Concentrate on your breathing and body strength (never let up with your “counterpressure”), concentrate on the feeling of inhalation, concentrate of your freedom and RELAXATION in the throat, concentrate on the position of the tongue (forward and away from the throat) and an optimal articulation.  When you are out on stage, these things must come automatically so that you can express your thoughts and feelings.

 “Lastly, I was just wondering if you had any exercises you could recommend to practice the inhalation technique.  Up to now I have been praticing the technque just by focusing on placement, but I would love to learn some exercises that would give me more specific direction.”

(Forget placement!) Yes, pratice a lot on “oo’s” and “oh’s” with the feeling that these vowels are coming to you in the upper palate area.  Not placement, but a sense of direction.  Practice a lot with “th’s” (voiced).  “Th” is the best consonant(s) to use because the tongue in in the most forward position possible.  In this position you can be certain that you are not swallowing the tongue and blocking the back of the throat, nor depressing the larynx.  (The base of the tongue is connected to the larynx.)  Oxana, I will be scanning and putting some exercises online soon.  With the above, however, you can make a very good start.  With “counterpressure” (not collapsing with the muscles of support which are the muscles of inhalation – don’t forget the back expansion) and the feeling that the tones are coming to YOU and not being projected outwardly, you will find that you will progress rapidly.  Flagstad, who had this Bratt technique, said she had doubled her voice in a month – almost instantaneously.  Doubling our voices is a good sign that we are singing with our bodies correctly and not putting pressure on our throats that will minimalize the quantity as well as quality.

I am open to more questions.  I will try to guide you through this process, even though I am not with you in person.  Tell me how you get along and if you understand.  Thank you for your interest and contacting me, Oxana.  Please keep in touch.  I’ll be thinking of you!

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Merry Christmas with music in 2011!

Please think of ordering or downloading “Glory, Glory, Alleluia” for Christmas from cdbaby !  This CD includes sacred selections from Baroque Oratorios as well as songs that everyone loves to hear like “Amazing Grace”.  I recorded this CD in the Rheingauer Dom, a cathedral in Germany built in the 12th century and which possesses the largest double manual historic Stumm organ (1842).  I was thrilled to have made this recording and I believe you will enjoy it!

Also to be ordered from cdbaby is my CD of German Romantic Lieder, songs of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Franz Schreker.  This is the same program which I sang at my Carnegie Hall Recital on February 25, 2011.  My accompanist, Christian Schmitt, is a wonderful pianist! 

For those who love contemporary music, you can also enjoy my recording of Medea from the opera Medea of Friedhelm Doehl, which was just released in 2011.  I am very honored to have been chosen to sing the tragic, heroic figure of Medea in this complex, dramatic, exciting opera!  The conductor is Klauspeter Seibel.  You can buy this incredible opera as an MP3 download from Amazon or as a CD from Classic Direct, Dreyer Gaido Records.

Have a Merry Christmas with music!

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