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Issue 7 – Autumn 2019 askonasholt.com

EDUCATION FOCUS

Mind the gap What are conservatoires doing to support students in today’s digital world?

Living the Fest Life Artist experiences of the European Fest system

Tour diary 17-year-old Gabriel Ortiz shares his experiences on tour with NYO-USA

Sing it to win it! Prize-winners Andrei Kymach & Alexandros Stavrakakis on their recent competition success PLUS

Peter Whelan · Andrei Ioniţă · AH on tour


Cover photograph Andrei Kymach wins BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 © Kirsten McTernan Guest editor Callan Coughlan

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Contributors Callan Coughlan, Gabriel Ortiz, Sophie Rashbrook & Yehuda Shapiro

thegreenroom@askonasholt.com

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EDITOR’S WELCOME

Welcome One can confidently say that any professional musician owes a significant amount of their success to the educational institutions they studied at and from the teachers they learned from. The lucky few who are born with such innate musical talent and ability must have this gift fostered and developed from childhood to ensure their musical potential is fully realised.

CALLAN COUGHLAN assistant artist manager

Callan is a graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music and Dublin City University (BA in Music Performance) and Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin (MSc in Management), receiving distinction in his dissertation entitled “How Arts and Cultural Organisations are using Technology to redevelop and innovate their Business Models”. He left Ireland behind in April 2017 to join the Askonas Holt team as an Assistant Artist Manager in the Singers department. Last season, Callan also volunteered his time as Marketing Manager for Young People in the Arts. A keen runner, Callan will be running the 2020 London Marathon in aid of Cancer Research UK and in memory of his Dad.

In today’s complicated world, however, the ‘education’ a musician must receive stretches far beyond just the music. The artist must be a self-promoter, digitally-savvy and differentiate themselves more than ever to grab the consumer’s attention. The music itself will always take precedent but in today’s hyper-competitive market, we must look at what the musician can do to differentiate and succeed. This issue of The Green Room explores the theme of musical education in the modern age, taking illustrative examples that make up a journey; from youth programmes to conservatories and onwards to the early stages of professional life. Reflecting Askonas Holt’s dedication to working with the very best youth ensembles, we had the pleasure of hearing about NYO-USA trumpeter Gabriel Ortiz’s experiences of the orchestra's recent tour across Europe with star mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and Sir Antonio Pappano (p. 10). Looking at the next ‘stage’, I personally had the pleasure of catching up with two trailblazers in the field of professional development in leading UK conservatoires; Jess Walker of the Royal Academy of Music and Diana Roberts of the Royal College of Music, to see how they’re helping their young musicians develop from students into pros (p. 20). Moving into the professional realm, our cover story features two true rising opera stars: baritone Andrei Kymach and bass Alexandros Stavrakakis, in conversation with journalist Yehuda Shapiro and their manager, AH Executive Director Mark Hildrew (p. 16). The pinnacle of a singer’s education is the opera studio and ensemble contract. Sophie Rashbrook sat down with three singers who have been through the iconic European system – Adam Plachetka, Christina Gansch and Pavel Petrov – to discover what they have learned and the challenges they have faced (p. 25). Outside our theme, we catch up with Irish conductor and new signing Peter Whelan (p. 9) and shine a spotlight on cellist Andrei Ioniţă (p. 28). I hope you enjoy reading this magazine as much as I have enjoyed acting as Guest Editor. In an age where the importance of musical education is deemed as societally less important, we must strive to highlight and commend the fantastic, important work that is still being achieved, and the wonderful young artists that are continuing to emerge. Autumn 2019 The Green Room 3


CONTENTS

IN THIS ISSUE 3 EDITOR’S WELCOME 6 NEWS Enrique Mazzola at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Edward Gardner at the LPO, Kennedy Center Honor for MTT, prizes for Andrei Kymach, Alexandros Stavrakakis & Migran Agadzhanyan, plus recent signings 9 SPOTLIGHT ON... Irish conductor Peter Whelan 10 FOCUS TOUR DIARY 17-year-old trumpeter Gabriel Ortiz shares his experience of being on tour with NYO-USA 16 FOCUS COVER STORY Yehuda Shapiro speaks to Andrei Kymach, Alexandros Stavrakakis and AH's Mark Hildrew following competition wins over the summer 20 FOCUS MIND THE GAP What two conservatoires are doing to help their students bridge the gap between scholar and pro 25 FOCUS LIVING THE FEST LIFE Sophie Rashbrook investigates the European fest contract system, speaking to three artists who've had first-hand experience: Adam Plachetka, Christina Gansch & Pavel Petrov 28 SPOTLIGHT ON... Romanian cellist Andrei Ioniţă 29 MEET THE TEAM Senior Artist Manager Keiron Cooke 30 ON TOUR Upcoming projects this autumn

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CONTENTS

Photos, clockwise from top left: Jess Walker, Christina Gansch © Kartal Karagedik, NYOUSA in Berlin © Chris Lee, Peter Whelan © Jen Owens, Adam Plachetka at Wiener Staatsoper 2018/19 © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Poehn, Andrei Ioniţă © Nikolaj Lund, Alexandros Stavrakakis © TCH, Enrique Mazzola © Jean-Baptiste Millot, Andrei Kymach © Alexander Andryushchenko

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NEWS HEADLINES

News Read more news stories at askonasholt.com/news Enrique Mazzola named Music Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago

“I am thrilled that Enrique Mazzola has accepted Lyric’s invitation to become our next music director,” says General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud. “He has accrued a wealth of international experience in his career to date, and he is tremendously well liked and respected by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus. I am confident that our audiences and the people of Chicago will be captivated by his artistry, his charm and personality, as has certainly been the case during his initial engagements here in the past few years. I look forward with great excitement to working very closely with Enrique. Our artistic partnership has already started, and is proving both very fruitful and extremely enjoyable.” “I am so looking forward to working closely with Anthony in my new role as music director at Lyric starting in 2021, and to working with both Anthony and Sir Andrew as music

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© Jean-Baptiste Millot

Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola has been named as the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s next Music Director. Becoming Music Director Designate immediately, Enrique will be only the third person to serve as Music Director when assumes the role in the 2021/22 season.

director designate during the transition period,” says Enrique. “Anthony has made me feel very much like part of the Lyric Opera family from the beginning, and our working relationship is always an excellent collaboration.” Sir Andrew Davis, who has been Music Director of the Lyric Opera since 2000, says, “It will be hard to leave, but the timing is right for me and I am confident that Enrique will be a splendid music director for Lyric. I am greatly looking forward to working closely with him over the next two years. He’s a fine musician and someone who will continue the tradition of the Lyric Opera family. It’s fantastic to have two years together for our transition.”

Lyric audiences first encountered Enrique’s artistry with Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in 2016/17, for which The Chicago Tribune praised “an impressive company debut … Mazzola was ever at the ready to support the vocal lines with shapely, refined orchestral playing that soared along with the singers, but also delivered firm dramatic urgency and tension when so required. This conductor is a discovery indeed.” Enrique Mazzola is also Principal Guest Conductor at Deutsche Oper Berlin, and until recently served as Artistic and Music Director of the Orchestre National d’Île-de-France (ONDIF) in Paris. askonasholt.com/enrique-mazzola


NEWS HEADLINES

Edward Gardner appointed Principal Conductor of London Philharmonic Orchestra The London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) has announced the appointment of Edward Gardner as Principal Conductor from the start of the 2021/22 season. Becoming the first British Principal Conductor of the LPO since the late 1960s, Edward’s five-year contract will see him work with the orchestra for a minimum of 10 weeks a year. Succeeding Vladimir Jurowski, Edward will lead the orchestra in its London season at Southbank Centre, on international tours, and with the orchestra’s many ground-breaking education programmes.

Currently Chief Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward first conducted the LPO in 2003, and has since returned for concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, Snape Maltings and Glyndebourne. Most recently, he appeared with the orchestra both in London and in New York. He will appear with the orchestra four times during the 2019/20 season, and open its 2020/21 season at the Royal Festival Hall. askonasholt.com/edward-gardner

Kennedy Center Honor for MTT American conductor and composer Michael Tilson Thomas has been named as one of the five 2019 Kennedy Center Honorees. First presented in 1978, the honour celebrates “icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness” (Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein), and is one of the most prestigious in the US. In distinguished company, MTT is honoured alongside R&B collective Earth, Wind & Fire, actress Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt and children’s TV programme Sesame Street. Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubinstein says, “Michael Tilson Thomas goes far beyond keeping score: he has shaped American music and musical institutions for the 21st century.” MTT and his fellow honourees will be celebrated at a star-studded gala on 8 December 2019, recorded for broadcast on CBS on Sunday 15 December at 8pm ET, and produced by the team behind multiple Super Bowl half-time shows, 18 consecutive Tony Awards®, and the Primetime Emmy Awards®. The Kennedy Center Honors medallions will be presented on Saturday 7 December, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner.

© Kristen Loken

© Benjamin Ealovega

“I’m thrilled to have been appointed Principal Conductor of the LPO,” he said of his new appointment. “I worked with the orchestra early in my career and I was quite overwhelmed by the brilliance and virtuosity of the musicians. Returning to the orchestra recently I’ve felt a sense of pleasure and privilege working with this inspiring group of musicians and relished the passion and hunger the LPO brings to performance. I’m looking forward to our collaboration with huge anticipation and excitement.”

askonasholt.com/michael-tilson-thomas

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NEWS HEADLINES

Baritone Andrei Kymach crowned BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 Ukrainian baritone Andrei Kymach was crowned the winner of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 on Saturday 22 June. With the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Ariane Matiakh, Andrei sealed his victory performing arias from Bizet’s Carmen, Rachmanoniv’s Aleko and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Andrei Kymach in Cardiff © Kirsten McTernan

Chaired by Sir David Pountney, the jury comprised Dame Felicity Lott, Frederica von Stade, José Cura and Wasfi Kani. The former member of the Bolshoi Young Artist Program reacted to his win, saying: “I’m overwhelmed … It’s literally a dream come true. I can remember watching the competition when I was very young and it would never have occurred to me that I could one day even take part, let alone win.” Drawing parallels between Andrei and the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who won the competition 30 years ago this year, Rian Evans of The Guardian called Andrei “an aristocratic presence on stage.” She concluded by saying, “Kymach was the voice to which one could happily listen again and again and never tire of it.” askonasholt.com/andrei-kymach

Alexandros Stavrakakis & Migran Agadzhanyan win at XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition

 Read our interview with Andrei Kymach & Alexandros Stavrakakis on p. 16

Earlier this summer, Greek bass Alexandros Stavrakakis and Armenian tenor Migran Agadzhanyan both won prizes in the vocal category of the XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Recent additions to our roster

Alexandros took home the First Prize and Gold Medal, becoming the first Greek to win the competition in any category. He wowed the judges with his third and final round performance of Wotan‘s aria from Wagner’s Die Walküre, and King René’s arioso from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta. Migran was awarded the Third Prize and Bronze Medal following his performance of Prince Yury’s arioso from Tchaikovsky’s The Enchantress, and Gabriele Adorno’s Recitative and Aria from Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra. Previous AH prize-winners include Paata Burchuladze (First, 1982), Alexander Tsymbalyuk (First, 2007), Dmitry Belosselskiy (Second, 2007), Jongmin Park (First, 2011), Elena Manistina (Second, 1998) and Anna Samuil (Third, 2002). askonasholt.com/alexandros-stavrakakis askonasholt.com/migran-agadzhanyan

Brandon Cedel bass-baritone Ekaterina Semenchuk mezzo-soprano Giulia Semenzato soprano

Semion Skigin accompanist

Alexandre Tharaud pianist

Stefan Vinke heldentenor

Peter Whelan conductor, harpsichordist Stephan Zilias conductor

 Read an interview with Stephan Zilias on our website Stavrakakis © Matthias Creutziger

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Agadzhanyan © Vladislav Makarov


SPOTLIGHT ON...

Peter Whelan Dusting off the old books and breathing new life into music

A

rtistic Director of the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Associate Artist with the Irish National Opera and founding Artistic Director of Ensemble Marsyas, Peter Whelan is known for his passion for exploring and championing neglected music from the baroque era. Growing up just outside of Dublin, Peter’s interest in music came first from singing in choirs at primary school, and listening to three of his female teachers who sang in a closeharmony folk group. “I remember being about five or six, and thinking ‘this is amazing’,” he told us, “it was the coolest sound I’d ever heard!” He then studied academic music at Trinity College Dublin before going to Basel to study the bassoon and harpsichord. “I think it’s nice to have a little interest in both sides,” he says. “The academic world is so far ahead of where we are in the performance world, so it’s great to be able to join the two together – dust off the old books and breathe new life into the music!” Peter began his career as the

© Jen Owens

principal bassoonist with orchestras including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, so we were particularly interested to know how he views the role of the conductor. “I think the most important thing for me is to enable people, and get the best out of them,” he says. “It’s about storytelling; making the music pop off the page and speak to the audience. If you look at reviews from the 18th century about music, the best concerts are the ones where audiences fully understand what the orchestra is trying to say.” His passion for neglected music from the baroque era, and perhaps his academic background too, fuelled a fascinating exploration around music in Ireland before the arrival of Handel, which he recalls as “the most rewarding experience.” Handel famously came to Ireland in 1741 to premiere the Messiah, but, Peter tells us, “very few people knew anything about why he came or what the music scene was like in Dublin at the time.” After much research and rummaging through libraries around the world for

music written for Dublin Castle, they reconstructed the band of the State Court, the Irish State Musick, and put on a concert in Dublin Castle in 2017. The concert included birthday odes written by Masters of State Musick Johann Sigismund Cousser (1660-1727) and Matthew Dubourg (1703-1767) – both of whom can be connected to Handel (indeed, Dubourg led the orchestra at the Messiah premiere) – alongside other music written for the band, much of which hadn’t been performed for a long time. “It was a big moment,” Peter says, “and the audiences reacted so well. It was a long concert – three hours’ worth of music and we couldn’t make it any shorter – but they were all ears and there was an amazing reaction after. There are so many people across the world who identify as being Irish, and it’s nice for them to have a connection with Ireland beyond the culture of St Patrick’s Day and drinking.”  This is an extract from an interview originally pubilshed online. Read the full interview at askonasholt.com

Summer 2019 The Green Room 9


TOUR DIARY

"Unreal": life on tour with NYO-USA For 17-year-old trumpeter Gabriel Uriah Ortiz from San Marcos, Texas, this summer's European tour with NYOUSA marked his first ever trip abroad. He tells us a bit more about his time on tour. DAY ONE

Sunday evening dragged along as my peers and I made our way through JFK Airport. As we boarded, I managed to claim an empty window seat – this may have been my best decision all summer. With the help of my window and the unusually comfy blankets supplied by our airline, I was able to sleep like a rock for most of the flight, only waking for my utmost concern: food. By getting good rest, I managed to avoid a serious case of jetlag – my peers were not so lucky. I also had the chance to have nice conversations with the musicians sitting next to me. Meeting people in NYO-USA is truly a treat, as we exude a common love for music, which acts as an easy icebreaker to spark further conversation.

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All photos © Chris Lee unless otherwise specified


  Photos courtesy of Gabriel Ortiz

urg Gate

The Brandenb

Berlin

DAY TWO Once we arrived at the beautiful Maritim proArte Hotel, a few friends and I hopped on scooters to explore the city. We made way towards the Berlin Wall in order to witness a symbolic piece of history. What was once only a picture from my history textbook’s chapter on the Cold War became reality as we entered the park memorializing the wall. Beautiful graffiti on the once restrictive structure highlighted German artistic freedom. We found ourselves struggling to muster the courage to ask a stranger to take a picture of us. Will Fowler (a trombone player from Rockville, Maryland) freshened up his German to ask for “ein foto” although most everyone spoke English. We finally asked someone from another group, but it turned out ironically that they were Americans like us. We laughed about our foolishness, took a few photos, and went back to the hotel. The Burger

DAY THREE

A few friends and I had an exhilarating morning as we tried to experience all of Berlin with only three hours of sightseeing before rehearsal. We rushed to Checkpoint Charlie, stopped by the Philharmonie, and passed through the Brandenburg Gate. We also experienced the uneasy feelings embodied by the Holocaust memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. Berlin is just so beautiful and has so many interesting sights and people to observe.

After seeing a good chunk of Berlin, we headed to a little pub to get some quick food. I ordered a burger to see whether Europe could successfully reproduce ‘deluxe’ American cuisine. As the delicacy reached my table, I was delighted at first sight. The bun was fluffy and not soggy, the burger was well-marinated, decently large, and cooked well. But they made one pivotal flaw ... they put the lettuce on the bottom!!! Such a simple mistake, but oh so important.

Konzerthaus Berlin Our first rehearsal started with a bang: trumpets filled the hall, calling NYO-USA into a musical brigade for US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who not only met the orchestra, but conducted the finale of Rossini’s William Tell Overture! After the ambassador’s visit, we got down to business, preparing for the concert. A large queue formed outside the hall. Many locals approached my

American Academy in Berlin The first day we arrived in Germany, NYO-USA took a trip to the American Academy in Berlin for a welcome reception co-hosted by the US Embassy Berlin. We were treated to some delightful pastries as we socialized with diplomats who help foster cultural exchange between the USA and Germany. A few chamber ensembles put on a little concert in order to display our gratitude. We are proud to have the privilege to represent America to the world through music.

friends and I asking if we were in the orchestra and what exactly NYO-USA did. Delighted, we told them all about ourselves and NYO-USA, feeling just a little bit famous. The concert, the closing performance of the Young Euro Classic festival, went phenomenally. We premiered a new piece entitled Delicate Tension, written by apprentice composer Tyson Davis to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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TOUR DIARY

nds with ie r f g in Mak cotland! NYO S

Scotland

DAY FIVE Photo courtesy of Gabriel Ortiz

DAY FOUR

We arrived a little late due to difficulties with the airline, but I wasn’t particularly upset by this. I enjoyed my time meandering around the airport socializing with friends and joking about “rubbish.” I am really fond of the subtle changes in jargon and accents as we travel to different places. Today we got to meet musicians from NYO Scotland at Caird Hall in Dundee as part of a day trip organized by the Scottish Government. We quickly bonded with their brass section and decided to head out into town with them to grab a bite to eat. As we ate, funny discourse ensued as we attempted to discount many of the stereotypes about America (especially Texas). Ironically, the only Scottish stereotypes we knew was that they wear kilts, play the bagpipes, and like to drink, which was mostly true.

tle!

Edinburgh cas

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Ortiz

We then took a bus into downtown Edinburgh to have some premium Scottish cuisine at Howies Victoria Street and Scotts Kitchen. One of the iconic dishes of Scotland is haggis (a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck). I found it to be a highly acquired taste while my pal Jackson Prasifka (a horn player from McKinney, Texas) thought it tasted like ground beef and gobbled the dish up.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

DAY SIX Following a day of sightseeing and cultural exchange organized by the Scottish Government, we performed at Usher Hall as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, a massive showcase of music, theater, and art from all around the world.

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The Scots are a proud people. In the evening, we watched one of the most fantastic displays of musical culture in the world, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Countless military ensembles from different countries took the field to showcase their traditions. The show took place next to Edinburgh Castle on a hill overlooking the city, which was pretty epic. I have never enjoyed the droning sound of hundreds of bagpipes more in my life. By far the most amazing part was when all the different nations combined into one magnificent group, bringing the house down by all playing together on the same stage.


TOUR DIARY

The first day in London was delightful. We traveled by train, which was far smoother than any Amtrak I have ever ridden – I slept well. We were then bussed to… Royal Albert Hall! We had the privilege to rehearse there for about three hours, which was amazing. This grand hall is undoubtedly fit for royalty, and we were proud to make it onto the program. My favorite moment was when Maestro Pappano asked the orchestra if anyone had played there before, and not one person raised their hand. It was a true debut!

NYOGB b at the RArHass

London

DAY SEVEN

Dinner with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Ortiz

After rehearsal, we went to a restaurant to socialize with members of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, who would be playing offstage brass in Strauss’ Alpine Symphony. We made sure to sit by the trumpet players, which was fun. Subtle differences between our musical backgrounds helped us break the ice. Many NYOGB musicians had burgers. I had to let them know about Europe’s failure to make a good burger… because they put the lettuce on the bottom. The meal closed with an astounding dessert: “sticky toffee pudding.” I am baffled that we don’t have this treat in the States. A delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream rested upon the rich chocolate and toffee base. Yum! The next day my friends and I scanned all the restaurant menus in hopes of finding the dessert again, with no luck.

ie!

On-stage self

DAY EIGHT While the grandiose hall could easily have been intimidating, I felt that the orchestra was strengthened by our togetherness, which led to an excellent BBC Proms concert. Sightseeing in London Following the early morning concert, we had a free afternoon to explore the city.

n ower of Londo Visiting the T alace P & Buckingham Royal Albert Hall photo © I-Wei Huang


TOUR DIARY

Amsterdam

Photos courtesy of Gabriel Ortiz

DAY NINE As we arrived in Amsterdam, we were quickly informed to stay out of the way of bikers. My friend Vincent and I thought it would be a great idea to tandem bike around the city to partake in the avid biking culture. Once we left the rental, it became clear that I could not steer the bike into the viciously fast traffic. Vincent quickly and confidently switched to the driver’s seat… only to discover that he was worse than me. It was fun… minus the pounding rain on the way back to the Concertgebouw.

DAY TEN Then the concert… yet another magnificent, historic hall we had the privilege to play in: the Concertgebouw! The hall was filled with beautiful decor along with plaques recognizing some of the great composers in history, including Mahler, Brahms, and more… The feeling of performing in a hall I had before only ever seen on YouTube was unreal. In addition to the beauty and history within the space, the local people from Amsterdam were super enjoyable and nice. I had a delightful conversation with a random audience member before the second half of the concert.

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! e in thgebouw e M cert Con


TOUR DIARY

Hamburg

onato!

It's Joyce DiD

DAY ELEVEN Our tour ended with a concert in Hamburg’s esteemed Elbphilharmonie. The new, stateof-the-art hall sits on the Elbe river, hence the name. It has a beautiful wavy design along its windows and roof. I’m typically indifferent towards abstract modern architecture, but I loved this hall.

After intermission, I took my seat and laid out my music. I knew that this would be the last time I would play the Alpine Symphony with NYOUSA, and very likely the last time I would ever play this monumental work. As the final note faded away, a silence fell over the orchestra like no other, not simply the absence of sound, but the tragic realization of what had just happened – that the tour was over. Suddenly tears began to fall uncontrollably. The brass held it together pretty well, but the strings were simply gone. While I tried to act tough, I had to avoid long conversations and cameras in order to stay composed, reassuring myself that we still had one more day together before heading home. 

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COVER STORY: COMPETITION WINS

Sing it to win it

J

une 2019 brought major competition victories for two of Askonas Holt’s younger singers: in Wales the 31-yearold Ukrainian baritone Andrei Kymach became BBC Cardiff Singer of the World; in St Petersburg the Greek bass Alexandros Stavrakakis, who is 30, took First Prize and Gold Medal at the XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition. Music competitions – by their very existence or through divergent opinions on the contestants – can sometimes cause controversy, but there is no denying the influence that these two events,

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Andrei Kymach gives his winning performance in Cardiff © Kirsten McTernan

Andrei Kymach, Alexandros Stavrakakis & AH Executive Director Mark Hildrew speak to Yehuda Shapiro about recent competition successes and the place for competitions in a singer's career

with their starry juries and strong media presence, can have on a singer’s career. “Cardiff was like a storm, but any competition helps an artist to grow,” says Andrei Kymach, who studied in Kiev before joining the young artists’ programme at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. It was in the Russian capital that he auditioned for Askonas Holt’s Executive Director Mark Hildrew, who has managed such previous Cardiff prizewinners as Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Elīna Garanča and Andrei Bondarenko. That was in

Autumn 2018, around the time that Kymach applied to the BBC using a concert video recorded on a friend’s phone. “It was my dream to take part in Cardiff Singer of the World,” he continues. “When I started at the conservatory in Kiev, I saw that competitions could help to launch a professional career.” He sent videos to Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the Moniuszko Competition in Warsaw and Neue Stimmen in Germany, but was not invited to participate. Cardiff is a biennial event and he had submitted an entry for the 2017 edition too, only to be rejected.


Andrei Kymach with his fellow finalists in Cardiff © Kirsten McTernan

COVER STORY: COMPETITION WINS

"For me a competition is not about doing better than another singer, because each of the others will have something that you don’t have – and vice versa. It’s about competing with yourself." andrei kymach “When my second application was accepted I understood that my time had come.” Kymach first heard about Cardiff when he started listening to the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s recordings. “He was an inspiration to me. His voice introduced me to opera. Before that my experience of singing had been as a member of Orthodox and folk choirs.” Kymach’s first competition was the 2016 Marie Kraja International Singing Competition in Tirana. “I came second – that was the only time I won a prize before Cardiff.” Initially, his participation in the 55th ‘Tenor Viñas’ International Singing Contest in Barcelona in

January 2018 only brought him a study bursary, but by the autumn he was singing Riccardo in I puritani at the Catalan capital’s prestigious Liceu and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor in Tenerife, from where he travelled to Paris to audition for the BBC. In January 2019 he took the title role in Don Giovanni in Nice. By the time he reached Cardiff he had completed his time at the Bolshoi, which he considers valuable experience. “You work with big musicians and good coaches, including acting coaches. In a competition you have to understand what the piece is about, so acting is very important – it’s not just about the voice. You need to understand the drama and the message.”

At Cardiff he made it to the finals of both the main prize and the song prize. Over a period of three months he had prepared a total of six arias and 11 songs for the competition. “Most of the songs were already in my repertoire – I had sung them in the Beethoven Hall at the Bolshoi. Like the arias I chose [in the final he offered numbers from Carmen, Aleko and Lucia di Lammermoor] my songs were mostly very dramatic. An opera gives you two hours to create your character; in a song, you have just three minutes – and that helps you for opera. In Cardiff I wanted to give the best picture of my voice and stage personality, and drama is my strong point. I could maybe

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COVER STORY: COMPETITION WINS Alexandros Stavrakakis performing at the TCH16 Winners Gala

"Art is ultimately about communication with an audience, not with a jury." alexandros stavrakakis have sung great Verdi arias – Renato, Rigoletto, Iago – but I’m still too young for these roles. It’s important for the jury to see what you can do now, to understand what you can do with your voice. “To be among the 20 competitors at Cardiff is a big step for an artist. It was very exciting, like a show. It didn’t make me nervous – it was lots of fun and the team was incredibly supportive and helpful. For me a competition is not about doing better than another singer, because each of the others will have something that you don’t have – and vice versa. It’s about competing with yourself. In a week, in a day, I started to be a singer at a higher level. I was very happy because I did everything I wanted. The most important thing now is to work hard and prove that I deserve this title and all the interest that people now have in me.”

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One of the career options currently open to Kymach is to join the ensemble at a leading German opera house. Alexandros Stavrakakis is now in his second season with the company of Dresden’s Semperoper, where he was previously on the young artists’ programme. The son of a Greek father and a Greek-Russian mother born in Moscow, he is an alumnus of the Athens Conservatory and the Dresden Music Academy. At Dresden his roles have included Colline in La bohème and the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, and his plans for 2019/20 include Sparafucile (Rigoletto), Don Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia) and Prince Gremin (Eugene Onegin). These are all important supporting assignments, but in each round of the Tchaikovsky competition Stavrakakis sampled a summit of the bass repertoire: Filippo in Verdi’s Don

Carlo; Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Wagner’s Wotan (Die Walküre). He realises that the complete roles lie at least 10 years in the future for him, so his winning strategy was quite different from Andrei Kymach’s. “It certainly didn’t mean that I want to hurry things,” he says. “Mark Hildrew has always known that I’m not a singer who is going to say yes to everything! For now, it’s important for me to stay in a company where I feel I’m singing the right parts and developing in the way I wish.” Received wisdom dictates that basses take more time to mature than other singers. “I know that my voice will probably change every two months until I’m 35 and maybe reach its peak at 40. In some senses I’m still just a beginner, but if you’re honest with your ideas and what you want to communicate as an artist, a competition is less about what you choose to sing than about how you deliver it. With the Tchaikovsky,


COVER STORY: COMPETITION WINS

my main idea was to respect the competition and to present the best possible repertoire.” In the first two rounds the singers are accompanied by a piano and required to mix vocal genres, while the final, with orchestra, is devoted to opera. “As artists, our tool to communicate our thoughts, ideas and emotions is our voice,” says Stavrakakis. “You can’t put your voice into little boxes, lied, opera, oratorio …” There was added drama and intensity at the competition because he was recovering from a respiratory infection that had rendered him silent for three weeks. He was forced to refrain from vocalising until a week before the competition and his stamina was down. When he reached the second round, he was not even sure he could manage the excerpt from Boris Godunov (‘I have attained supreme power’), but in the end it was probably this performance that led to his victory. “I realised that I couldn’t give up and disappoint a childhood dream of winning the

Tchaikovsky. The second round turned out to be my best.” He confesses that “the only prize I was interested in getting in the Tchaikovsky was first prize.” A year earlier he had participated in the globetrotting Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, which on this occasion took place in Latvia. “I entered the Belvedere to give me experience of a three-round competition, of handling my nerves and of putting a winning strategy together. I didn’t want to be in the Tchaikovsky as a beginner.” He won second prize at the Belvedere. As he says, “The mission of reaching the final round was accomplished,” but he admits it was a case of ‘so near and yet so far’. “I used to play basketball and I would be in a bad mood for several days if my team lost … I have a bad relationship with defeat.” Consolation took the form of the Belvedere’s audience prize. “I was happy and honoured to receive it. Everything counts and each experience can give us something. Art is ultimately about

communication with an audience, not with a jury. The audience belongs to you and you belong to the audience.” When it comes to the best way to approach a competition, Stavrakakis echoes Kymach. “Don’t pay attention to what the others are doing. Focus on your job, do what you can as well as you can. Don’t take repertoire that could be harmful for your instrument, but do sing what you love to sing, because that will show you at your best.” Mark Hildrew had spotted the talents of both these singers before their high-profile successes in Cardiff and St Petersburg. “Some singers are good at competitions, but don’t necessarily go on to make a great career,” he says. “Others, the kind who don’t necessarily do themselves justice at auditions, need to be in costume on an opera stage. But when you approach singers and say you want to represent them, it’s about a gut feeling. I’ve known that since I started as an agent 30 years ago.” 

Nice, October 1989. Dmitri Hvorostovsky signs recording contract with Philips Classics l/r : Anna Barry, A&R Manager, Philips Classics; Mark Hildrew; Pierre Collet (PolyGram Classiques, France) & Dmitri Hvorostovsky

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SPOTLIGHT ON...

Andrei Ionit‚ă “Here is a cellist of superb skill, musical imagination and a commitment to music of our time.” gramophone

I

t’s been a pivotal few years for cellist Andrei Ioniţă who, at still only 25, is proving himself to be one of the most formidable young talents on the classical circuit. First rising to international attention four years ago as winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition, Andrei was a BBC New Generation Artist from 2016-18, and is now firmly in demand with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. His debut solo album, Oblique Strategies, was released on Orchid Classics earlier this year, and pairs works by Bach and Kodály alongside living composers Brett Dean and Svante Henryson. Bold choices for a debut release, no doubt, but one that has been unanimously praised for technical prowess, character and musicality and reflects Andrei’s commitment to a range of musical styles. The release takes its title from Dean’s

20 The Green Room Autumn 2019

Eleven Oblique Strategies, which draws on British musician Brian Eno (a founder member of glam-rock band Roxy Music) and German-born British visual artist Peter Schmidt’s cards of the same name. Originally composed for the Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann International Cello Competition, where Andrei took home second prize, this release marks the world premiere recording of the work.

Hamburg Symphoniker; a yearlong relationship which will see him perform several concertos, from CPE Bach to Dutilleux, via Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Prior to his residency, Andrei joined the orchestra for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with conductor Ion Marin and participated in the Martha Argerich Festival Hamburg alongside Stephen Kovacevich and Guy Braunstein.

“I always wanted to find an opportunity to present it to the public,” Andrei told Presto Classical in March 2019, “it is contemporary music but at the same time there are popular 1970s influences, so it’s actually very groovy! In the later movements there are a lot of complex rhythms, which are almost jazzy at some points; there’s a huge tremolo movement, and some incredible ghostly effects.”

Elsewhere on the concert platform, Andrei has built a strong relationship with the BBC Philharmonic – performing with them in Manchester and in his native Romania – and recently gave debut appearances with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Danish National Symphony. He looks forward to working with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Detroit Symphony for the first time this coming season, and returning to the Wigmore Hall for a collaboration with Stephen Hough. 

For the 19/20 season, Andrei is Artist in Residence with the

© Nikolaj Lund


MIND THE GAP: CONSERVATOIRES

Mind the gap Guest-editor and Assistant Artist Manager Callan Coughlan speaks to two London conservatoires to find out about the work they're doing to support students bridge the gap between scholar and pro

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t’s clear that the young classical musician’s career has massively changed and developed in recent years. A now hyper-competitive talent pool is battling it out for their share of what remains a relatively small fraction of the overall music market. The graduates of today are expected to be digitallysavvy, experts in self-promotion, have flashy state-of-the-art websites and social media platforms, and differentiate themselves enough to attract the attention of the major artist management agency or record label. Maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing with all these added pressures can be a real challenge for young musicians. The mainstays of a successful musical career – talent, dedication and a hard work ethic – remain at the forefront, but it’s the young musicians who can navigate all of these extra elements, that will make it to the top. Here’s where the conservatoires come into the equation. We spoke with two of the real mover-andshakers in this field – Jess Walker, lecturer in Artist Development at the Royal Academy of Music and Diana Roberts, head of the Creative Careers Centre at the Royal College of Music – about the fascinating work

they’re doing in helping students bridge the gap between scholar and professional musician. Could you give me an overview of your role and the department you work within? Jess Walker: I’m a lecturer in Artist Development at RAM. This is an evolving role, because I’ve only been working there for a year. The Artist Development strand at RAM is now an integral part of the degree course, preparing students practically, creatively and strategically for the ever-changing road ahead. We also offer one-to-one career guidance sessions with a member of the Artist Development team, and we liaise with the counselling team over the

Jess Walker lecturer Artist Development at RAM

programming of the Health and Wellbeing provision. In a broader context, Artist Development also forges relationships with outside arts organisations, finding work opportunities and placements for students. Diana Roberts: My role is hugely varied, and no two days are the same. I manage the ever-evolving Creative Careers Centre, which is recognised internationally for our innovative approach to supporting young musicians, as they bridge the gap between student and professional life. The department's services include one-to-one guidance and bespoke career advice, workshops and presentations by

Diana Roberts, head of the Creative Careers Centre at RCM

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MIND THE GAP: CONSERVATOIRES London's Royal College of Music

industry specialists, valuable online resources, business development support, and a broad range of professional opportunities – involving paid performances, teaching work, and administration placement. How has the career of musicians changed in recent years? DR: I would say that the range of opportunities has grown substantively over the last five to ten years, and musicians have therein been enabled to take the lead on their own initiatives, also. The greatest shift is of course due to technological advances. Musicians are able to promote themselves wider than ever before, due to the ease of website-building, and the audience development advantages of social media and YouTube channels, for example.

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JW: Immeasurably, and there are both good and bad changes to consider. The lack of security for a working musician is at a particularly low point. In the UK, many choruses have shrunk or gone part time, and orchestras are nearly all hiring musicians on a self-employed basis. This makes what was once a good safe job, an increasingly rare prospect. Another problem is the increased commodification of artists, which creates a whole middle tier of artist finding it hard to survive. You’re either starting out, commanding a lower fee, and with the advantage of being new, or you’re a bankable artist guaranteeing good audience numbers. If you do not fit into either of those categories, you might well find yourself struggling to get the gigs you used to.

This brings me to the good side of how things have changed. It has never been easier to promote your skills. With the internet, stylish website providers, and the mixed blessing of social media, if you want to show the world the new project you’re working on, you can, and at a negligible cost. Young artists are increasingly producing, curating and peer-promoting, as well as playing, conducting or composing. You’ve both already touched on this but how important is it specifically for students to be digitally-savvy? Is self-promotion key today? DR: It’s imperative. Some students actively try to avoid it, but my response to them is largely to make them aware of the possible stifling of new possibilities therein. Committing to social media activity is a choice –


MIND THE GAP: CONSERVATOIRES

it takes time to find your way, and your own voice. It is, however, an increasingly essential part of presence and profile in the modern industry, especially when starting out. JW: Yes, it is vital, though there are of course downsides to selfpromotion. Some sensitive musicians feel uncomfortable with the idea of ‘showing off’ about themselves, and in an ideal world, they would prefer to have someone do it on their behalf. Sadly, I think it’s quite hard to survive as a musician today without engaging with this aspect of modernity. A few years ago, I might have thought it wasn’t necessary, but then in a conversation with a world-renowned director, I discovered that he had cast his previous opera almost entirely from YouTube clips. Ever since then, I’ve advised musicians to keep their web content up to date, and to make sure it includes video. Considering these trends and changes in the careers of professional musicians, how are your institutions reacting and adapting the curriculum to prepare students for working life? JW: I think RAM is at the forefront of offering a curriculum that prepares students for life as a professional artist. Of course, I would say that, but I do actually think what we’re doing is special, because rather than focusing on the idea of the musician as entrepreneur, which is quite an

outside-in approach, we are looking at developing core artist skills and self-knowledge, in order to empower students to go into the world as fullyrounded, creative musicians, who can work expertly across genres. Lectures offered include preparing professional documents, auditioning, how to practice effectively, online presence, being self-employed, and tax issues. We also programme sessions about artistic identity, creative programming, and getting your own projects off the ground, thereby encouraging students to engage with their own creative skills from the outset. DR: The RCM offers a broad range of modules and extracurricular activities to prepare musicians for the world of work. Alongside the career development services offered by the Creative Careers Centre, we have a successful learning and participation programme – Sparks – that offers training and professional opportunities for education work and projects in the community. Within our degree programmes, and alongside principal study one-to-one teaching and musicianship development, we offer courses in business and entrepreneurship, teaching early years and beyond, studio experience, music administration, performance in the digital age, creative project management, and professional portfolio skills.

How do you think recent graduates can differentiate themselves in the hyper-competitive market of today? DR: It is vital that musicians begin by identifying their unique selling points, strengths, and desires. Having done so, they should then design an effective career strategy, a subsequent range of targeted promotional materials and, ultimately, a professional persona. Professional development should always be considered, and musicians should seek to up-skill wherever necessary, in order to stay relevant in a competitive industry. JW: It depends what area of music they are set on. For a musician who is only interested in orchestral life, difference isn’t necessarily that useful. They should look to be the most appropriate player for the particular opportunity, and to have acquired the social skills to integrate well into a group. For solo artists, conductors, ensembles and composers, it is important that difference comes from a place of integrity, and not from a desperation to be noticed. Learning to articulate artistic identity in a concise way is the thing that has become increasingly important. In a world of sound-bites and low concentration span, the artist who can encapsulate their unique skills is more likely to get noticed.

"Unfortunately, being judged and constructively criticised are inextricably linked with life as a professional musician, and if we don’t look at why young people’s mental health is being adversely affected by the culture in which they exist, we won’t be able to produce healthy, self-reflective musicians." jess walker Autumn 2019 The Green Room 23


MIND THE GAP: CONSERVATOIRES

Diana Roberts helps a student at the Royal College of Music

Whilst preparing students for life after university, how are conservatoires simultaneously addressing student wellbeing and promoting good mental health? JW: This is a priority. In their online world, students are bombarded with a strange mix of increasingly polarised views and calling each other out for perceived slights and micro-aggressions. I have noticed that many of our students fight shy of debate and discussion, because they are scared of saying ‘the wrong thing’. I’ve also noticed that they can find it hard to receive feedback, because they perceive it as personal criticism, with intent to wound. Unfortunately, being judged and constructively criticised are inextricably linked with life as a professional musician, and if we don’t look at why young people’s mental health is being adversely affected by the culture in which they exist, we won’t be able to produce healthy, self-reflective musicians. Artist Development works alongside the counselling team and the Senior Tutor for Pastoral Support, who programme Health and Wellbeing provision at RAM. These sessions are very varied, including basic topics such as how to sleep well, and how to receive feedback. They also include injury prevention, looking after mental health, social competence and keeping fit. The sessions are compulsory for undergraduates, and very much encouraged for postgraduates. DR: At the RCM we actively promote wellbeing and good mental health. Having a range of different

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engagement options is key. Physical and mental health is high on our agenda – at our Halls of Residents we have a gym, an annual Health and Wellbeing Week, we have an online service, Big White Wall, where students can seek help and support in a way that suits them, our Student Services team is always on-hand to help in any way that they can with health and financial matters among other things and we have two councillors that students can book time with at no cost to them. Finally, looking at it from the artist management perspective, does your institution help start the conversations between the potential future artist, i.e. your student, and the prospective agency? DR: The RCM frequently invites agents and managers to major performances. Beyond that, we maintain mutually positive relationships with as many industry contacts as possible, in order to open as many doors as we can. We partner with a number of the major orchestras to offer side-byside schemes, we are a partner organisation for the tri-borough

music hub, and, over the years, the Creative Careers Centre has built relationships with over 40 venues across the UK, including concert halls, churches, museums, galleries, hospitals, and care homes, and we offer mentoring with leading industry professionals.  JW: It does, as and when it becomes necessary. If students come to me for advice regarding representation, I help them work out which agency might suit them, and the best way to introduce themselves. We also invite agents in to talk to students, so that they get a first-hand understanding of how best to approach a manager for representation. Sometimes students come to me with contracts they are about to sign with a new agent. We look through the contract and I suggest anything I think needs querying. I always stress to students that it’s important to get signed at the right time, rather than making it an early priority. In today’s profession young artists have to hit the ground running, rather than accepting opportunities they can’t then use to the best advantage. 


LIVING THE FEST LIFE

Living the Fest Life Sophie Rashbrook speaks to opera singers Pavel Petrov, Adam Plachetka & Christina Gansch about their experiences of life on a Fest Contract

Photos L-R: Plachetka © Ilona Sochorova, Gansch © Kartal Karagedik, Petrov © Daniil Rabovsky

F

or any opera singer at the start of their career, a Fest Contract at a major European opera house is the Holy Grail. Based at a Repertoire theatre – that is, one of the houses that stage up to four or five different productions per week – you join the Fest Ensemble: a pool

of fellow singers-in-residence who perform numerous principal roles in mainstage shows. You are given access to practice rooms, regular coachings, and, crucially, a monthly salary, with all the associated employment benefits (paid holiday, sick pay, health insurance). A Fest Contract can be an important

stepping stone to becoming a Guest Artist at a theatre, and it can also provide important training for an international singing career. So where’s the catch, you may ask? For Pavel Petrov, Adam Plachetka and Christina Gansch, life on a Fest Contract can be something of a balancing act.

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LIVING THE FEST LIFE Pavel Petrov as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Opera Graz in 2018/19 © Werner Kmetitsch

Belarusian tenor, Pavel Petrov, is about to go into his second year in the Fest Ensemble at Graz Opera, Austria. He is enthusiastic about the experience so far: “It’s been really good for my career: I get to learn lots of roles and to sing them in, in performance. Also, I don’t sing too much,” he adds, alluding to the more demanding schedules of his counterparts at on contracts at German opera houses. “They perform in many as six or seven productions annually, sometimes performing on consecutive nights, but I only sing in two or three productions a year.” This flexibility has worked well for him: he was able to enter the Operalia competition in 2018, which he won, in part thanks to the musical and administrative support of the team at Graz, who organised his visa for him. Czech baritone Adam Plachetka believes that the training provided by the system is second to none: “You can always tell whether a singer has been through a Fest contract: they are always more effective, and more efficient.” A member of the

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Plachetka in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Wiener Staatsoper 2018/19 © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Poehn


LIVING THE FEST LIFE

Fest Ensemble at the Vienna State Opera for four years, he is now a Guest artist there, but he recalls that he was initially concerned about accepting the contract: “I was really afraid that it would ruin my voice, but it was the complete opposite. It gives you the space to work on your repertoire, and your technique, even.” The workload can be daunting: instead of the usual month of rehearsals, Fest Ensemble artists are frequently required to learn the staging of an entire role in three days, or rehearse one opera in the morning, and perform something completely different that night. Adam says this approach may not suit everyone: “You have to learn how to sing every day, without days off between performances. It can be stressful, but if you can do it, and you have the stomach and the brains for it, it can help you get along, both as an artist and a person.” His Fest contract experience has been a truly immersive one: at the end of rehearsal days, artists are allowed to watch all performances from a special ‘Ensemble’ box in the auditorium. In such a big theatre, this means exposure to as many as 50 productions a year: “I tried to go to almost every night to see at least part of a show,” he says. “You get to know what you like, what you don’t like, and you take inspiration from that. It’s brilliant.” Following her studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Austrian soprano Christina Gansch became a member of the Hamburg Opera Young Artists’ programme for two years. From there, she was invited to join the Hamburg Fest Ensemble, where she stayed for a further season before embarking on a freelance career. Despite this, she has maintained a close connection with Hamburg, and says the experience has hugely benefited her career: “I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. I made so many artistic connections there, and sang so many roles, especially

in my two years as a Young Artist: my second ever role there was Gretel in Hansel and Gretel! But that was good for me, and I thrived on it.” She feels lucky that whenever she raised concerns about her workload, the team at Hamburg was always sympathetic, removing a project or a role from her contract if her schedule looked too full. Likewise, Pavel speaks positively about the sensitivity with which vocal roles have been chosen for him at Graz: “I’m a lyric tenor, and they have only chosen roles for me which suit me, which is brilliant for the development of my voice.” Even beyond the demands of a busy schedule, Christina explains how all-encompassing Fest Contract life can be: “The theatre becomes like

“You have to always think ahead, and work outside if you can. For me, that was always important; knowing where I wanted to go next.” christina gansch

Christina Gansch in Szenen aus Goethes Faust at Staatsoper Hamburg © Monika Rittershaus

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LIVING THE FEST LIFE Adam Plachetka with Elena Maximova in La Cenerentola at Wiener Staatsoper 2018/19 © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Poehn

“I was really afraid that it would ruin my voice, but it was the complete opposite. It gives you the space to work on your repertoire, and your technique, even.” adam plachetka your family. You spend your holidays and Christmasses there because that’s when people are most likely to come to the opera.” Yet that sense of cosiness can bring its own dangers: “It can happen that on the Young Artists’ programmes, you work so hard in one place that when you finish, you’re not sure what to do next. You have to always think ahead, and work outside if you can. For me, that was always important; knowing where I wanted to go next.” For Pavel, Adam and Christina, there is an element of compromise to life in a Fest Ensemble. Although you have the security of a monthly salary, you are also tied to one place, and may have to turn down other attractive engagements. Adam and Christina had to respectively turn down offers from the Metropolitan Opera and the Bayerische Staatsoper owing

28 The Green Room Autumn 2019

to Fest Contract commitments. Thankfully, they have both since been invited to return there on a freelance basis, and Christina adds, “The opera houses understand that you have commitments – but it’s still a very personal decision, about what compromise you want to make.” Pavel, too, had to decide between taking a Fest Contract at a bigger House – but with secondary roles – and the principle role contract he was offered at Graz: “It was a difficult choice to make, but now I know it was the right one: it is an investment in the future.” An investment in the future, which, he adds, he is very much enjoying in the present: “Graz is a great place to be based, and my colleagues are wonderful. And I have a secret weapon: my wife is a professional pianist, and she lives with me in Graz. She helps me with

learning and studying roles, too.” Pavel, Adam and Christina are all in agreement, that they would recommend the experience to young singers. It may be indicative of the all-consuming nature of the profession that both Christina and Adam’s partners are opera singers with Fest Contract experience. Adam’s wife is an Ensemble singer in Prague, and their two children spend time with them in Austria and the Czech Republic, while Christina’s partner has just spent two years in the Fest Ensemble in Weimar. Striking the right balance between contract commitments, freelance work, and family life is a never-ending challenge for every opera singer, but thanks to the intense training of the Fest Ensemble experience, a bright future awaits all three of these rising stars of the opera world. 


MEET THE TEAM

Meet the team Senior Artist Manager Keiron Cooke Tell us a little about your day-today role at AH My day involves a lot of coffee and a lot of emails! I also do a lot of listening. Part of my role is vetting approaches from singers, not known to us, seeking representation. I spend a lot of time with headphones on, which makes it quite difficult for colleagues to get my attention! What do you like most about your job? I have to say travelling the world and working for and listening to great artists, don’t I? Well, all that is true, but I also adore my colleagues. They’re a terrific bunch of people, eclectic but hardworking and dedicated, and we laugh a lot! Achievement (professional or personal) you’re most proud of? Getting it right. I remember hearing for the first time singers like Louise Alder, Soraya Mafi, Christina Gansch, William Thomas and James Platt and thinking ‘yes, that’s it!’ They were all students at the time, but seeing their careers take off, and playing my part in it, gives me real satisfaction. Mastermind specialist subject? I’m from Aldeburgh and, after years working at The Red House surrounded his papers, letters, manuscripts, art etc., it would have to be the operas of Benjamin Britten. Ask me a question! And when you’re not at work…? My partner is an actor, so I see a lot of theatre. It’s also really nice to see a show as a bonafide punter, with no responsibility at all for the performance or performers!

Instruments played/voice? I was a Choral Scholar at University, and singing was my life, and my route into music. I sang in dozens of choirs, and did quite a bit of solo work. I ‘retired from public life’ some time ago now though. I was a countertenor, which might surprise some. I probably still am! What change would you most like to see take place in classical music? It’s more a change in education, in that I’d like to see music (all music) feature more prominently on the curriculum. Children should be exposed to everything, sport, theatre, nature, literature etc., but music is sadly under-represented in schools. Favourite food? Nothing beats a really top-notch Full English. As soon as I’ve finished, I always think ‘I could eat that all again!’ And I’m very partial indeed to a vodka martini… But not with breakfast! Favourite musical memory? I have two from my time working at Glyndebourne. The first was hearing Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in Theodora. No singer has moved me quite so much as that, it was akin to having a religious experience. The other was the opening night of David McVicar’s Giulio Cesare with Sarah Connolly in the title role. We knew in rehearsal the production was going to be something very special, but the audience response on the first night was overwhelming, and quite beyond anything I’ve experienced anywhere since. 

Keiron was born in Aldeburgh and studied Sociology at the University of Bath, where he was a Choral Scholar at Bath Abbey. His first job in music was as a teenager, working in the Box Office for Aldeburgh Music. After graduating, he worked as a Curator at the Britten-Pears Library for five years and was involved in many key Britten publications. He then worked at Glyndebourne as Assistant to the Director of Artistic Administration before joining the team at Askonas Holt in 2005.

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ON TOUR: OCTOBER, NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2019

On Tour Upcoming projects organised by our Tours & Projects department DEUTSCHES SYMPHONIEORCHESTER BERLIN, ROBIN TICCIATI & NICOLA BENEDETTI

MELBOURNE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, SIR ANDREW DAVIS & GARRICK OHLSSON First tour to the US in almost 50 years 16 Oct · Kennedy Center, Washington 18 Oct · Mechanics Hall, Worcester ORCHESTRE DE L'OPERA DE PARIS, PHILIPPE JORDAN & NINA STEMME 24 Oct · Musikverein, Vienna 25 Oct · Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg LES VIOLONS DU ROY, JONATHAN COHEN & MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN First ever tour to Asia 29 Oct · LG Arts Center, Seoul 31 Oct · Shanghai Symphony Hall 1 Nov · Jiangsu Centre for the Performing Arts, Nanjing 3 Nov · Xi’an Concert Hall 5 Nov · Forbidden City Concert Hall, Beijing THE PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA & YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN 9 Nov · Arts Center Incheon 10 Nov · Seoul Arts Center ACADEMY OF ANCIENT MUSIC, VIKTORIA MULLOVA, RICHARD EGARR & JAMES HALL 13 Nov · Alte Oper, Frankfurt 21 Nov · SPOT Groningen

30 The Green Room Autumn 2019

© Eric Richmond

13 Oct · Seoul Arts Center 14 Oct · Samsung Hall, Seoul 16 Oct · NCPA Beijing 18 Oct · Jiangsu Centre for the Performing Arts, Nanjing 19 Oct · Shanghai Oriental Arts Center

BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER, ZUBIN MEHTA, AMIHAI GROSZ & LUDWIG QUANDT

CHINEKE! ORCHESTRA, KEVIN JOHN EDUSEI & ELENA URIOSTE

13 Nov · Aichi Prefectual Arts Theater, Nagoya 14 Nov · Festival Hall, Osaka 16 Nov · Fukuoka Symphony Hall 19 Nov · MUZA Kawasaki Symphony Hall 20, 21 & 22 Nov · Suntory Hall, Tokyo

The ground-breaking Chineke! Orchestra – Europe’s first majority-BME orchestra – embarks on its first major European tour this autumn, presenting a programme that features the romantic Violin Concerto of Samuel ColeridgeTaylor alongside works by Brahms and von Weber in Bruges, Amsterdam, Cologne, Antwerp & Aachen

ORCHESTRE METROPOLITAIN, YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN & JOYCE DIDONATO 19 Nov · Chicago Symphony Hall 20 Nov · Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor 22 Nov · Carnegie Hall, New York 24 Nov · Verizon Hall, Philadelphia ORCHESTRA OF THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT, IESTYN DAVIES & JONATHAN COHEN 21 Nov · Lincoln Center, New York 22 Nov · Oberlin Conservatory

8 Nov · Concertgebouw Brugge 14 Nov · Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 15 Nov · Kölner Philharmonie 16 Nov · deSingel, Antwerp 18 Nov · Eurogress, Aachen

BERGEN PHILHARMONIC & EDWARD GARDNER

CHOIR OF ST JOHN’S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

Bergen Phil's exceptional concert performance of Peter Grimes comes to London, following rave reviews at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017

8 Dec · Grand Théâtre de Provence 22 Dec · SPOT Groningen

30 Nov · Royal Festival Hall, London

14 Dec · Wigmore Hall, London

IL POMO D’ORO, FRANCESCO CORTI & JAKUB JÓZEF ORLIŃSKI

View all projects at askonasholt.com/tours


ON TOUR: OCTOBER, NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2019

Mezzo magic This October, our Tours & Projects department has the great pleasure of touring with three star mezzo-sopranos, each with a particularly personal project: Elīna Garanča, Magdalena Kožená & Joyce DiDonato

ELINA GARANČA, KAREL MARK CHICHON & DEUTSCHE STAATSPHILHARMONIE RHEINLAND-PFALZ Mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča will embark on a European tour this autumn with conductor Karel Mark Chichon and the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, presenting a programme entitled ‘A Night at the Opera’ in Amsterdam, Ludwigshafen, Bratislava and Paris. The tour follows the release this summer of Elīna’s latest recording for Deutsche Grammophon: a collection of songs from Spain to Italy and Latin America. The release – Sol y Vida – is Elīna’s first focusing entirely on non core-classical repertoire. Gramophone said of the release, “Everything here (not least the filmic arrangements) is overheated in the best sense … Her sheer joy in choosing and singing this repertoire is tangible.” 1 Oct · Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 8 Oct · Festsaal BASF Feierabendhaus, Ludwigshafen 12 Oct · Slovak Philharmonic Concert Hall, Bratislava 14 Oct · Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris

MAGDALENA KOŽENÁ & FRIENDS Capturing the atmosphere of informal, domestic music making, Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená brings together an outstanding group of musical friends, including Sir Simon Rattle, for an intimate and highly personal collection of songs. The international programme – which mirrors her most recent collaboration with Pentatone, Soirée – features the songs of Brahms, Strauss, Chausson, Ravel, Stravinsky, Dvořák and Janáček, including new arrangements by conductor and composer Duncan Ward. 14 Oct · Theater Orchester Biel 16 Oct · Theatre du Capitole, Toulouse 18 Oct · Palau de la Musica Catalana 20 Oct · Teatro alla Scala Milan 22 Oct · Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens 24 Oct · NOSPR Concert Hall, Katowice 26 Nov · Lincoln Center, New York

Garanča © Gregor Hohenberg / Deutsche Grammophon, Kozena & Rattle © Julia Wesely, DiDonato © Brooke Shaden

JOYCE DIDONATO & IL POMO D'ORO After performances at venues across the world, Joyce DiDonato's multi-year tour of In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music draws to a close with performances in South America and the US. Joyce is joined once again by regular collaborators il pomo d'oro, who will also perform several instrumental concerts during the tour. 16 Oct · Teatro Mayor 18 & 19 Oct · Santo Domingo Music Festival 22 & 23 Oct · Sala São Paulo 25 & 26 Oct · Teatro Corpartes 28 & 30 Oct · Mozarteum Argentino 3 Nov · Schwartz Center Atlanta 6 Nov · Houston Grand Opera 8 & 9 Nov · Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 10 Nov · Carnegie Hall, New York

Autumn 2019 The Green Room 31


In 2018, Askonas Holt facilitated more than 8,000 performances in 70 countries across 6 continents

Countries where Askonas Holt facilitated performances are highlighted in cream

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The Green Room Issue 7 Autumn 2019: Education Focus