My heart will always be with Mozart
by Ramón Jacques
Before the inaugural concert of the Houston Symphony, in the city hit by storm Harvey, we interviewed Mojca Erdmann, German soprano known for Mozart roles as well as for contemporary repertoire.
What made you want to become a singer? Can you talk a little about the beginning of your days as a singer? Who or what were some of your earliest inspirations?
I have been singing since my earliest childhood and became at the age of 6 a member of the childrens’ chorus of the opera house Hamburg (my hometown). Being part of opera performances as a child (Hansel and Gretel, Turandot, Rosenkavalier, etc), experiencing this fantastic and magical world with its costumes, stage, acting, music and listening to wonderful singers has left a huge impression on me.
When in your life and career did you first discover Mozart? What was your initial reaction to the music?
I remember that I always loved Mozart and listened to his music since my earliest childhood. At the age of 9 I remember a discussion with my mother as she was listening to some pop music that was not my taste. When she said, that I would like this music one day I replied that my heart would always be with Mozart!
Vocally, are you at the point in your career where you want to be right now?
During the last months my voice has developed, becoming more voluminous and gaining more colors. I am very excited about this development and I am now starting to work on a more lyrical repertoire. So, right now I am working on Contessa (Le Nozze di Figaro), Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) and also on Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss.
What do you think is most important for a singer? Voice, acting, musicianship…?
Of course you should have a good vocal instrument in order to become a singer. But I could not imagine myself being a singer without the musical education that I have experienced since my earliest childhood including intense studies of violin (I studied it in parallel to my vocal education at the University of Music in Cologne). I think it has opened a door for me to more complex repertoire including contemporary music. Also the voice is just our "tool" but it needs musicality, emotions, understanding ofthe text and the phrasing that allow music to make sense and touch the listener.
How do you know when a role is a good fit?
I sing through the piece and will feel right away if my voice feels comfortable with it. If I am not sure I ask my teacher for her advice.
What kind of roles give you more satisfaction?
I love roles with a complex character for example Lulu.
How does an artist cope with the competitive atmosphere of the opera world?
I always try to focus on myself and my individual skills. It is very rare that I experience a competitive atmosphere in my professional life as a singer.
What is one valuable piece of wisdom that one of your teachers has given you?
If you are not sure whether to sing a piece or not you have to ask yourself: is my wish to try it bigger than my sorrow to not handle it properly? Then do it - otherwise it won’t be satisfying.
Which do you prefer: theatrical performances or concerts with an orchestra?
I like the variety between performing concerts and opera. I love acting and putting myself into different characters on the operatic stage. On the other hand I also love to concentrate completely on the music by singing Lied recitals and orchestra concerts.
Tell us about your expectations about singing with the Houston Symphony?
I am very much looking forward to be singing with the Houston Symphony. Especially in this situation after storm Harvey that hit Houston so horribly I wish that we can bring some hope and good energy to the Houstonians by playing and singing Mahler and Dvorak. [The interview was on September 12; Mojca Erdamnn was soloist with the Houston Symphony on opening night on September 14 when she sang Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Dvorak’s Te Deum]
How do you want the rest of your career to unfold? Any professional goals or opera rolesyou’d still like to reach?
As I said before my voice is developing in a new direction. So I am very curious where it will take me and I would love to sing in the near future more lyrical parts on stage like Fiordiligi, Contessa, Donna Elvira, Liu, Micaela, Blanche, etc. Besides the pleasure it gives me to be singing with richer colors I like those roles as they are more complex in terms of character than most of the lighter soprano repertoire.
What are some important milestones, experiences, and achievements that stand out inyour career so far?
My wish has always been to meet great and inspiring artists and share the love for music. This I have achieved many times. I am very grateful to have met and worked with such wonderful conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Kirill Petrenko, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Simon Rattle, Mariss Jansons, Zubin Mehta. And it is a huge gift for me to have very amicable and longterm connections with the great German contemporary composers Aribert Reimann and Wolfgang Rihm. I feel very honored that I had the privilege to sing some of their world premieres that they wrote especially for me. Maybe these were the most wonderful experiences in my musical life. Of course it has been wonderful to be singing on stages like La Scala, Bavarian State Opera, The Met or Staatsoper Berlin. But as I mentioned before, it has never been the motivation to sing at famous venues that made me want to become a professional musician but the love for music itself.
Where is home for you? How regularly do you get back to it, and what are some of thecreature comforts that you especially enjoy when you’re there?
My home is Zürich, Switzerland. At the moment I am doing more concerts than opera which gives me the possibility to spend more time at home. For me Zürich is a wonderful place to live in with its lake, the mountains, a great cultural life and the beauty of the city. But the most important thing for me when I am at home is to spend quality time with my friends - and "to break even" my annual subscription at my local gym.