Tobin’s Journal: May 26, 2005 Back in US, Writing about Stockholm

Thursday, May 26, 2005

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So much to say..but this must be quick. Was able to attend private vocal lessons with Matt and the other opera singers in Stockhom before their show. This was a great experience. I walked from the Hotel that all of us with RHPM were staying in, in Oldermam (spelling?) to Maria Torget which was two islands over. It is a beautiful walk across bridges and along the water…Past the Opera House, and the King’s Castle, and through the old city with narrow alleys leading up from the wide main street. I walked quickly and met him just in time outside the subway station. We went up to his teacher, Ula’s, apartment. We took off our shoes, as is the custom there, and walked in to the warm and cozy flat. The walls are covered with artwork, and singers litter the various rooms and hallways. Swedish hearts sit in a bag on the coffee table. small chocalates in a bowl beside it. A woman in mid lesson, so we quietly find seats on a couch against the wall. Meeting various people through nods and whispers. The room is drenched in sound. A woman is singing Wagner. And it is certainly a moment of great tragedy in this song. The voice is placing ripples in the water glasses on the table. The teacher is making minute corrections to placement of chin , the face, the body. The singer is adjusting and singing. You can see her mind multitasking-absorbing the teachers sign language, correcting, performing. The teacher Ula, is immersed in teh song. She looks as though she is riding it, a vocal master levitated in the space above the piano, held aloft in soprano sound waves. There is a grand piano nestled in the corner of the room. Ula and Johann (the pianist) at one end, and the singer standing in the curve of the Piano. There is a music stand. The piano is covered with a cloth, and photographs and knick knacks. There is a mirror sitting on it facing the singer. I assume this is so they can see position, and there own face as they sing. Ula gives lots of notes to various singers about relaxing their faces, chin, etc. As the music continues I look around the place. There is a room full of music scores, Ocasionally the teacher will run in and grab a score, then return. The wall are stained in song. You could imagine how many arias had been bounced around these rooms.

There is something powerful and almost sacred about watching a good teacher at work. I watched many of the students go through their lessons. This really lent new perspective to what was going on in their heads and bodies while I am asking them to move here or there, jump up and down, etc. I had had opportunities to see dance classes and training, and I now realize it is very important to see this sort of thing with any artist you will be directing. It is really how you are able to understand what they are doing, if you have not done it yourself. I watched Matt