Kashu-do (歌手道): Sweden, a Goldmine of Operatic Potential

It is no secret that I have a special love for the great Swedish singers who have left an indelible mark on the operatic stage. From legends like Gedda, Björling, Svanholm and Nilsson to modern greats like the late Gösta Winbergh and current stars, Nina Stemme and Miah Persson, the Swedes have produced an unbroken line of laudable presence on the world’s stages.

This weekend I had the honor of spending some pleasurable hours teaching a bunch of impressive young singers in Göteborg who are bound to follow on that Gyllenstig (Golden Path).  Indeed the consistency in the quality of those voices makes me feel that the operatic business could find remedy for much of its ills by visiting Sweden.

It is not only the quality of the voices that I found so remarkable in these singers, but how easy they were able to correct imbalances, how determined they were to sing well, how much patience they not only showed but verbalized, and their inherent, unaffected, refined musicality. In a business that is now known for hurrying young talents to their early demise, not one but three singers verbalized how important it was for them to take the time to learn to sing correctly, that they were not interested in a quick flash in the pan.  Their level of concentration throughout the hours that ended far too soon was only surpassed by their intense desire to understand and apply the concepts I was teaching them.

Sweden’s Gold is not accidental.  Swedes sing! There is a widespread choral tradition that seems to have infected the lives of these northern songbirds in a very natural way. At a restaurant tonight, during a very happy and somewhat bittersweet au revoir dinner, a man at the adjacent table who figured out we were talking about singing burst out into song. Not a shabby voice either! For one to decide to become a singer in Sweden, the level must be already pretty high.  One of the singers attributes Swedish talent to the extended pitch range of the Swedish language.

This was my first visit to this wonderful place that has fascinated me ever since I became enamored with their operatic legends. Naturally I cannot really be totally certain as to why their voices are so flexible and indeed so strong. Yet, those are not the first Swedish singers I have taught. I find it remarkable that not one of the Swedes I have taught, including all of those during this trip, exhibited less than a voice that makes one take notice.  I know understand why my dear friend Martin, who contributes such wonderful nuggets of scientific information here, thinks little of his own voice, which by any measure has a remarkable quality for one who calls himself an amateur.

There is no doubt, I will return to Sweden often if I have the opportunity. Thank you so much Erik, for inviting me to Göteborg, and thank you to all the singers who trusted me with their voices and made my stay so extremely pleasurable. Your remarkable well-rounded talents inspired my teaching and my singing to new heights.


© 04/06/2010

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