Monday, April 4, 2011

Featured Singer: Ann Hallenberg

I was introduced to the artistry of the lovely and talented Swedish mezzo Ann Hallenberg through my friend David Glass, who as a Handel fanatic afficionado had become first a fan, then a real-life friend. Here are some recent examples, (apparently) non-professional videos from a recent Ariodante in Moscow:

Here is her bio-blurb at her artist representative's site.  Here is her Facebook fan page.

(FWIW, Taminophile also has a new Facebook fan page, here. He has also added a few opera recordings of Ann's to his Amazon store to the right.  Go.  Browse.  Make all your Amazon purchases there.)

Looking online at Ann's upcoming engagements, I am very sad to report that it doesn't appear that she will perform for us in the US any time soon.

Based on mutual friendship with David, I became Facebook friends with Ann's husband Holger, and subsequently with Ann herself.  Knowing she is not as well known in the US as in Europe, I eagerly sent Ann some questions, hoping to introduce her to you lot my American friends.  After the jump (which I just learned how to do) read her answers:

What is your background and training?
I’ve always sung.  My father was a very good bass-baritone and sang a lot in church.  When I was 10 I started in a special school for musically talented children, and had eight hours music education every week plus extra choir and piano lessons. I started taking singing lessons with 14. When I was 21 I started my studies at the Opera school in Stockholm.

Many singers have overcome bad training or other obstacles to have a career. Have you had any kind of roadblocks to success?
Nothing really serious. Very, very early, when I was around 18, both I and my teacher realized that my technique didn’t develop. I didn’t understand how to do it. She sent me to a colleague and after only a few lessons with him everything fell in place. And I understood that my old teacher had been trying to tell me exactly the same thing for years, only I had got stuck and didn’t really listen. Now I’m immensely grateful to both of them.

How do you handle the challenges to family life and your marriage that a busy career could pose?
In 2010 I had 212 days away from home.  That’s far too many, and it would never work if my husband weren’t so fantastic and supporting! The traveling and the loneliness are the hardest parts of my profession, especially when the pressure is high. As freelancer you don’t have the “safe” environment of an ensemble, but luckily the Baroque opera world is quite small and I often meet the same people. That helps.

Do you work with younger singers? What kind of career advice do you give them?
In the future I think I’ll start teaching but I don’t dare to do it yet. It feels like a too big responsibility. I can hurt both mentally and vocally if I can’t explain things in a good way for a young singer. I’m not ready for that yet.

How old are you [optional, of course]? How has your voice changed over the years?
I’m not shy about my age. I’m contented to be 44; I have a beautiful, lovely daughter, a wonderful husband, a successful career, dear friends and a nice home. The voice keeps changing all the time. I started as coloratura soprano, changed to alto and now last years it has been moving up again – but coloratura soprano I’ll never be again!  [ed.  Wow!  You can hear the coloratura soprano in the second video above.]

What's your favorite role to sing? (And don't take the cop-out "Whatever I'm singing next!")
I have four big favorites, and I’ve been very lucky to have been able to sing them quite a lot. Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri (Rossini). Agrippina and Ariodante and Dejaneira in Hercules (all Handel)

You seem to be identified very strongly with Baroque music. Has that limited your opportunities or broadened your horizons?
Actually, one of the reasons why I started with Baroque repertoire is because I found the “traditional” opera repertoire very boring for a mezzo like me. Often it’s just standing behind the soprano, being supportive, passing her handkerchiefs or chairs and I wasn’t happy with that. In Baroque opera I get to be in the center of attention! No, seriously, my heart is in the Baroque music, but I still enjoy making little excursions into different styles from time to time.

Are there roles you'd love to sing that are outside of your fach? Are there roles within your fach you don't want to ever sing [or to sing again]?
Yes! Feldmarchallin (perhaps one day!) and ….. Scarpia!
But, never again? I don’t know…. No!

My favorite question from the American interview programme "Inside the Actor's Studio": What's your favorite swear word?
Believe it or not, but I don’t swear. Never have. (Ask Holger!)


Anonymous said...

Bravo, David, what an interesting interview! Thank you for helping to give more exposure and recognition to your American audience for one of the truly great baroque singers today. Let's hope that Ann Hallenberg sings here in the USA sometime soon!


Susan said...

Blogger Susan said...

I was introduced to her work on DVD, starting with her deliciously stubborn brother, Arsamene, in Serse. Enjoyed her immensely-- she makes the hardest music sound and look seamlessly easy! Thanks for the interview.

Taminophile said...

Exactly, Susan! I am so glad my friend David introduced me to her.

Berger said...

Thank you for the interview. In my opinion Ann Hallenberg is the leading Handel singer at the moment. Quoting the experienced and absolutely wonderful soprano Deborah York who sang opposite Ann in the Ariodante production in Moscow (videos above): “I don't think I have ever heard such ecstatically poetic singing in my life before. I was also very impressed with her as a person, her calm and her positive attitude.” Hopefully someone can talk her in to sing in the US in the near future (the past 10 years she has rejected all engagement in the US).

Anonymous said...

Hello,I have just discovered Ann Hallenberg,while lstening to Handel on Youtube.I love her voice-went straight out and bought "Il Trionfo" and her Vivaldi recording with Sandrine Piau.She has a quality in her voice that is missing from so many others.
Perhaps she will come to England!
Thank you for posting your interview.

p.s.what do you think of Sarah Connolly?She is superb.