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<<  -- 4 --  Tess Crebbin    SINGING OUT

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TC: I bet in your town there were not a lot of people who were into opera.

RDS: Yes, you had to travel a fair way to see an opera performance. When I was maybe thinking of music as a profession, I went to a performance of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and the doors just flew open. It was the first time I had seen an opera and a whole new world opened up for me. At about the same time, I listened to jazz music for the first time. The same thing happened. Since then, I've just been hooked. Coming from Kansas, there are not a lot of opportunities for professional opera singers, so I also studied for a teaching degree because I figured I'd end up teaching music somewhere. A professional career was way off in the stars. My school-friends went on to study engineering, accounting ... things like that. I was definitely the oddball out. In high school I was made fun off a little. But I knew that my life was going somewhere else. I certainly did not let that bother me. I knew I wanted to go into that direction, music, but I had no idea where that path would lead me. I had the luck to have parents who said they would support me, emotionally, in any decision that I made, so long as it was my decision and not someone else telling me I should do that or this [listen -- 'Hör an, Wolfram! Hör an!' from Tannhäuser].

TC: Were there any role models, people who have inspired you?

RDS: There are certainly a few. One of them was James King. Coincidentally, he is from Kansas, but a couple of generations back from mine. He sang a lot of the Heldentenor roles. He was an inspiration not only in his musical career but also as a man. He was a wonderful person. A better heart and soul you could hardly find in a person. There were others who were an inspiration as far as technique.

TC: You seem to be big on technique. Why?

RDS: I think it is important to have a rock-solid technique that will not let me down and will give me longevity and flexibility to allow me to do the things I want to do. Singing on the breath is the basis of it. It helps to relax certain muscles in the throat so that the voice doesn't get tired, or get nodules, or otherwise get damaged. It allows the air to make volume and I don't have to hurt my voice to sing these long, demanding roles. It is all basically a breath technique. Breathe in and support the breath. The semantics of describing this technique is what's the most difficult thing about it. It's an abstract. You can describe it to a certain point but then it's all about practice. Everyone has his own visual images and sensations where they feel the breath support for themselves.

TC: What do you do to preserve your voice?

RDS: I don't smoke, I watch what I eat, and I drink very little alcohol. Maybe a glass of wine here or there, that's it. Four or five days before a performance, I cut out alcohol completely. I find that vinegar affects my voice, so I try to avoid it. Of course you have to eat well, especially for the long Wagner operas. Sometimes, in the intermission, I have a little bite to eat just to keep my energy up.

TC: What about physical fitness?

RDS: If I can, I go to a sports studio. Of course it's difficult to find someone who'll just sign you up for a couple of months while you are in the area. Most studios want you to take out an annual membership. It's a nuisance at times. Every time you go to a new city, you have to try to make an arrangement with a sports studio. If I'm in a hotel, it's a lot easier.

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Copyright © 20 July 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany

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