Hey, everybody! Antoni, here, with some recommended reading. I will be talking about the article Goddess Excellently Bright: Michaela Schuster and Tannhäuser, which was written by Mansel Stimpson and published on Classical Source in December 2010.
Ah, Michaela Schuster. I have been a fan of this particular dramatic mezzo-soprano ever since I was sixteen. When I read her biography, I was so fascinated with the roles she did even though I did not see her live yet. From the Zwischenfach roles of Sieglinde from Walküre, Giulietta from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Ortrud from Lohengrin, Eboli from Don Carlo, Amneris from Aida, Santuzza from Cavalleria Rusticana, and Marie from Wozzeck to true dramatic soprano roles like Marta from Tiefland to dramatic mezzo roles like Herodias from Salome, Laura from La Gioconda, Brangäne from Tristan und Isolde, Fricka from Rheingold and Walküre, and the Nurse from Die Frau Ohne Schatten to even Charlotte from Werther, I knew from the back of my mind that this was a singer to look out for. Nowadays, aside from chiefly focusing on the dramatic mezzo parts that she is well-known for, she has even ventured into contralto roles like Klytämnestra from Elektra, La Zia Principessa from Suor Angelica, and Zita from Gianni Schicchi, though she also did Auntie from Peter Grimes, Florence Pike from Albert Herring, and Madame de Croissy from Les Dialogues des Carmelites.
In terms of her voice, it has a nice balance of dramatic metal without too much exertion and a luxurious lyricism, in which these vocal qualities make her all the more unique to my ears. Given her training as an oboist, she seems to have impeccable control of her voice when she has to sing either softly and plaintively or when she has to have dramatic outbursts. More than anything, she is a fiery, involved, commanding, and charismatic actress. Whether she evokes Sieglinde’s tenderness, the Nurse’s domineering and nasty nature, Fricka’s pain and suffering, Klytämnestra’s nightmares, Herodias’s venom, or Ortrud’s unhinged desire for vengeance against the Brabantians, she certainly sells it in everything she does to the point where I am in utter awe.
In terms of this article, I initially read this when I was about 19 or 20 years old and I was immediately fascinated. I got to know more about Michaela Schuster’s career and journey and I was thoroughly enlightened and inspired.
Based on the article’s title, this does not solely talk about Madame Schuster’s past engagement as Venus but also her beginnings as a singer and an overall musician. Reading how she went from studying the oboe at the Conservatory of Nuremberg thus getting herself a place in a small orchestra to returning to Salzburg with her sights being set on becoming a singer to the initial hardships she had to go through to get to this point made me relate to her trials and tribulations as a performer myself. This also depicts that the life of a fresh-faced performer whether one would be a singer or an actor or a musician or a dancer is not at all easy. However, if one has a good head on his shoulders and loads of determination and discipline, one can certainly make it. Even more so, success stories like this do not come overnight, as perseverance, courage, and a fighting spirit are needed to make it through.
Speaking of success stories, I beamed with joy when I read that she had her initial success as a mainstay artist at the Darmstadt Staatstheater from 1999 to 2002 after opera director Pamela Rosenberg met her in Berlin and inquired her to do Fricka, as well as her first set of roles being Florence Pike, Auntie, and Penelope from Monteverdi’s Ulisse. I also found it wonderful to read that even though Madame Schuster is extremely for doing Wagner, she aspires to have more flexibility in her repertoire with doing Italian and French roles as well as doing recitals. A part of me even wonders how she would fare doing roles like Azucena, Ulrica, Fidés, Madame de la Haltiere, Mistress Quickly, Gertrude from Thomas’s Hamlet, and/or Genevieve from Pelleas et Melisande, I am pretty sure she would be a knockout, given her superb acting chops and unparalleled skills as an overall musician.
When it comes to her talking about Venus, she makes well-thought-out comparisons in terms of how different the Dresden and Paris versions are especially when it comes to this character, Venus’s attitude vs The Princess di Bouillon’s attitude when it comes to love and rivalry, and even how Venus and Elisabeth love Tannhäuser. I can also concur that Tannhäuser is not even an easy sing for many a Heldentenor, as he not only needs to sing lyrically but also incorporate high notes. Those challenges also go to Venus, as she not only needs to bear a mezzo color to her voice but also hit high notes. Granted, I have not seen Michaela’s performance of Venus in either the Royal Opera House or the Chicago Lyric Opera, so for those of you who had, how did you think she fared?
By and large, when reading this 7-year-old article, I get the impression that Michaela Schuster seems to be a down-to-earth, hardworking, focused, professional, and thoroughly natural person. Moreover, she has become one of my biggest role models of all time and I felt like I learned a lot from her, her experiences, her trials, and her triumphs. I also have to give Mansel Stimpson for not only conducting the interview in such a professional fashion but for also writing this superb article.
Overall, if you have free time, I highly recommend reading this article, especially if you are a fan of Michaela Schuster or opera in general. Your eyes will definitely be open to see how her journey went from bearing hardships to earning success. I give this article 5 out of 5 favorite opera arias for a dramatic mezzo-soprano. It is imperative that you go read this immediately. You will not regret it.
Well, that’s all for now. Be sure to tune in much later for another Recommended Reading post, which involves Petra Lang singing Kundry at the Royal Opera House back in 2007. Until then, have a blessed Easter Week.