Neither Shirt nor Mezzo, but…


[…but hey, it IS Monday, right? Besides, she has enough “White Shirt Proximity Cred”, now that I think about it. And isn’t that a black shirt or black coat she’s wearing? – Photo Credit: Peter Hönnemann (bigger and better in the current edition of the ZEIT, 30/2010, ZEITMagazin, p. 32/33)]

At first I didn’t recognize her (only in the mirror), but yes, it is Renée Fleming who is featured in this week’s edition of “I have a dream” in ZEITMagazin.

In the dream interview (German only), titled “Sometimes, my voice is a tyrant”, she speaks about the constant dream of having her hair cut and muses on its implications, like the desire to lose control. She also talks about getting into a part by building a visual aural landscape for it that she draws from the score and that she needs to (re)visit to enter into that particular frame of mind that enables her to sing that specific role. – Intriguing at any kind of hair length!



Sometimes, my voice is a tyrant

There’s a dream that I dream time and again for more than twenty years. It’s about having my hair cut every day. Since I started to sing professionally, this dream keep returning. Until today, I sometimes dream of it even during the day. I suppose it has to do with the tension. Already as a student, I permanently felt the pressure to be perfect. It drove me completely crazy. You have to have discipline and take responsibility for one’s voice. My voice at teams seems like an independent person to me. Sometimes, she is a tyrant and I fight her. I say: No, today I won’t drink just water. Like a rebelling child.

Both my parents were music teachers. My mother always said that I had been singing before I spoke. But I didn’t have the feeling to have a special voice. In my childhood, I was very shy. As I read in a review for the first time that I would have a beautiful voice, I showed the article to my singing teacher and proudly said “Here, look!”

One might assume that I, as a singer, perceive the world more aurally, but I am a very visual person. I see exactly where a piece of music is moving and what shape it has. I see what I sing. I need to be able to see the score in front of my inner eye in order to learn it by heart. That takes a lot of time because I have no photographic memory. But in the end it is that I can see the notes. I see the score in front of my eyes. With the text. When I try to capture my voice in an image, my first thought is of fog. Soft and light. There’s also a landscape belonging to this image. When a sound is coming out, it has a form in front of my inner eye. Like a soft landscape of hills.

So far, I’ve sung 51 parts. The images that go with them are always saved in my memory. Just now, I am starting again with Strauss’ “Capriccio”. Very complicated, chromatic, lots of text. On the first day, it was completely gone. After two or three times, it had come back. Through the motor memory.

There are things of which I cannot say what they mean, but they are coming out of my mouth. In Russian. I Czech. The muscles are simply still able to do it. The mind isn’t. The mind comes afterwards. It seems like a miracle to me: one can sing almost automatically. I have the sensation that the music is walking through me. As soon as I start to think about it, it’s gone.

I think that in the idea of letting my hair be cut, there is a liberation. It is a dream of flight. Psychologists say that hair means power. When one dreams often about having one’s hair cut, one desires to give up power and control. And yes, it is true: there is a lot of control in my life.

12 thoughts on “Neither Shirt nor Mezzo, but…”

      1. speaking of which…i don’t suppose, when you have a spare momement, you would translate this? my one year of high-school german 20+ years ago is utterly insufficient!


          1. In such situations, I greatly overestimate my ability to form coherent words. I’ll give you my list of questions!


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