To develop an opera voice and, what ist even more, to become an opera singer – be it male or female – it takes a lot. And knowing that talent is not enough, neither is training, one must be aware of the fact that it would in addition need practice, experience and exposure to the public. It needs an encounter with an audience of diverse sort and nature.
Those ingredients might, in part, have been the motives that have driven the «Berlin Opera Academy» to use this year’s somewhat unique constellation – triggered by the COVID situation – to come to Kandersteg in the Swiss Bernese Oberland.
Up there, at the far end of the Kander valley, the Berlin Opera Academy found a virtually empty venue: The «Kandersteg International Scout Centre» (KISC), one oft he global centres of the international Scout movement, that would, in ordinary summers, host something like 1’600 scouts form all over the world. The KISC centre management not only agreed on a «custom price», as the KISC director Jack Higgins, put it, but got everything ready for rehearsal rooms for 250 young musicians from more than 30 countries, as well as coaching facilities. And what seemd unusual to the young artistic talents was nothing but everyday business to the Scouts up there.
The Kandersteg International Scout Centre proved to be the ideal venue for the 2021 summer program of the “Berlin Opera Academy”.
A renowned opera singer himself (“The Canadian Bass”), Mark Sampson, helped organizing this years’ summer program. And he explained the idyllic mountain valleys advantages.
Quite consequently and with much regard tot he peculiar COVID situation, Mark Sampson, the artistic director oft he «Berlin Opera Academy» and himself an experienced opera singer charaterized Kandersteg as an almost ideal venue for 2021:
«Kandersteg seemed like the safest and most sensible way of handling the situation. It allowed us to properly isolate ourselves in a highly vaccinated bubble (80% of participants were fully vaccinated on arrival), and provided us with copious physical distance and space that we couldn’t have achieved in a city environment… Kandersteg essentially provided us a chance to bubble together and put on performances in the safest possible environment. Finally, of course, I was swayed by the stunning surroundings which I thought would be much-needed after a year of staying inside! »
Opera needs Public
No one would deny though that opera – beside seclusion in the preparational phase – certainly needs public. And Kandersteg proved to be an interesting venue for even a rather prestigious and somewhat demanding audience. For as the alpine village, even in COVID times, hosts hundreds and sometimes thousands of culturally interested international guests, a «critical mass» or rather an audience of adequate distinction was already present, even in the rather private setting of a holiday sojourn.
Nothing but a stage was yet to be found. And there, in the communal hall of Kandersteg, even the staging facilities were being retrieved from their dormant existence. Contracts were set up and signed and the «Berlin Opera Academy» started rehearsals and performances in middle of July 2021.
The programme was demanding: «Zauberflöte», «Fledermaus», «Hänsel and Gretel», «Gianni Schicchi & Suor Angelica» and «Aria Nights» with works by Mozart, Strauss, Puccini and others, satisfied the demands of even the musical connoisseur.
Why not coming back in 2022?
And when, on 18th August 2021 the « Dernière », the last show of a programme had taken place, the entire endeavour had proved to be very succesful indeed. So, what would hinder a repetition, same time, same place, same concept, same « players », but next year ?
As no decision has been made yet, speculation might look over the rim oft he tea cup: Given COVID comes in yet an other wave by early summer next year, chances might be good, or even very good for the Opera Academy to come back in 2022. And if dreaming is permitted, even for a brief moment, one could imagine a globally attractive « Opera Academy », to be repeated each year, or every second, at least. And even if the outcome might still be open, talks are most likely to begin soon.