This season we welcome four new singers to our ensemble. We met with three of them in our canteen to get to know the "new" ones a little better: Corinna Scheurle (mezzo-soprano), Martin Snell (basso) and Boris Prýgl (baritone). Read on and learn who already sung at Marienplatz in Munich, who mastered his first performance with an inflatable crocodile under his arm and who will join the dance floor at the next opening night party first.
May we introduce? Our new ensemble members
BSO: How at ease do you already feel at the Opera? Have you got used to the surroundings and do you feel a little bit at home already?
Corinna Scheurle: I did my master studies here at Theaterakademie August Everding, so I know the city a little bit. But still, I was quite nervous when I started of course, but I have to say that I was welcomed so warm-heartedly, everyone was so nice and open that I felt I could ask anything. It was a very nice start.
Martin Snell: I first visited Munich probably 35 years ago with a youth choir from New Zealand. We had sung in Freising the night before, had gone out for dinner, and we had a shortfall when it came to paying the bill, so we busked for half an hour in front of the Rathaus on Marienplatz and earned more than the money we needed to pay the bill, so that was my first introduction to Munich. Now, it’s like Corinna said, the atmosphere here is so warm and friendly. That makes adapting much easier.
BSO: Did you get lost a lot in this big house?
Corinna: Yeah, it is like a labyrinth!
Boris Prýgl: The way to the canteen took me about two months, it was certainly the hardest. I asked the technical department many times for a lot favours, and they are in the basement, so now I know how to go everywhere. But the top floor in the old building is still a mystery for me.
BSO: Boris, you started in 2017 as a member of the Opera Studio. Now you’re a member of the ensemble. How much do you feel at home in Munich?
Boris: Before I came to Munich to start my first year at the Opera Studio I was offered a place in Plácido Domingo’s ensemble at the LA Opera. The contract was for like, seven years, so the conditions weren’t that good for me, but, of course it’s America, you know, Plácido Domingo and everything and so on. But I had already signed the contract here for at least one year. So my plan was that I would finish the first year in the Opera Studio and then go to Los Angeles. Two months later I fell in love with the Opera House and Munich so much that I cancelled it.
BSO: What are you looking forward to the most concerning this season? For instance, is there a particular role or event?
Boris: My biggest role, I have to say, is now. (Laughs) It’s a role in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and it’s a little bit of a pain in the ass because we’re on the stage non-stop for five acts and every minute we have a different action and so many small things to do, even though we only sing in the first part and a little bit with the chorus in the fifth act. We’re on the stage non-stop and have to stay 100% focused. This is really exhausting. After that there’s Turandot with Anna Netrebko. And I’ll sing a bigger role in the new production of Castor et Pollux.
Corinna: I think I am looking forward to the recital I have on the 10th of January with two other ensemble members. I love songs and I love to sing them. I’m starting my first season with a couple of small and medium roles – which is great, because I can like, settle in, you know. But I think I am looking forward the most to Die schweigsame Frau by Strauss. It’s a lot to sing, I’ll have my own aria and it’s a lot of acting and a lot of action.
Martin: All my roles are new and in new productions, and I have four productions and five roles in the first month of being here, so I’m quite happy with what I have to sing.
BSO: How did you become an opera singer?
Corinna: I think at first I wanted to be a dancer, because I was dancing so much. But then I got quite tall, and I was always singing as a kid, like in the garden, just I didn’t even know that I was singing, it was just like, singing children’s songs and whatever. And then with the years it became just more and more a wish to be able to do this in my life and be able to live from it because I just loved it so much. I had to work very hard to develop a technique, like to really be able to sing. I always knew I wanted to sing, but for a long time I didn’t know how, or how to get there. My mother, who a musician herself, always said, “don’t be musicians, don’t become musicians, just get a normal job.” And now, both of her daughters are musicians. (Laughs)
Boris: When I was five years old I heard Pavarotti singing on television and I asked my mother what’s that. She had wanted to be an opera singer when she was younger. So then I said, wow I want to be like him when I grow up, and then she started to do everything she could to support me, and so I started to learn how to sing. And then, at six years old, one year after my first encounter with Pavarotti I won my first competition as a young singer. Laughs.
Corinna: At six? Oh my God!
Boris: Yeah, and then I started to do everything I could to become a star. (Laughs)
Corinna: What did you sing there, in that competition?
Boris: It was a pop song actually about a crocodile in my bathtub and I sang it with a small inflatable crocodile which we found in the basement. It was from my father’s childhood. So we pumped it up and by the time I finished the song it was completely empty, because it was so old. (Laughs)
BSO: You should sing that song in a recital one day!
Boris: Well, I have an update. I’m singing this “Schweinespeck” aria and I bought a big piggy at IKEA, and every time I go on stage I sing it with the piggy.
BSO: Martin, how did you become a singer?
Martin: I was a choirboy in the cathedral choir in my hometown in New Zealand. I joined that when I was eight and then I became a founding member of the New Zealand Youth Choir. I was a member for ten years, and then I studied law at university and became a lawyer, but then through economic circumstances, in 1987 long before Boris was born …
Boris: Just five years!
Martin: Circumstances were such that there was not a great deal of work after I finished my degree, so I moved from my hometown where I worked for a law firm to the capital city, and went to do an opera production, and I was chosen to be in this production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with Donald McIntyre. Now Sir Donald McIntyre, who after Kiri Te Kanawa is New Zealand’s most famous opera singer, he chose me to do this production. And he kept asking me what my plans were, and I was thinking, well singing is a hobby for me, because I wanted to continue working as a lawyer, but I couldn’t find work. So then I also made the acquaintance of an American soprano called Alessandra Marc, and she said the same thing and I was thinking, “maybe they’re right”. So I went to the public library, and this was before the internet, before e-mail, so I had to go to the public library to find addresses and I wrote to music colleges in England and also in America. It took weeks if not months to get the information. So then I applied, but I couldn’t afford to go and audition in person, so I sent cassette tapes and I got turned down by several colleges. But I was accepted by one, which was the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and then it was a case of trying to save, earn and raise the money I needed to do my studies.
BSO: As an opera singer you travel a lot and see a lot of places. Would you say that Munich is somehow special as an opera city or maybe the audience is somewhat different?
Martin: It is clear that Munich’s inhabitants love their opera. It makes such a difference to go up on stage and see the house full. I’ve worked in theatres where this is not the case and I think it’s because the theatre is beautiful, it’s just in the centre of town, but the Opera really makes an effort to connect with the people of Munich and beyond. Not just from the colleagues who sing, but also from those behind the scenes, be it be costume, make-up or whatever, everybody is just so “dedicated” really. And that makes such a difference. I went to Otello on Saturday and I met a woman I had met through a mutual friend who comes three or four times a week and she says, “the Staatsoper is my living room”. That’s fabulous!
Boris: I completely agree. Even when we had our concerts with the Opera Studio in very small villages all around Bavaria, there was always a small theatre where you could perform or they would do a concert for 500 people and it was always sold-out, full of people interested in young singers.
Corinna: I also think there is a lot of exciting stuff outside the opera house which people can see and think, “oh, that’s from classical music or opera and it actually looks really cool or stylish and it’s not like snobby or 100 years removed from me.” The house is quite intimidating when you see it from outside. It’s huge, it’s elegant, it’s magnificent, but still the design of what the house does, the posters, the trailers, the programmes, gives you a sense of our modern style and how every piece of what happens on-stage can be a situation in our everyday lives.
Martin: And also, we talked about all the influences of the new technologies. Like when we had the Trittico live stream seen by over 100,000 people beyond Munich and I got messages from people from the Caribbean, from Japan and from my home in New Zealand who had watched it, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s something that goes beyond boundaries.
BSO: We talked a lot about Munich and our opera house. But now back to you: What do you do if you want to have a break from opera? If you want to shut it all out?
Corinna: (Laughs) The best thing for me is to go dancing. I love dancing. Thirteen years of ballet, six years of hip hop and Jazz, acrobatics and stuff. And if I really want to switch it off I can go to a club and just dance and I feel great after that. Or do sports, like yoga, go running sometimes. But also, just to go out into the nature and to hike, to have long walks and to be with my friends who have nothing to do with opera.
Boris: I ride my bike, every day. And I love the nature around Unterhaching, which is why I live there, because I’m surrounded by the forest and it’s really close to the mountains. And I cook and bake a lot, so that’s my way of relaxing, and sometimes I listen to dance music because I used to be a DJ.
BSO: So, we’ll see you two dancing at the premiere party.
Corinna: Yeah, we can go dancing together. (Laughs)
BSO: And you, Martin?
Martin: I like silence. (Everyone laughs)
Martin: Yeah, when your day is filled with music and rehearsals, to go home and listen to pop music just doesn’t do it for me. My chilling out music, because I grew up with spiritual music, is say Gregorian or Hildegard von Bingen, that’s great. But otherwise it’s silence, and I read a lot, I also try to read in other languages to build up vocabulary. That’s also great thing about opera music: the United Nations of Music is here. Look at the cast of La traviata for example: the nationalities we’ve had on Sunday night – and that’s the case with every opera we’ve done here. The range of nationalities combined with one voice, I mean in terms of one language, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you’re singing as if it’s your mother tongue and I also think that’s what moves people.
BSO: Thank you and welcome to the ensemble!
The interview was conducted by