What first brought you to singing in Germany?
When I first came to Germany, it was because of an audition I'd done for Professor Götz Friedrich, Stage Director and Director at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He heard a handful of people in Paris, where we were touring in Porgy and Bess at the time, and hired me for his production in Berlin at Theater des Westens.
Mind you, before that, I had had only a few jobs. Few and far between, really! Anyway, I did this Porgy and Bess, which by the way, was the best I'd ever done except for the Met, and I've done some Porgy and Bess-es in my time! Well, I promised myself that I would never do another staged P&B again, and I haven't.
At the time that I came over here, I was hoping to begin some type of real career. Not a sing-two-times-a-year-and-temp-the-rest-of-the-year career. I wanted a steady job. In America, it wasn't happening. So when I auditioned in Mannheim and they accepted me, I of course took the job. By the way, that was my very first audition in Europe and I got it! Cool, huh? That was god looking out for me. I know that.
Are you working steadily, and in a Guest or Fest situation?
No, I've not been Fest in Mannheim National Theater that long but was Fest from 1989 to 2000. Unlike in America, it is considered a regular job with benefits and possible tenure. Who wouldn't take that?
I was Fest/Guest from 200 to 2004, and then a Guest (per performance). I guest you could say I was freelance from 2004 'til now.
I have made it through three different regimes in the Theater at Mannheim and am starting on my fourth!
I have been in Mannheim so long that when they made a compilation of well-known people in Mannheim and the surrounding area, I was asked to be in it. Imagine, in the same book as "The Songs of Mannheim" like Xavier Naidoo. The book is titled Tone Mannheims (Sounds of Mannheim) by Nicole Simon and is on the market. Now, yours is the second book! I'm honored
I'm sort of a "celeb" in Mannheim. they say they like what I do, so I'll keep doing it as long as the good Lord sees fit!
Do you still work in the States?
No, I don't work in the States. I would love to if they would have me, but there's a lot of jealousy and envy out there and some people resent that I found work and still have work in a foreign country.
You know, what it boils down to is survival in the best possible way. They accept me here, let me do what I like doing, enjoyed it, and gave me money for doing it.
In this day and age of terrorism, I guess I'm supposed to come home (to America) and sit, poor, at the TV, and beg for work or collect welfare checks because I'm an American citizen. I'm still as American as the next, but not stupid, and my singing is for everyone and anyone who can and will appreciate it.
So not the sermon is over. Where was I?
Do you work in other European countries?
How long do you think you will stay in Germany? Will you retire there?
I haven't made up my mind about staying or leaving. Actually, I've made a home for myself over here as a normal person. This time away has afforded me the chance to see other cultures, travel, meet people, and be a sort of ambassador.
Do you have any regrets about your time abroad?
I do not regret having come here at all. I could not have ad this type of career in the States.
What do you like about the German as opposed to the US system?
Love the insurance coverage. It's going to change slowly, but everyone ahs to be covered whether they can afford it or not. That's one of the best things about the German system.
What do you dislike aobut the German system?
I will only stick to saying the positive things, Paul. I don't want to be quoted as downing a culture.
How has the "opera scene" changed since you arrived?
The opera scene has definitely changed. I came to Germany at what I thinkwas the tail end of an era. I got to experience the older colleagues at their best, picked up a lot of what was needed on and off the stage, and found out what it really takes to do what I do.
They helped a lot in every way. They have all basically died out because the system is not allowing any of these singers to become "tenured" (unkündbar), and that is a shame. The trend seems to young and cheap. Of course that is a generalization, but it does happen frequently.
Another thing is that "looks" are playing a big part in everything because more and more directors having more and more of the control. I think that's important, but let's not forget the singing! (Oh, boy, they do that a lot.)
German houses are consolidating and things will eventually get tighter and tighter, harder for foreigners to get jobs over here.
Do you have any observations about the younger crop of American singers you see or work with?
the advice I have is to go ahead and try because there is always a chance, but the pickins seem to be slim.
There are so many reforms taking place within the singing system as well as within Germany itself. Health, taxes, money (the change to the Euro). Beginners' salaries are not what they used to be, and the payments are less. It all plays a part.
I think one should be better prepared with knowing the language at least 50 percent before coming over. One should sing what's best for them, and because it is what they enjoy and love, but should know what they might be asked (most probably) to sing a range of things that may not make them happy.
and most of all, have patience! Yes, sometimes things can happen fast, but not normally. If you don't get a job, though, before you are 40 and you have been trying for 5 to 10 years, stop!
And please don't come over for the first time at 40 or 45 trying to start a career unless you're singing an extremely wonderful and titilating, dramatically moving, never-been-heard-before, I-can-do-that-better-than-anyone fach!