the Food of Love...
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“Growing up in a trilingual family is a huge benefit in terms of the love of language itself – and perhaps language and art are inextricably entwined (in my perception, at least) so as to render at once mysterious and self-evident the conundrum expressed by Richard Strauss in his opera Capriccio. There was never a perceptible difference in the value of words and music for me, merely of mode. I know that even as a little girl, I loved both the melody of poetry and the lyricism of music, and I both wrote and sang from the moment that I became aware one could express the intangible and the known in those modes.
German is, of course, one of the great languages in the world, so far as an opera singer is concerned. I do consider it a drawback that my parents did not happen to speak Italian as well as German, Dutch and English (a little forethought on their parts would have been helpful. Of what use, I ask you, is Dutch to an opera singer?), but no one who plunges into the world of opera can remain ignorant of Italian (not without a great deal of effort, that is). French, too, is one of those essential languages, and imparts a wholly unique colour to the voice, I think.
I have sung in so many different languages, and one of the aspects I consider crucial to great art singing is that of achieving the sound of the language sung – that is, to sing French with a French accent, to sing Italian with an Italian accent, etc. But the sound of the language is dead without the quality of its metaphors and meanings, its own linguistic tincture colouring the words so that they are indivisible from a whole array of subtexts. The very poetry of a language is built of the stones and bricks of its sounds and sub-meanings, its layers and textures, all combining to give more than the surface meaning. Then, too, there is the music, which highlights and defines, emphasises and makes intolerably beautiful or immeasurably sad, to paint anew those words. To interpret in art song, therefore, is to combine those very essences in which I was immersed as a child – the words and the music interlinked and running together like watercolours on the page. And it is not enough to feel the music, or rather to feel the sentiments of the music or words – what a singer must do is to communicate the images, colours, the palette of the song, so that the soul of the audience is like a canvas upon which glows the jewel-colours or plangent sombreness of the song.
I am a writer as well as a singer, and in many ways these two aspects are the twin horns of a unicorn – one of artistic creativity. With my first novel receiving consideration in the final stage before publication, I feel as if I can indeed consider myself a writer, but in truth, I always have done so… The impetus to write is something unstoppable for me, and has always been so. Tales of mystery, of romance, of the fantastical, of the erudite, of the purely poetic, of pure imagery – they are the seas of my imagination’s whirlpool. I neither can nor wish to stop their mad rush.
It was during my childhood, too, that I first began composing music. Later studies at the University of Melbourne brought form to the chaos of my earlier endeavours – or so I hope! To date, I have composed numerous songs, a string orchestra serenade, some rather bizarre pieces for a variety of instruments, a full-length opera, and bits and pieces of this and that.
What else? I love to read – and have long since exhausted the possibilities of infinite books upon finite shelves. I enjoy cooking (so long as the dish is a complicated or interesting one), dancing, mediaeval sword-fighting (I am the proud possessor of a rather short one-hander and a two-hander of beautiful balance), martial arts of various types, horse-riding, astronomy, biochemistry, philosophy, listening to music, chess (so long as I win), Monopoly (so long as I get the green set and win), Scrabble, computer games (particularly the classic adventure games), watching good movies (like most of us, I define “good” in this sense by what pleases me, which means great classics of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, etc., as well as period pieces, Monty Python greats, good films of the fantasy genre, Hitchcock, etc.), and enjoy the spectrum of hilarity and seriousness. For humour, I both admire and love Terry Pratchett’s and Doug Adams’ novels, Red Dwarf, Blackadder, and Monty Python. I am, like so many, an ardent Tolkien fan, most especially of the books themselves.
In my capacity for happy solitude and my pleasure in congenial friendships and good company, I think I experience something, at least, which forms the cup of the human soul’s banqueting. I treasure my friends, love those close to me, and have a deep love for God (whose appreciation for the absurd seems to be limitless).
In my music, I am happiest of all, for there I feel myself a citizen of the entire universe (more, even, than merely a citizen of the world, as Socrates put it). It is apparent that music is one of the most divine gifts humans have. That we can be so moved by it, that we can weep at its beauty or be thrilled to powerful courage by it is indicative of its way of finding our soul. There have been those who were great composers - they create not the music of the hour, but the music of a lifetime... and the secret is that their music seems plucked, as it were, from the universe and our souls recognise it. When I sing, I become the ambassador of music, and I feel immensely privileged to have been granted a voice that I may communicate my deep love of this glorious music to others.”