Do you have musicians in your family, grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters?
My family history seems and is a bit confusing. Our family spirit is characterized by the opression of the Third Reich and the consequences of the division of Germany for sure. Totalitarianism and its consequences to peoples minds, are a terrible heritage for following generations . Which includes me as well . As a matter of fact I would describe my family as an oppressed family with a rebellious streak but for all very gifted in sciences and with a natural love for music. In the Past Practicing aesthetes did not exist in my family, rather workmen, farmers and natural scientists. In the present time we are more academics and all of us diligent people. It is believed that the soprano Erna Sack is one of my mothers grand aunts .
How was your youth? Were you interested in music?
I had a sunny and free childhood. With four siblings, there was always action. We all did sports and our mother tried to pass her love to music on to us through playing the recorder and choral singing. I was infected by that unconscious love and felt singing as the greatest expression of something which i felt bigger then our being – so called soul. Unfortunately you do not understand without substantial encouragement how important the technical component and music theory are, when you are a child. The substantial encouragement to me appears as one of the biggest topics that are socially imbalanced at the moment . Processes do not only seem undesirable but absolutely unacceptable. Everything has to be perfect here and now. Only ,that is not possible. Just knowledge and practice can make you master something: This counts for music just as for anything else, in my opinion.
When did you decide to become an opera singer? Was it by coincidence or after you attended an opera performance?
My parents had an opera subscription for the Leipzig Opera. From the present-day perspective it seems rather curious because my father is not really interested in classical music and neither is my mother. I assume that their interest has been part of the achievement of the workers‘ and farmers‘ state that everyone had access to the high culture and of course made use of that. It was wonderful when my parents dressed up to go to the opera. One day when I was only twelve, I had to accompany my father to my first opera performance ever, ‚Carmen‘. It was horrible, because I did not understand a single word. The stereotypes used in the staging , the corpulent singing lady and the carelessly played music – just dreadful – these were the sentiments of a 12 year old girl who loved music in a intuitional way. To me, singing was always the greatest expression of the soul and the most wonderful thing on earth. I still perceive it as a privilege to be able to emotionalize people with vocals. When I was a teenager I showed a certain talent for music and attended a special school to become a teacher of music, near Leipzig. There, I encountered symphonic music, music history and theory. That I had to sing was not open to debate anymore at this time. That I would actually sing operas was not clear yet. Mahlers 8th symphony played an important role. The expression of soul through music combined with the need for meaningfulness that culminated for me as the absolute max to reach ever. Today I think I represent probably expressionist singing ,cause in my opinion content is still above technical perfection even we have to work on technical mastership as possible.
Did you attend a school of music? Where did you study and who were your professors?
At the age of 14, I attended a special school for school music and subsequently started music studies in Dresden and later in Indiana /USA. My teachers there were Luisa Bosabalian, Carlos Montane, Josef Loibl and Brigitte Eisenfeld. Every one of them was important for certain technical demands. I was always a very intuitive singer during my mezzo-soprano career. The change into soprano was accompanied by technical reshuffles. It was hard and time consuming, also because of my private situation at this time.
‘Salome‘ at the Covent Garden. Nadja was a phenomenal Salome in a production of David Mc Vicar.
The cast was next to Nadja, Michael Volle as Jochanaan, Thomas Moser as Herodus and Michaela Schuster as Herodias.
In what opera did you début? When and where did you start?
At the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival in 1993 I was allowed to sing the third lady in the magic flute next to Deon van der Walt. It was a stunning and decisive experience. Afterwards I sang Amastris in ‘Xerxes‘ at the Opera Wiesbaden and also Eustazio at ‘Rinaldo‘. Along the way, I made a remarkable career as a concert singer. I appeared on all big concert stages throughout the world and performed almost the whole symphonic repertoire for mezzo-soprano. A wonderful time with wonderful artistical and musical encounters. Weirdly, my increasing opera career put an end to my concert activity.
You have built up your repertoire. What characters did you interpret? Where did you sing these roles and with which maestro did you work together?
I think there is not enough space to mention every part and every place. I worked together with the most famous directors, conductors as a mezzo soprano singer and also later as soprano singer. In the future I will bring a more clear direction into focus. Please if you want exact information visit my website www.nadja-michael.com
What are your favorites for the moment?
I do not really have any favorites. I have the donation to identify myself very fast with every role. The match of Montezuma/ RIHM was a big and overwhelming surprise. Such a stunning opera and definitely one of the most ambitious parts I had to sing of my career. I really like Manon Lescaut but also Wagner, Verdi and Bach not forgetting Berlioz. I could never decide which one is the best because they are all amazing.
‚Tiefland‘ with Egils Silin‚ Wozzeck‘ with Roman Trekel
What are the operas you would like to sing in the future?
There are some important debuts coming up like Manon Lescaut , Abigaille and Emilia Marty. I will also debut the role of Maria Stuarda and Lucrezia Borgia. Both are very expressive parts. Singers like Gencer or Callas or Sutherland implemented extremely different interpretations . I am glad about this challenge. All this will happen in the next few years. Even my first Isolde in a concert performance of ‘Tristan‘ will follow in 2015. There is not really much space for musical wishes because my reality will claim my whole attention. ‚Katia Kabanova‘ is one of my biggest wishes . This probably will not work because of a lack of time.
Nadja in ‚Macbeth‘ with Zelko Lucič (Munich) and in ‚Macbeth‘ with Rasilainen
During your career, did you refuse to sing an opera and why did you do so?
Needless to say, I often refused operas for example Die Färberin in Munich or Abigaille at the Met. There I also refused to perform Lady Macbeth (Verdi) over a period of three years.
I felt that I was not ready yet. After I finally debuted as Lady at the Met , we always had a sold-out show and standing ovations.
Consequently I see my hesitation as justified. The way into the highly dramatic Soprano parts will happen for sure. Because of the natural structure of my voice from now on even very quick. Only the entering in the high dramatic range is a one way street and that is the reason I was hestitating. At the moment I still want to operate more flexible both vocally and acting.
Nadja in ‚Tosca‘ with Marcelo Alvarez (Berlin)
Are there artists and singers you admire and you are taking as an example?
I do not want to name names but the singers from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are all big stars and I meet them with admiration.For me it was the time of great big individual voices, individuality and processes. Conductors had long lasting artistic relations with singers and escorted their development processes which led to stunning accomplishments. Music and voice carried opera life. At the moment I feel that we as artists have to live with the needs and the spirit of easy compatibility on a repertoire system.Which means productions sometimes are made to celebrate themselves instead the music and the meaning through singing . We desperately try to develope artistic identity, sometimes of course successful , but mainly almost against the whole european opera system. The musicology dictates performance practice and the voices on stage are compatible for recording needs.
A grandiose example against everything mentioned before is highly admired Jonas Kaufmann with his unusual timbre and style.
One of my most impressive artistic meetings happened with James Levine, a maestro of the big old school who loves and understands music voices. In modern times, as a singer, you simply have to admire Anna Netrebko. She is so talented and gifted. Her vocal and artistic progress in the eye of the public is just fabulous. I am glad that we will sing together next year on the Met with in one performance which will be devided two operas. Beginning with Jolanta (Netrebko) and second Blaubart (Michael).
What is your point of view at the actual and modern stage-managements? Do you agree or do you prefer the traditional productions?
That is hard to decide because I do not care whether I move in old scenery or modern clothes. What is important to me is the content. Music has to follow a clear aim, so that the surroundings do not matter in the way to put itself in the center of focus. Basically as time goes by I always feel – less is more.
I prefer reduction because I do not want to be overloaded by TOO MUCH cloth, video or scenery but I rather wish to unfold my artistic claim and vocal sheer freely.
Needless to say that great directors achieve this in fabolous cooperation.
In Berlin after the performance of Tosca I met this captivating artist
I am the godfather of the Maria Callas Connexion. Can you give your opinion on La Callas?
It is almost a bromide but she is and was the one and only Callas. It‘s her who stands out and brought into our field incredible emotion and dimension. Every part La Callas took on became unique and her own . Unforgotten in candour and uniqueness. Her carrier was unique and explains itself out of her time and the very special situation of the opera world at that special time.
Today a huge amount of fabolous singers are used as art supliers. Sometimes the name of the singers does not even appear on opera badge or in the program.
What are your plans for the future and where will you sing?
I will debut as Manon Lescaut in Leipzig under R Chailly. This will be followed by a series of ‘Salome‘ in Hamburg and at Bayerische Staatsoper. I will have three appearances as Salome at the Straussfesttage in Budapest. I will also sing the part of Cleopatra in Berlioz „La mortde Cleopatre“ under the composer Matthias Pintscher at the Dresdener Festival . I will sing ‘Fidelio‘ with Klaus Florian Vogt as Florestan, which will also be released on CD and then open the next season as Emilia Marty in a new production of Makropoulos by Janacek in Munich. My next appearance at the Met as Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle in New York will be at the end of 2014. In Tokyo, I will direct and sing Salome by myself and afterwards I will perform again ‚Montezuma/RIHM‘ at the Semperoper Dresden. I am glad to be Kundry under the direction of Katharina Wagners in the end of 2015. That will be an exciting meeting for sure. Debuts as Maria Stuarda, Abigaille, Gioconda and Tatjana are also planned. A new CD in which I move away from the usual will be released at the end of next year. Vitellia, Tatjana and Dido will be represented just as ‘Tannhäuser‘ and ‚Macbeth‘.
Do you have some personal comments to add?
We repeat year by year age-old opera and need a reason to do so because our art is very expensive and will always be a niche product. We know ist about becoming a better human being. Only art, religion and philosophy can achieve that. So its also responsibility which has to drive us .The idealism „be a worker for the soul“ releases a tremendous energy and pleasure but needs endurance and a huge amount of love. Idealism is almost anachronistic in a time of complete self-marketing and infomercials – but it is needed urgently like the clean air to breath.
Actually along these lines interacts my foundation called „Voice for humanity“. With this Foundation we plan for example an exhibition on the subject of responsibility of artists in society and positioning in life. Even after a 15 year old career I still feel like a beginner, I am extremely excited to put my foot on stage – always nervous entering new parts . I am grateful to be able to meet and work with the most exciting people / artists one can imagine and look impacient for everything that comes next.
A fantastic Nadja in de role of Médée
You can see a moment from Cherubini’s opera Médée with Nadja by clicking here.
We thank you very much for your kind cooperation for this interview and wish you all the best for the future!!
Jean Eicherger (Opera-Site)