A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Bizet’s the Pearlfishers at Sydney Opera House.
I was like a 4-year-old kid, mesmerized and blown away! It was so beautiful and soft, yet powerful, very precise, heartfelt and SO tasteful! Thank you Sydney Opera House for a magical night! I loved the performance, the voices, the orchestra, the acoustic, the scenography – EVERYTHING! It was a dream coming true to finally get to see an opera, at one of the most prestigious stages in the world! I’d been dreaming of this since I was 14! Listening to the beautiful voices, took me back to when I first started taking singing lessons…
The fascination for music has been with me all my life… I’ve never really cared about genres and styles – what vibes with me, vibes. If the feeling is there, I’m hooked! I remember as a kid, that I used to tag along with mom and her friends to churches and concert halls to get my share of classical music. We went to everything from choirs singing Händel, to beautiful arias performed solo or as duets, fugues by Bach, piano concerts… Regardless of the setting – I was totally captivated and absorbed by the powerful impact the historical music had on me! So grande and fascinating…all the layers…the dynamics…the skills the musicians and singers had…
My first vocal coach
One saturday morning in the fall of -94, Mom took me to a lady called Sylvia Mang-Borenberg. I was thrilled for my first private singing lesson! Sylvia was a well-known vocal coach around the Växjö-area (south of Sweden) and trained all kinds of voices! Some of her students actually got engaged at Opera houses around Europe and they still work professionally around the world today!
Sylvia taught me a lot about music, but also a whole lot of other things that’s been with me over the years. Her coaching was direct and quite salty at times – Mom always says that, til this day she’s the only one that’s ever made me nervous! Nevertheless, It was all for love and I loved the singing lessons! Saturday mornings were sacred! I remember Mom driving the back-roads from Grimslöv to Ingelstad through the countryside of Småland. I practiced my homework in the car one last time – checking the phrasing, the folk songs, the scales in the Panofka, the arias in the Bach-book… I wanted it to be perfect!
It was solemn to enter Sylvia’s yellow house at 10 am, get the hug and the kiss on the cheek as I inhaled her perfume. I exchanged the shoes for a pair of woolsocks, the jacket for a cardigan. See, Sylvia was amazing with flowers and plants, so she kept the house a bit chilly compared to most Swedes. She grew hibiscus’ big as a trees and the porcelain-flowers were in bloom all year around – most people never get to see them bloom at all!
Sylvia Mang Borenberg (1924-2010)
The lessons would start off with me playing scales on the piano – I can still hear her directing me when I play these scales today…up and down…down and up…apart and together… After the piano practice, I’d put the cassette tape in the recorder, press record and play, and the vocal training started off. Sylvia worked very thouroghly, detailed and passionate, step by step, bit by bit! I loved the scales, the histories and the facts she always told about everything I learned, whether it was the Italian music terminology, or the tales behind the compositions. Sylvia opened my eyes for a lot of things, i.e. the Swedish Floklore heritage – all these beautiful songs that people had sung across our country for hundreds of years. Some of them are still my favorite songs! Last year when I wrote “Lullaby for Lovisa” for my cousin’s daughter, I realized that the form was influenced by this Swedish folk-tradition. The”chorus”, or “omkävde” as we say in Swedish (a section that is the same at the end of each verse), was identical with the old ways of telling stories in the form of songs.
Now and then Sylvia would share stories from her own life as well. One time she talked about her childhood dreams, which is the story that struck me the most – I knew intuitively that it was a key for me, to keep throughout my life. As Sylvia spoke, there was a sadness in her eyes, yet a passionate glow. As a little girl she wanted to become an opera singer. Her father had decided though, that it was her sister who was going to be the singer and Sylvia would become a concert pianist. I can’t remember what country she was born in and whether she studied at the conservatory in Prague or Vienna – but I do remember the essence of the story: follow your dreams and your heart, be dedicated, practice, and find your own ways to lead a life that you love, where you can do the things you love everyday! Sylvia became an amazing pianist, but also an amazing vocal coach! She shared her passions with anyone who was curious to explore their own voice!
To me Sylvia was unique, skilled, characteristic, passionate, elegante and a rock’n roll lady! Very stylish with the hair-do, her significante perfume, the colorful lipstick and of course the high heels! Whether she was playing the grande piano or driving her convertible (with her beige leather gloves!) – the high heels were on!! Over the years I’ve understood more and more how tremendously spoiled I was to get to sing, as she played the keys. I can’t remember the last time I saw her, but what I learnt from her will live with me forever. Her passion for Opera and Classical Music, made me dream of La Scala in Milan, Metropolitan in New York, and all the other big stages around the world. As we kept practicing intonation and strengthening the vocal chords, I knew for real that I wanted to work with music professionally! I wanted to be on stage mesmerizing people, the way I was blown away when I’d be in the audience! To move people’s hearts and to touch the core of people’s selves, sharing a piece of magic in time…that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
Over the years I’ve sung pretty much all genres – I simply love music! It’s all for love. It’s all creative. It all makes my soul fulfilled and content. That night at the Sydney Opera House a couple of weeks ago, it really hit me again – it’s all the same. It’s music and it’s all for the love of creating. Some of the passages in Bizet’s pieces, reminded me of contemporay popsongs and phrases I hear in electro and house music every other day.
Music was my first love and it will be my last
Love & Light