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Interview with Countertenor Nils Wanderer

  • Could you take us through your early years, how did you discover your voice and start singing?

I started as a member of a famous german boys choir after being discovered by the choir master in the kindergarden. Although I have no musicians or artists in my family I was always drawn to music and the fine arts. After being in touch with classical music for the first time at the age of 4 I had my first solo role as a boy soprano when I was 5.

Besides starting to dance on a professional level and playing different instruments, my main focus was always to sing and to dance as it was the perfect language for me to communicate with an audience and express my feelings. I attended a boarding school with the speciality of ancient languages, religion and music and knew immediately that I want to become an artist. An Operasinger and actor.

After my graduation I started to study singing and acting as well became a well booked choreographer and artist due to my dance and acting career which grew while I studied to become a singer. My teacher was always very supoportive of me and believed in my talent as well as in my both voices (countertenor and bariton / tenor). I found definitely my love and strength in the combination of voice, act and movement.

  • Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I was always inspired by artists which expend the borders of genre and had the same passion like me to discover art in a new and unique way. One of my favorites has to be Klaus Nomi, who was a german countertenor who found his new home in America and had great success as a classical singer singing modern versions of old baroque arias as well as house and club songs. For me the great discovery of singing was a mezzo soprano called Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, which I heard in England singing the Bach Cantata “Ich habe genug”.

I never heard anything like that in my life. She was so honest and true in her interpretation and had a voice of stunning beauty, never afraid to sing with all the colors of the sky and communicated on an incredible level with her audience. The message of the music was the most important for her and she will always be a person, I look up to.

  • Have you always known you wanted to be a singer, or did the passion develop over time?

It is funny, coming from a beautiful family of craftsmen which had no connection or contact to classical music… I always knew I wanted to become an operasinger. An artist. Someone who tells a story and works peoples emotions an d minds. For me it was the only thing which was really cklear and still is really clear. I have many interests. I am a trained chef, I had a scholarship for theology, great interest in nature and especially ornithology due to my father who is a extrem sportsman and also expert for the alps and nature in general, have the graecum and latinum, wanted to be a counsellor or diplomat as well as a veterinary. But music and art was always the centre of my attention.

The feeling of love and excitement… I find it nowhere else as intense and extrem as by telling a story and being on stage. I also feel it is where I am at my best. I am grateful if people trust me with their time. It is a responsibility and I am very honored to be aloud to invite those people into my world as well as I learn from every show and audience more about life in general. For me…the magic is the conection of the different artistic and scientific dicziplins.

The languages, the history, the composition, the libretto, the interculture politics at the time when the music was written, the different styles of the epochs, the combination of research and roh art. It has a great emotional force and holds the chance to find new authentic forms and ways of art, which I explore / create and use as an operasinger, actor, director, choreogrtapher and conductor.

  • Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I think one of the most influences in my singing came from my first singing teacher which not only thaught me valuable singing technique and interpretation skills but also absolutely encouraged me to be my whole unapologetic self and really let people get to know me as person. She was my rock and especially in my very early singing years a great supporter, cheerleader, friend as well as biggerst critic.

My biggest influences regaring my personality and work ethic come from my parents and grandmother till these day. The showed me what it means to work hard every day, starting with nothing and still being happy and loved, then rising to the top and being the same hard working, open minded, beautiful and supportive peple. My career is a gift and a blessing and I am very grateful for it. Part of it is to be polite, honest, prepared, on time, fair and loving. That’s what my grandma thought me and she is forever my most important person in my life.

  • How do you become or decide to be a countertenor?

After my career in a boys choir I enjoyed using my soprano voice but didn’t know that there is such a thing as a countertenor because I csame from a not musical background. After my vocal break I still had all my soprano notes but also 1 octave more low. Because of my lack of knowledge I applied at my university as a bariton. They took me and made me a heavy “dramatic” tenor baby. I sung Operettas, songs, oratorio and some opera arias including Scenes from Parsifal. One day I tild my teacher that there is another voice hiding inside me and that I would like to shoe him my little secret.

I sung the aria <lascia chio pianga for him and after that he stood up and said “we have to change everything”. 4 weeks later I sung my first Christmas oratorio by bach as an alto. Till today I would never neglect my low chest voice (Modal voice / tenor voice) and love to sing and live with it.

  • Pls describe in your words “ what is countertenor?

A countertenor sings in the equivalent range of the female contralto , mezzo or soprano range by using his falsetto technique (only using the thinner edges of the vocal chords) or high and strong trained head voice.

  • What are the advantages & disadvantages of being a countertenor?

As a countertenor I am still a very young and new voicetype (although we had the castratos and so we are actually the oldest voice type but rediscovered and with slightly different technique and other pysicis), so composers are writing new music everyday for us. Our repertoire spans from early music over classical music till impressionism and the music of today. I think the biggest advantage and disadvantage in our voicetype are boundries. Can I sing a trouser role in opera? YES! Will I do it? Maybe…depends on the musical director, stage director etc. As a countertenor you are free to work in every genre and repertoire and find your own way of doing things. Some of us only sing sacred music, others only baroqe opera heroes.

It depens. For me the countertenor has the most exciting and challenging / variating roles. As an actor this is what I love. We play not only kings and princes or young boys but also brutal and evil psychpaths, sorcerers, lovers and witches. Being a countertenor is a mix of controlled precision and passionated freedom. It is about having no boundries. Being emotional, having a message, paying tribute to a tradition of ancient times as well as finding new ways and going new ways. Being a present part of the creation of music as well as having the honor to sing and interpret music of world genius and world class singers from 300 years ago.

  • How would you characterise your singing language?

It is hard to answer that but I would say that I try to give full acceptance and understanding for the music and composer as well as the libretto. When I sing, I want to dive in into the character. For me it is not about creating nice sounds but paying tribute to the role and development of the character. My singing language is free and as open to the music as possible as well as informed and precise. Text and music comes firsgt and the emotion and feelings of the music and voice will grew and raise out of this information. My ideal as a singer is to be flexible. I appreciate my dark and round voice with a male core to it and feel very comfortable in my low chest and contralto notes as well as in the pianissimi high notes and expressive dramatic notes. A critic once said that my voice sounds like a velvety rich red wine and I kind of like the idea of it haha

  • How do you integrate your character with your music?

I am always open and permeable. The music speaks thorugh me. I am a white sheet of paper and let the music and drama write the story for me. For me it is important to have the ambivalence of being prepared and informed as well as being spontaneous and letting your instincts and feelings take over. I need to understand the libretto, musical history, motivation of the composer and musical theory of the piece in order to be cvompletely free weith it and break every rule. But only if I know the rules. With my own modern music it is a grerat discovery every day and I am so grateful and happy to grow with it. It feels completely organic, new, cfeative, powerful and right!

  • Before you sing, do you eat or drink anything special to loosen your vocal chords?

I always take hot showers before shows and it is the only place I really warm up or check my voice. In the wardrobe I only do physical exercises to get focused and into the role or music I am going to perform. I don’t eat before a concert or show and still water is enough… BUT MOST DEFINETLEY I eat AFTER!!!

  • How do you keep your voice in good shape? Do you go out of your way to talk less since you became an opera singer?

I am singing everyday and keeping the voice in shape. But every action also need relaxation like every professional sportsman does…so I also take after every big chunk of shows some days of where I am not actively singing but still doing my exercises, scales, vocal hygiene.Checking on the voice with my inner circle of trusting professionals is crucial. It is very important to have self confidence and knowledge of your own body.

Before a concert I take at least one hour for my self to save my voice and get the body ready because I am a very communicative, interested and open person and love to talk to people and exchange thoughts and affection. This is not the best way to prepare for a concert unfortunaterly and so I have to take my time in order to do the audience and the music and myself justice as an artist.

  • What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

It was a tour as the alto soloist of the st. matthew passion by Bach with world renowned conductors and orchestras singing 7 big concert concerts in seven countries in 7 days. And this for 2 month. It was also the most beautiful experience being so close to your fellow musicians and collegues and making eternal music everyday for different beautiful people while being so intense in the piece.

  • Do you have a fa vourite opera character ?

Very hard. Ever character is my favourite character when I sing or act it. I love it like a child and will defend it and fight for and with it haha. Trying to find every color and layer of it. As a singer and actor I would say my dream role is to sing and play the big Handel heros like Ariodante or Giulio Cesare. But also in the modern music I find beautiful roles like the Boy in Benjamins Written on skin.

  • What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is to have my own independent music theatre company where I am able to share my passion for the arts with as equally driven and excited people from all around the world, every gender, religion, sexuality and background. And a dog.

Beside you are a countertenor, you are a multitalented person, such as choreographer, costume designer, song writer. Can you tell about these?

I am a choreographer, actor, director, conductor, song writer, fashion designer, chef, theologist, ornithologist and counsellor. Nothing of this was planned or something I want to brag with. It just came with.time as I grew and my artistic potential expended and grew too. Being a director was the logically following and combination of being a singer, actor and dancer / choreographer. I knew that I wanted to create my own projects. Then I started to design the costumes for that and also me. Because of this people asked me to design for them too and so this happened. Everything is driven by passion and happiness to be able to to that. Creativity and open mindedness is the key to my success. And having incredibly beasutiful and supportive people around me.

  • You have a great single coming out, can you tell us a little bit about it?

My first single ST PETERSBURG comes out in July. It is a featuring with Bangers which are Peter Plate and Ulf Sommer (former Rosenstolz). When I met them in germany I knew immediately that I want to make music with them and experience new ways of crossing over genres and the love was on both sides. For me it was the chance to go new paths as a singer and I am happy that this new path also crosses my classical career and actually support each other.

The song is about the love and pain. Being forbidden to love someone. The forbidden love of two men in Russia. But it also holds the beauty and power of love and passion in it. A modern symphony of love and pain in homage for Klaus nomi.

  • What is your favourite song to sing?

It has to be “My funny valentine”… I love old jazz standarts. You can put all your love and ideas into it. Complete freedom if you know and break the rules.

  • What are your hobbies outside of singing?

I love to be in the nature and with my family and Friends. I love animals and could spend my whole life with them. I Paint and design various things, love to cook and eat nice food when i am travelling around the globe as well as looking at churches. Big fan of inline and ice skating and never say no to a great dance party.

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