Opera and Song
I meet Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann over lunch the day before her Wigmore Hall debut, singing Mozart arias with The Mozartists, and talk to her about her outlook on performance, opera, and life in general. This season she has sung operas in Lucerne, Milan and Zurich, and is performing next in Wroclaw, Vienna, Luxembourg and Bern. Her next CD, Lieder der Heimat – Songs from Home, is due for release in November.
How do you feel about your Wigmore Hall debut?
‘It’s such an amazing place. Historically there have been so many great things that it’s just an honour to be there. I like smaller halls because you have a lot more contact with the audience.’
Does the size of the venue change the way you perform?
‘Sometimes I feel with song recitals it’s nice to have the contact with the audience, because often the audience is in the dark and you don’t see anything at all. You can really see the people and it’s much easier to communicate. I prefer small halls, but the big ones are not so bad of course!’
What’s the main difference for you between smaller recitals and doing a big opera?
‘I do a lot of concerts, more ‘intimate’ stuff. You’re just there; you have nothing to hide. It’s a very honest way of singing. Opera is so much fun, you can completely be someone else.
‘I would never do just opera or just concerts. Song has a great influence on opera, and opera on song. It’s good for the technique when you mix – it’s very good for the voice. In opera you have to sing loud most of the time, so you need strength and especially you need to train your stamina, and in song you can really work on the language and expression, and do very detailed work. It’s good to do both.’
Do you feel like you have a good work/life balance?
‘My family and my friends have nothing to do with music. I have no very close friend who is in the business. The only person I really trust when it comes to roles or musical questions, is my teacher, and some people who I’ve known for a very long time.‘I live in Lucerne, which is a tiny place, and I think this is very healthy too: to realise that opera, or singing, is for me a very important part of my life, but it’s not the centre of the world. People care about other stuff, and if you’re lucky they come to see the concert or the performance. In our busi-ness some people take it for granted that people come and admire what they do, but nowadays we should be lucky if people come and the hall is full. When I work I try to focus on the fact that I’m very lucky to do this work. Of course, it’s more than work – it’s a passion, it’s everything – but it’s good to realise it’s not as important for everybody as it is for me. That makes me more relaxed.’
Do you think not coming from a musical family has given you a different out-look?
‘When I was younger I was sometimes a bit frustrated about the fact that I had to do everything on my own, but the great thing is now I know I did it all on my own! That helps me so much. I know I deserve to be where I am. I think that also has some impact on how I perform when I’m standing there, that I have more security, that I’m allowed to be there. Every musician has those doubts from time to time, but deep down there’s the knowledge that you deserve it, that you worked for it.’