Lindsay's Salzburg Blog

August 18th, 2009

What is “language immersion” anyway?

In Austria, it’s not mandatory.  Austrians learn English in school and almost all of them speak English to us after hearing us say “Gruess Gott” or just by looking at our dress.  My colleagues wear tshirts and hoodies with their college or sorority in big letters: that’s a pretty good give-away.  The city of Salzburg watches hoards of tourists hop off their busses all summer long, sells them silly souvenirs, and gives them directions to Mozart’s houses.  The Salzburg people are used to helping lost Asian, Italian, and American tourists.

Language immersion is a choice to open one’s ears and one’s minds.  It takes humility because one has to “dumb down” thoughts and vocabulary.  Sometimes I just can’t say exactly what I want to say, but I can try to find a simpler way to get my idea across.  I’ve also felt myself simply thinking more before I speak.  The extra things that usually fly out of my mouth become censored, toning down my usual extroverted personality.

With my Intermediate German class and our super cool professor from Rice University.

We had just finished our last review game and celebrated by sharing the usual bag of Mozart Kugeln!

The little things I did to practice my German:

-reading the subtitles for the operas at the film festival.

– asking for help about the buses after the opera.

– teaching the beginner students little phrases at lunchtime at the college

-buying food on the weekends or at the café

-listening to the trilingual Salt Mine tourguide

-listening to musicians who introduce their songs and joke around with the audience

-watch the masterclasses

-look at headlines on the newspapers at the breakfast table

-listen to my Gastmutter and ask her when I don’t know a word; she can talk for hours

-tell her how my day was.  It’s like I’m a six yearold telling my mom what I did at school today over cheese and crackers.

-watching the news with our Gastbruder

-watching “La Vie en Rouge” dubbed over in German

-talking with the people at the arts and crafts tents by the river

-hearing the recording on the bus saying “Anschluss in Richtung” and “Ferdinand Hanuschplatz” “Alle aufsteigen bitte”

-reading labels under artwork at a museum exhibit about boats and the Danube river

-looking at billboards as I rode the bus

-talking to my coaches in German on our walk to lunch after rehearsal

-listening to my Gastmutter speak to her children or on the cellphone. She speaks faster with them than she does with me and uses more Austrian phrases.

-listening to my Gastmutter’s friend speak in dialect= impossible to understand

-not walking around the city listening to an IPod


Thursday 13th August, 2009

The second of four movies that I’m watching on the plane back home was My Life in Ruins. It was hilarious and a perfect way to laugh at the past month.  It followed a tour guide in Greece with all the stereotypical tourists: obnoxious Americans, the snobby and wealthy unhappy family, the not funny old man, old people, Spanish divorcees, and tipsy Australians.       After watching tourists for 5 weeks and sometimes being one myself, I can relate to and laugh at their experiences:

Long, hot days; endlessly boring but educational tours; seeing world famous sites that in reality may not be that exciting; buying over-priced souvenirs made in China; eating ice cream all the time; eating anything that will make you fat but is allowed on vacation; having to get along with a diverse group of strangers; and finally, letting loose and allowing your adventure to change you.

Wednesday 12th August, 2009

Today was my last day, and it was so incredibly busy!  I packed everything last night, and took my German final this morning.  We did our program evaluation after the test which took a lot more mental energy that I wanted to give out after my final.  We ended up talking through parts of the evaluation with each other and with our teacher.  I went home for the first time in the middle of the day to get my gown, and came back to eat a wonderful last lunch with my friends at the college.

One of my favorite parts of being on stage is getting to put stage make-up and fancy costumes!  The girls crowded in front of the little mirror in the kitchen bathroom to put on make-up and tease, spray, and pin hair.  It was wonderful to see my friends walk out one by one with their brightly colored gown and their jewels looking like princesses!  We went all out for our final concert of opera scenes and solos.  I sang in the Die Zauberfloete final and the Candide finale, as well as my role of Gianetta in the Elixir of Love by Donizetti.  In the opera, I found out that Nemorino had inherited a lot of money from his uncle, and I spread the gossip to all the girls in the village.  We played our operatic game of Telephone with wicked delight!

After our 3 hour concert, we went back to the college to enjoy the most delicious schnitzel with jelly, spinach squares, and endless desserts. Unfortunately, many of us had tickets to Le Nozze di Figaro and had 15 minutes to eat our dinner.  It was delicious, and I wish I could have savored it!

Still in our gowns, we went to the Haus fuer Mozart and found our seats or standing spots.  The orchestra began tuning the moment we all got there.  I was lucky enough to have a seat, and I didn’t feel guilty because I had stood through a dozen operas in Vienna.  I didn’t want to stand through another.  We had the worst seats in the house: the very top and side of the house and couldn’t see the bottom-left corner of the stage or the middle of the supertitles screen.  But I wasn’t complaining!  I could lean my head on the big rail in front of me, and I’ve seen Figaro enough that I could just enjoy the Italian.  I know that by the end of October, I’ll be sick of Figaro, since we’re doing it at Vanderbilt, but for now, it’s a mystery of confusion and Mozart beauty!

The costumes were simple black and white providing less distinction between the Count, Countess and their servants.  This made the Countess and Susanna switch more believable.  The stage was filled with a huge, white staircase and beautifully grand white walls.  This production’s director added a dancer who represents Cupid.  When Cupid cast his spell over the characters, they moved in dance and time moved differently, and the lighting changed to more purples and reds.  He gave some of the arias a clearer reason for changing tempo or character, and manipulated big chunks of time.  This addition of Cupid took away the fault of the plot from the characters because he controlled them at crucial points.  One could say that the Cupid device just made the director stage less of the repeated text.  There actually wasn’t as much staged in reality as usual in Mozart operas, but the choreography complimented the music so beautifully and added a new dimension without detracting from the essence of the story.

My friend wrote a paper on Cherubino and explored how he represented not only adolescent lust but all forms of love.   There was a close connection between Cherubino and Cupid:  in the finale, Cupid lost his power over all the couples except for Cherubino.  When Cupid flew out the window, Cherubino collapsed simultaneously.  I can’t wait to read her paper and do more research on the different levels of Cherubino since I’ll be putting on his pants this fall.

August 7th 2009 evening

Kontinent Varese

The first piece by Varese: an alternation of a live ensemble of musicians and pre-recorded sounds coming from loud-speakers placed above us in the Kollegian Kirche that is under renovation.

The electronic parts were factory noises, which in turn inspired the instruments to imitate those real-life sounds.  Traditional form, harmony, rhythm, consonance, and instrumentation was thrown out the stained-glass window.  Dissonance raged, rhythm disappeared, and as the sun set, the mysterious sounds grew scarier in the dark church.

When the music ended, a fellow singer behind me exploded with disgust, “Why are people clapping?! That wasn’t even music! That was just noise, awful noise.  I’m leaving!”

She was not alone in her reaction of outrage, but I was disappointed that a music student could not at least appreciate that as being music even if she didn’t enjoy it.  We’ve all taken enough classes that explore ideas of music that push the envelope, and I found that experiencing it live was so much better than talking about in the classroom.  It was sad that most of my peers left after the first piece because the two pieces following it were incredible.  Choirs sang pitches that seemed impossible to find without perfect pitch; the voices blended perfectly; the choir championed the art of scatter breathing.  I remember Dr. Calico playing a piece for us first semester where the listener’s perception of time was warped.  I felt that the second piece accomplished this stretching of time in a most non-earthly manner.

August 8, 2009

We just ate plum knoedel: potatoes, flour, eggs made up the “teik” (dough).  There were balls, and when we poked the first one, plum juice came out!  Oh, the little things can be so exciting!!

Other yummy foods we’ve had: plum pie, apply strudel, veggie strudel, crepes with ice cream inside, schnitzel, potato salad, the salads made of peppers, tomato and different vinaigrettes

August 2, 2009

After going to mass a second time at the monastery, Stifts Peters Kirche, I figured out what they say at the Peace.  In German, they’re saying, “Friede sei mit Ihr.”  Peace be with you! J

We sat behind a pillar, so I couldn’t see the altar.  Luckily, these Catholic churches have side altars!  So my eyes were never bored with all the gold statues and paintings tucked away on the right side.

6 August 2009

Second Masterclass that I saw in the Young Artists’s Program, part of the Salzburger Festspiel:

The young singers:

-Soprano from California whose German was good enough that she introduced herself in German

-Mezzo from Switzerland, whose German was quick and confident

-Mezzo from Moskow, lives in Paris, and only spoke in English with Schade

-tenor from Australia who lives in Berlin, and who introduced himself in German

-baritone from Ukraine, struggled to introduce himself in English

-bass from Buenos Aires, spoke in English,

-countertenor, who I think was also from Switzlerland, but at the second masterclass, I thought I understand him to say he grew up singing in the Vienna Boy’s Choir

Michael Schade, a Canadian tenor with a German mother, switched between English to German very easily when he spoke to the audience and to the different singers.

Marjana Lipovsek who gave the 2nd class also was perfectly bilingual.

Michael Schade said this to wrap up that afternoon’s program:

“I’m going to say this in English so everyone can understand.  It’s amazing how our art form can be global. We have a baritone from Ukraine and a bass from Argentina singing German Lieder.”

How ironic that German would not be the common language at a Salzburg Festival event.

Story that Jenny’s Gastvater had told her was repeated to a group of us at the café one morning after German class:

“He was traveling in a foreign country and was having a conversation with another man in broken English until the man’s friend came up to him and spoke in German with him.

They were both Austrian but had assumed that their only common language would be English.”  When did English become the universal language?

It’s really bothering me that my friends who have all had at least a couple of weeks of German are still not trying to communicate with waitresses in German.

Even my classmates in Intermediate just sit and watch the waitresses struggle to understand our English.

August 7, 2009

Eric Cutler Meet the Artist:

A Luther College grad, this tenor from Iowa is singing at the Festival this summer, and one of our professors asked him to come talk to us about his career.

So in his internationally awesome career, the one thing that he wasn’t prepared for was being expected to speak 4 languages just to communicate with his colleagues. Conductors can switch from one to the other in a second, since the musicians are from multiple countries.  Eric made the bold statement that, American singers are better than European singers.  We’re getting better training.  One big factor that affects the American product is that our opera houses are much bigger, so the voice has to fill a larger space.

Despite this superiority, Cutler said that there is most definitely a cultural bias against American singers, and that Italian singers will be hired to sing roles sometimes because their Italian.

He’s in the middle of a very successful career, but he spoke of the necessary evil that is the agent and was also candid about the not-so-glamourous side of having an international career.  I remember Susan Dunn telling me when I was a junior in high school how lonely it can be traveling, being in hotel rooms, and not having a family.  Eric Cutler echoed this sentiment.  He admitted that he got homesick for America and missed basic things like watching his favorite baseball team.

I agree with his observation that some people leave America and think their eyes are suddenly opened to how evil and awful America is now that they know how perfect and wonderful Europe is.  Some people never get used to being in Europe and burst with patriotism for home.  He said that he has a mixture of both feelings, and he’s lucky enough that he can choose to perform in both Europe and America.

July 25th, 2009

Today was the opening of the festival!   I’ve been anxiously waiting getting to see some performances finally!  I’ve mastered how to get to school and back again, how to practice, how to do homework so it doesn’t pile up, and how to wake up at 7:30 every morning.   I don’t really know how to get anywhere other than school and home, so I’m excited to explore the city and find the important places without a tour guide.  There are performances going on all day at different venues, and I went through the booklet trying to understand the German descriptions of who is playing and what kind of music.  I’ve circled all the ones I might be interested in, so we’ve already got little goals of times and places with rewards at each stop.  Of course, being the girls that we are, Jenny, Michaela, and I got distracted by the arts and crafts fair along the river and spent an hour choosing what earrings to buy J

We went to the famous Marionnette theater and watched a 30 minute version of Die Zauberfloete.  The puppets’ movements are so lifelike that its easy to believe they are singing opera!

After being overfed every meal, we chose to just eat big pretzels for lunch, and I say that was a splendid idea!  The three of us shared a pizza pretzel, an apple strudel pretzel, and a “Mozart” pretzel. (It was just covered in chocolate and had apple inside)

Of the ensembles that we saw today, Hotel Haydn was the most diverse and unique!  They changed instruments for each song, pulling out some instruments that I had no idea what they were!  The men spoke to the audience in German, English, and a little in Italian and mixed modern music with classical Haydn piano music.  Their pianist, a beautiful Indian young woman wearing bright yellow played Haydn beautifully on an electric keyboard.  The music flowed from classical to pop to yodeling in old Austrian tunes.  The drizzling rain was worth it!

Also, it should be noted that today began my deep love for Lederhosen and Dirndln.  I took as many candid pictures as I could.  Everyone wears them, and they’re so beautiful!  My favorite colors are the pastel pinks, purples, and greens.

July 23rd: Hellbrunn and the Wasserspielen

So after our semi-interesting tour of the Hellbrunn palace, we go squirted from all directions at the Watergames.  Our walk around the Hellbrunn grounds was the best landscape!  It felt like a mix between Vanderbilt’s trees, benches, and winding sidewalks, and the green fields of the Santiago country club with the Andes Mountains behind the trees.   We all got giddy when we found the gazebo from the Sound of Music 🙂

Phoebe took us up a mountain, but none of us had come prepared with sneakers, so half the group gave up, but we charged upwards in our sandals.  We saw a stone place where the first opera was performed in a German-speaking land, and then walked through a little museum at the top.  The museum had traditional Austrian things like old Austrian kitchens, flowers, Sissy wigs, wedding “kranze”, and scary Krampus heads!  I loved it!


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  • lindsay8810: Gruess Gott! My name is Lindsay Cunningham, and I'm a Chancellor's Scholar at Vanderbilt University. I'm a vocal performance major in the Blair Schoo
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