Monday, October 3, 2016

Malte Roesner discusses his fach change and fitness routine

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
When we first met Malte Roesner in France last year, he was singing as a baritone and wrapping up a decade long run at the Staatstheater Braunschweig (State Theater of Brunswick). Since that time, he has gone through a fach change to bass and recently came to California for a series of coachings and auditions, hoping to make his U.S. debut in the near future.

He is featured prominently in this year's calendar, "Barihunks in Bed," and it's his gorgeous face that graces the cover. We asked him a few questions about this newest stage of his career.

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
1. What prompted the fach change?

I have always had an extension in the bottom of my range that is unusual for a baritone, and I remember that when I was studying, I had to be mindful not to  cover and transition into the passaggio "too early“. But, then again, at  20-something years old my timbre seemed too bright for a lower fach, and, after  all, I had the top notes.  So I started my career as a baritone at the Brunswick National Theater and sang  55 roles there over the course of ten and a half years. 

The older I got, the  harder it became to maintain the high baritone tessitura. Regardless, if you are hired for a certain repertoire in the fest-system you, of course, have to sing  it. After I left Brunswick, I  took some time to refocus on technique and come back to my natural voice. Because a singer's identity is often  tied to his or  her voice-type, it didn't even occur to me to try out bass repertoire at first.  It took my voice teacher telling me to just bring absolutely anything I wanted  and felt comfortable with to my lesson for me to start experimenting with lower  repertoire.  I started with bass-baritone arias, but as my voice started to relax into the  new range, I also added in real bass repertoire.

One of the first low bass arias I worked on was Sarastro, because I remembered a rehearsal for a Magic Flute revival – I was singing Papageno – where I jokingly sang a few of Sarastro's  lines down to the low F in the first finale. Afterwards the Monostatos came up  to me and told me that it sounded as if I was actually more at home down there.

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
2. What are you working on for rep?

Six months is not a long time for a fach change and my voice is still settling and my timbre  still darkening. So I am trying to stay open minded about what to sing and just take the cues from my voice, but basso cantante seems to describe  it best at the moment. 

For my first auditions I combined some bass-baritone repertoire, like Figaro and Pizarro, with real bass repertoire, like Don Basilio and Sarastro. This seems  appropriate since even some of the greatest basses of the past, e.g. Ezio Pinza  or Cesare Siepi, (I am honestly just looking at rep and not comparing myself), used to straddle the fence in their youth – youth of course being a very  relative term for a bass. 

Recently a friend of mine and two great coaches that I had the chance to work  with in California gave me a few recommendations.  Some of my next projects are  going to be Kaspar from Weber's Freischütz, Boito's Mephistophele and Floyd's Susanna

I am really looking forward to continuing this journey

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
3. You recently came to California. Tell us about your visit.

Except for the the top-tier, the European and the North American opera-worlds  are quite separated. I am in the rare situation that, because I was born in New  York to German parents, I have dual citizenship which allows me to work in both  areas without a visa. This is why ever since I started singing professionally, I  had the plan to one day also sing in the US. 

When a patron and Barihunks invited me to California for an audition tour, I of  course jumped at the chance.  In September, I had the opportunity to prepare my very first auditions in San Francisco and Los  Angeles as a bass. with some of the best coaches I have ever worked with, and then audition for a couple of great companies in the Bay Area. 

Leaving the practice room for the first time after such a transition can be daunting, so I am really happy about the very positive feedback that supports my  decision for the fach change. 

But of course my month in California was not just all work. I fell in love with the Bay Area; exploring San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, and spent more time wine-tasting with a former sommelier as my guide in the wine country than I would like to admit (note to self: it's good to be a bass). I tasted  amazing food from all over the world. Most notably, I had the chance to eat at  one of the restaurants of Dominique Crenn, the highest rated female chef in the  world. I got to hear great opera and a concert that merged Jazz with classical  and northern African influences. I spend time in museums, thrift stores and spas, in nature, on a ferry and on a roller-coaster. I went to a baseball game and a drag show with Latrice Royale. I even got to have lunch with Jake Heggie and talk to him about my translation of one of his operas (For a Look or a Touch) and he turned out to be an extremely nice guy. 

But most importantly I met kind, generous and wonderful people and made new friends.  As one can tell I just had the worst time ...

Malte Roesner from his recent Barihunks photo shoot
4. What is your workout routine?

After an injury a few years ago, I unfortunately had to stop training martial arts for a while. I  started doing a work out method called EMS (Electro Myo Stimulation) instead  that is unfortunately not FDA approved in the States yet. I used the fitness-level I got there to start testing my limits and tried all kinds of things. I built some muscle-mass with squats and barbell complexes and then I  got really lean with HIIT (high intensity interval training). 

At the moment I am more interested in functional fitness.  I do heavy multi-joint barbell lifts for strength, kettlebell and bodyweight  HIIT workouts for conditioning, and some yoga; because yoga is just good for you.  For me, the combination of these methods covers all aspects of fitness I need  for my well-being.  The dynamic full body workout with kettlebells and the  gentle strength and flexibility gained through yoga seem to me especially ideal  for singers, seeing as both work with the breath.

Malte Roesner demonstrating the "baritone claw" in San Francisco
5. Is it really "All about the bass"?

Is there any question about that?

Well, I guess in opera it often seems as if it were all about the soprano and the tenor, but that is OK.  I love the roles that might be coming my way and I love how the new fach feels  in my body. Maybe it has to do with the fact that while I was singing as a  baritone, the tessitura was  high relative to my passaggio and my range. I had  this whole lower part of my voice that I never got to use. Now I am just  discovering the relaxation and opening needed for the extreme low notes. Most  other voice-types have their money-notes in the top. Only a bass is truly  measured by his low notes.  Especially as a recovering baritone, the top is not an issue for me.

So in this  sense, being a bass really is “all about the bass.”

You can enjoy more pictures of Malte Roesner in our new "Barihunks in Bed 2017" calendar, which is available now. Simply click on the LULU button below.

Support independent publishing: Buy this calendar on Lulu.

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