Follow Frost School of Music Dean Berg’s Journey to Salzburg, Austria

August 09, 2016 — Coral Gables, FL — Shelly Berg, Dean of the Frost School of Music, is in Salzburg, Austria, to visit students participating in the School’s six-week summer Salzburg Opera Program and the legendary Salzburg Festival in Austria. He is traveling with a group of donors to the program, who will meet with the talented singers and pianists who are participating this summer. Berg offered to blog about his musical and personal impressions of the trip for the Frost School of Music and UM News.

Saturday, August 6, 2016
I arrived yesterday evening in Salzburg, Austria under a thick cloud of fog. The tall mountains were barely visible as my taxi made its way from the airport to the charming city that has hosted the Salzburg Music Festival since 1926.

I joined our donors, Assistant Professor Robynne Redmon and the other vocal and piano faculty who are teaching at UM’s Salzburg Opera Program this year, for a charming dinner at the Stifskeller St. Peter, which I am told is the oldest restaurant in Europe! While enjoying a delicious traditional meal of beef consume soup followed by schnitzel and boiled potatoes, I learned there are 38 students studying abroad this summer in our program, hailing from the University of Miami Frost School of Music, The Cleveland Institute, Chapman College, McGill University, Loyola Marymount, and more.

It was still drizzling Saturday morning as we all met at 8:30 a.m. for a tour of the Salzburg Efestspielhauser, an impressive conglomerate of three opera houses that host over 200 opera, concert and theater events for 260,000 visitors each festival season. Since Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart, they naturally present his operatic works, along with others from the traditional canon, and new works. Of particular excitement to the students was to enter the largest festival hall that was originally a stone quarry, carved into a horse stable and theater to parade horses for the monarchy of the time. The cavernous space was adopted by the festival for large-scale operas, but today is probably best recognized as the setting for the Trapp Family’s ‘farewell’ scene in The Sound of Music. It was a thrill to see it, and realize the impact the movie, and its music, has made on generations since.

Afterward, Emily Ennis, rising junior vocal performance major at UM Frost, expressed her enthusiasm for the entire six-week program and how her study abroad experience here has broadened her world-view. “In Salzburg, opera and classical music is a lifestyle, whereas in the U.S. it is viewed more as an art form…something to be studied. Here, music and art is valued tremendously. It feels like the lifestyle in music that I aspire to have.” In addition to private voice lessons and repertoire coaching, she takes daily German lessons, and has enjoyed many social outings with others in the program to practice the language. She’ll perform in a Schubert concert on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to hearing how her singing and diction has progressed this summer.

Another young vocalist, 18-year-old Canadian Olivia Charette who is entering McGill University as a music major this fall, share’s Ennis’s view. “At home, singing seems more technical. Here it becomes 3-D, it comes alive! I’m getting a glimpse into how the professional world works, how the staging is done, how collaborative it is. The singers who give master classes share the journeys that they’ve made – it is inspiring. I just decided this week that I definitely want to become a professional opera singer. This program has opened up all aspects for me.”

Next was a tour of the DomQuartier, an amazing cathedral and residence built over 400 years ago for Salzburg’s prince-archbishops, and the site of Mozart’s first recital in the town of his birth, when he was six years old! As the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, the jewel-like city revealed itself. From numerous tree-shaded beer gardens that have been in existence since the 1500s, to sparkling shop windows displaying traditional Austrian clothing and Mozart-themed chocolates, I enjoyed taking it all in. The sound of a brass quintet rose from the steps of a nearby church, and almost on cue, the church bells began to toll with a deep and rich resonance that made me feel, too, that music imbues the culture at every turn. It’s one of the reasons I love Miami, another place where music is all around, reflecting the melting pot of cultures that also attracts thousands to its shores.

The day ended with a Frost/Salzburg first - a thrilling “all Mozart” concert in the Mozarteum, featuring select students in our summer program as soloists with the Salzburg Orchestra Soloists (SAOS), a chamber orchestra of leading members of the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchesra, The Camerata Salzburg, and other major orchestras in the region. The SAOS performs Mozart’s works with characteristic sound and style, great musicality, and verve. My personal highlight was to see and hear our rising junior, Cameron Sledjeskiy, a baritone in the Department of Vocal Performance at the Frost School, “rock it” on Mozart’s demanding and virtuosic aria “Auf zu dem Feste” (“On to the Feast”) from the comic opera Don Giovanni.

It was a great day in one of the world’s cradles of musical genius, and it filled me with pride to know that we incubate a special and transformative immersion for the gifted students of the Frost Salzburg Program.

Friday, August 5, 2016
I’m making my way to Salzburg, Austria, a charming city nestled high in the Alps, and the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to visit the Frost School of Music’s Salzburg Opera Program, founded by my predecessor Dean Emeritus Bill Hipp over 30 years ago. It has progressed into one of the world’s most respected summer opera programs for aspiring professional singers, and I’m eager to take it all in for the very first time.

Now under the leadership of Assistant Professor Robynne Redmon, an acclaimed mezzo-soprano who maintains a robust professional schedule and full private teaching load during the academic year, the program has grown to include in-depth master classes, private lessons, concerts with live orchestra, and lectures with opera singers, music scholars, and conductors.

Over a dozen donors to the Frost School’s program will be joining me, Robynne, and the students on Saturday morning for a tour of the Salzburger Festspielhäuser, and the DomQuartier, followed by a two-hour master class with Luca Pisaroni, a featured artist in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival. Our opera students will then perform a concert with a professional orchestra on Saturday night!

On Sunday we’ll be heading to the Salzkammergut (Lake District) where we’ll visit the charming town of Mondsee and the site of the church used for the wedding scene in The Sound of Music. On Tuesday our students will be performing at the beautiful Leopoldskron estate, which was used for the interior ballroom and outdoor lake scenes in the movie.

What a start to a full week of amazing study abroad activities! I took a group of university students to Salzburg about 25 years ago, early in my career, and I can’t wait to return and share its magic with our donors and all of our summer opera students and hard-working faculty.

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Dean Shelton Berg, Frost School of Music