We had the opportunity to catch up with Alison Scherzer, Soprano and Lyric Arts Alum, about her adventures over the pond, upcoming performance of "I am a Stranger Here Myself," and upcoming film, "Operatic." We're so pleased to welcome Alison to the Main Street Stage once again on June 27th and were excited to hear about all her past, present, and future endeavors. LA: Tell us a little bit about your roots in the Twin Cities area.
AS: I grew up in Coon Rapids and was very involved in choir during high school, though I had also taken lessons in cello and piano. At that point, I hadn’t seriously started studying opera or musical theater and feel that my musical “roots” are really in choral music. I lived in the Twin Cities for a year after college working for composer Stephen Paulus and The Schubert Club and performed with Nautilus Music-Theater and Skylark Opera before moving to Cincinnati to go to graduate school in 2007. I have visited Minnesota every year since then, not to perform but mostly to visit family and “recharge” before the next project.
LA: What made you decide to become an opera singer?
AS: During college I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, which is considered to be the classical music capital of the world. I’d had quite a bit of exposure to opera by then, but taking in several performances a week and seeing not only the musical talent on stage, but the enthusiasm and respect that Viennese audiences have towards classical music was an experience that gave me the final “nudge” towards choosing opera as a career.
LA: Talk a little bit about your experiences with Lyric Arts.
AS: My first experience with Lyric Arts was exactly 10 years ago, when I was cast as Mabel in the summer stock production of Pirates of Penzance directed by Matt McNabb. I remember there was already a clearly established community of actors and singers who regularly performed at the Lyric Arts and were very close. I always felt welcome and very much enjoyed working with everyone involved in the production. Since then, I have visited Lyric Arts as an audience member when in town, attending productions like Wait Until Dark, Cabaret, and The Laramie Project.
LA: What has it been like traveling and living in Europe?
AS: I have wanted to live and work abroad since my very first trip to Europe with my family when I was 14 years old. I had several study abroad experiences in Europe throughout school, but actually living there is quite different. I think that more than adjusting to foreign language, food and culture, the starkest difference is the constant exposure to so much history. I live thirty minutes away from Beethoven’s birth house! And just a few weeks ago, the city of Cologne discovered a bomb from WW2 that had never been detonated! It has really influenced my perception of time and how people are connected to the past.
LA: You sing in several languages, are you also proficient or fluent in any foreign languages?
AS: German is my most proficient language, since I am based in Cologne, but I also speak some French and Italian. Greek is the next language on my list to learn, because my boyfriend and some of his family are Greek. I just recently attended a Greek wedding in Athens for the first time. The hospitality of the culture and the musical nature of the language have really inspired me to start learning!
LA: Describe one of your most favorite moments living overseas.
AS: During my first summer in Germany, I was hired to play Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the outside courtyard of a castle. I also performed a few songs at a Wandelkonzert, which is a “promenade concert” where each musical piece is performed in a different room within the castle. As someone who grew up only seeing castles in the movies, that was a real life experience I will never forget!
LA: Alison, you’ve been traveling the world as an opera singer, putting on concerts and now involved in a very exciting new film. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved in this project, Operatic?
AS: I became involved with Operatic through my collaboration with an opera ensemble called The Cast. Operatic is a music documentary film giving insight on the lives of six freelance opera singers and how we work together within the opera “band”. There was a film crew who accompanied us on tour for about a year to record concerts and conduct interviews, asking our opinions on singing, on living in Germany and what it is like to be a professional musician. There will be a screening soon in Columbia Heights of the film on June 29th at the Heights Theater for those interested in attending!
LA: What made you think to come back to Lyric Arts and present what we’re sure will be a lovely concert, “I am a Stranger Here Myself”?
AS: The summer before I moved to Berlin I went to see the Lyric Arts’ production of Cabaret, a Broadway musical depicting the Weimar Kabarett era of Berlin in 1931, just as the Nazis were coming into power. I think seeing that production had indirectly planted a seed in my head, because when I decided to perform a concert of European and American cabaret songs for friends and family in the Twin Cities, Lyric Arts was the first and only venue I had considered!
LA: Tell us a little bit about this concert. What inspired its name? Selections?
AS: “I Am a Stranger Here Myself” is the title of a song from One Touch of Venus by Kurt Weill. What had attracted me to this particular song were the lyrics, because it was the first time I had heard the term “stranger” used in a context outside of simply referring to one’s environment. It gave me an understanding that feeling like a stranger can be applied to love, location, or simply living! And I think this is a feeling that most people have experience with and can relate to! This concept is a recurring theme in most of the music I am performing, so that is why the title of the song is very fitting as the title for this concert. I chose French, German and songs spanning almost 100 years by composers who seemingly have nothing to do with each other, from Erik Satie to Friedrich Holländer to William Bolcom. There are some melodies most people will recognize, but it is mainly music that I have picked up either during my studies or while living abroad.
LA: Will you be performing this in other parts of the metro? US?
AS: Since I am only here for a limited amount of time, this is the only performance of the concert in the Twin Cities and in the US to date. I will be performing a similar program with an accordion player in Germany this July, accompanied by orchestra (in the same aforementioned castle!) as the opening concert at a music festival.
LA: What’s next for you, Alison?
AS: As I mentioned before, when I return to Germany in July, I will repeat a similar cabaret program with orchestra at the Wernigeröder Schloßfestpiele. In the fall and winter, I will be performing Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel with an opera company in Cologne, and have a few opera concerts in Bonn, Olpe and Frankfurt with The Cast. And at the end of the year, I will be collaborating with Operatic director Jorgos Katsimitsoulias, performing a concert of modern art song with live visual projection and abstract drawing. So there will be quite a potpourri of musical styles for me to perform in the next few months!