Spotlight on: Vanessa Oude-Reimerink Photo by Brent Calis.

Spotlight on: Vanessa Oude-Reimerink

Jenna Simeonov

Canadian soprano Vanessa Oude-Reimerink is currently in Banff, AB, with Against the Grain Theatre and the Open Space: Opera in the 21st Century program, to sing Lucia in The Rape of Lucretia and Sarah Thorpe in No One’s Safe. She’s a recent Emerging Artist with Calgary Opera, and a soon-to-be member of Vancouver Opera’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist program.

She took the time to talk about the “wrestling coach” mindset that gets her pumped for a performance, and about the feeling of “floating” that comes with great singing.

Why do you sing, and why are you doing it professionally?

First off, I have been very fortunate that I have been able to sing professionally for the past couple of years. If I was not singing professionally, I would still be trying to sing professionally and pursuing that goal. Singing is the only job I’ve ever had where I truly feel fulfilled. I love telling stories and communicating with others, and to be able to use my voice as a form of expression is incredible.

I am also a huge people person and love working with others towards an end project. Though I love performing, I also love the process of getting to the performance. When I am in rehearsals, I look forward to getting up each morning and really enjoy collaborating with my colleagues. The people I work with have so much talent and intelligence to share and I love learning from them every day.

What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?

Good singing is when you get to the performance or audition and you have done absolutely all the preparation you could have done. You let go, are not worried at all about technique and you just sing and communicate with full honesty, freedom and commitment. I can’t really explain how to get to this point – it sometimes happens for me and it sometimes doesn’t. I’m still trying to discover how to reach it every time. However, when it’s happening, I definitely know and I have a feeling of lightless – kind of like I’m floating.

Vanessa (centre) as Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Opera McGill, 2014. Photo by Adam Scotti.

What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?

Young singers need to have balance in their lives. It’s important to remember that you are much more than just a singer! Make a list of all the aspects of singing you love and what qualities they bring out in you. When you’re between gigs or not singing as much, find non-singing activities that can stimulate those areas in your life, so that you can still feel fulfilled. It’s so easy to get 100% caught up in the singing world, which can sometimes make you lose sight of who you are, but it’s much healthier if you are living a balanced life.

Young singers can judge less – whether it be judging themselves or comparing themselves to others. It’s a much better use of energy to send out positivity and optimism. I watched a movie about wrestling last year and had an epiphany – why don’t we try to pump ourselves up before an audition or performance in the same way athletes pump themselves up before a match? So, I started this “wrestling coach” thing where I would try to pump myself (or my colleagues) up before and during performances.

Normally, the voice in my head would say things like “you’re running out of air” but instead I try to hear “you have all the air in the world and you WILL make it through this phrase!” I really believe that sending out positive energy and thoughts will not only make your life more enjoyable, but you will notice a difference in the people who surround you.

Do you have any “bucket list” roles you’d like to sing (realistically or otherwise)?

Fiordiligi, Adina, Norina, Anne Trulove. Non-realistic: Carmen!

As Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Halifax Summer Opera Festival, 2013. Photo by Emily Jewer

How do you explain your job to non-music folks?

In this stage of my career, a lot of it is explaining what a Young Artist Program is – so, I explain that there are a few of the major opera companies in Canada who do national auditions and select a small group of singers for their Young Artist Program, which is like a paid internship. The opera companies are basically investing in young singers, and provide training, performance and networking opportunities. The other aspect is explaining to people that sometimes singing isn’t the only way I pay my bills, and that I have had to search for and take on other flexible jobs between gigs to supplement my singing career - and, of course, saying that there’s absolutely no shame in this. ;)

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