Traveling to Europe at the height of a pandemic was not planned, but a baritone singer says the reality of life in a country with 30,000 daily Covid cases was surprisingly normal.
Kiwi duo Angus Simmons and his wife, Anna, prepare to perform in Nelson, showing off their baritone and soprano voices that have been finely tuned after a year in the birthplace of opera, Italy.
The couple had received extensive training in classical music and opera in New Zealand, including completing the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Studio Artist Program with Opera New Zealand, but they wanted to accelerate their development, Angus said.
And the perfect place to do it was in Treviso, Italy, where a “highly regarded singing teacher was based”, he said.
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The plan had always been to move to Europe in September 2020 and settle in Germany.
“When the pandemic hit, we thought: maybe it will be a wrench,” but he said after a conversation with his wife, it was decided, “if not now, then when?”
The developmental life of an opera singer is short, Angus said. The best years for development are in your twenties, and if you’re deemed to have started too late, you’re left behind, he said.
The couple took the plunge and were pleasantly surprised by an almost normal life.
“When we arrived in Germany they were doing very well, they only had 5,000 cases a day, out of a population of 83 million,” Angus said.
Chancellor Merkel said schools and most shops would close from Wednesday to tackle rising coronavirus cases. Posted on December 14
“It didn’t get in the way of what we had planned to do. We had the absolute time of our lives.
Masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer were part of everyday life, but so was travel, voice coaching and visiting friends without the main topic of conversation being about Covid, he said.
When cases rose to 30,000 a day in the winter, the pandemic wasn’t even mentioned, “you just kept going,” he said.
Angus and Anna did not catch Covid, despite living through Europe’s very loose lockdown, which Angus likened to New Zealand’s Tier 2 alert system.
“We had to go on the Berlin underground every day, without social distancing” before vaccines became available, he said.
“Thirty thousand cases a day, and we’ve never had one. We wore masks, of course.
Although they want to stay in Europe, the couple returned to New Zealand to renew their visas in September and plan to return later this year. They currently live in Kaiteriteri.
The couple were fully vaccinated in Germany and received booster shots in New Zealand before Christmas, Angus said.
He said moving to Europe was necessary, and something they didn’t regret “for a second”.
“If we had stayed in New Zealand, we would have artistically stood still. We felt we needed to take the next step to really challenge ourselves and grow our craft. We had to leave.
The training the couple received in Treviso was “really beneficial”, he said.
“Our singing has improved by a factor of 10.”
Angus said he was looking forward to performing at the Chanel Arts Center in Motueka with his wife, pianist David Kelly and flautist Luca Manghi.
“It’s a beautiful program and it’s nice to come back from Italy with our new voices and to share them.”