This month we celebrated International Women’s Day so I thought it would be interesting to feature Bavarian mezzo soprano Stefanie Iranyi who will be collaborating with her partner Asher Fisch in concerts with the WA Symphony Orchestra this week. Stefanie balances her role as a mother with her international singing career (she has sung under the batons of conductors Zubin Mehta, Helmut Rilling, Jeffrey Tate and Bruno Bartoletti).

Stefanie shares with us her love for drama (on and off the stage!), the privileged moments of mothering and her seriously impressed reaction to the WA Symphony Orchestra.

What music gets your heart racing?
 Siegfried’s funeral march
What calms you down?
 My daughter falling asleep on me

What do you sing along to?
 Whatever gets stuck in my ears – sometimes not very much to my liking

What are your impressions of the WA Symphony Orchestra?
 I had the great pleasure to hear the Beethoven cycle. It is just amazing that an orchestra far away from the famous orchestras spread out in Europe or the US plays on such a high and, if I may – unexpected level! It seems that they really enjoy playing and making it happen!
How are you preparing for the Gershwin and Viennese repertoire you will be singing with WASO this weekend?
I listen to the music of the period, not so much the songs themselves but more the music around. That gives you a good idea and your ears get used to the style.
Mark Applebaum says music should be above all else interesting. What do you think is the most important role of music?
If somebody comes after a concert and tells you that it was very interesting you should get very concerned….It’s a famous way out of not saying that it was horrible!!
Music should move – literally and also emotionally!
You have a soft spot for laments (your debut album with the Hofkapelle München features laments by Handel, Haydn and Hasse) – what is the appeal of this repertoire?
All these women were suffering badly. They went through big emotions, which is of course then shown in the music and requests a lot of different colours, volume ranges. I would say I have a soft spot for drama. On stage and also at home 😉
What sort of vocal fach do you tend towards or is your voice still growing?
Indeed, my voice is still growing. Especially after I gave birth to my daughter. I was a lyric mezzo and now I am approaching the “Jugendlich dramatisches Fach” [lirico spinto soprano].
You performed a recital with Asher Fisch in Melbourne in 2013. Do you perform together often?
Yes, we do!
What a privilege to be able to share something you are both so passionate about together. But it must also create potential for some competition/conflict?
 We both appreciate each other’s opinion and have no problems to accept the criticism. We are actually most happy if the other one is sitting in the concert or attending the rehearsals. It helps so much if there is somebody whose ears and judgment you can trust. That is very rare in our business! Our conflicts are more based on different ideas how to clean a kitchen 😉
Iranyi as Despina (Cosi fan tutte) Teatro Regio di Parma 2008)
How did you and Asher meet?
We met on stage. A Parsifal production in Naples.
You have a 2 year old daughter Livia. What do you suggest is a good way to introduce children to classical music?
A natural one. Nothing forced. At this age, kids still do have a good instinct, still not influenced – we should take advantage of this and expose them to all different kinds of music. They will let us know what they like.
I have two preschool children myself and know how hard it is to juggle work and family. How do you manage the work/life balance with a very young daughter and Asher often working away?
For this reason, we moved close to my parents and are now living in a beautiful area in the mountains. Livia from early on stayed with them when we both had concerts. She is so happy there, and I am completely relaxed when I have to leave her. Knowing that she will get the same education and especially all the love, which she would get from us! It is a win – win situation!
We celebrated International Woman’s Day earlier this month. Do you think it is getting any easier for women to have both a career and motherhood?
Well, I only can speak for my country Germany. Something is happening there, but still it is hard to get a place for them in a Kindergrippe, even though by law every child is entitled. Especially in rural areas the idea to send kids from early age to a Kindergarten is being regarded as the wrong decision – to express it in a mild way. I think there is still a way to go!
Singers use their most personal facility – their voice – as their profession. How do you cope with something so personal and vulnerable being under scrutiny? How do you manage the flu/sleep deprivation/hormone changes/emotions and everything else that effects the voice?
You learn very early on not to take critique too personally, especially when it comes to the quality of voice. It is something you cannot change; the earlier you accept it the better! In addition, it is completely subjective. One person is in love with your voice, the next one thinks it is a mediocre boring sound.

Where do you stay when you are in Perth? Do you have a favourite place to go or restaurant to eat at?
In August last year we went to a coffee place in Cottesloe…I love it!

Do you have a soft spot for anything else in life or is it all about the music and the family?
Listen to Stefanie’s pearly mezzo/ lirico spinto soprano in the Lacrimosa from Verdi’s Requiem, performed in Moscow in December.
Big thanks to Stefanie Iranyi for making time for Celebrity Soft Spot. For more info on the singer go to her website. Full details of her concert with WASO on March 20th and 21st can be found at the orchestra’s website.

I hope you are enjoying the new Celebrity Soft Spot series. 
Do you have a suggestion of who we should include on the list? Is there an artist you know doing something exciting in WA?