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Anna Hofmann is an up-and-coming German opera singer whose voice is full of color and the promise of long and lively career. Born on the feast day of St. Cecilia, November 22, this young Catholic singer believes that the patron saint of musicians has been watching over her for her entire life.
While she has yet to record an album, she has. The videos were shot in the gorgeous Heart of Jesus Church, in Berlin Mitte, and utilize their house organ. In this series, she performed works from Mozart, Schubert, Fauré, Vivaldi, and more.
We had a chance to ask Anna about her music and origins and she was happy to oblige:
When did you know you wanted to be a singer? Did you grow up in a musical houshold?
I grew up in Augustusburg, a small town in Saxony, Germany, 80 kilometers or 50 miles outside of Dresden. My hometown is named after the King Augustus II the Strong, whose hunting lodge remains a beautiful castle there. He, himself, was a converted Catholic in the center of German Protestantism.
My parents, both teachers, don’t come from any special musical background. I remember my father, before he passed, had a warm and soothing voice, which lulled me to sleep while he played the guitar. My father’s lullabies and songs had a great influence on me—leading me to sing before I could truly speak. Before even the age of two, I entertained the crowded public buses by singing loudly traditional German Kinderlieder or children’s songs like “Alle meine Entchen” (All my little duckies) and “Hänschen klein” (Little Hans). Though, at six in the morning, my first audience was more tolerant than amused.
When did your interest in opera begin?
My first performance on the opera stage was at the Opera House of Theater Chemnitz in Humperdinck’s “Hänsel and Gretel.” I was eleven years old and somewhat embarrassingly dressed as a boy, complete with wig, a victim of the lack of males in the Children’s Choir. However, already by that age, I knew I wanted nothing else but to sing for the rest of my life.
I sang in many opera productions, played the violin and the piano, and also attended the school choir, which gave concerts at the local church. I loved singing at church because of the special atmosphere there. Raised atheist, I had little exposure with liturgical music, except for the school choir.
You said you were raised as an atheist. How did you find your way to sacred music?
The first Mass I ever sang was Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle. This wonderful Mass, which has both operatic elements and also delicate thoughtful and sometimes even humorous colors, immediately conquered my 16-year-old heart. It touched me; even though, I had no clue the meaning of the words—as this was the first piece I had ever sung in Latin.
During my studies of operatic singing at Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin, I felt more drawn to sacred music. I participated in the Palestrina Ensemble Berlin, a vocal ensemble that was dedicated to the music of Palestrina, de Victoria, Deprez, Allegri, Tallis and Byrd. We often performed during Mass at the Catholic church.
As a result of singing Masses, I attended church regularly and something started happening to me; something moved in my heart. It was God who spoke to me through the music. I was baptized at the age of 25. The priest who baptized me told me of St. Cecilia. It was then that I realized, it couldn’t be a coincidence that I was born on November the 22nd.
You have an extensive repertoire of arias, operas, operettas, and oratorios. Is there one piece that stands out to you?
In 2013, I had the fortunate opportunity to record some of my favourite sacred arias. One of the pieces I chose was “O salutaris hostia” from my beloved Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, which, with the maturity that comes with age, I finally learned the meaning of the Latin text.
One of the most popular opera composers in history, Rossini wrote his Petite Messe Solennelle (Little Solemn Mass) in 1863, 30 years after his official retirement from composition. Rossini himself described it as “the last of my sins of old age.” It is written for 12 singers, four soloists, two pianos and harmonium. Later Rossini produced an orchestrated version where he included an additional movement — the soprano aria “O salutaris hostia.”
In preparation of recording, my talented colleague, Andrzej Mielewczyk, and I were first skeptical if our version with organ would sound as good as the original setting. But we found our rendition has become a special one and hope all enjoy it.
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