Goa’s piano sensation Andrea Fernandes is back in Goa as part of a concert tour of India with clarinetist Oliver Darnhofer. Her Goa concert will be dedicated to her teacher and mentor Margarida Miranda to celebrate her 80th birthday. She spoke to me about her career and her plans for the future.

How does it feel, coming back to Goa to perform at the 80th birthday celebrations of your teacher Margarida Miranda?

It is an honor for me to be here and perform at this occasion! She has supported me in so many ways and this is a very small way of saying “Thank you”. She is a wonderful pianist and a brilliant musician who has so much to share that the five years I spent as her student play a big role in what I am today as a musician. Her talent, patience and her belief that I could make something of myself is one of the reasons why I am so grateful of having her as a teacher.

I am looking forward to this performance and wishing my dear teacher an official Happy Birthday and many more to come!

Tell us how it has been after you completed your studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary.

This past year of my life has been one big roller-coaster ride and full of such amazing experiences that I hardly have words to express the emotional part of it. I remember my first reaction on reading the proposal from the Budapest State Opera House. It was something I had always dreamt of!

I was asked to prepare two full operas in a span of one month. I was entering the Opera House as accompanist, the youngest at 28 and still the only foreigner in the House, so language still poses an issue. Besides that, integrating myself into an already established and professional environment is also a challenge.

Tell us a little about your role as piano repetiteur.

I am responsible for rehearsing the principal cast of each opera that is staged at the opera house. The chorus works with another repetiteur. Depending upon the opera (whether it is a new opera having its premiere, or an opera from the standard repertory), the rehearsal process takes a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Each singer is rehearsed individually by me at the piano; then at the next level we have a group rehearsal. Then the conductor comes in and works with the principal cast, also with me at the piano. The next step is the stage rehearsal with the cast, led by the conductor and with me at the piano. It is only then that the orchestra, chorus and cast begin the final rehearsals. I am involved in every stage of the rehearsal process. If the score demands it, I play the celesta or harpsichord part at the performances as well.

How has it been so far?

There is so much music to study. As an Academy student, I worked on two operas for a whole year. At the opera house, I worked on two operas in 2 months and 5 operas in one year, and the workload will increase in the coming year. 10 operas per year for new entrants in my position is the normal quota, so I´m bracing myself for that and quite looking forward to doing it actually. I know I will do it. I will have to. There is no other way out!

The pride of working at an Opera House and the benefits that come with the title of repetiteur notwithstanding, it is hard work as well, and one has to strike a balance. The job is really quite demanding and stressful, but with time I am able to handle it better and better.

As a colleague once said to me when I was nervous at my first concert with orchestra, “Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has their right to it. Don’t be afraid of that! But remember never to make the same mistake twice!”

Which operas have you worked with so far?

In these last 10 months I have worked in Turandot (Giacomo Puccini), Jenůfa (Leoš Janáček), Rigoletto (Giuseppe Verdi) and an adaptation for children of The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflőte) by Mozart, which was titled ‘The Magic Flute on Fire’. It was rapturously received and will be repeated this Christmas. Salome (Richard Strauss) was the most recent opera I worked with, by far the most challenging, and I feel a sense of accomplishment at having done it.

Besides these operas, I have also performed with the Opera Orchestra in the celeste or piano part in others, such as Die Frau Ohne Schatten (Richard Strauss), Háry János (Zoltán Kodály), Turandot, Leonard Bernstein´s Symphony No.3 (Kaddish) amongst many where I had the pleasure and the opportunity to work with great conductors such as Pinchas Steinberg, Kovács János, Kocsár Balázs, Dénes István, Köteles Géza and with wonderful singers like Sümegi Eszter, Rálik Szílvia, Bándi János, Letáy-Kiss Gabriella, Temesi Maria, Jee Hye Han, Lee Jeong-Won and many others.

What does the future hold?

This is just the start of my career and I am bound to face umpteen challenges – that I am certain of – challenges that will require more than just instinct and gut to solve, but what is life if not for these “little-big” moments of defying our limits, going to our extremes and finally succeeding against all odds?

(Kala Academy presents Oliver Darnhofer (clarinet) and Andrea Fernandes (piano) in a classical music concert featuring works by Schumann, Weber, Debussy and Bartok at the Dinanath Mangueshkar indoor auditorium on 18 August 2014 at 6.30 pm).

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