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Classical vocalists use opera to tell humanity’s stories through Das Blümelein Project

Classical vocalists use opera to tell humanity’s stories through Das Blümelein Project

Classical vocalists use opera to tell humanity’s stories through Das Blümelein Project
June 21
22:33 2018

One joint trip to Germany, one book and one visit to an all-female concentration camp led classical vocalists Bethany Mamola, 29, and Agostina Migoni, 26, to create Das Blümelein Project.

Pronounced “Das Bloom-uh-line,” Das Blümelein is German for “a small blossom about to bloom.” But for Mamola and Migoni, it means a way to keep humanity’s stories alive through traditional classical music in untraditional settings.

“We decided we wanted to make classical music and make vocal music that was either a response or an answer,” Mamola said. “At the end of the day, we all need to connect with something, and we all need to connect with other humans because that’s the purpose of music, and that’s the purpose of art. I think if we can find a way to keep stories alive, I think that’s going to help bridge a gap that we’re facing in society.”

Two stories have been told so far: the Berlin Project, a story about a woman’s journey in finding love and starting a family, and the Paris Project, an ode to Paris through the eyes and experiences of Mamola and Migoni.

Das Blümelein Project started small with just Mamola and Migoni but has expanded to give artists more opportunities by combining creators of textiles, photographers, videographers, dancers, choreographers, musicians and singers to help tell these stories.

“[W]e wanted to take our training and build something with it,” Migoni said. “Also, there are so few opportunities for classical vocalists in the United States right now.”

Foreign affairs

Before Das Blümelein project was conceived, Mamola and Migoni met at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

“We actually bonded over our love [for] fashion and our love [for] jazz music and jazz vocal music, which is not really what we were studying at all,” Mamola said. “We used to talk – years and years ago – about how much we loved traveling and wanted to live in Europe someday.”

That dream would later become a reality for the two musicians. After they finished school, Mamola and Migoni separately decided to pursue opera singing in Germany. Migoni said opera singers in Germany get a monthly income, health insurance and other benefits that do not exist for all opera singers in America.

“We figured if we were going to [pursue our music-related endeavors], this would be our best bet of actually making a living doing it,” Migoni said. “Instead of just constantly being freelance – constantly getting a little bit of money here, a little bit of money there – it was a way for us to try and even that out.”

Mamola also said moving to Germany was the most realistic way to continue what she loved doing: opera.

“Not that it’s improbable, it’s just almost nonexistent to make a full and steady living as an opera singer in the United States,” Mamola said. “We were just always told that was our only option in terms of being a relevant classical singer, so we thought that’s what we had to do.”

In addition to the better benefits of the field, the vocalists said opera is also seen as a key part in Germany’s culture.

“[I]t’s just that [Germany respects opera], I feel, a lot more,” Migoni said. “Kids go, teenagers go. It’s very affordable.”

Once the musicians returned to the United States, they went back to university as graduate students. Migoni received a master’s of music in voice performance from UNT, and Mamola is currently working toward completing her doctorate at UNT.

An eye-opening moment

While in Germany, Mamola and Migoni made it a point to explore Germany’s culture together.

Mamola bought a book called “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly, which was about Ravensbrück, a female concentration camp. Mamola said she read it in two days and then passed it on to Migoni, who read it in two days.

“We were really moved by the book and these stories because it had to do with real people’s memoirs,” Migoni said. “We [decided to] look it up and see if we could go. [Ravensbrück] ended up being an hour and a half from our apartment, so we took this pilgrimage. We’re the only people really there, other than the woman handing out the audio sets. It was really moving, it was really intense and it was very difficult. I think it was a really eye-opening experience for us because when we got out, we were just questioning [what our purpose is].”

Mamola and Migoni said the concentration camp left them initially distraught, then later on those feelings of distraught transformed into inspiration.

“When you’re faced with something so horrendous, so unspeakable and so horrible, it’s really difficult to continue about your day and continue about your life without questioning why you do what you do, especially if you’re an artist who’s running around auditioning for these companies,” Mamola said. “The most important thing in your life … [is to] make a living as an artist, and then you’re faced with these stories of humanity at its worst. It would have been easier for us to come to the conclusion of quitting – [we were thinking], ‘This is meaningless,’ and, ‘Why do we do this if there are things like this happening in the world.’ Instead, we decided to turn [those] questions around and find an answer.”

Since then, the two have been on a journey – both spiritually and career-wise – to answer those questions and to make an impact.

Because Das Blümelein Project has grown to include other artists and types of art besides opera singing, Migoni said she believes the impact has grown as well.

“I think the reason why we like working with these artists is because we feel that the people who either watch the video [online] or come to the live shows [find] an easier way to connect,” Migoni said. “Sometimes connecting with classical vocal music – especially because it is not in English – is very difficult. It’s a weird thing for people, so they don’t know how to experience it. By adding dancers, by adding visual stimulants, by adding these different stimulants, I think an audience has an easier chance to connect with it, to take something out of it and to find the narrative.”

Das Blümelein Project is currently striving to become an official 501c3 organization. All donations to Das Blümelein Project go completely to paying artists for participating.

The next event, the Open Classical Artist Series: Das Blümelein Project, is slated for 7:30 p.m. July 25 at the Times Ten Cellars in Dallas. The Open Classical Artist Series will also host Das Blümelein Project in Fort Worth at the Steinway Hall on July 27.

Featured Image: Founders of Das Blümelein Project, Bethany Grace Mamola [left] and Agostina Migoni [right] at Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas. Emily Olkkola

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Emily Olkkola

Emily Olkkola

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