What are the most important things you have learned as part of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program in New York?
I’ve learned so much since I came to the programme about vocal technique, language, interpretations etc. and through all of these, the most important thing I’ve learned is to always be humble with an open mind and be willing to take and try different ideas. I think this is the easiest and fastest way to learn, and for me as a singer, learning never stops.
What have been the biggest challenges during your time in New York?
New York city is so alive and fast-paced, it can be quite challenging to keep up with it and manage my time wisely, especially since the Lindemann programme is very famous for being seriously intense. I have a bass-baritone colleague who called it a “vocal gym”, haha!
Kang Wang and Lisa Gasteen
What has been the highlight?
The highlight would definitely be the night I made my debut at the Met as Narraboth in Strauss’ opera Salome. It was not a huge role but big enough to be on the cast list on the Met website and it’s like a dream come true. Altogether it was only about 25 minutes of singing but I started preparing it with my coaches months before and learned a lot about vocal technique, acting and German repertoire simply by preparing for this role and rehearsing the opera with the wonderful colleagues later.
How do you think you have changed as a singer since you started the programme?
Like my colleague said, it’s like I’ve been through two years of a highly intensive work-out regimen in a vocal gym. I’ve improved on every aspect – more repertoire, more solid technique, better language and so on, and with these improvements I can finally start to give a more thorough interpretation on stage with my singing.
Have there been colleagues or mentors who have been particularly inspiring?
Yes, and there are so many… For example, the head coach in our programme Ken Noda works non-stop from 5am every weekday and he would always help us prepare the repertoire really early and thoroughly. His dedication to this programme is truly incredible and it really taught me a lot.
You came to New York after one-year contract at Theater Basel in Switzerland. How different has your time in New York been to your time spent in Basel?
Basel and New York are two very different cities. I think the time I spent in Basel was a bit relaxed and I had more time to work on my singing by myself while the work is much busier in New York and I work with a lot more people here.
Kang Wang as Narraboth with Patricia Racette and Željko Lučić in the Met’s Salome. Photo © Ken Howard
Have you seen anything as an audience member that has been particularly inspiring?
It was so different hearing the star singers in the auditorium compared with hearing them just on recordings. People would say “Of course” but the difference was so big I was really overwhelmed by their voices – like the moment when Matthew Polenzani opened his mouth in Idomeneo or when Michael Fabiano started the duet Un dì, felice, eterea in La Traviata, it was like someone suddenly turned on the light, and I thought to myself, “Wow, so this is what the voice of a star really sounds like.” I can only imagine what Pavarotti’s voice sounded like in the auditorium – an usher who heard him live many times once told me that it was not just like the light, it sounded like the sun.
You have made the finals in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. What repertoire did you sing in your audition?
I started with Rodolfo’s aria Che gelida manina from La Bohème and Roméo’s aria Ah! Lève-toi, soleil! from Roméo et Juliette, then Widmung by Schumann and finished my audition with Leoncavallo’s Mattinata.
What repertoire have you chosen for the finals and why?
I’ve chosen seven arias from operas such as La Bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor, Eugene Onegin, Werther etc. The main reasons are to have the best and my most familiar arias to show my vocal and language ability, while at the same time not too difficult so I wouldn’t stress over having to sing them on stage with an orchestra. This way I can really stay in character and give a more complete interpretation to draw my audience in, which I think is the most important thing when performing on stage.
What do you hope will be some of the benefits of competing in the competition?
With high profile competitions like this, naturally I’d hope to have exposure to the directors and managers of the opera houses all over the world to help further my career. But I also really hope to learn. I think doing competition is a great way to learn from fellow young singers like myself by observing their performances or even rehearsals. I remember my time in Mexico for the Operalia competition in 2016, I sat where the jury members sat during the orchestra rehearsal for the final round and watched all the finalists singing their repertoire, then watched the final round on the next day too, and I have to say it really gave me a better understanding of interpretation by sitting in the audience, really watching and listening.
How do you prepare for a competition like this?
A lot of talking to the coaches about repertoire, and figuring out the order in which to place them. The good thing is that the repertoire I chose are the ones I perform very regularly for all the auditions I do here in New York, so at least they will stay in shape. I’ll still have coaching sessions regularly on these arias to refine some details before I go to Cardiff – which words to bring out, what kind of phrasing each sentence needs to have etc. The director of the programme here has also booked some acting coaching sessions for me so I can practise and be sure of what to do in each section of the arias.
How hard is it to balance preparing for the competition with your work in New York?
It’s not that hard since preparing for the competition has been an on-going thing since I knew that I was selected for it, and these are all my general audition arias so I need to work on them regularly on top of the work we need to do here anyway.
Where do you hope to go from here?
I hope for the same as most other young opera singers, to start traveling and performing all the leading tenor roles in smaller to medium opera houses everywhere so I can learn and gain more experience, then maybe one day when I’m a better artist, to perform them also on the biggest stages.
Kang Wang will perform in the 2017 Main Prize – Round 4 concert at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition at St David’s Hall Cardiff, June 15.