Name: Hila Fahima
Occupation: Singer (soprano)
Current release: Hila Fahima is currently preparing for her leading role in a new production of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at Aalto theater Essen, NRW Germany.
Recommendations: The inner voice is a wonderful book by Renée Fleming. It gives me lots of hope and reveals so many facts about life as an opera singer which people hardly talk about. When I became a mother, right after I gave birth to my son, I missed being on stage a lot, and I was not sure how to manage this new role with my job. She wrote about this experience in such an honest, beautiful way, and it helped me a lot and was kind of motivating that I truly can do this. And I do!
The musical piece I’d love to recommend is ‘Concerto for coloratura soprano' by Glière. I discovered this beautiful piece when I worked with a dear person and an amazing vocal coach, David Sebba, when I was a student at the academy, and I fell in love with it. There is something very special with this piece of music that can be sang without any words and means so much, and I am looking forward to sing it again soon, hopefully.
If you enjoyed this interview with Hila Fahima and would like to stay up to date on her new releases and concert dates, visit her official homepage. She is also on Facebook, twitter, and Instagram.
When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started singing when I was 7 years old ... My older sister, Yifat Weisskopf, was the first to pull me into the music world, she started singing and acting from a very young age, when she joined the choir I wanted too and started with voice lessons. Since then we are sharing the stage and the love for music.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I adored many great Divas since I started to look into opera. On this journey of discovering and developing my voice, I learned that I should always keep my natural voice and not try to sound like someone else. think that it's very important, and that's also the beauty of nature.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
As an opera singer, I love the possibility to change my identity on stage. It gives you so much freedom also to get to know new sides of yourself, and I feel much more flexible to do things that I might have not done as Hila in real life.
So I think my creativity keeps growing thanks to various identities on stage.
What were some of your main challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?
I think the biggest challenge was to be so far away from my family and to have to travel so much. I am a family person, who loves being at home.
Today after almost 12 years living in Europe, I have my own family and it surely helps. You realize that you can make yourself feel home wherever you are.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first instrument?
I remember as a young singer my goals were to sing in important opera houses and to sing some ‘dream roles’.
Today I still want to perform these roles, of course, but I also want to be able to keep the right balance between career and family life, because I realized how important it is to me.
Tell me about your instrument, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results, including your own performance?
My “instrument” is part of me, part of my body literally. I have to take care of it also when I am not on stage. These two very gently vocal chords need to be kept healthy for many more years. It means that I have to make sure I get a good amount of sleeping hours, keep hydrated, do not smoke, do not drink alcohol before singing ... I am used to paying attention to it and I know my voice well enough that it became normal to me to “check” it every day.
The most important quality, in my opinion, is to keep a fresh and healthy sound.
How would you describe your approach to interpretation? Where do you start and how do you develop your view on a piece, what are some of your principles and what constitutes a successful interpretation for you?
I have a studying process that is very important to me: I start with listening to the full-length opera, then reading the story. Then I take the libretto and carefully go over my text and translate it if needed. I like to check different recordings of my arias and get some inspiration for my own interpretation. I study the role on my own, working on the role, vocally, and only when I feel prepared enough, will I start working with a pianist for my parts. It’s important to me to give enough time to this long process, that I will get to know my own character well enough that I can even feel or think like her. The role then becomes more natural and familiar to me on stage.
Even in my private life then I often ask myself: ‘how would this character behave now? What would she do now?’ I consider an interpretation as successful when the audience believes me and feels my character’s emotions.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
I love collaborations and really like sharing the stage with different colleagues each time, I think it keeps our brain even more creative and flexible. Making a collaboration with a new partner brings the same excitement as getting to know a new ‘role’ in an opera.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamless?
It’s changing … my schedule is never fixed. During a production, a rehearsal period can last between 10 days to 2 months. In this period we normally rehearse from 10:00 am normally till 21:00 including a long lunch break. In between I usually go home or to the hotel respectively, trying to rest, eat and spend some time with my son.
On a day of a show it’s different: I try to get a good night’s sleep, have some light breakfast and a coffee, then take a walk, get some fresh air and clean up my mind. In the afternoon, I take a look into the music and go over the role without singing. Then have some late lunch. Around 4pm I slowly start doing some breaths and singing exercises. At 17.30 pm I usually like to be at the theatre already to be early enough for the make up call. That also leaves me some time to even enjoy one more cup of tea or coffee before the show start.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
There is definitely more than one breakthrough work that I certainly remember very well.
One of the very excited evenings was in 2015 at the Wiener Staatsoper. I sang my role debut as “Gilda” in Rigoletto. That role was my dream role and one of the reasons why I became an opera singer. I watched Rigoletto as a young girl in Tel Aviv for the first time and it was so touching. This evening when I got to sing it for the first time, I felt in heaven and very honoured to have this opportunity.
My grandparents, my sister and my first voice teacher came to see me. It made me feel like it must be a good evening. And, indeed, it was.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Generally, I think you have to try to get yourself out of your comfort zone and not to be afraid of challenges. This attitude opens your mind for so many more opportunities in life. Adults often allow their fears to withhold them from doing so.
That’s why I love to look at my boy and I get so inspired. I think kids are so creative little people with a healthy, clear mind and I truly get some ideas from him when I am looking for answers.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music has always been my own very private therapy in difficult times. It constantly has been a great way for me to let my pain or anger out. I feel lucky that I can express myself with music, and have my feelings becoming part of a piece of music.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Our sences are connected to each other. The feelings and emotions are born from our senses. When we act on stage we try to remember the way it felt with our senses, and express these feelings with the music.
Music can bring us to tears / joy / excitement and wake up all senses. By hearing music, we can sometimes remember where we were when you last heard it and what the food we ate at that time tasted like ...
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Even as a kid, I already felt inspired by all kinds of arts. I looked around the world in an artistic way, I painted, sculpted and music always was around me. On that very day I realized that I am going to be an artist I understood that I have responsibility, that people are watching me, and not only on stage. I am on stage because I am part of a performance. And I am always aware of that.
Still, an artist’s private life should stay as private as possible. If you are really famous you should use your potential to influence certain opinions or support projects carefully, and make sure not to become someone else only because of the power you have. As a person often on stage in front of an audience I try to think carefully what the message is that I want to bring with me wherever I go.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music is an international language, which you can understand and feel even when you do not speak the language of the song. Music is connected directly to the heart, and that is why we can feel so many emotions only from hearing it, even without any words.