As a parent, it must be fulfilling to see your children following their dreams. It must be even more satisfying to see them living out a dream you had when you were younger.
Sylvia Wiryadi must have made her parents very proud indeed. The Indonesian soprano is based in Goerlitz, the easternmost town in Germany, where she regularly performs at the local theater.
“My father was the one who introduced me to classical music and opera,” she said. “When he recognized that I showed an interest in music from an early age, he was very supportive about me going to Germany. Both my parents were, actually.”
While in Germany, Sylvia frequently performs in classic musicals such as “My Fair Lady” and “The Magic Flute.” She is now set to perform in “Sekilas Opera” at GoetheHaus in Jakarta, where she will share the stage with Winston Tan, a bass-baritone from Singapore, and Mira Anindita, an Indonesian pianist who also studies in Germany.
“We are going to perform songs from, among others, Mozart, Puccini and Rimsky-Korsakov, and also some songs from musicals, because the Indonesian audience can better relate to those songs,” she said.
Sylvia started singing at the tender age of 6 and it didn’t take long before she began entering singing competitions. Those were her first steps toward a career in music. She later took drama, dance and classical voice lessons and performed in local musical productions.
After a short stint at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Sylvia moved to Tuebingen, a university town in Germany, in 2000, where she continued to study music.
However, Sylvia’s path to becoming a professional soprano singer has not always been easy.
“To study voice is rather complicated,” she said. “I’d say that during my first four years of studying, I learned absolutely nothing.
“It is very important to have a good teacher,” she added. “And during that time, I didn’t.”
Sylvia explained that studying voice is different from learning how to play an instrument. With an instrument like the piano or the violin, students can actually see and follow the movements of the hands and fingers of their teachers, and then simply imitate — something that is impossible when it comes to singing.
“It is a long and tough process, and even though I have been doing this for 10 years now, I would say that I have only just started out,” she said.
Sylvia, who names Puccini and Russian composers as among her favorites, said she had considered giving up singing on numerous occasions, but that her determination, along with the support of her parents, kept her going.
After living in several German cities and studying at different universities, Sylvia was offered a position at the theater in Erfurt, in central Germany, in the spring of 2010. She moved on to Goerlitz a couple of months later.
“It is a very small and quiet city but I am grateful,” she said. “There are plenty of soprano singers in Germany, and a permanent engagement isn’t something that comes along every day.”
“It’s easier for tenors, they are in high demand,” she added, with a laugh. “But among the soprano singers, the competition is very high.”
Having lived abroad for more than 10 years, Sylvia says that she still sometimes feels homesick. Most of all, she misses her family and friends, as well as her favorite Indonesian foods.
“I have been thinking about coming back here,” she said. “But it’s a big decision, and I don’t know if I’m ready.”
While Sylvia is not overly concerned about re-adapting to the Indonesian lifestyle, she is worried about the lack of potential job opportunities for her as a singer.
“Unfortunately, there is not much interest in opera singing in Indonesia,” she said. “But on the other hand, it might be a good challenge to try to establish something like an opera community here. It would take a lot of time.”
An evening with Sylvia Wiryadi, Winston Tan and Mira Anindita
Wednesday, Feb. 23 from 7:30 p.m.
Menteng, Central Jakarta
Tel: 021 3193 1178