From Development server

Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Yuri Aoki

A Lindemann YADP grad from Osaka is now at work in Stuttgart.
By F. Paul Driscoll 

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Collaborative pianist and coach Yuri Aoki, now at work in Stuttgart
Photographed by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik
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© Dario Acosta; hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik

YURI AOKI, a native of Osaka who joined the opera studio of Staatsoper Stuttgart as a coach/pianist in September, began piano lessons in Japan at the age of four. After a few years living in Westchester County, NY, with her family, Aoki completed high school, college and graduate work in Japan, training as a répétiteur and collaborative pianist. “I was confident I could train in the U.S. or the U.K., because I lived in the U.S. when I was young, and my English was good. As I was considering this, in my mid-twenties, I had a chance to work at the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy, and there were big opera coaches and conductors from the Met there. I knew I wanted to be in that world, surrounded by those people.” Aoki auditioned for the Met’s Lindemann Program and was accepted, beginning what she calls her “big adventure in New York” in summer 2019 and remained in New York City throughout the pandemic.

Aoki hopes to continue working on a wide range of repertoire in Stuttgart. “In coaching, I like basing everything on the text—the drama comes from the text, and diction is super important, in every language! If you connect to the text, especially in big repertoire, the music makes much more sense—the greatest composers in every period always marry text to music.

“When a human speaks, that act is automatically expressive. Great singing is achieving that immediate, true expression when you sing. As a singer, your life is the source of your music. There is a deep well of personal emotion in each word. When that is released it is amazing. I know from my own experience that to be able to release my own personality in music has helped me to be more relaxed, open and nonjudgmental. That is the wonderful gift music has given me.”

When asked what she listens to during her time off, Aoki answers, “Oh, podcasts! I am a HUGE podcast person. I listen to podcasts in Japanese, which I believe is a good way to have access to my identity and personality on the deepest level. In the course of my work in opera, I am immersed so much in six or seven Western languages—it feels as if my brain is locked. But when I listen to the Japanese language, the most instinctive part of my brain feels liberated—even my English feels liberated! Nothing can beat your mother tongue. That’s the deepest well.” spacer 

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