Maximilian Riebl

Maximilian Riebl on stage at the 2014 McDonald's Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

An Interview with Maximilian Riebl

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Counter-tenor Maximilian Riebl, a finalist in the 2014 Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Operatic Aria, has had music in his veins from a very young age. Surrounded by a musically talented and supportive family, Max appreciates not only the value of performing for personal experience, but also to entertain and intrigue others with the beauty of voice. 

He shares with us some thoroughly valuable practice and performance tips, which will no doubt come in handy for any potential voice competitors! 

Why did you start performing?

I grew up surrounded by music and musicians and found that performing for others came naturally. During my childhood my brother was playing concerts around Australia and bringing me along to many of his shows, often taking me backstage to observe how things worked. My sister played classical piano for hours every day, my uncle (from Austria) would sometimes visit Australia to give masterclasses which I would go along to. My mother was always playing records in the house/taking us to concerts and we would often watch video tapes of great concerts - popular and classical. I was lucky to have had my vocal and musical abilities noticed at a young age and, as my skills increased, I took to the stage in productions and concerts. My entry into performing came from a natural progression of steady work and the constant inspiration I found in those who surrounded me at that time in my life. 

Who inspires you and why?

Andreas Scholl: He was one of the first counter-tenors who actually sounded good and natural to me. He inspired me as a boy soprano. I remember hearing his  album of Handel arias when I was nine or ten and thinking that I would like to do something similar. Scholl presented as a very "real" person - he never seemed to be anything other than "Andreas" when performing and interacting with others, that said, he always managed to inspire deep emotional reactions in his listeners.

Many popular singers have inspired me; actors, artists and athletes too.

You chose to perform 'I know a Bank' from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Britten, tell us a little about this piece. 

There are many things about this piece which provide intrigue for both audience and performer; Oberon's commanding and duplicitous character, the magical setting, the unsettling dissonances and the chilling words all combine to give the performer a great degree of musical and dramatic expression. Although the piece can be quite difficult to access for some, I chose this piece for it's originality and depth and for the theatrical impact it seems to have on listeners. 

What did you do to prepare for your performance?

Consistent practice is important particularly for pieces requiring fast coloratura. I do a lot of my practice for technically demanding pieces with a metronome at different speeds. Though using a metronome may appear to contradict some notions of "musicality", I feel that learning how to sing each tone with even weight and stress is an excellent foundation for an aria and I like to do this before the finer musical elements are added. In the preceding weeks and months I performed a number of recitals and small concerts, most of which included several of the competition arias in the program. Singing competition pieces in concert is excellent not only for the experience but for the insistent reminder that a competition is still a performance and the incentives - to bring joy and ease to those listening and justice to the piece/composer - remain, despite the heightened pressure.

What advice do you have to offer to someone that was thinking about entering the Sydney Eisteddfod?

Try to choose pieces which are interesting to perform and to interpret. It's better to perform a simple piece beautifully than a complex piece badly. Take plenty of time in the space.