Valpo alumna finds worldwide success as opera singer

Marilyn Schmiege’s career as a professional singer has taken her across the world, performing with renowned opera companies and orchestras in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Chile and Brazil.

But the Munich-based singer traces much of that success back to her experiences as a Valparaiso University student.

“Study at Valparaiso University gives one not only an education, but above all a good basis for character based on strong faith,” Schmiege says. “Believe me, freelancing for over 20 years is not easy, and there are many times of doubt as well as elation. One needs a firm foundation.”

A mezzosoprano, Schmiege graduated from Valpo in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in church music, and served on the faculty from 1972 to 1975.

Schmiege said her organ teacher Dr. Phillip Gehring, now a professor emeritus of music, was an important mentor to her who showed unfailing patience and guidance.

“I am also very grateful to the language professors in German and French,” says Schmiege,”[and] the director of the Chorale at that time, Dr. Larry Fleming. With his humor and insatiable desire for excellence, he is one of the teachers one never forgets."

The door to an international music career opened for Schmiege during an apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera, when she received a grant to participate in the International Opera Studio in Zurich, Switzerland. She auditioned with numerous opera houses during her year in Zurich and accepted at offer of engagement with the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich for four years before becoming a freelance singer.

“The opera houses where I have performed the most are those in Stuttgart, Dresden, Berlin (Komische Oper), Munich (Bavarian State Theater) and Amsterdam,” Schmiege says. “I was privileged to also perform at the Metropolitan Opera, the Bayreuther Festspiele and the Vienna State Theater.”

She is featured on recordings of works by Telemann, Vivaldi, Haydn and Mozart among other composers. In addition to her performing career, Schmiege is an associate professor of voice at the Richard Strauss Conservatory in Munich, gives master classes in Germany and Italy, and serves on the jury of the Maria Caniglia voice competition in Sulmona, Italy.

Schmiege says the exposure to new cultures in the most enjoyable aspect of living and working internationally.

“Exposure to other lands and languages expands the horizons,” she says. “German has become my second “mother tongue,” Italian my third and I immensely enjoy singing in French and in Slavic languages.

She recommends current and future Valpo students take advantage of opportunities to study or work abroad.

“Experience as much as you can—go to concerts, museums, art exhibits, historical monuments and castles,” Schmiege says. “It will make the fabric of your life a rich brocade.”

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CHORALE ITINERARY

May 20: Concert - Leipzig, Lutherkirche (7:30 p.m.)
May 23: Service - Seyda (10 a.m.) and Gentha (1 p.m.)
May 24: Concert – Rottenburg am Neckar, Wallfahrtskirche Weggental (7 p.m.)
May 25: Choral Workshop – Rottenburg am Neckar (9:30 a.m.)
May 26: Concert - Bernburg, Schlosskirche (7:30 p.m.)
May 27: Concert - Köthen, St. Agnus kirche (7:30 p.m.)
May 28 - Service - Leipzig, Thomaskirche (5 p.m.)
May 29 - Cantata - Leipzig, Thomaskirche (3 p.m.)
May 30 - Service - Leipzig, Thomaskirche 10 (a.m.)