On January 28th, 2022, Benjamin Appl, a world-renown German baritone, performed a concert in the Sharon Kay Dean Recital Hall in McCray Hall.
Appl acted on his passion for singing in a boys’ choir at only 10 years old at the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen. After trying a career in business, Appl knew he was missing something.
“I joined a boys’ choir when I was 10, but before that we sang a lot with my mother, who plays the guitar. […],” Appl said. “I was not sure if I should become a singer. I couldn’t imagine living the life I am living now, living out of a suitcase, rarely at home, and travelling all the time, and relying on the vocal cords for my entire life. So, I decided to work in a bank, and afterwards I studied business, but during the time of my studies I was missing something. A reflection of yourself, of working on your personality, and becoming a certain person, and that is why I started singing again. Within years my focus somehow went from business to singing.”
Appl had always had a passion for singing, and soon he was working with the most renowned German baritone in history- Dietrich Fischer Dieskau.
“I met him when he was quite old.” Appl said. “I had the great fortune of having a master class with him, but afterwards he offered me his private lessons, and we would work for 4-5 days in a row, and for 5-6 hours every day. It was the greatest gift I received because he was more than just a singing teacher, he was really a mentor. He taught technique and interpretation, but also stage presence of how to put programs together, and how to approach promoters. It was a very close relationship, and it was a really great gift to me.”
As part of the concert, Appl sang the famed German piece titled Winterreise, composed by Franz Schubert. It tells the story of the early death of a mother, the rejection of a father, and many love songs that ache for the finding of oneself within. Appl discussed performing the piece.
“First of all, it makes it so special because it is a piece which contains all human emotions you can possibly think of,” he said. “So, there is this incredible depth and richness of colors, of emotions, of feelings, and of musical languages as well. Some of the pieces are very short and have a completely different writing than the next one or the one before. For a German lieder singer, it is the mountain peak of any music ever written. […] Every time when you perform it you can walk left or right, or straight, that always brings you on different paths. And that’s also the most rewarding thing of this piece. That you have so many choices. When you ask a question about something, you don’t actually get an answer, but you get 10 more questions.”
Benjamin Appl’s concert was well received by those in attendance. Ethan McConnell, freshman in vocal performance, shared his thoughts after the concert.
“I thought Ben did very well, especially since it was all memorized for him,” McConnell said. “It just seems really hard to do all of that music, all memorized, without taking a break in between. So, I felt very impressed.”
Appl has collaborated with some of the most prestigious stages in the world, such as the Philharmonia Orchestra, the NHK Symphony Orchestra, and the Academy of Ancient Music- to name a few. Some recent highlights include three recitals at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory featuring all three Schubert song cycles, and his role debut as Guglielmo in “Cosi fan tutte” with Classical Opera Company to name a few more.
Appl’s famed career grew with his passion for music, and his hard work in the profession of vocal music. Appl noted the perks of his career.
“I meet a lot of people, I travel a lot, and I find life incredibly enriching,” Appl said. “I try to see a lot, do sightseeing, and walk a lot, and go to museums, and try different foods. This all somehow adds to being an artist in a way, because all of these experiences in life help you if you’re open minded- like a sponge- and they also help you in finding expressions of your inner soul and to bring it out through your singing, which is a wonderful thing. It’s almost like psychotherapy in the best way. It’s something I find incredibly special and rewarding and satisfying. Like I have done banking before, and I am so happy with what I am doing that I would not like to change it with anyone in this world.”
Appl also gave some advice to any young singers.
“You have to be yourself, with so many influences and so many comments and feedback from teachers, from coachers, from anyone, from friends,” Appl said. “It is very confusing, so know what you’re good at and why, and then a casting director or agent will take you over the other one. The most important thing is to know what you are good at and trust it. And do what you think you are strong in. Go where your heart lies, what you’re interested in, and find your own individual way throughout the entire crowd, don’t just try to do whatever just because. I feel that is very important.”