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December 2005

Daydream Believer

Anna Maria Kaufmann's story is a fairytale come true

Dreams do come true. Anna Maria Kaufmann is living, breathing proof. A true latter-day Cinderella, the native Canadian soprano landed in Bavaria 20 years ago as a penniless teenager and has made her way from au pair girl to one of Germany’s most successful performers. Now at home in Munich, Kaufmann regularly performs throughout North America, Asia and Europe.

Raised in Alberta, Canada, Kaufmann’s inclination toward the stage was apparent when, as a child, she began taking singing, dance and acting lessons. Putting her training to use, however, was not easy, as her tiny home town offered little more than a church choir. Drawn by a curiosity about her father’s German heritage and a desire to be able to speak his native language, Kaufmann left for Germany at the age of 18. “The first thing I did when I got here was learn Italian. I had an Italian boyfriend,” she concedes be-hind a grin. “Later I learned German, which basically means I speak four languages badly,” she jokes about her command of French, Italian, and German.

Initially, Kaufmann worked as an au pair and later attended the hotel training school at Tegernsee. From there, fate led her into the hands of Munich-based opera legend Claire Watson, who took her on as her only student. Kaufmann then completed her formal musical training at the Robert Schumann Institute in Düsseldorf, where she studied acting and dance. “It was a lot of work. I sung wherever I could. I fought and struggled to find my way,” she says.

Kaufmann’s big break came in 1989, when she won the lead part of “Christine” in the German production of Phantom of the Opera. An unknown at the time, she auditioned as a walk-on and triumphed over favored singers and hundreds of hopefuls. “When the manager called me, she asked if I was sitting down. Then she said they had good news for me,” says Kaufmann, recounting the pivotal moment in her career—the one that led to a 500-performance run in one of the most popular musicals in history.

Kaufmann has been on stage ever since. She has performed in productions ranging from Verdi’s La Traviata to the 2002 World Cup Semi-Final in Seoul. Indeed, it is Kaufmann’s remarkable versatility that sets her apart—a blend of risk-taking and talent that has earned her a name in the opera world, on the musical stage and as a solo pop artist. The vocalist explains that many singers are afraid to branch out beyond their genres, fearing they will not be taken seriously. This is particularly true of classically trained singers, like Kaufmann, who also sing popular music. A versatile entertainer, however, she has transcended these borders gracefully and created a well-rounded career, an intricate blend of all her passions and talents. No doubt her willingness to ignore conventional wisdom and risk following her dreams is at the heart of Kaufmann’s success. Asked what advice she’d give to young people just starting out she says: “Everyone has their own light. Don’t let people stop you. Find it and follow it.”

Following and realizing dreams however, does exact a price, especially if it involves a schedule packed with intercontinental travel, rehearsal, practice, recording and as many as six performances a week. The lifestyle of a performer, particularly an international one, requires the sort of physical and mental stamina that most professional athletes would envy. When asked how she manages it, Kaufmann sticks to a recipe of healthy living: plenty of sleep, a good diet, regular exercise and her faith. “An athletic background does help,” she admits. Having a home in Munich also keeps this shooting star grounded. “I have roots here. I feel safe here,” she says of her adopted home.

Kaufmann has come to a place in her life where she inspires others—as much with her singing as with her life story. When asked about her fans, she mentions a couple of individuals who are terminally ill and who find hope in her music. The soprano reflects and smiles as she sums up her success, “If you can help someone with the gift God gave you, then there is nothing better than that.”

Anna Maria Kaufmann will be per-forming in Munich from December 2 to 4 as part of the popular Circus Meets Classic series at Circus Roncalli. Anna Maria Kaufmann and the Munich Symphony Orchestra will be featured in two evening performances and one Sunday matinee. For more information and ticket reservations, see

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