A little history
Let me tell you our little story. Otto Edelmann was a great Viennese bass-baritone who made his great career between the United States and Europe. A great interpreter of the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss (his legendary Baron Ochs), he was not only a singer but also the father of three children, two of whom were also singers, and a great pedagogue. It is obvious that his two sons Peter and Paul-Armin, both baritones, were his best pupils and are still carrying the Edelmann name high on the stages of the world.
The great Otto, who was also a very beautiful person who everyone remembers with great affection, died in May 2003.
Two years later, Verena Prato, who had been a student of his, asked the family if it was possible to do something to keep his memory alive and to pay him a small tribute. This is how the OTTOEDELMANNSOCIETY was created by his son Peter and daughter-in-law Sylvia. Ilse, his widow, then took it upon herself to mobilise all his fans and friends to provide financial support in the form of a small annual fee in order to finance activities to keep the society alive.
The first step was to organise small-scale concerts in which singers who were already well known on the Viennese stage would present a talented singer chosen by the society. Once the committee in charge of choosing these young people realised that open auditions would have to be held so that everyone would have an equal chance to be presented, the need arose to make the selection itself public, which was already of great interest. Thus, the Otto Edelmann Society Public Prize was created and is still awarded within the framework of the International Otto Edelmann Singing Competition organised by the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, MDW.
However, we were not satisfied and saw that these young people could still improve their performance by giving them advice on how to do so. We then started a series of Audition Trainings in which renowned conductors, music agents, stylists, Peter Edelmann and his wife Sylvia, instructed them on how to improve their presentation. It was the first time that such a course was offered in Vienna free of charge.
This model was copied by the Austrian unemployment agency, AMS, and we were soon invited to teach this type of course in Spain, Lithuania and Korea. We were also invited to participate as instructors in the summer courses of the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts, MDW. Even Sylvia Saavedra-Edelmann is regularly invited to teach this course.
What is the situation today and what has happened since 2006? Countless singers have been through our institution and the society is proud to see how the small grain of sand has contributed to the professional life of these artists. Unfortunately the financial contribution of the members of the society has been decreasing as the members of the society have been disappearing, as the society is mainly composed of former friends and admirers of the great Otto Edelmann. It is not the work of the founders of the foundation, who have always worked selflessly, but the renting of halls, the payment of instructors, and the expenses involved in organising any cultural event, which is a major expense.
Thank God more and more educational institutions have included this type of instruction in the school curriculum in Austria. Therefore, even though we know that everything that is done to help the underprivileged young opera singers is not enough, we hope that in the future there will be less and less need for us and our support.
We are of the opinion that when a singer, musician or conductor is at the stage of looking for a job, they should not be exploited by any agency that promises them artistic representation in exchange for such a training. Because yes, there are more and more inconsiderate colleagues who think that making a business out of this is perfectly alright and have little recollection of the conditions they suffered even when they were young and inexperienced. Such is the desperation of some young people who cannot find work that they invest their last savings in the hope that they can be endowed with some kind of magic tool given to them by these agents. And no, there is no magic weapon, but neither is it absolutely ethically sustainable that out of necessity others who did not succeed along the way take advantage of the next generation of other underprivileged people.