Becoming a Hazzan

How does a Wagnerian soprano turn into a Jewish Cantor? There is certainly no indication of this in my biography. If someone had predicted this 15 years ago, I would have let out a huge “Ho yo to ho” laugh. But some Jewish souls just refuse to be ignored. Mine was obviously strong enough to overpower those big orchestras and plant my feet on this new path!

 Are these two paths mutually exclusive? Not at all! There definitely are parallels between my two widely divergent worlds, so building that bridge from Walhalla to Ohalah (Aleph Rabbinic and Cantorial organization) has not been nearly as difficult as I had feared.

 Ledor vador – from generation to generation! We don’t own the music we sing and we certainly don’t own the liturgy; we simply have the honor of transmitting it as well and as honestly as we can, and the responsibility of handing it on, also to the best of our ability. The goal in both cases is to touch people with my own voice, fully aware that the voice serves the music and the music serves the message. Of course the message is carried through me. But I did not create it; I merely transmit it. There is no room for showmanship in this concept – neither on the opera stage nor in the synagogue.

 In the synagogue I don’t want to pray at and preach at my fellow worshipers; I want to pray and learn with them. I am convinced that participatory services and learning sessions are the best way to make our wonderful liturgy, knowledge and traditions come to life.

 I did not get here by myself; I am standing on many powerful shoulders and the best way to honor their legacy is to pass it on to the next generation. I do this as a voice teacher and also as a Jewish leader. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to act in this capacity in the two widely divergent worlds I inhabit. I am extremely grateful.

Photos: 1 + 2 Liza Herzig |3 Janice Rubin |