For Misaki Morino, Vienna lives up to both its names: The City of Music and The City of Dreams. Her home since 2011, the Austrian capital is where she honed her voice under the tutelage of world-renowned fellow sopranos and realized her childhood ambition of becoming a professional singer.
Now an up-and-coming singer in baroque, classical and contemporary music as well as German lieder and operetta, the Okayama Prefecture native is flourishing in the respected European musical center.
Morino moves effortlessly between musical genres, languages and roles, despite her 28 years, which is drawing attention both at home and abroad. From Japan, she earned a Rohm Music Foundation Scholarship and an Emerging Artists Scholarship provided by the Agency for Cultural Affairs Overseas Residency Program.
She is a regular concert singer at Wiener Musikverein, Brucknerhaus Linz and Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, and has performed a wealth of operatic roles including Poppea in L’incoronazione di Poppea and Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Aside from Vienna’s esteemed venues, she has sung in Germany, Bulgaria, South Africa and Japan.
To keep up with her rigorous schedule, Morino once rehearsed every day, taking no holidays, until Vienna’s relaxed culture prompted her to reconsider.
“I thought I had to sing every day to be good but now I feel it is better for me to take a rest day each week,” she says. “It allows my voice to recover and I feel more refreshed.”
A typical day involves singing for one or two hours followed by several hours of listening to the music for her part while reading and writing notes as reminders. To protect her voice, she uses it fully only 30 minutes a day. On days off she does sports, goes walking or visits Vienna’s castles.
“People here live very freely, enjoying every moment of their day,” she adds. “That’s why it feels like people in Vienna don’t have 24 hours in a day, but 48.”
Cultural differences at first proved a challenge to understand, however. Morino found people’s direct way of speech shocking compared to the soft, roundabout style she was used to in Japan. She was also expected to ask questions and talk to her teachers rather than simply do what she was told. Although it was difficult to adjust, she grew to appreciate the closer relationship she could have with her teachers as a result, and saw the kindness of the Austrian people.
In 2016, she completed her voice training and embarked on performing full-time. Describing herself as “a lucky girl,” Morino says she must prepare now to make the most of the opportunities available to her.
“My work is enjoyable of course but it’s also hard and can be stressful. I don’t know where I will sing next year or in five years’ time. But I’m a young singer; I have to take chances, and it’s a wonderful life,” she says.
Morino’s journey began at age 15 when she started to sing while learning to play the piano. Soon, she had fallen in love with song. She competed in her local high school singing competition to take first prize before moving on to national level.
“I met so many people who had a really nice voice and I decided I wanted to make a career out of singing,” she explains.
While studying at Tokyo University of the Arts, she took a trip to Europe with friends where she met many conductors and musicians who encouraged her to continue her study in Vienna. With a musical legacy centuries old, it seemed the right choice, and she decided to read a master’s at the city’s University of Music and Performing Arts after graduation.
On arrival, though, she found her German language skills lacking. She had studied German grammar in Tokyo, but both for survival in the city and to perform the German songs she loved, she threw herself into brushing up her ability. She also learned Italian because most roles require either language, and she attended classes with operatic leaders Edita Gruberova and Angelika Kirchschlager.
With the talent to sing in Japanese, German, Italian and English, invitations to perform at concerts and festivals around the world continue to flood in.
Autumn 2017 will see Morino debut at a world premiere of contemporary opera in Graz, Austria’s second-largest city, and perform a solo in Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem in Tokyo.
“I love singing in other places, especially for the first time, but singing in Japan is really special. I’m really looking forward to it,” she says.
As she studied the parts in the German Requiem two years ago, Morino hopes that her performance to mark the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation will live up to her and the 2,000-seat audience’s expectations at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre.
“The soprano part is really beautiful, like angels singing in heaven, so I hope I can sing like an angel,” she says. But that is not her only goal during her upcoming trip. “There will be more than 200 people in the chorus that will accompany me so I hope to help those who want to study voice in Europe by sharing my experiences.”
For Morino, friendship is the reason she has thrived in Vienna so she is keen to pass on that kindness.
By singing with musicians and working with conductors as well as backstage crews, she has learned the value of teamwork, flexibility and adaptability. If a conductor suddenly asks her to perform, she has to be “really smart and speedy” to learn pieces and perform without much notice.
Although Morino admits that it’s tough work, she says the joy from the music and the people she meets touches her heart and inspires her to keep going, wherever she may be.
“I love living in Vienna,” she says. “I have an agency in the United States and Japan is home but I will be where the music is. I have to follow the music.”
Name: Misaki Morino
Hometown: Okayama Prefecture
Key moments in career:
2005 — Wins high school singing competition
2010 — Travels to Europe and meets conductors and musicians
2014 — Graduates from University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna
2016 — Finishes voice study and starts performing full-time
Things I miss about Japan: Fresh fish, convenience stores
Strengths: “I’m optimistic, hard-working, adaptable.”
Weaknesses: “Sometimes I’m too positive.”
● 森野 美咲
2014年 ウィーン国立音楽大学修士課程 歌曲・宗教曲科を修了
2016年 フルタイムのプロ歌手としての活動 を開始