The University of Iowa

UI Study Abroad Student Returns to Germany to Perform in Opera

February 18th, 2011

By Emma Casper

Freiburg, Germany, has a renowned history of Gothic cathedrals, beautiful landscape and inspiring carnivals combined with a unique classical music scene. But to one former University of Iowa student, Freiberg became a “life-changing experience.”

Adam Kirchner participated on the Academic Year in Freiburg program in Freiburg, Germany through a consortium to which the UI belongs. It opened a world of possibilities for the music major. Kirchner’s experiences in Germany led to new friendships and opportunities for traveling around the country.

“I can’t recommend studying abroad enough to anyone who is considering it,” Kirchner said.

He was first offered an intensive language course before the program began, spending six weeks at the Goethe Institute in Berlin. It was a good chance to immerse him in the language before starting university classes in Freiburg and presenting the opportunity to discover another part of Germany.

Aside from studying, Kirchner participated in the local versions of Oktoberfest and a Carnival called “Fasching.” He also had the chance to perform at the Stadttheater, singing in the chorus of Verdi’s opera Don Carlos. Kirchner described the arts as being widely supported by the community in Freiburg, adding flair to the local culture.

After studying in Freiburg and completing his degrees in music and German studies at Iowa, he returned to Germany in the fall of 2008 to teach English for a year on a scholarship program at a secondary school.

Once his contract ended in 2009, Kirchner decided to head to Berlin satisfying his craving for extensive travel and dabbling in several areas of interest. Aside from performing, Kirchner teaches English, translates, and is pursuing his master’s degree at the Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin).

Kirchner is now performing in an experimental Opera titled Switch On: A Conference Opera written by a Berlin-based composer from Argentina, Santiago Blaum. It is a collaboration of homage to both the composer Wendy Carlos (famous for her album Switched On Bach and her work on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange) and to Robert Moog, inventor of the modular synthesizer.

The setting is an academic conference with incorporated elements of baroque opera, including a Greek chorus. Kirchner plays one of four chorus members. He sits among the actual audience, standing up and singing out questions throughout the show.

So far the show has received excellent reviews and is booked to play at a theatre in Dresden at the end of March 2011. There is also a possibility of performing at the International Theatre Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina; one of the biggest theatre festivals in the Western Hemisphere.

“It would naturally be a huge honor to have the opportunity to perform there,” Kirchner said. “However, at this point I’ll be happy if we can take the piece on the road next year in Europe.”

Kirchner expressed his desire to continue working with Santiago Blaum and the group of performers in the near future.

For further information regarding Adam Kirchner and the Santiago Blaums’ production of ‘Switch On’ visit:

Photos contributed by Adam Kirchner.

Emma Casper is a freelance writer for UI International Programs.