If you think singers have an easy time, think again.
I’m back from meeting Swedish opera singer and star Malin Byström after an eight-hour-straight rehearsal day at the Metropolitan Opera. It’s the culmination of an intense three weeks of work for the title role in Strauss’ Arabella, which opens at the Met on April 3. Byström sings Strauss for the first time on a major stage and it’s quite a feat: Arabella is considered one of the most vocally stunning of Strauss’ female roles. Byström will be filling the shoes of stars such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in one of a total of 55 performances of the opera at the Met since it was first staged here in 1955.

Practice, practice, practice ...
We’re meeting after her final day of rehearsal and I’m happy for the opportunity. Singing on this level is about using your instrument to the fullest, then connecting to the music emotionally and conveying that feeling to the audience.
"How does my character affect my song ... who am I in this story, in this song ... why am I singing right now and to whom?" No wonder it takes years of preparation and thousands of hours of practice.
Byström is clearly exhausted but the spark is there, a spark that—together with one of the most promising soprano voices in the world, according to Domingo—has brought her back to the Met to perform title role of Arabella.
“If I were to describe my voice myself I would say it is full, lyrical and with a good portion of carrying strength,” she says.
It takes more than a voice to make it in the highly competitive world of opera. Why someone would go through the brutal discipline it takes to perform at Byström’s level is clear to her.
“My father always says, ‘to be at the absolute center of music is … big.’”
Both of her parents worked their entire lives in music, her mother as a choral director, her father as flutist in the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra. Byström found Maria Callas at an early age, received the notes for Callas’ work at the age of 12 and later surprised herself by being able to hit every note with her young vocal chords. The experience was an epiphany and shaped her training and who she has become.


Commitment, work and passion
Preparations for this particular role started two years ago when the Helsingborg-born Byström was signed for the month-long run at the Met.
The 1998 recipient of the Jenny Lind Scholarship from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music has truly come a long way. Studies at the University College of Opera, freelance work in Germany, and since her successful Swedish debut at the Göteborg Opera in 2007 she’s sung on many of the major opera stages in the world. She sang at the Met in 2011 as Marguerite in Faust, and thereafter went on to sing in Così fan tutte in London and Thais in Valencia, Spain against Placido Domingo.
“To make it as a singer it is important to stay true to who you are, get the job done wherever you are, not listen too much to others, feel strong in your voice interpretation and strong about you, yourself. There’s much to learn from others, it takes time to mature as an opera singer but you have to be cautious, not lose yourself, keep telling yourself 'the voice and the singing is mine.'”
Ulf Barslund Martensson

If you’re in New York or the TriState area don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy one of Sweden’s most promising sopranos in a long time. Strauss’ Arabella at The Metropolitan Opera

We found a not so great recording on YouTube with the rehearsals with Domingo in Valencia. A much better sample of the soprano is here, in an early recording from 2006 Malin Byström as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni