By: Lisanne Sanders
Mezzo-Soprano Anna Traub was born in Basel, Switzerland. She is known for her profound and dark mezzo soprano sound combined with raging coloraturas, and often praised for the interpretations of the characters that she portrays. She has truly become a European sensation.
I sat down with her to discuss her life as a redhead, her successful career and even the secret behind her gorgeous hair color.
How was it growing up as a redhead?
AT: As a child I did not like my hair at all. All of my friends had blonde, brown or black hair. Being “different” is something that asks for a lot of self-confidence, and I struggled with it a lot. Being insecure as a redhead can be an awful feeling. I remember always wishing I was blonde and I did not understand when others would tell me how beautiful my red hair was; I seriously thought they just wanted to comfort me. So, I kept begging my mother to allow me to dye it. Now, I thank her for forcing me to be myself. I love my red hair. You always stand out and there’s no way you can hide and disappear in the crowd.
Do you have red-haired family members?
AT: Yes, one of my brothers, and many of our cousins as well. One of my grandmothers was a redhead. Of her seven children there was none with red hair, but about half of the grandchildren are. Though, all are so very different from each other, as if nature wanted to show us all the possible shades of red in just one family.
Did you experience being a redhead positively or negatively during your education years?
AT: During my elementary and high school, mostly negatively I guess. Also, I had what they’d call a “healthy voice”, so whenever there was too much noise in the classroom, they punished me for it. I was no angel, don’t get me wrong, but it was kind of conspicuous and again, I wanted to be just like all the others and still never could. Later, during my time at the Conservatory (music college), I was told many times that my hair color could also become a disadvantage at castings. Now, I am really happy that it didn’t. You visit an audition and the jury or the stage director usually already has a clear image of not only the voice, but also a certain type they’re looking for. So when the cast me, it often means they changed their previous idea. There are wigs of course, but so far I sang only two productions where they really wanted my role to have another hair color. To my great surprise, I usually get asked to not change a thing – no cutting, no coloring. For my first Carmen, I even had to dye my hair in a darker and more intense red, which was very nice. I think in the end you either embrace the fact that you are different (in whatever way that may be) or you keep struggling with it for the rest of your life. I finally chose to embrace my red hair and love it more and more every year!
Red is a key color in Le Tragedie de Carmen, the last opera you performed in. It embodies fire, temperament and danger. Even more, it represents both being in love and bleeding to death. Though Carmen wasn’t a redhead herself, you definitely are. Are you two alike?
AT: Not at all. When I first worked on the role I was sure I’d fail. I thought I could never be strong enough to believably embody a woman like her. People that don’t know me well might think so, seeing a surface, an image and yes, the hair color that provokes probably as many images and prejudices as the role Carmen does. Everybody has an idea, an opinion when it comes to both: Carmen and redheads. And like Carmen, many gingers sometimes play with it, though most of it is only based on projections. But I think I’ve learned from Carmen more than from any other role before. And yes, in the end I think I succeeded in taking parts of her with me and even finding these characteristics within myself, what basically is the key to every role and the greatest challenge and fun part of my job. Finding a bit of Carmen within oneself is something I wish for many women!
On stage you seem to be in your element, giving everything you’ve got. What does the role of Carmen mean to you personally?
AT: I learned a lot from her. That sounds funny saying that about a role, but I do look at roles like human beings. Strangers that become friends, and like close friends they can change your life. I really love her and hope I will get to sing and embody her many times more – exploring more layers, more hidden secrets and show the human side of the character, a Carmen of flesh and blood, not an icon. Carmen and I are utterly passionate about the things we love, take a lot of risks and therewith always live in the awareness that we might as well sometimes take it too far. I think the worst thing one could tell me after a show is that it was “nice.” I know that there are people that don’t like what I am doing because it can appear extreme and maybe confronting, but I try to focus on those that I can touch and really give something. That’s what singing and being on stage is about for me: giving. Everybody can play safe, but I don’t want to look back on my life thinking: “It was nice and I played safe.” Taking risks is what really makes us grow.
Regarding your beautiful hair, what is your secret when it comes to keeping your red locks so vivid?
AT: If I tell you, it is no secret anymore, right? (laughs) Okay, I cheat a bit by using henna from time to time. My hair gets a bit lighter every year and I found out that doing it once in a while is not only healthy for my hair, it also helps me to keep my “original” color. But, I only leave it in for maybe ten minutes; otherwise it becomes too orange and unnatural. See how things can change! As I child I wished I was blonde and now I am trying to intensify the redness of my hair!
What about fashion? What is your style?
AT: I pretty much dress the way I like, let it depend on the occasion. You could maybe call it classic casual. But if there was a “must have” I’m sure I wouldn’t have it. I’m always late with trends. When was younger, I was often told that there were only a few colors I could wear with my hair, but being more daring the last couple of years taught me better. Just be brave, try on colors you might not think they’d suit you and you’d be surprised – there is no such thing as a color a redhead could not wear!
Who is your favorite redhead? / Which famous celebrity redhead do you adore?
AT: To be honest, I never really thought about that before. But Julianne Moore always struck me with her presence, beauty and charisma. She’s the first one coming to my mind, but I’m sure there are many more.
Any last empowering words for our redheaded readers?
AT: Be brave. I envy those amongst you that never struggled with your red hair color and the fact that we attract attention with it. You are so right! To all the others: I hope that you too will get to the point that you can love and thank nature for giving you such a warm and glowing sumptuousness to shine with. Embrace being a redhead and it will bring you so much joy in the future!