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Never mind wailing puppies, Leipzig opera musicians rehearse at home

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Leipzig (Germany) (AFP)

Singing operatic arias accompanied by the wailing of a Giant Schnauzer puppy is not easy, but Lilli Wuenscher has had to get used to it.

"When I sing high notes he starts to howl and cry," said the Leipzig Opera soloist about her puppy Ludwig -- named after Ludwig van Beethoven.

With the opera house closed for the last three weeks as Germany battles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of dancers, singers and instrumentalists are having to find creative ways to practise at home -- while trying not to annoy their neighbours.

Wuenscher lives with her husband, also an opera singer, and their three children Leyla, 12, Joshua, 10, and Josephine, three.

She is spending two hours a day at the piano learning notes, as well as cramming in an hour of exercise a day to stay in shape, while also having to cook and look after the children.

"I'm on my own, with no coaching. It takes a lot of discipline," she said.

For ballet dancer Luke Francis, 25, the biggest challenge is space -- and dealing with only 3-4 square metres to move around in.

Using the doorframe and kitchen worktops to perform stretches has become part of the British dancer's daily routine.

"I hold on to what I can to stretch," Francis said. "Normally it's the kitchen."

The flooring has also been a challenge. "It's incredibly slippy, so that's definitely not easy."

Training in bare feet or a pair of old socks has now become the norm for Francis.

Luckily, the dancer's apartment is on the ground floor so the neighbours have not been disturbed by all the jumping around.

With online training every day from 11-12, the dancer still has a routine to keep to.

"I also try to do some yoga-based stretching, as well as usual ballet stretching that I would do anyway," Francis said.

Cellist Stephan Wuensch, meanwhile, has been practising for up to four hours a day, working on future repertoire in the opera house calendar as well as technical exercises.

"Of course I have a lot of time to practise now," he said.

The father of two, 53, is at home alone with his wife, a singing teacher, who conducts lessons online while he plays in another room.

For Wuensch, the hardest thing is not knowing when he will be able to make music with colleagues again.

"As a musician you are used to having quite a social life -- it is a relatively close relationship. That's difficult right now."

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