Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Thursday, December 23, 2004
My dad sent me this newspaper clipping today; it's from an Albequerque paper sometime in July 1970. He and my mom, married only 8 months and stationed at an air base in Texas, came up to Santa Fe to visit an old college friend of my dad's and to see the opening weekend of the new open-air concert hall. Little did they know that they would one day have a daughter who was a true "opera enthusiast" and would sing in that very concert hall as a Santa Fe Apprentice!
A circle we didn't even know was open has come full-circle! =]
Monday, December 20, 2004
Monday, December 13, 2004
I'm trying out my new software that will let me post pictures on my blog. Here is our beautiful Christmas tree! Happy Holidays to everyone.
“Dear Ms. Bird,
I am pleased to advise you that you have been accepted for the 2005 Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singer Program.”
Woohoo!! Needless to say, I was ecstatic – for about five minutes. Right away, all the little things (and some big things) that would have to be arranged started running through my mind, not the least of which was getting time off for my sister’s wedding. The other big one: will Erik come with me? The program is a full three months, and we don’t like to be apart for more than a month, max. Even three weeks is pushing it! So we have all sorts of scenarios running through our minds.
But first, the wedding drama! The original wedding day was July 22nd. I looked on the Santa Fe website for the performance schedule, and the opera being performed that night is one I knew I wouldn’t be in. So I thought, no problem! I can leave late on the 21st and be back early on the 23rd, no problem. Well, late on the 21st there is the Dress Rehearsal for Peter Grimes, an opera in which I have a cover (opera-speak for understudy); on the 22nd there is an orchestra rehearsal for for Ainadamar, an opera in which I have a small part; early on the 23rd is a staging rehearsal for Ainadamar, and opening night of Peter Grimes is on the 23rd as well. Did you get all that?! So, while the director was extremely understanding, it was near to impossible for me to get out that weekend.
Add to all this the fact that my sister-in-law is pregnant and due – you guessed it – on July 22nd! All of a sudden, the stars were misaligned for the wedding to take place on that date. My saint of a mother came to the rescue, though, and found a new date which works for all the wedding vendors. She cleared this new idea with the groom, and THEN told my sister about the new plans! See, Sally didn’t know about any of these snags until they had all been resolved. She was in the middle of hell week at school, and my mom knew that it would put her over the edge!
Sally, to her credit, is excited about the new date (heck, she’s getting married six weeks earlier!) and so happy about all the good things that precipated the change. She and her fiancee will be here on Friday; I can’t wait to have a good laugh about it all over a Christmas cocktail.
Details of my Summer 2005 will be forthcoming…
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
It's good, I'll tell you that much. Really good... =]
Monday, December 06, 2004
Singer walks in, exchanges greetings with the panel. Panel says, “What would you like to sing?” Singer tells them, and they say ok. First aria. If they would like to hear another, they look over the singer’s repertoire list and ask for the aria of their choice. Second aria. When it is finished, the Panel says, “Ok, thank you.” Singer says, “Oh no, thank YOU!” and leaves the room with a smile. End of audition.
Ok, so I was being a little silly at the end there, but you get the idea. Very cut and dried. I think I like it that way, too, after having two auditions go very differently this year. With the Average Audition, there are no comments or conversations to give you false hope that the Panel is going to hire you. You just walk in, do your best, and leave, forgetting about the audition until the offer – or rejection letter – comes in.
My first audition this season started out like an Average Audition. But I was on my way out the door when a member of the Panel said, “You’ll have to tell us about [an obscure opera that is on my Upcoming Performances list].” I stopped, of course, and I said some things and she said some things (all pertaining to the opera in question), and that was it. I see now, looking back, that that little exchange was probably all she had in mind. But at the time, I thought, “She said ‘you’ll have to tell us,’ which indicates a conversation in the future. That must mean she’s going to hire me!” Alas, a week later, I got the email. “It was a pleasure to hear your recent audition for the [our company]. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been chosen as a finalist for this year’s company.”
The second audition was a two-parter: a five minute initial audition and a fifteen minute callback. (A few more numbers here: 550 singers in the first round, 100 in the call backs, 25 spots. So, just getting a callback is a good start.) At the first audition, I sang a four-minute aria (O zittre nicht from Die Zauberflöte); at the end, a member of the Panel said, “Wow, pretty impressive for 11:00 in the morning!” I’d sung for these people before, and had a very Average Audition, so I knew this was unusual. That night I learned that I got a callback, so I went to sing for them again the next day. After my second aria (the Fire aria from L’Enfant et les Sortileges), the other member of the Panel said, “Well that’s it! Next time I do L’Enfant I’m hiring you to be my Fire!” This was extremely out of the ordinary! I left the audition in shock, practically certain I was in.
But it was not to be. Offers were made that weekend, and I didn’t get one.
I’m a pretty realistic person when it comes to auditions. I know the game. But when you sing well and there is conversation, you start to hope. You start to think that you have made an impression, have managed to stand out from the crowd. And the thing is, you have. It’s just that the crowd is large enough that several other coloratura sopranos will make an impression and stand out, too. And they only need one of you.
Last week I was back in New York for a few more auditions. All of them were delightfully Average: no conversation, no compliments. Just a friendly “Thank you!” I think I like it better that way. Now the waiting begins. I’ll keep you posted.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
This has been my favorite holiday for a while now. What a great idea: get together with friends and family, have a wonderful feast – to which, ideally, everyone contributes – and take a day to notice how lucky you are. Not mention watching football and having permission to drink wine at noon!
This year, I am thankful for (in no particular order):
My loving and supportive husband
A marriage that is growing in strength and beauty
Good health (and the fact that I’m still the size I was in high school!)
An incredibly anchoring network of friends here in Seattle
My family, who, even though we’re spread across the country, love each other fiercely
My adorable dog!
Mamma Pabor’s Squash Casserole
A home that we own and can fix up (or tear down) at will
The fact that I sing for a livng! And am singing well.
That I am surrounded by beautiful music, and learning of more every day.
My piano students, who keep me excited about learning.
That Christmas is coming!!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you, too, will be surrounded with love. And good food!
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Which is why it’s so hard to get an audition! For example, one company I sang for heard about 500 singers this fall. For 23 spots in their training program! That’s a lot of hopefuls – and a lot of disappointed singers. But this company can afford to hear everyone, whereas a smaller company that gets 500 applications for auditions can maybe only hear about 150 singers. Those singers not granted an audition are disappointed in a different way; they didn’t even get a shot to show their stuff.
Here are some other interesting statistics, courtesy of Kim Pensinger Witman, Director of Wolf Trap Opera Company. She kept an extremely informative blog during WTOC’s audition process. Again, more on that in a minute. They heard 345 singers in 12 days in 7 cities (for 8-10 spots in the company). Here is the breakdown by voice category: 20 basses, 60 baritones, 49 tenors, 3 countertenors, 65 mezzo-sopranos, and – get this – 148 sopranos! This year I moved from garden-variety-lyric soprano to the more showy coloratura variety (probably one third of the sopranos are coloraturas), so I was in a smaller subgroup. But still. 148 sopranos!! That’s a lot.
Out of the three auditions I did last week, I have already received rejections from two. Not surprising, given the numbers, but disappointing nonetheless. I know I’m singing well, though (my accompanist told me at one point “You’re going to make a lot of money singing [the Queen of the Night.]), so, hopefully, it’s only a matter of time. And numbers…
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Friday, October 22, 2004
KD came to us from a shelter in Kennewick. (For you readers who are not in Washington, Kennewick is about four hours east of Seattle, over the Cascade Mountains.) I found her picture and description on Petfinder.org, and she seemed to be just what we were looking for – a smallish terrier mix who is good with people and other dogs. (The listing also said she was good with cats, which is NOT true!) So we thought it was worth the trip to Eastern Washington to pick her up and add her to our family.
KD’s original name was “Flossie,” which we both thought was a little silly. So on the way home, we talked through some other possibilities. Since she came from Kennewick, we decided on “Kennewick Dog,” after the famous Kennewick Man, calling her KD for short. Sounds like “Katie,” so our geekiness is only revealed upon further inspection… She likes it, too, we think. A little more mature than Flossie. A little.
She has been such a good dog, feeling right at home with us. She is very territorial, which I always thought meant that a dog protected the home. You know, the “territory.” But, in fact, it means barking at anyone that comes near us while we’re on our walks, as if to say, “Don’t hurt this person! She feeds me and I love her!” We’re working on the barking, although I usually seem to be more bothered by it than the passers-by. She’s really not very threatening…
KD loves her new dog friends – Spackle, Jessie, and Uncle Loper. She’s the smallest of the bunch, but can out run and out play these kids anyday. Loves to be outside, loves to chew on her rawhide sticks (Jessie had to teach her what to do with them at first!), and LOVES to greet her people when they come home, even if they were only gone for ten minutes. She makes us happy every day, and we can’t imagine not having her here.
Monday, October 04, 2004
A couple cases in point: Dancing being such a physical activity (understatement!), they have a resident physical therapist. Well, after a hellish day on Saturday, dealing with horrendous traffic, two performances and a rehearsal for another show in between, my neck and shoulders were a mess of knots by the evening. And even though I was a guest artist, – and NOT a dancer! – Boyd, the PT, worked on my shoulders for about 15 minutes. It’s amazing what a professional can accomplish in 15 minutes… During the massage, I asked him about how he cares for his dancers’ joints, since mine have been acting up a bit lately. After I’d gotten into costume, I went back to ask him about my ankle, which was hurting (prompting the original question). And he fixed it! Felt around for the tiny joint that was out of whack, showed me on my other foot how it was supposed to work, then CRACK! it was better. So cool… What a great perk of working at the Ballet!
Then after my final performance on Sunday, I was met on my way out of the backstage area by one of the technical crew members with whom I had been exchanging pleasantries over the past two weeks. I think his name is Michael. He handed me a small gift bag and said, “Here is a little something to thank you for your singing. I have really enjoyed it, and every night we all stand back here and watch and listen. You are wonderful” Wow! I was so touched. The card inside said that the CD (Ray Charles’ final, the duets CD) was from “Stage Right Tech,” not just from him, and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to thank them all individually. What a great way to end a great run of shows with a great company. I hope the new director will continue to develop the warmth and caring that most certainly contributes to the greatness of the company’s work on stage.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
- Got a dog! I finally wheedled Erik down and he let me look for a dog. We wanted something small-ish, smart, good with people and other dogs, and about a year old. And we found her! We’ve named her KD, short for Kennewick Dog (like the famed and much disputed Kennewick Man, but a dog. And not a fossil.), since we got her from a shelter in Kennewick. She is smart as a whip and so loving. I think she’s as happy to have us as we are to have her. I’m sure her antics will make appearances here from time to time…
- Readjusting to life at home after life away was easier this time around. Most things are easier the second time, so that’s part of it. But Erik and I both learned a lot about how to keep connected – to each other and to our lives – while we’re apart. All you military folks should be able to relate; I realized this summer that I was on TDY! But I’m home now, and only have a few weekend or weeklong trips planned this coming season.
So, that’s what’s what. Let me know if you’re still reading this! Time to practice…
My blogging mentor-of-sorts, Chiara, told me that every person who blogs long enough experiences this, that every blog she has read has an entry like the one you are reading now. You can imagine: you spend an hour or so putting your thoughts “on paper” (as it were), taking the time to really get everything right, so your reader will understand exactly how you feel (in this case, my joy at being home and my thoughts an another Tanglewood summer). Then, you click on the “Post” icon and… gone. Blogger has claimed another witty, perfect entry.
I’ve been encouraged now, by people who know these things, to write all my entries in Microsoft Word, then copy and paste them into the Blogger form. I did this all summer when I didn’t have internet at my disposal, and never lost an entry; I should have stuck with what was working.
I don’t really know who is still reading this, but I’m going to try to get back in the habit of posting. Even if the blog stays mostly in the “here’s what’s going on in my music career” vein, I think there will be some interesting things to write about this coming year.
I’ll keep you posted…
Monday, August 16, 2004
Last night was the penultimate concert in the week-long Festival of Contemporary Music, an annual Tanglewood event celebrating concert music written by composers who can actually attend the performances. For example, on the program last night was a piece by a friend of mine who was a composition Fellow last summer. Every year TMC issues a commision to one of the comp Fellows for a piece to be performed the following year. (Since the early days of Tanglewood, "new music" has been important here. Leornard Berstein? Tanglewood Fellow...) My piece last night was an incredible work for soprano and chamber orchestra. The work is very long, about half an hour, with 15 movments, so it was divided among five of us. Lucy Shelton is a faculty member here and one of the best contemporary music sopranos in the world; she sang five of the movements, the rest of us had two or three. I was lucky to be assigned three very hard, very showy movements, so I feel like I really got to shine. Of course, I really like this kind of music, and would have enjoyed singing any of it. In fact, I would love to try and sing the whole piece some day.
The conductor of the piece was Gil Rose, with whom I worked while I was in Boston. He directs the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and they needed a few extra singers for a contemporary opera they were staging while I was in school. (We actually came to Tanglewood in 2002 and did a performance as part of the Festival, so my first Twd performance was in a professional capacity.) It was good to work with him again, since I know I have improved as a musician since we worked together last. We've had dinner a couple of times this week, and he has really exciting seasons coming up wth his organizations (he also leads Opera Boston). I hope to get another chance to work with him soon.
He had a friend with his this weekend, a New York based composer named Lisa Something (starts with a B...). She talked with me last night about a piece she wrote this year for soprano and orchestra that is having its premiere at Carnegie Hall this fall. While that performance already has its ensemble lined up, she would like to look at the piece and think about performing it again in the future. That's two pieces in the past ten days that have come my way after new music concerts. Maybe there's something to that...
Monday, August 09, 2004
The gig for 2006 is a fundraiser for the Ladies Musical Club. One of the ladies is organizing a performance of a chamber opera (smaller orchestra, minimal staging) based on the lives and work of the Bronte sisters. I think I will be singing Anne, the less well-known of the three. This has potential to be a really fun project.
The first potential gig is in Seattle, with the Northwest Puppet Center. Every year they perform an opera, using live singers and instrumentalsists. This year, it's an adaptation of Mozart's The Magic Flute! I would absolutely LOVE to be involved with this. It would be a great venue to try out the Queen of the Night's arias, and I know the whole thing would be a blast. I'm submiting a demo cd this week, so we'll see what comes of it.
The other gig just came my way today. This morning (I'm writing this on Sunday) I performed a piece written by one of the composition Fellows here at Tanglewood. It was a fun piece, with lots of shrieking, laughing on pitch, and talking in rhythm. Basically, your typical "new music!" After the performance, the man who conducted us, another Fellow named Alan Pierson, asked me if I would be interested in performing with his new music ensemble in April. They have a piece for soprano and orchestra programed, but the women originally scheduled to perform has had to back out. He's not sure if the director has found a replacement, but if not, he would like me to consider it. The composer of the piece, Augusta Reed Thomas, was also at this morning's concert, and she agreed that it would be a good match for me. Of course, I'm interested! Alan's group, Alarm Will Sound, really seems to have their stuff together, performing and recording quite a bit and getting really good press. And I would enjoy a chance to work with him again; he's a very sensitive and direct conductor.
So, the calander is filling up! All I need are the contracts...
Friday, August 06, 2004
Well, for some reason I changed my routine during Saturday's matinee. I knew I would be in a hurry to get out of there, so I started cleaning things up during one of my longer off-stage periods. Needless to say, when I finished the show and came back to change, I had forgotten all this (change in routine is BAD!), and panicked when I couldn't find my ring. I, wrongly, assumed that the costume assistant had dropped it when she cleaned out my effects basket (which, granted, she shouldn't have done until I had gotten all my things out of it, but, still, it wasn't her fault), and so she and several other people tore the place apart while I got out of my costume and tearfully went to find Erik. It wasn't until after the reception, and many tears, that I could calm my mind enough to mentally retrace my steps. I realized that it had been in my wallet the whole time.
I have never felt such a mix of relief, joy, and embarrassment! I felt so awful to assuming the costumer had lost it; actually, I felt like a Diva. Not a good kind, either. (Yes, Virginia, there are good divas. More on that later.) I instantly started planning my apology!
I would have a chance to see them again the next day, when I was invited back to come "make an offer" for my costume. Remember, this is a several thousand dollar dress, not to mention the ostrich feather cape. But I was encouraged by the staff to "just stop by and let them know you're interested in having it." Ok, right.
Erik and I headed out Sunday morning to find a box of nice chocolates for my peace offering, then worked our way to the theatre past Sunday Tanglewood traffic. We found the costumers who had done all the searching, and they were only glad that I found the ring. I didn't feel that they were upset with me, so I must not have thrown too big a Diva fit.
Then on to the costume shop. Where I was presented with an incredible gift. They gave me my costume "for a song," shall we say. I was amazed. The gift of this production, this experience, was already so much more that I expected. And now I have an unbelievable momento, a physical reminder of all that I have learned here. It is a dress for a diva, for an opera singer, for me.
Sunday: The Taylors had other friends in town, so they did their thing while we walked through downtown Pittsfield looking at the sheep. (Pictures in the Misc. Album.) I had a coaching in the afternoon (Erik was able to attend, to see what goes on behind the scenes.), and then, to be honest, I can not remember what we did Sunday evening.
Monday: A hike up Monument "Mountain" with the Taylors, and a tasty lunch at the top. Then they got to go swimming while I went to a practice room. No rest for the weary! I attended my Russian diction class, then joined back up with my gang for dinner and an evening of Texas Hold'em! Really, it was so nice to get to do this kind of "real life" stuff here; reminded me that my life is more than rehearsals and performances.
Tuesday: Erik's last full day. I had a rehearsal in the morning; he got to sleep in. We spent a lazy afternoon "at home," something we love doing at our real home but have been sorely missing this summer. I had a vocal recital in the evening (all the vocal fellows sang, one folk song - arranged by a classical composer - each), then we had a lovely dinner with my sponsors, Pearl and Alvin Schottenfeld. Finally, a concert under the stars! It did sprinkle on us a bit, but we cuddled a blanket. The bottle of wine was well on it's way to being vinegar, so that was a bust, but the music was wonderful. The canons in the 1812 Overture were certainly loud and exciting, and the fireworks were fantastic. (Erik says they were as good as the one's on Lake Union; I say they were better.) Not to be out done, Mother Nature joined in with some incredible lightning. It was quite a site, to see flashes of color and white sharing the sky.
Wednesday: An official Tanglewood Day Off. (There are two all summer.) Erik's flight was at 5, so we packed up, cleaned up, and headed out around 2. And that's the end of my "real life at Tanglewood" week! Only two more weeks until it's "real life all the time." Until the next big thing...
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
I will be bringing home a recording of the opera, and will send copies to anyone who would like one. But if you can't wait until then, New York's WQXR will be broadcasting the recording this Saturday at 1pm EST. They have a live stream from their website, so those of you with modern machines should be able to listen with no problem.
This evening I'm singing on a vocal recital for Tanglewood on Parade; all the singers are scheduled to sing one song each, folk songs of the US and Great Britain. It will a great concert to have a recording of, since all my fellow Fellows will be represented. A good momento, not to mention a resource for neat folk song arrangements! Erik will be in attendance, and afterwards we are having dinner with my sponsors, Pearl and Alvin Schottenfeld. If the weather holds, Erik and I will then head back to the Tanglewood grounds for the 8:30 BSO/TMC joint concert, which ends with the 1812 Overture and fireworks. One of my favorite things about Tanglewood (and I am not alone in this) is sitting on a blanket with a bottle (or two!) of wine, under the stars, listening to one of the best orchestras in the world. I want Erik to have that experience, too, but Mother Nature my have a concert of her own to give tonight. I'll let you know...
Sunday, August 01, 2004
Thursday was opening night, and I feel like I achieved everything I was hoping for in terms of putting the music first. I felt totally connected to Stefan, the conductor, the whole night, enjoying the partnership of conductor and singer. I don't know why, but in my mind I think I had always viewed the conductor - and reliance on the conductor - as a crutch. You only looked at him if you got lost! But that's not it at all. It is one of those contradictions: the more you are with him, the more free you can be. If he sees that you want to take time or move forward (for expressive purposes, hopefully, not because you can't count), he can make the orchestra respond. If he doesn't get those signals from you, you will be fighting against a speeding train! Not an environment conducive to artistic expression. When I talked with Stefan about this realization after the show, he was amazed that I was only just figuring it out. But, hey, life is one long learning process, right?
In addition to that small epiphany, the rest of the night went fabulously. The audience loved it, and the first review is quite good. (Warning: there are lots of pop-ups at the Berkshire Eagle site.) The paper edition has a photo of me and Charley Temkey, although he's wearing the donkey head, so you can't recognize him. Come to think of it, you probably can't recognize me either. Ooh, I found the photo at another review site. The review is pretty amateur, but you can see my costume! I have a ton of photos to post in my abum; I'll get to that soon. After the opera, we all celebrated with drinks and a 2am showing of Waiting for Guffman! I figured, if Erik was going to be up all night on a red-eye flight from Seattle, I would stay up late in solidarity. Which bring me to...
Erik's arrival! I picked him up Friday morning in Albany, and it has been so good to have him here. We had most of Friday to ourselves, then we spent the evening with Calin and Ian (who came in for the opera and some visits with friends) while waiting for the New York Birds to arrive. They were on their first road trip in their "new" Mercedes, and I think it turned into a bit of a National Lampoon's Road Trip. A three hour drive took nine hours, complete with weekend rush hour traffic, rain, stops for dinner and potty training, and strange behavior by the old car. They pulled in around midnight, at which time Sylvia anounced that she didnt' want to go to sleep! There were three kitties to play with! But, of course, she did, and so did we.
I have two more days worth of adventure to tell about, but I am sleepy. The main idea for now is that the opera went very well, everyone arrived safe and sound and is having a great time, and I am overall a very happy woman. Wish you could be here, too.
Friday, July 30, 2004
"I want you to be a singer who dances, not a dancer who sings."
She has known me for three years now, and she can tell when I go on autopilot with my singing. As this is essentially my first full opera role, I am having trouble concentrating on the singing part. The acting and dancing (the roles in which I have spent most of my stage time) seem to occupy more of my attention on stage, and, to her eyes, it shows. So my new focus for the week is how to let the music - the heart of opera - tell the story. To trust the composer, trust the orchestra, trust my voice alone to move the audience. I have enough training in acting and dance that I will never leave those skills offstage, but singing needs to be first.
I was drawn to opera precisely because it is a synthesis of all the arts - dance, music, drama, visual art, poetry. But I am not an actor, poet, or dancer. I am an opera singer.
I've always entertained myself in line at the store with speculations about people's lives based on their purchases. I see lots of young women buying food such as I have been for the past few weeks. I imagine them to have good jobs, live alone or with a friend, and spend their weekends at the clubs or on group dates kayaking at the arboretum. I often want to introduce myself to the people I see buying fresh fish and vegetables, good wines and cheeses, and a decadent torte from the bakery; they are obviously about to throw a great party, and could I come?
Then there are the bachelors. Erik gave the best example of this category from his recent shopping excursion: Three men in line (one of whom was my temporary bachelor), each with a six pack of beer and some form of prepared dinner, i.e., frozen pizza or hot foods from the deli counter. There were no repeats; each man had his own choice of beer and dinner - but that was all they were buying. No vegetables, either, I might point out! But, honestly, how much fun is it to cook up a bunch of asparagus or broccoli and then eat it alone in front of the tv? Yeah, not very. Food is social, both the eating and preparing of it, and as much as I have enjoyed living away from the dorm, I look forward to sharing food with my friends and family again.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
And tired. Today will be the sixth day in a row of 6 or more hours of rehearsal, and I'm about at the end of my rope. The opera is great, but I don't know where I'm going to find the energy for this afternoon's dress rehearsal. I also don't know why we call it a rehearsal - we will have a full house. Tickets were cheaper for this performance, since it is officially a rehearsal, but with 700 people in the house, it will hardly feel like it. Maybe that's where I'll get the energy, from the audience. Wish me luck.
I have tomorrow morning off, so I'll be back here again, giving my device another try at connecting to the network. I don't have any singing to do tomorrow, thank god, just a Russian diction masterclass in the afternoon. So I will sleep in, eat a good breakfast, and try to have a restful day. I miss all of you so much. Spending a day with you would most certainly get me back on track.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
All in all, the opera is in wonderful shape. A few things to get ironed out still (like the pie fight!), but on the whole it is a beautiful show. Mark and Elizabeth decided this week that they will be able to come up that weekend, so I'm off this morning to get one more ticket. Only one, since they will have Sylvia, but I think they're going to take turns - one sits inside for one act, the other hangs out on the grounds with Sylvia, then they switch at intermission. The Taylors and Erik will, of course, be here, too; he'll stay through Wednesday of the next week. That means he'll get to sit in on a rehearsal of my end of the summer projects (one coached by Dawn) and see a concert that will involve all the Vocal Fellows (folk songs of Great Britain and the US). We might even have some time to go swimming or take a bike ride through this beautiful country. Regardless, I'll be glad to have him - and everybody else! - here. This "9-5 plus overtime" lifestyle is hard without my support staff, especially my Vice President. That's a hard job to telecommute; face time is essential...
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Another advantage of being so close to him, even though we were behind (it was actually more like a 3/4 view), was that we could really see how he sings. How he uses his breath, his body, his face, to communicate the texts and music. We heard every word of his almost entirely English-language program. Phylis, our voice teacher here, would have been proud!
Then last night he gave the opposite of an intimate voice and piano recital - a performance of excerpts from Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürmberg with the BSO at the Shed for an audience of 20,000 people. But, through the magic of being a Tanglewood Fellow, I found myself on the second row. This time I was able to fully appreciate the enormity of his voice, as well as study the way he handled the concert. How was it the same in his eyes? How was it different? I was equally moved by both his performances, with the same question coming to mind both nights - Do I have what I takes to do that?
And many of them come back, often and unexpectedly. Yesterday we had the annual Sponsor's Luncheon, where each Fellow is introduced to his Sponsor. (Each Fellowship is funded by a $250K endowment, the interest of which covers the $15K annual fee.) Afterwards, I was standing with a small group of singers; several of us had (at the urging of the caterers!) taken the potted begonias that were the centerpiece at our table. We noticed a decidedly Sponsor-looking couple walking by, also with begonias in their hands, and started a conversation about the flowers. The gentleman then said, "Are you all in 'the Dream?'" We said that we were, and made casual introductions of our roles. We had been chatting about the production when, all of a sudden, the faces of two of the guys went from polite interest to complete awe. They had read this man's name tag, and he was Benjamin Luxon, one of the greatest lyric baritones of the past 40 years. Being a singer who rarely listens to classical music, I didn't recognize his name, but I knew from Alex and Stefan's reaction that he was opera royalty! He and his wife were so gracious, inviting us to come spend our "free time" at their home nearby.
They also attended the afternoon rehearsal of the opera. Before leaving, Mr. Luxon pulled me aside and gave me a few tips. (Afterall, while he didn't premiere a roll in this opera, he did work with many original cast memebers and Britten himself. I figure his advice is worth taking to heart!) When he urged me to take more time with the musical "sighs" at the end of my scene in Act II, I told him I was afraid of being gauche. "Oh, be gauche! Be gauche, be gauche," he said. So I have permission! We'll see how far I can take it next time before my coaches reign me in.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Last year I was friends with everybody; this year I only know the singers. Singers are funny people, in that they like to talk about singing 90% of the time. That gets old to me real fast... So I've been seeking out some conductors and composers and the occasional woodwind player for a bit of conversational variety. Last night, in fact, I had a beer and a great convo with our conductor, Stefan Asbury, about creating music/art of your own culture in foreign countries. Stefan is British, so he knows whereof he speaks (seeing as how Midsummer was written by an Englishman). He also has the ability to consume large amounts of beer and still be perfectly lucid. Impressive, I tell you.
The reason I was friends with everybody last year was because I saw them all the time. This summer I'm much more solitary, which is weird. Granted, at home in Seattle I am often alone, but being alone at one's home and alone away from home are very different. I get along with all the singers, but I miss my intimate friendships. I miss being able to cry at some random beautiful thing and having three other people start crying with me! (You know who you are...) Here, people just say, "There she goes again!"
Another thing that's different this year is my position in the pecking order. I have seniority this time around. I'm not the only one, but I'm in that group; I'm a "re-invite." That's cool. And another thing that I haven't experienced before is having my colleagues look up to me technically, to ask me technic questions and to express admiration. That is beyond cool! It makes me work a bit harder, too, I think, in order to keep meeting or exceeding their expectations.
The most important difference between this year and last? Costumes. No more Dancing-Bullfighting-Horseheaded-Elvis for me! This year I am a dream in white satin, a la Ginger Rogers. I have my second fitting tomorrow; I'll try to get a picture. I have a sheer cape that is trimmed with ostrich feathers at both the neck and bottom. White satin Robert Fox shoes, and a corset/bustier type foundation garment that is the same design worn by all the women in this year's The Stepford Wives. Rumor has it that my costume alone cost over $5000. Woohoo! A platinum blonde fngerwave wig wll round out the look. I can't wait. As my friend Amanda would say, "I get to be the pretty pretty princess!" But I'll find out tomorrow if I can actually sing in that corset...
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Ryder, my little pet, is a doll. He plays the little "changeling boy" - a child that has been stolen from the humans and secretly exchanged with a fairy - that Oberon and Tytania are fighting over. We have a great time riding in on the various platforms of the set, pretending that we're scared of falling off. (Ok, so I'm not pretending...) He comes from a family of children that have acted in Tanglewood operas for the past few years, and his family is so supportive. Ryder was only three when all four of his older siblings has small parts in Tanglewood's Falstaff, so this is his first time on the stage. But I'm sure it won't be his last.
Sunday's concert went fine. The songs were by Luigi Dallapiccola, one of the champions of 12-tone / serial music. As a singer, if you don't have perfect pitch (which I don't), learning music like this can be extremely hard. It is essentially like learning a whole new musical language, and I had a month to do it! Three out of four of the songs went great. But the first one was gave me the most trouble, both in rehearsal and in performance. Fortunately, as these songs are not staples of the vocal repertoire, no one in the audience (except my coach) could tell when I completely flubbed the first two lines!! I was so flustered that I had to fight the impulse to stop and start over. But, my accompanist was right there with me and we made it through together. We finished strong, and people only had good things to say afterwards. I am grateful, though, that I am planning to sing these again on my March recital in Seattle; I'll get a second chance...
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Fortunately, The Voice is not affected. I've drunk 4 liters of water today, I'm taking Vit C, echinnacea, and Tylenol Cold, andusing Zicam. If this is a cold, it should't stand a chance. And I stand to get ten hours of sleep tonight, so that should help.
Keep your fingers crossed...
Monday, July 05, 2004
The director is really great, too; David Kneuss (pronounced like "niece") is his name, and he's worked at T'wood for many years (although not last year, MUCH to my dismay!). He's also Executive Stage Director at the Met, so he's good to know! He seems very organized and efficient, but also open to discussion and exploring with the cast. He has a definite vision, and a great suport team. Those of you who know about last year's experience will know that all this is a welcome difference. Those who don't, well, let's just move on...
My opening scene is the fight scene with Oberon. It's a great scene musically, and David (along with Alisa, our choreographer) has staged a dance of sorts, a stylized tango. It's great. Very sensual and elegant.
Oh! I just remembered that the opera is going to be broadcast on the radio here in Massachusetts. I'll look into seeing if the station has streaming broadcasts on the web, so you all can listen!
Sunday I have a concert in the morning, and I need to go spend some time with the music before I go to bed. It has been raining all day, so the air is muggy; not great for sleeping, but wonderful to listen to. Maybe it will lull me to sleep...
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Today we had our first "sing-through" of Midsummer. What an amazing piece! So funny, and beautfiul. Britten really captured the three worlds that exist in the play - Fairy, Lover, and Rustic. The Rustics (the group of workmen hired to put on a play for the duke's wedding) have some of the greatest music, and the men singing those roles are all outstanding. The four Lovers are also wonderful; the girl singing Helena is absolutely beautiful. This is funny because Helena has a line "I am as ugly as a bear!" We all are imagining the audience bursting out laughing at that point! Maybe they'll put her in ugly makeup, but it take a lot to hide her pretty face. There will be 22 children makng up my fairy court, and Oberon's Puck is played by a local young man. Our music is very ethereal, with lots of harps and shimmering strings. The opera's finaly chorus, in which Oberon and Tytania bless the newly wedded couples makes me cry everytime.
That's enough for one post. More soon!
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
The Ferry had some friendly if somewhat rough around the edges personel and some pretty good coffee which helped sooth the loss of the fallen latte. We took our coffees up to the upper deck and stood in the lee of the cabin out of the wind. As the City started to disappear our attention turned to shipping traffic and sailboats. It was a really nice little cruise for $15.
On our arrival in NJ Anne Carolyn called Greg the previous owner of our $900 1988 Toyota Corolla. After about 10 or 15 mins, he arrived with the car which is in excellent and refused an offer of a ride home, saying he was going to get some coffee and call a cab.
Anyhow, we made our way up the NJ parkway to the Berkshires. We stopped in Pittsfield and picked up a map of the area at a drug store. We went over to Miss Hall's where the check in was and then figured out how to get to the Apt that we are renting.
Larry and Gale who own the apartment were still busy fixing it up when we arrived. All new apliances (some of which are not yet hooked up), a new ceiling fan (which does work very nicely), a new bed, and some other nice things like cable tv and a dvd player.
Anyhow, Gale and Larry are super people and I feel good about AC living upstairs from them.
There is a Cybercafe about 2 blocks from where AC is living, however they have really weird Summer hours and were never open when we wanted to go there. This is a different one than AC and I had originally tracked. However, we get really good phone reception in the apartment so I figured out how to use her cell phone as a modem/gateway to access the internet via the IR port on her phone and PDA. It's pretty crazy but it works! Google, Email, posting here, the whole deal.
I just sent her off today a small box of things including a cable that should let her use a full sized keyboard with her pda.
In less technical areas of the trip, we enjoyed tooling around the Berkshires a bit and just generally getting settled in. We had a nice picnic on the Tanglewood grounds and some walks around Pittsfield which has a kind of 1940's small town feel to it. I think it lacks major industry now though so it is in a process of re-orientation. There is a pretty neat Art thing going on there where there are all of these sheep that have been painted and done up. (not real sheep but fiberglass)
I gotta go do some work... I'll try to write some more later!
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Hmm... it just dawned on me that you may not know about that collaboration. Last year has the first time TWD invited a dance group - the Mark Morris Dance Group - to come give a dance concert with music provided by the fellows. In addition to learning the music we performed with them, we got to attend their rehearsals and have workshops with them. In these workshops, they taught us a movement of one of the dances they perform - the exact same choreography! I think the piece was Bach's first cello suite. Most of the other fellows have very little dance training, but the professional dancers were so patient. I was having a blast! I love dancing, so getting to dance Mark Morris's choreography, even in a workshop setting, was amazing. Oh, and then we got to perform the piece for a group of other fellows - with Yo-yo Ma playing cello! Talk about surreal...
So Mark Morris enjoyed being at TWD so much that he asked to Come back. His group has been here since Saturday, and our concerts are this weekend. We're performing Vivaldi's "Gloria;" last year we did a Bach motet. Tony Fogg (BSO Artistic Director) told me that MM wants to come every year. How great for TWD.
Back to my interview! I think I was chosen because I was here last year, too, and because I obviously love it.
I was asked what the other fellows had been saying about the classes, and how/if I felt the classes have heped me as a musician, among other things. You'll have to watch for the article to hear my answers...
Sunday, June 27, 2004
For now, though: my apartment is great. I have 3 rooms (plus bath) in a 2OO-year-old house. The owners, Gail and Larry, are so nice. They have a bit of a west coast air about them, and Erik and I have enjoyed talking with them. There are 3 cats and a very energetic dog, so my "small animal" fix will be met. One of the cats can open the door into my apartment, so I have to keep it locked!
Rehearsals are already in full swing. It is so good to be back here, Making music at this level. The Britten (Midsummer) is going to be spectacular! All the singers seen very nice, and of course it's good to see friends from last year. More on all that later.
Erik leaves toMOrrow. It has been great having hiM here; it has really made this place feel like home. I will miss him.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Tomorrow morning we head to New Jersey to pick up my summer car, a 1988 Toyota Corolla that I bought off cars.com. I'm buying it from the original owner, who has had the car serviced twice a year every year and has all the maintenance records. Says it drives great, looks great, and is only selling it because he's getting a new car from his sister. Well, her old car 'cuz she's getting a new one. I have high hopes, but still have some intrepidation about buying a car off the internet. I mean, a book, sure. But a car?! I am in possession of the title, though, so it's mine, no matter what shape it's in. A good or bad thing? Time will tell.
Also found out that my old voice teacher's manager will for sure be at the opera in July. I am going to send him some materials - biography, cd with my best selections, and a "what I want from my career" statement - before then, and hopefully sing for him again in September. I'll keep you posted...
Monday, June 21, 2004
Home and Family
I've also created a page for Tanglewood photos. Those should start posting this weekend! There are spots on each page where you can sign up to get an email whenever new pics are added.
Time for breakfast with my personal shopper!
Sunday, June 20, 2004
(If you would like to receive an email whenever a new post is published, email me.)
Mom B: Blythe Danner (won the role over Diane)
Dad B: Steve Martin
Mark: Hugh Jackman (I'm not worrying about who's going to play the child versions of us. I assume they'll hire unknowns.)
ME!: Gwenyth Paltrow (My casting director encouraged me to go with Gwen over Cameron. Something about sophistication...)
Sally: Reese Witherspoon
Erik: Ewan McGregor
Mom R: Sally Field
Dad R: Gene Hackman (this is a good one)
SSR: Renee Zellweger (when we told her, she said, "Who?")
Deane: Philip Seymour Hoffman (minus about twenty lbs)
Erika: Julia Stiles
Calin: Drew Barrymore
Laura: Kathy Najimy
Stacey: Claire Daines
Collin: Heath Ledger (Collin is married to Stacey, who says that if Heath Ledger is playing her husband, she wants to star as herself!)
Liz M: Shirley MacLaine (too good!)
Marsh P: Bob Hoskins
Jordan: Orlando Bloom (he, also, said, "who's that?" when we told him. Honestly, people, pop culture is not your enemy!)
If you feel that you, too, need to have a part in this movie, and you know who you would like to portray you, email me! I'll add you to the list... Someday, when I'm a star, we can reference this list and have our pick. =]
I will be about half a mile from a coffee shop that has wireless internet. I anticipate having coffee there quite often while I check email and write my blog. Erik has set me up with a nice portable computer system. Not a laptop, but a "Pocket PC." Like a PDA, but with more memory, more power, more applications. I'll be writing shorter entries until I get my portable keyboard set up; I can only write so much with that tiny stylus before I go crazy. Now, let's just hope that these folks really know how to make a latte...
I'm also right up the street from the Berkshire Museum, which has a fabulous art house cinema. My host family took me there last summer; we saw I Capture the Castle and Whale Rider. A small theatre, it was filled with people in Berkenstocks and sweaters who made lots of "hmm"ing noise throughout the films. You know, low "hmms" for something that strikes them as really deep, higher ones for things that catch them by surprise or that mean "I hadn't thought of it that way before." I know where of I speak. I am certainly one of those people! I'm looking forward to spending more time there with my kind.
Saturday, June 19, 2004
So we found a small apartment in a home nearby. It's about one mile from Miss Hall's (the school for girls that Tanglewood rents for dorm facilities) and about seven miles from the Tanglewood grounds. Most rehearsals for the opera will be held at Miss Hall's, so this will be a perfect location. The owners (Gail and Larry) seem really nice. They will be living on the lower floors of the house with Gail's daughter and grandbaby (the first grandbaby!), who is staying with them while her husband is stationed in Turkey. I will have the upper floor, which includes a small kitchen, bathroom, and my own entrance up some outside stairs. Tanglewood is helping out a little by giving my what they would have spent on my food at Miss Hall's, so all in all the apartment will cost us $1200. Not bad for that part of the Berkshires in the summer.
I have also bought a little car, an '88 Corolla, to help me get around. We bought it from the original owner who has all the service records for the car, so I'm betting it will be in good shape. It only has 134k miles on it, which, for a Toyota, is nothing. I'm hoping to sell it again at the end of the summer, so it should only cost us a couple hundred dollars to have transportation for the summer. Another great deal!
Off to mail some boxes to myself... More later.
Friday, June 18, 2004
(More on my prep for T'wood later today. First, randomness.)
1. What is the creepiest everyday object you know?
I don't get this question. Guess I don't get "creeped out" by objects. People, yes.
2. What's the most useful everyday item?
My car key (or car, for that matter)
3. What's the most useless everday item?
Any item that has "everyday" status can't be useless.
4. If the power was out for 24 hours, what would you do?
For food: eat veggies from our garden in the backyard!
For fun: Day: visit the Locks in Ballard to watch the boats and salmon; Night: read outloud to Erik by candlelight
5. If you had to have one item you use everyday surgically attached to you, what would it be, and why?
My pitch pipe. I'm always losing it, but wish I had it with me at all times.
And here's last week's Friday Five. It's a good one:
There's a movie being made about your life! Which celebrity will play...
1. you? Why?
Gwenyth Paltrow. It seems vain, but I like her style. Or maybe Cameron Diaz, for a bit more of my spazzy side.
2. your love interest? Why?
Maybe Matt Damon? Smart, cute. Or Ewan McGregor, for that slightly unkempt irresistability. (And both of them could look like Erik, with the right wardrobe.)
3. your best friend? Why?
I've got a group of them, so here goes: Drew Barrymore (CT), Kathy Najimy (LF), Julia Stiles (EB), and Renee Zellweger (SSR).
4. your enemy? Why?
I don't really have any enemies. But I'll bet Selma Blair could be a really good opera diva nemesis!
5. any family member? Why?
I can actually answer for all of my family! We've already thought this through:
Mom: Diane Keaton or Blythe Danner - elegant and classy with a funny side
Dad: Steve Martin - funny with an elegant, classy side
Mark: Hugh Jackman. Enough said.
Elizabeth: Helena Bonham Carter - petite, sophisticated with just a little edge
Sally: Reese Witherspoon - All-American cute blonde!
Now, who's making this movie?!!
Thursday, June 17, 2004
I've never been a shopper. I didn't get that gene that a lot of women seem to have, the one that allows them to shop all day without pain or going into debt. Three hours is about all I can handle, and that I can only do once a year. Thankfully, I had my faithful friend and personal shopper along for the ride! (I think she somehow got my gene, so she has two.) She carried the clothes and the bags, helped me choose from six pairs of capris that looked basically the same (it finally came down to which one showed less "unmentionable"), convinced me that it was ok to wear patterns and bright colors, and unearthed three gorgeous dresses from the sale rack. While I know I will not be the fashion-plate of the summer at T'wood (there will be two other sopranos there who, very likely, are more clothes-conscious than I), I will look like I give a damn. Which I do.
Since I only shop once a year, I tend to be hard on my clothes. They get worn a lot, so they get worn out quickly. And living in the temperate climate of Seattle, it is possible to wear jeans, t-shirts, and cardigan sweaters year-round, so I do! And I definitely prefer function to trend. All this to say that my drawers and closet are full of clothes that I wear full-time for a year, then stop wearing. Today, all those clothes are going in a bag and heading to the Goodwill! They are good clothes, clean and hole-free. I just wore them so often I'm bored with them. I guess that's better than wearing things once and getting bored with them, but the more I write the more guilty I'm starting to feel. But I'm not throwing them away, I'm passing them on. That's ok, right?
(The dresses are gorgeous...)
I have a camera phone now, so I'm planning to post regular Tanglewood pictures in the album. Pictures of new friends, beautiful views, and other such representations of my life in the Berkshires.
Another link is the Boston Symphony / Tanglewood home page. Any of you planning a visit will find lots of information there. Plus a little history and all that other good PR stuff.
I'm still tweaking with the layout, so be patient. This is fancier than last year's journal, and it's taking me a while to adjust! But I think I can handle fancy: when my grandfather was visiting a few weeks ago, he said, "Everything in this house is fancy; even the people!" I think he meant it as a compliment.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
I wanted my journal to include a quote from Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "The Concert." (Hence all the formatting issues. You can read the whole poem here: The Concert) I read this poem a few years ago and have loved it ever since. I understand the speaker's desire to experience something alone - in this case a concert - and then to come home and share it with someone. In the same way that teaching someone is a great way to learn, recounting an experience is a way to make it more real, more permanent in your memory. That is what I hope to achieve here, on my journal. You, the reader (my friend? family? both? neither?), will be my sounding board, my memory keeper. Even though you are not here with me, we can someday say, "Remember that day at Tanglewood? The day you found god in a tree?" (That was last summer, but I'm hoping he's still there...)
So read on. Enjoy the fantastic and the quotidian, the musical and the physical. I know I will.