Monday, August 16, 2004

Last concert

OK, the summer is coming to a close! I had my final concert last night, and this last week will consist of attending other concerts, singing in a few masterclasses, and getting started on next season's rep. I'm conisdering it a "working vacation," because there will also hopefully be a fair amount of sleeping in and lying out on the beach at the lake. Not to mention a cocktail or two...

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

New Gigs

Since I've been here this summer, I've lined up four gigs for the coming year. Well, two are potential gigs and one is for 2006, but still! The work is coming. The first is a New Year's Eve concert on Fox Island, near Tacoma. It will be an opera gala, with three other singers and a pianist (my friend and colleague, Lisa Bergman). Erik and I wil spend the night there, viewing the Seattle fireworks from the south instead of the north on the Taylors lawn. While a NYE gig is always wonderful, I'll be sad to miss kissing all my friends as the new year rolls in.

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

Costume / Jewelry

Whenever a show gets to tech week, I start leaving my engagement ring at home. I've known too many stories of people losing diamond rings to take a chance with mine. I keep my wedding band on, though, only taking it off when I'm in full costume. Every day, I put the ring in the little "personal effects" basket at my dressing station, along with my earrings and other miscellany. Then, at the end of the rehearsal, I gather it all up again.

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.

Five Days

Saturday: Brunch at a classic diner with the Taylors, Birds, and Erik. Blueberry pancakes for me, "plain pancake" for Sylvia. Headed off to the theatre while everyone else relaxed or played with their uncle. Mark and Elizabeth shared one ticket to the opera, Mark taking the first Act while Elizabeth and Sylvia wandered through the Tanglewood grounds. (At the first intermission, Elizabeth brought Sylvia backstage to see Aunt Bou in all her finery! There's a great picture in the album that shows her uncertainty! Who is this white woman?) After the show, dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant, the traditional ice cream after a performance, and the end of a long day.

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

New Plan

Back at the internet cafe, since Erik will be taking his phone home with him today. My plan is still to do most of my writing at home, then come here to post and send email. My plan for tonight is to catch you all up on the weekend's activities, then come here for coffee tomorrow and post. This afternoon I have to put Erik on a plane...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


More reviews are starting to trickle in, with the general consensus being that people loved the musical elements and performances, but weren't sure about the production. The NYTimes writer seemed to like the whole package, though, as you can read here. It is a general review of the entire weekend at Tanglewood - Seiji Ozawa's Gala Sunday night, the opera, and the two BSO concerts - but there is also another beautiful picture. When the summer is over, I will most certainly be rewriting my bio to include some of these quotes!

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

What a dream was here

Thanks to Erik's arrival on Friday (yea!!!), I have a new internet setup. Unfortunately, it involves going to the cafe up the street and paying $2 to use their wireless, but it's better than nothing. For some reason, the IR port on my phone has stopped working, so I can't use it as a modem. Regardless, the lack of internet was only one factor in my week of no posting - I had an opera to perform!

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.
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